Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Protecting Your Longevity against Heart Disease and Cancer:

Emphasis on Diet and Exercise

 

Introduction

     There are no guarantees in life as we all know. But a good path to increase one’s longevity is to follow a prudent plan of healthy choices in the areas of diet (what to eat) and how best to exercise (what to do, activity wise).

Now most adults already are aware of these general statements, but often are not sure of exactly what healthy choices are, or how best to exercise. The purpose of this Blog is to more narrowly get specific as to answers needed, at least based on current research.

But there are three main obstacles to one’s desire to live a long life. Genetics is one, that is, what we inherit in our genes. The second biggest obstacle to a long life is disease. Many diseases can affect our lives but the two primary ones are Heart Disease and Cancer. A third obstacle to our success lies with the advertising industry. This later obstacle will be taken up in the final comments section of this Blog.

The following data sheds light on these diseases and comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

 

Heart Disease in the United States

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

These statistics relate to a barrage of specific ailments under the heading of heart disease. They include:

Americans at Risk for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. As an aside, the risk factor of smoking is something people can absolutely control, if they want to. Here are some sobering statistics related to smoking:

Cigarette smoking causes about one of every five deaths in the United States each year. Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause the following.

 

  • More than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke)
  • 278,544 deaths annually among men (including deaths from secondhand smoke) 201,773 deaths annually among women (including deaths from secondhand smoke)

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

 

Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer in the United States

  • In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.
  • The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018) are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer.
  • The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 cases).
  • The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 163.5 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 deaths).
  • Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (196.8 per 100,000 men and 139.6 per 100,000 women). When comparing groups based on race/ethnicity and sex, cancer mortality is highest in African American men (239.9 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (88.3 per 100,000).
  • In 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026.
  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data).
  • In 2017, an estimated 15,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease.
  • Estimated national expenditures for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion. In future years, costs are likely to increase as the population ages and cancer prevalence increases. Costs are also likely to increase as new, and often more expensive, treatments are adopted as standards of care.

Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer Worldwide

  • Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide.
  • 57% of new cancer cases in 2012 occurred in less developed regions of the world that include Central America and parts of Africa and Asia; 65% of cancer deaths also occurred in these regions.
  • The number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.

 

Healthy Food Choices

I’m not here to describe different types of recipes that would make use of the kinds of foods I’m about to suggest for a healthy diet. Instead I’ve chosen to describe the best foods to do three things: (1) help to prevent heart disease, (2) cancer, and (3) promote healthy living in general.

I’d like to point out what I discovered while doing research for this blog. I learned early on that some of the recommended foods in one area were identical to other areas as well. Here are the results of my research:

 

To Prevent Heart Disease

 

Leafy Green Vegetables

Whole Grains

Berries

Avocados

Fatty Fish and Fish Oil

Walnuts

Beans

Dark Chocolate

Tomatoes

Almonds

Seeds

Garlic

Olive Oil

Edamame

Green Tea

 

To Prevent Cancer

 

Spinach

Turmeric

Tomatoes

Onions and Leeks

Garlic

Watercress

Green Tea

Salmon

Water or a once in a while beer

Brazil Nuts

Walnuts

Beans

Dark Chocolate

 

Foods for a Healthy Life

 

Brightly colored fruit and vegetables

Dark Chocolate

Oily Fish

Green Tea

Olive oil

Garlic

Cranberries

The Coffee Bean

 

Best Foods for Longevity

 

All of the Above

 

Exercise

The following article was published in the Business Insider by Erin Brodwin, September 8, 2018. It’s my opinion that this article will cover the best plan of exercise for most people. I’ve been employing both cardio and weight training for some time now. Detective Hunter (played by Fred Dyer) used to say on the TV show Hunter in the 1990s—“Works for me.”

“2 forms of exercise are the best way to stave off the effects of aging — here’s how to incorporate them into your life Sep 8, 2018, 8:19 PM

If you’re searching for an all-natural way to lift your mood, preserve muscle tone, and protect your brain against the decline that comes with aging, look no further than the closest mirror.

One of the most powerful means of reaping these benefits is exercise — and in many cases, you already have everything you need to get it: a body.

As we age, two forms of exercise are the most important to focus on: aerobic exercise, or cardio, which gets your heart pumping and sweat flowing, and strength training, which helps keep aging muscles from dwindling over time.

And most of the time, they don’t require any fancy equipment or expensive classes.

Read on to find out how to incorporate both forms of fitness into your life.

Aerobic exercises like jogging may help reverse some heart damage from normal aging.

Many of us become less active as we age. Over time, this can lead some muscles in the heart to stiffen.

One of those at-risk muscles is in the left chamber of the heart, a section that plays a key role in supplying the body with freshly oxygenated blood.

A recent study split 53 adults into two groups, one of which did two years of supervised exercise four to five days a week while the other did yoga and balance exercises.

At the end of the study, published in January in the journal Circulation, the higher-intensity exercisers had seen significant improvements in their heart’s performance, suggesting that some stiffening in the heart can be prevented or even reversed with regular cardio.

“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life,” Benjamin Levine, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern who wrote the study, said in a statement.

Walking, another form of cardio, could help reduce the risk of heart failure — a key contributor to heart disease.

Intense cardio activities like running or jogging aren’t the only types of movement that may have protective benefits for the heart as we age.

In a study published in September in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers took a look at the physical activity levels of nearly 140,000 women aged 50 to 79 and found surprisingly salient links between walking and a reduced risk of heart failure, a condition when the heart stops pumping blood as it should. Heart failure is a key contributor to heart disease, the US’ leading cause of death.

For their work, the researchers looked at data from a 14-year women’s health study that documented heart failure and exercise levels.

When the researchers dove deeper, they found that the women who walked regularly were 25% less likely to experience heart failure than their peers who didn’t exercise. In fact, for every extra 30-45 minutes a woman walked, her risk of a failed heart dropped an average of 9%, the scientists concluded.

This is pretty important from a public health standpoint, given the poor prognosis this type of heart failure has once it’s present,” Michael La Monte, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health, said in a statement.”

 

Strength-training moves like tai chi are best for preserving muscles from age-related decline.

Strength or resistance training can take many forms, but it typically involves a series of movements geared toward building or preserving muscle.

Tai chi, the Chinese martial art that combines a series of flowing movements, is one form of strength training. The exercise is performed slowly and gently, with a high degree of focus and attention paid to breathing deeply.

Since practitioners go at their own pace, tai chi is accessible for a wide variety of people, regardless of age or fitness level.

Tai chi “is particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older,” I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a recent health report called “Starting to Exercise.”

There may be a powerful link between regular cardio, like swimming and walking, and a lower risk of dementia.

A study published in March in the journal Neurology suggested that women who were physically fit in middle age were roughly 88% less likely to develop dementia — defined as a decline in memory severe enough to interfere with daily life — than their peers who were only moderately fit.

Starting in 1968, neuroscientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied 191 women whose average age was 50. First, they assessed their cardiovascular health using a cycling test and grouped them into three categories: fit, moderately fit, or unfit.

Over the next four decades, the researchers regularly screened the women for dementia. In that time, 32% of the unfit women and a quarter of the moderately fit women were diagnosed with the condition, while the rate was only 5% among the fit women.

However, the research showed only a link between fitness and decreased dementia risk — it did not prove that one caused the other. Still, it builds on several other studies that suggest a powerful tie between exercise and brain health.

Activities like cycling may also protect your immune system from some age-related decline.

For a small study published in March in the journal Aging Cell, researchers looked at 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79, comparing them with 75 people of a similar age who rarely or never exercised.

The cyclists were found to have more muscle mass and strength and lower levels of body fat and cholesterol than the sedentary adults.

The athletic adults also appeared to have healthier and younger-looking immune systems, at least when it came to an organ called the thymus that’s responsible for generating key immune cells called T cells.

In healthy people, the thymus begins to shrink and T-cell production starts to drop off at around age 20.

The study found that the thymus glands of the older cyclists looked as if they belonged to younger people — their bodies were producing just as many T cells as would be expected for a young person.

“We now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier,” Janet Lord, the director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said in a statement.

Other types of strength training can include moves like planks and squats.

At its most basic, strength training involves using weight to create resistance against the pull of gravity. That weight can be your own body, elastic bands, free weights like barbells or dumbbells, or weighted ankle cuffs.

Research suggests you can use heavy weights for fewer reps or lighter weights for more reps to build stronger, more sturdy muscles.

Chris Jordan, the exercise physiologist who came up with the viral seven-minute workout — officially called the Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout — told Business Insider that healthy adults should incorporate resistance training on two or three of the four or five days a week they work out.

Cardio workouts may also improve the look and feel of your skin.

A study from researchers at McMaster University found that people over 40 who regularly did cardio tended to have healthier skin than their sedentary peers. The overall composition of the regular exercisers’ skin was more comparable to that of 20- to 30-year-olds.

It’s not yet clear why our workouts appear to play a role in skin health, but the researchers found elevated levels of a substance critical to cell health called IL-15 in skin samples of participants after exercise — perhaps shedding light on why cardio can improve the look of our skin.

Aerobic workouts may guard against age-related decline because of reduced brain connectivity.

As we age, the brain — like any other organ — begins to work less efficiently, so signs of decline start to surface. Our memory might not be quite as sharp as it once was, for example.

But older people who develop Alzheimer’s disease often first enter a stage known as mild cognitive impairment, which involves more serious problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment.

A study published in May looked at adults with MCI between the ages of 60 and 88 and had them walk for 30 minutes four days a week for 12 weeks.

The researchers found strengthened connectivity in a region of the brain where weakened connections have been linked with memory loss. That development, they said, “may possibly increase cognitive reserve” — but more studies are needed.

Cardio may also be tied to increases in the size of brain areas linked to memory, but more research is needed.

<

A study of older women with MCI found a tie between aerobic exercise and an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory.

For the study, 86 women between 70 and 80 years old with MCI were randomly assigned to do one of three types of training twice a week for six months: aerobic (like walking and swimming), resistance (like weight lifting), or balance.

Only the women in the aerobic group were found to have significant increases in hippocampal volume, but more studies are needed to determine what effect this has on cognitive performance.”

 

Final Comments

 

Most people know what is needed to promote the probability of living a long life. However, it takes a real commitment and motivation to make it happen. But even people who have the best of intentions fall off the health wagon from time to time. That’s normal human behavior. Most people blame themselves for failure to be perfect in diet and exercise. However, don’t beat yourself up too much over occasionally being less than perfect. I say this because you and everyone else trying to improve their health have an enemy out there. As I mentioned at the beginning of my Blog there are many obstacles to your success beyond your own occasional lapses in motivation.

One significant obstacle relates to the business and advertising industry. It appears that the constant onslaught of advertisers and commercial entities, whose motives are to sell products and make money, try to promote to consumers that their products are good for them no matter how fattening or injurious to our health they might actually be.

Commercials on TV have a choke hold over all of us. As a defense mechanism, I make regular use of my TV remote to pass over commercials. Try taping your programs in advance so you can later run through the commercials without listening to them. Granted, some commercials can be very entertaining but most don’t deserve any attention at all since most advertisers are just “bullshit” artists. Like a thief they just want to remove that wad of cash from your wallet or bank account. Your health and well-being at best would be lucky to be a tertiary concern to the advertising industry. In reality, it’s not even an afterthought!

Culture and society often works at cross purposes. That is the reality for now. This only makes it even harder for you to succeed in living a long life. I say best of luck to you in overcoming obstacles in your efforts to live a healthy life and, indeed, a long life.

Read Full Post »

Part II

Update on Type II Diabetes in America

[Epidemiology and New Research Findings]

Introduction

In Part II a short review of new research on diabetes is provided. In the last decade thousands of studies on diabetes have been carried out in a variety of settings including hospitals, medical schools, pharmaceutical research laboratories, and universities involving both private and or public funding. As a person with Type II Diabetes the last 22 years I’ve chosen to review just a few exciting research projects involving Type II Diabetes.

One of the long-standing areas of research over the last several decades has been obesity among Type II Diabetics. Obesity appears to be growing exponentially on a global scale and has correspondingly contributed to the increase in diabetes worldwide. While treatment plans for diabetes normally involve diet, exercise, hypoglycemic medicine and various forms of insulin, there is also a lot of pending weight loss drugs in the wings from the pharmaceutical industry. In recent decades close daily monitoring of blood sugar has also helped diabetics immensely along with the usual standard treatment plans. The future for overweight diabetics is getting better all the time as new strategies are developed. However, many diabetics are not overweight and this has led to other areas of research. Nevertheless, research on why obesity is related to diabetes so intimately is still the focus of major research efforts to find a cure for diabetes.

What everyone has realized for some time is that there is a very close relationship between Type II diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance. This latter relationship between insulin resistance and obesity has been found to be connected in recent years through a new factor that has emerged in the medical research on Type II Diabetes. That factor is Inflammation. But first here is a review of what is known about insulin resistance. 

Insulin Resistance   

 All humans need energy to live. Consequently, every cell in the body needs energy, including cells in our large muscle groups. How do our cells get this energy? Normally, the foods we eat provide that energy. The food is then converted to blood glucose (blood sugar) and leads to circulation in our blood stream. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, and sends it into your bloodstream to travel to the various cells of the body. Insulin then attaches to a receptor on the cell’s surface and causes the cell membrane to permit blood glucose to enter. That is the normal process.

However, in Type II diabetes this system doesn’t work very well. The insulin gets to each cell; however, when it arrives, it has trouble unlocking the door to each cell and then the cell fails to permit the glucose to enter. Since glucose cannot get into the cells, it then builds up in the bloodstream. This condition is called Insulin Resistance.

The mystery of Type II diabetes has always been to find out why insulin resistance occurs. We now have a pretty good idea of the cause. So, what is the cause of Type II diabetes? Insulin’s ability to work is blocked in the human cell (like gum jamming up a lock as the metaphor suggests) by actual FAT. The cell’s receptors are blocked or jammed by fat.

Normally small amounts of fat are stored for energy in an emergency in each cell. However, in a diet (like the Western diet high in fat and cholesterol) excessive fat builds up in each cell creating the jamming process that prevents glucose from entering. If fat, called intramyocellular lipid, accumulates inside the cell it interferes with insulin’s intracellular signaling process.

Tiny organelles, called mitochondria, are supposed to burn fat. But their failure to keep up with the accumulating fat may be the origin of Type II diabetes. It turns out fatty foods actually do more than add excessive fat to each cell—they also interfere by turning off the genes that would help them create mitochondria and thus burn fat. The genes become disabled and do not allow the cells to produce the needed mitochondria. Your ability to eliminate fat inside your cells seems to slow down when you eat fatty foods.

Continue this faulty intracellular activity long enough, and guess what—you end up being diagnosed with Type II diabetes. This scenario of explanation is a good one, but new research is suggesting that other variables are involved in connecting obesity to insulin resistance. All of this leads (in this diabetic’s humble opinion) to answering the question why does the excess fat in a cell lead to the disabling of genes? What is the etiology of disabled genes in diabetics.

New Research Findings Emerge

 In November 2007 Science Daily reported that researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have discovered that Inflammation provoked by immune cells called macrophages leads to insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. Their discovery may pave the way to novel drug development to fight the epidemic of Type II diabetes associated with obesity, the most prevalent metabolic disease worldwide. But, as you will shortly see, inflammation is intimately related or involved in a number of medical conditions and diseases.

 A Quick Definition of Inflammation and Its Relationship to Disease

 A quick definition of inflammation is needed. Inflammation is the first response by the immune system to infection or irritation. It often involves redness, heat, pain, swelling, and dysfunction of the organ involved. Chronic inflammation is an ongoing, low level of inflammation, invisible to the human eye and is associated with many diseases (this was an eye opener to me) including: Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, many forms of arthritis such as Rheumatoid and Lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, age-related Macular Degeneration, Sepsis which is infection in the blood stream, Multiple Sclerosis, hundreds of diseases ending in “itis” including Meningitis, Acne, and everyone’s favorite—Allergies. The mechanisms of Inflammation are complex, but just understand that it is controlled by fatty acids called prostaglandins. Just like cholesterol there are “good” prostaglandins and “bad” prostaglandins.

 Discovery of Inflammation and Diabetes

In recent years, it has been theorized that chronic, low-grade tissue inflammation related to obesity contributes to insulin resistance, the major cause of Type II diabetes. In research done in mouse models, the UCSD scientists proved that, by disabling the macrophage inflammatory pathway, insulin resistance and the resultant Type II diabetes can be prevented.

The findings of the research team, led by principle investigators Michael Karin, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology in UCSD’s Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, and Jerrold Olefsky, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs, were published as the feature article in an issue of Cell Metabolism.

According to Olefsky, “Our research shows that insulin resistance can be disassociated from the increase in body fat associated with obesity.” Macrophages, found in white blood cells in the bone marrow, are key players in the immune response. When these immune cells get into tissues, such as adipose (fat) or liver tissue, they release cytokines, which are chemical messenger molecules used by immune and nerve cells to communicate. These cytokines cause the neighboring liver, muscle or fat cells to become insulin resistant, which in turn can lead to Type II diabetes.

The UCSD research team showed that the macrophage is the cause of this cascade of events by knocking out a key component of the inflammatory pathway in the macrophage, JNK1, in a mouse model. This was done through a procedure called adoptive bone marrow transfer, which resulted in the knockout of JNK1 in cells derived from the bone marrow, including macrophages.

With this procedure, bone marrow was transplanted from a global JNK1 knockout mouse (lacking JNK1 in all cell types) into a normal mouse that had been irradiated to kill off its endogenous bone marrow. This resulted in a chimeric mouse in which all tissues were normal except the bone marrow, which is where macrophages originate. As a control, the scientists used normal, wild-type mice as well as mice lacking JNK1 in all cell types. These control mice were also subjected to irradiation and bone marrow transfer.

The mice were all fed a high-fat diet. In regular, wild-type mice, this diet would normally result in obesity, leading to inflammation, insulin resistance and mild Type 2 diabetes. The chimeric mice, lacking JNK1 in bone marrow-derived cells, did become obese; however, they showed a striking absence of insulin resistance — a pre-condition that can lead to development of Type 2 diabetes.

“If we can block or disarm this macrophage inflammatory pathway in humans, we could interrupt the cascade that leads to insulin resistance and diabetes,” said Olefsky. “A small molecule compound to block JNK1 could prove a potent insulin-sensitizing, anti-diabetic agent.”

The research also proved that obesity without inflammation does not result in insulin resistance. Olefsky explained that when an animal or a human being becomes obese, they develop steatosis, or increased fat in the liver. The steatosis leads to liver inflammation and hepatic insulin resistance.

The chimeric mice did develop fatty livers, but not inflammation. “Their livers remained normal in terms of insulin sensitivity,” said Olefsky, adding that this shows that insulin resistance can also be disassociated from fatty liver. “We aren’t suggesting that obesity is healthy, but indications are promising that, by blocking the macrophage pathway, scientists may find a way to prevent the Type II diabetes now linked to obesity and fatty livers,” Olefsky said.

In a related study, it was found that inflammation-causing cells in fat tissue may explain the link between obesity and diabetes. The findings came from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers in Melbourne, Australia. The discovery, by Professor Len Harrison and Dr John Wentworth from the institute’s Autoimmunity and Transplantation division, opens the way for new anti-inflammatory treatments that prevent insulin resistance (where the body is unable to respond to and use the insulin it produces) and other complications associated with obesity.

“We have shown that insulin resistance in human obesity is closely related to the presence of inflammatory cells in fat tissue, in particular a population of macrophage cells,” Professor Harrison said.

Once again this research team had similar findings to those of UCSD scientists. That is, macrophages, white blood cells derived from the bone marrow, are immune cells that normally respond to infections. In obese people, macrophages move into the fat tissue where they cause inflammation and release cytokines, which are chemical messenger molecules used by immune cells to communicate. Certain cytokines cause cells to become resistant to the effects of the hormone insulin, leading to diabetes and heart disease.

My hypothesis (as a diabetic, not as a medical doctor) is that these cytokines cause the genes that produce mitochondria in our cells (especially adipose cells) to become disabled. It is only a hypothesis of mine but it would be theoretically very informative if some future research were to experimentally prove this.

 Other Studies of Importance

 It probably should be no surprise that inflammation in the body has an effect on other medical problems, including Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition whereby a combination of medical disorders that, when occuring together, increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some studies have shown the prevalence in the USA to be an estimated 25% of the population, and prevalence increases with age.

Individuals who are obese are at increased risk of developing a combination of medical disorders associated with type II diabetes and heart disease known as the metabolic syndrome. Recent studies have suggested that adipose (fat) tissue obesity induces an inflammatory state that is crucial to the development of the metabolic syndrome. UCLA researchers demonstrated that an over-the-counter dietary supplement may help inhibit development of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, conditions that are involved in the development of Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which affect millions worldwide.

In this early preclinical study, a naturally produced amino acid-like molecule called GABA was given orally to mice that were obese, insulin resistant and in the early stages of Type II diabetes. Researchers found that GABA suppressed the inflammatory immune responses that are involved in the development of this condition.

According to study authors, GABA helped prevent disease progression and improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, even after onset of Type II diabetes in mice. Researchers also identified the regulatory immune cells that likely direct GABA activity in inhibiting inflammation.

Researchers note that in the future, GABA taken as a supplement or related medications may provide new therapeutic agents for the treatment of obesity-related Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome. However, like any substance science does not know what side effects there may be with GABA. Don’t run out to your health store just yet. Wait for the proper medical research to be conducted on GABA efficacy and safety. Nobody wants to wait forever for something that may work but FDA approval and the proper research protocols must be followed first. Does this mean we can’t utilize the new research to our advantage right now? No— not at all. One area we do have control over is the food we eat and the lifestyle we choose for ourselves. It’s time we all come into the 21st C entury folks. Your doctor isn’t responsible for your health—YOU ARE.

Connections

I am a 69 year old diabetic who has had diabetes since August 1991 (I was 48 years old at time of diagnosis). I ask myself, how can this new information help me? I’ve been a Vegan for two years that helped launch me down the road to successfully losing weight (16 lb weight loss in 2011, but virtually very little weight loss in 2012).

In 2012 Sciatica visited the nerves in my lower back and down my left leg, hamstring, thigh, and buttocks. The pain impacted my ability, particularly after my USA Track & Field Meets were over in July, to exercise 4-5 days a week the rest of the year. This in turn helped explain why my weight loss stood still in 2012.

With physical therapy I have been getting better and intend on returning to a good schedule of exercise in 2013. In terms of food consumption, as a tool to fight inflammation, I have decided to integrate my Vegan diet with the Anti-Inflammation Diet. For those interested in understanding the Vegan diet please read some of my earlier Blogs.

People should be asking themselves this question: If inflammation (low-grade or otherwise) plays a role in many other diseases besides Diabetes what dietary changes can I make to increase the success in lessening inflammation in the body? I’m glad you asked. Here is what I’m going to do about it. As always, see your primary care physician before undertaking any program.

Because of what is involved in using the anti-inflammatory diet and the vast amount of information available I simply, with the rest of this Blog, want to accomplish two things: (1) make the reader aware of two books I found valuable with reducing inflammation, and (2) give the reader a preview of the kinds of food one can eat right away to reduce inflammation in the body. These books are: (1) The Idiot’s Guide to The Anti-Inflammation Diet by Christopher P. Cannon, M.D., and Elizabeth Vierck., and (2) The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book by Jessica K. Black, N.D.

 Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory and Inflammatory Foods

The above books listed go into great detail on the Anti-Inflammation Diet. In the meantime, here are some quick suggestions.

 Foods to Consume:

  • Wild Alaskan Salmon
  • Kelp
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Blueberries
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Green Tea
  • Sweet Potatoes

 Foods to Avoid:

  •  Sugar
  • Common Cooking Oils
  • Trans Fats
  • Dairy
  • Feedlot-Raised Meat
  • Red and Processed Meats
  • Alcohol
  • Refined Grains
  • Artificial Food Additives

 Final Advice:

      Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet, nuts and legumes, whole grains, take a daily multiple vitamin-mineral; and, when in the grocery store—READ THE LABELS.

Read Full Post »

On the Horizon: A Real Cure for All Cancers?

Introduction

The world of medicine is changing and nanotechnology is leading the way. The future of cancer diagnosis and treatment does indeed look bright.

Where cancer research and treatment is concerned there is clearly a need to develop new innovative diagnostic and therapeutic methods. During the last 10 years tremendous progress has been made in the development of new molecular imaging probes and therapeutic agents targeting cancer. One such field that has contributed greatly in the area of diagnostic and therapeutic methods is the field of nanotechnology (technology for use on the atomic or molecular level.)  For example, there are now nanoparticle enabled technologies that do a better job of detecting and treating cancer than ever before. There appears to be three goals of these newer technologies:

(1)   Early detection of the disease

(2)   Enhance the ability to monitor therapeutic response, and

(3)   Enable the ability to target delivery of therapeutic agents, like cancer killing drugs.

There are other uses of nanotechnology, but the purpose of this Blog is to focus on the use of nanotechnology in the treatment of the devastating disease of cancer. In my grandmother’s day a diagnosis of cancer was a death sentence. From personal experience, I know that in today’s world that is not necessarily true.

 

Connections

In 2004 I lost a kidney to kidney cancer. I nevertheless was one of the lucky ones because I am a kidney cancer survivor for 8 years now. Consequently, I have a personal stake in finding a cure for cancer (and reoccurrences of same). I was astonished recently (and got goose bumps all over) when I read about a 17- year old high school senior from Cupertino, California who may have found a way to cure cancer.

Her name is Angela Zhang. She has received a $100,000 scholarship for her science school project because of the extraordinary nature of what she was trying to put forth—a comprehensive self-contained way to use nanoparticles to isolate and treat all cancer tumors, while leaving healthy tissue and cells alone. The $100,000 Zhang earned comes with the first prize award in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

In my opinion, Angela Zhang is not necessarily a super-genius. But she is a very bright, precocious, and persevering young person who demonstrated an uncanny ability to logically synthesize existing research data, and ideas from specialized scientific fields. In this case, she researched the field of nanotechnology, and more specifically she emphasized synthesizing information from the sub-field of medical nanotechnology.

But, of course, what she did wasn’t only a clever assimilation of research ideas from the scientific literature. There was that hands-on 1,000 hours creating the nanoparticle, and figuring out how to integrate a drug delivery system at the micron level that could be closely monitored for its effects. And, she achieved a very important aspect of cancer treatment—delivering a cancer drug without damaging healthy cells and tissues.  Young people like Angela will one day be at the forefront of research trying to solve many of the complex health problems facing large populations of citizens everywhere. I am excited as an individual that serious medical problem-solving is now transitioning to the next generation who possess innovative ideas and who have the perseverance to build a scientific consensus around the most effective ways to diagnose and treat serious diseases.

Complex medical problems like cancer deserve a bit more in-depth reporting.  Therefore I will present this particular blog in three sections: (1) a review of worldwide and national statistics on the prevalence of cancer, (2) describe Angela Zhang’s science project and concepts, and (3) describe a promising future where nanotechnology is concerned.

Section 1

Cancer Statistics from the World Health Organization

Q: Are the number of cancer cases increasing or decreasing in the world?

A: Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and the total number of cases globally is increasing.

The number of global cancer deaths is projected to increase 45% from 2007 to 2030 (from 7.9 million to 11.5 million deaths), influenced in part by an increasing and aging global population. The estimated rise takes into account expected slight declines in death rates for some cancers in high resource countries. New cases of cancer in the same period are estimated to jump from 11.3 million in 2007 to 15.5 million in 2030.

In most developed countries, cancer is the second largest cause of death after cardiovascular disease, and epidemiological evidence points to this trend emerging in the less developed world. This is particularly true in countries in “transition” or middle-income countries, such as in South America and Asia. Already more than half of all cancer cases occur in developing countries.

Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer – a trend that is expected to continue until 2030, unless efforts for global tobacco control are greatly intensified. Some cancers are more common in developed countries: prostate, breast and colon. Liver, stomach and cervical cancer are more common in developing countries.

A number of common risk factors have been linked to the development of cancer: an unhealthy lifestyle (including tobacco and alcohol use, inadequate diet, physical inactivity), and exposure to occupational (e.g. asbestos) or environmental carcinogens, (e.g. indoor air pollution), radiation (e.g. ultraviolet and ionizing radiation), and some infections (such as hepatitis B or human papilloma virus infection).

Key risk factors for cancer that have been identified are:

  • tobacco use – responsible for 1.8 million cancer deaths per year (60% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries);
  • being overweight, obese or physically inactive – together responsible for 274 000 cancer deaths per year;
  • harmful alcohol use – responsible for 351 000 cancer deaths per year;
  • sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) infection – responsible for 235 000 cancer deaths per year; and
  • occupational carcinogens – responsible for at least 152 000 cancer deaths per year.

Cancer prevention is an essential component of all cancer control plans because about 40% of all cancer deaths can be prevented.

CANCER STATISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided the following statistics on cancer prevalence in the United States:

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. In 2007, more than 562,000 people died of cancer, and more than 1.45 million people had a diagnosis of cancer, according to United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2007 Cancer Incidence and Mortality Data.

The cost of cancer extends beyond the number of lives lost and new diagnoses each year. Cancer survivors, as well as their family members, friends, and caregivers, may face physical, emotional, social, and spiritual challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. The financial costs of cancer also are overwhelming. According to the National Institutes of Health, cancer cost the United States an estimated $263.8 billion in medical costs and lost productivity in 2010.

Racial and Ethnic Differences

Cancer can affect men and women of all ages, races, and ethnicities, but it does not affect all groups equally. For example, African Americans are more likely to die of cancer than people of any other race or ethnicity. In 2007, the age-adjusted death rate per 100,000 people for all types of cancer combined was 216 for African Americans, 177 for whites, 119 for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 117 for Hispanics, and 108 for Asians/Pacific Islanders.

Effective Cancer Prevention Measures

Opportunities exist to reduce cancer risk and prevent some cancers. Cancer risk can be reduced by avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol use, limiting exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and seeking regular medical care.

Research shows that screening for cervical and colorectal cancer at recommended intervals can prevent these diseases by finding lesions that can be treated before they become cancerous. Screening also can help find cervical, colorectal, and breast cancers at an early, treatable stage. Vaccines also can reduce cancer risk.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent some cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The hepatitis B vaccine can reduce liver cancer risk. Making cancer screening, information, and referral services available and accessible to all Americans can reduce cancer incidence and deaths.

Where You Live Matters

The following looks at Cancer Death Rates (2007) for each of the states. The death rates found in various states may simply reflect differences in the number of deaths by ethnicity reported earlier. However, explaining death rates in terms of ethnicity per se is a lot more complicated involving personal habits of diet and exercise, access to effective cancer treatment and health care, exposure to carcinogins, and differential genetic make-up, attitudes toward disease prevention, and tobacco use.

U.S.Cancer Death Rates,* 2007

127.9–170.7 171.1–180.7 181.0–191.9 193.3–213.7
Arizona Iowa Alaska Alabama
California Kansas Georgia Arkansas
Colorado Maryland Illinois Delaware
Connecticut Massachusetts Maine District of Columbia
Florida Montana Michigan Indiana
Hawaii Nebraska Missouri Kentucky
Idaho New Jersey Nevada Louisiana
Minnesota Oregon New Hampshire Mississippi
New Mexico Rhode Island North Carolina Ohio
New York South Dakota Pennsylvania Oklahoma
North Dakota Washington South Carolina Tennessee
Texas Wisconsin Vermont West Virginia
Utah Wyoming Virginia

* Rates are per 100,000 people and are age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. Incidence rates are for about 99% of the U.S. population; death rates are for 100% of the U.S. population.

Source: United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2007 Cancer Incidence and Mortality Data, available at http://www.cgc.gov/uscs.

Section 2

Angela’s Concept

Many times in the past I read of some promising new cure for cancer by the medical or scientific community.  When the public reads such articles relating to the “cause(s)” of cancer or some special “new technique” of treatment, there is always an emotional reaction and the hope that maybe this time a real cure for this devastating disease has at last been found. Too many times in the past the media would blow any new ideas on causation or treatment all out of proportion. Reality would soon take hold again, and in a heartbeat the public would once again get its hopes dashed.

So why am I so enthusiastic, and not just reserved, scientifically conservative, and cautiously optimistic this time? Everything in my gut tells me this time it may be for real. Am I’m only reacting to all this emotionally, or do you feel something important is occurring that warrants further consideration? Either way, please read on.

This is what Angela, doing a first class piece of research, came up with:

She basically created in the laboratory a nanoparticle that kills cancer. The nanoparticle is delivered to tumors via the drug salinomycin where it kills cancer cells and deposits gold and iron-oxide materials to help with MRI imaging.

The key word to remember is nanoparticle. Angela’s project was named, “Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells.” It was apparently as complex, thorough, and revolutionary as it sounds.

Zhang’s achievement is impressive due to the level of understanding required to create such a nanoparticle in the first place and also because she is only 17 years old. She had spent over 1,000 hours since 2009 researching and developing the particle, and wants to go on to study chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, or physics. Her dream job is to be a research professor. Because cancer stem cells are so resistant to many forms of cancer treatment, Angela felt that this was an area worth focusing on. Her nanoparticle is award-winning due to the fact it has the potential to overcome cancer resistance while providing the ability for doctors to monitor the effects of the treatment using existing imaging techniques.

More specifically, Zhang developed a nanoparticle that can be delivered to the actual site of a tumor. Once there it kills the cancer stem cells. However, Zhang went further and included both gold and iron-oxide components, which allow for non-invasive imaging of the site through MRI and Photoacoustics. What makes this innovative approach so important is that normally cancer stem cells are very resistant to many forms of cancer treatment.

This can be a little difficult for non-scientists to understand, so I’ll do the best I can to explain her ideas and keep it simple. Angela’s basic idea was to mix cancer medicine in a polymer that would attach to nanoparticles. The nanoparticles in turn would then fasten themselves to cancer cells and show up on an MRI allowing doctors to know exactly where tumors are. An infrared light aimed at the tumors would then melt the polymer and release the medicine, killing the cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. When tested on mice the tumors almost completely disappeared. Although it will be years before scientists will be able to run tests on humans, the results do seem very promising.

 

I needed to understand some of the terminology myself particularly with reference to two important questions: What is a nanoparticle and what is a polymer?

What is a Nanoparticle?

A nanoparticle is an ultra fine unit with dimensions measured in nanometres (nm; billionths of a metre). Nanoparticles possess unique physical properties such as very large surface areas and can be classified as hard or soft. They exist naturally in the environment and are produced as a result of human activities. Owing to their submicroscopic size, they have unique material characteristics, and manufactured nanoparticles may find practical applications in a variety of areas, including medicine, engineering, catalysis, and environmental remediation. Examples of naturally occurring nanoparticles include terpenes released from trees and materials emitted in smoke from volcanic eruptions and fires. Quantum dots and nanoscale zero-valent iron are examples of manufactured nanoparticles.

What is a Polymer?

Polymers are made up of many molecules all strung together to form really long chains (and sometimes more complicated structures, too).

What makes polymers so interesting is that how they act depends on what kinds of molecules they’re made up of and how they’re put together. The properties of anything made out of polymers really reflect what’s going on at the ultra-tiny (molecular) level. So, things that are made of polymers look, feel, and act depending on how their atoms and molecules are connected. Some polymers are rubbery, like a bouncy ball, some are sticky and gooey, and some are hard and tough, like a skateboard.

Advances in polymer science have led to the development of several novel drug-delivery systems. A proper consideration of surface and bulk properties can aid in the designing of polymers for various drug-delivery applications. Biodegradable polymers find widespread use in drug delivery as they can be degraded to non-toxic monomers inside the body.

Novel supramolecular structures based on polyethylene oxide copolymers and dendrimers are being intensively researched for delivery of genes and macromolecules. Hydrogels that can respond to a variety of physical, chemical and biological stimuli hold enormous potential for design of closed-loop drug-delivery systems. Design and synthesis of novel combinations of polymers will expand the scope of new drug-delivery systems in the future.

Section 3

A Bright Future Ahead for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

The upshot of this Blog is to report that the future of cancer diagnosis and treatment looks very bright and promising. The thrust of this article is really about nanotechnology in medicine. The use of nanotechnology in medicine offers some exciting possibilities. Some techniques are only imagined, while others are at various stages of testing, or actually being used today.

Nanotechnology in medicine involves various applications of nanoparticles that are currently under development. Long term research involves the use of manufactured nano-robots. Their purpose is to make repairs at the cellular level (How exciting is that idea!).

// // Whatever you call it, the use of nanotechnology in the field of medicine could revolutionize the way we detect and treat damage to the human body and disease in the future, and many techniques only imagined a few years ago are making remarkable progress towards becoming realities.

Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Drug Delivery

As I said earlier, one application of nanotechnology in medicine currently being developed involves employing nanoparticles to deliver drugs, but also heat, light or other substances to specific types of cells (such as cancer cells). Particles are engineered so that they are attracted to diseased cells which allow direct treatment of those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body and allows for earlier detection of disease.

// // Tests are in progress for targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs and their final approval for their use with cancer patients is pending, as explained on CytImmune Science’s website. CytImmune has published the preliminary results of a Phase I Clinical Trial of their first targeted chemotherapy drug. For example, nanoparticles that deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer.

Many researchers attach ethylene glycol molecules to nanoparticles that deliver therapeutic drugs to cancer tumors. The ethylene glycol molecules stop white blood cells from recognizing the nanoparticles as foreign materials, allowing them to circulate in the blood stream long enough to attach to cancer tumors. However, researchers at the University of California, San Diego believe that they can increase the time nanoparticles can circulate in the blood stream. They are coating nanoparticles containing therapeutic drugs with membranes from red blood cells and have shown that these nanoparticles will circulate in a mouse’s blood stream for almost two days, instead of the few hours observed for nanoparticles using ethylene glycol molecules.

Researchers are also continuing to look for more effective methods to target nanoparticles carrying therapeutic drugs directly to diseased cells. For example scientists are MIT have demonstrated increased levels of drug delivery to tumors by using two types of nanoparticles. The first type of nanoparticle locates the cancer tumor and the second type of nanoparticle (carrying the therapeutic drugs) homes in on a signal generated by the first type of nanoparticle (I thought this was brilliant).

If you hate getting shots, you’ll be glad to hear that oral administration for drugs that are currently delivered by injection may be possible in many cases. The drug is encapsulated in a nanoparticle which helps it pass through the stomach to deliver the drug into the bloodstream. There are efforts underway to develop oral administration of several different drugs using a variety of nanoparticles. A company which has progressed to the clinical testing stage with a drug for treating systemic fungal diseases is BioDelivery Sciences, which is using a nanoparticle called a cochleate.

Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Therapy Techniques

What are some of the applications of nanotechnology related to therapy techniques? The following are some of the greatest scientific therapies currently being worked on:

  • Buckyballs that are used to trap free radicals generated during an allergic reaction and block the inflammation that results from an allergic reaction.
  • Nanoshells may be used to concentrate the heat from infrared light to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells. Nanospectra Biosciences has developed such a treatment using nanoshells illuminated by an infra laser that has been approved for a pilot trial with human patients.
  • Nanoparticles, when activated by x-rays, generate electrons that cause the destruction of cancer cells to which they have attached themselves. This is intended to be used in place of radiation therapy with much less damage to healthy tissue. Nanobiotix has released preclinical results for this technique.
  • Aluminosilicate nanoparticles can more quickly reduce bleeding in trauma patients by absorbing water, causing blood in a wound to clot quickly. Z-Medica is producing a medical gauze that uses aluminosilicate nanoparticles.
  • Nanofibers can stimulate the production of cartilage in damaged joints.
  • Nanoparticles may be used, when inhaled, to stimulate an immune response to fight respiratory viruses.

Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Diagnostic and Imaging Techniques

Quantum Dots (qdots) may be used in the future for locating cancer tumors in patients and in the near term for performing diagnostic tests in samples. Invitrogen’s website provides information about qdots that are available for both uses, although at this time the use “in vivo” (in a living creature) is limited to experiments with lab animals. There can be a concern for toxicity based on the material quantum dots are made from. Because of this there is restriction involving the use of quantum dots in human patients. However, work is being done with quantum dots composed of silicon, which is believed to be less toxic than the cadmium contained in many quantum dots.

Iron oxide nanoparticles can also be used to improve MRI images of cancer tumors. The nanoparticle is coated with a peptide that binds to a cancer tumor, once the nanoparticles are attached to the tumor the magnetic property of the iron oxide enhances the images from the Magnetic Resonance Imagining scan.

Nanoparticles can attach to proteins or other molecules, allowing detection of disease indicators in a lab sample at a very early stage. There are several efforts to develop nanoparticle disease detection systems underway. One system being developed by Nanosphere, Inc. uses gold nanoparticles. Nanosphere has clinical study results with their Verigene system involving it’s ability to detect four different nucleic acids, while another system being developed by T2 Biosystems uses magnetic nanoparticles to identify specimens, including proteins, nucleic acids, and other materials.

Gold nanoparticles that have antibodies attached can provide quick diagnosis of the flu virus. When light is directed on a sample containing virus particles and the nanoparticles the amount of light reflected back increases because the nanoparticles cluster around virus particles, allowing a much faster test than those currently used.

Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Anti-Microbial Techniques

One of the earliest nanomedicine applications was the use of nanocrystalline silver which is as an antimicrobial agent for the treatment of wounds, as discussed on the Nucryst Pharmaceutical website.

A nanoparticle cream has been shown to fight staph infections. The nanoparticles contain nitric oxide gas, which is known to kill bacteria. Studies on mice have shown that using the nanoparticle cream to release nitric oxide gas at the site of staph abscesses significantly reduced the infection.

Burn dressing that is coated with nanocapsules containing antibiotics. If an infection starts the harmful bacteria in the wound causes the nanocapsules to break open, releasing the antibotics. This allows much quicker treatment of an infection and reduces the number of times a dressing has to be changed.

A welcome idea in the early study stages is the elimination of bacterial infections in a patient within minutes, instead of delivering treatment with antibiotics over a period of weeks. You can read about design analysis for the antimicrobial nanorobot used in such treatments in the following article: Microbivors: Artificial Mechanical Phagocytes using Digest and Discharge Protocol.

Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Cell Repair

Nanorobots could actually be programmed to repair specific diseased cells, functioning in a similar way to antibodies in our natural healing processes. Work is currently being done in a fantastic area of medicine. And that is the use of nanorobots in chromosome repair therapy.

Conclusions

These are exciting times to live in. Twenty years from now many of you reading this Blog may not be alive. But those of us who are older can take comfort in the knowledge that the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren does indeed look very promising. The scientific revolution rolls on, and society will certainly be a beneficiary from all of it.

 

Read Full Post »

 

INTRODUCTION

 This is Part II of a two part series on Diabetes in America. Part I looked at types of diabetes, my personal experience with the disease, epidemiology of diabetes including its prevalence in various population groups, and the root causes of the disease. In Part II the nature of the Vegan Diet will be explored, how it differs from other types of vegetarian diets, and most importantly—the benefits of a Vegan diet. Changing eating habits can be a difficult job; please keep an open mind to the idea and process of change.

 

THE VEGAN DIET IN A NUTSHELL

The following provides the particulars of the diet:

 

FOODS TO AVOID

Meats

Poultry

Fish

All Dairy Products

     Eggs (Yolks and whites)

     Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Cream, Sour Cream, and Butter

     Oil, Mayo, Margarine, Cooking Oils

Fried Foods (French Fries, Onion Rings, Potato Chips, Avocadoes, Olives, and  Peanut Butter

All High Glycemic Foods (Rated over 70) i.e., no White Bread or White Potatoes

WHAT TO EAT

Grains

 

One should eat Whole Grain Pasta; Brown Rice; Bran Cereal; Oatmeal; Pumpernickel or Rye Bread; Couscous; Bulgur Wheat; Millet; and Barley. Eight servings per day are recommended.

 

Legumes

Beans (Black, Pinto, or Kidney beans; Chickpeas; Baked beans; Soy beans, Peas, Split peas, Lentils, Fat-free soy products; Fat-free unsweetened soy milk; Fat-free veggie burgers; Textured vegetable protein; Fat-free Tofu; Three suggested servings per day

 

Vegetables

Sweet potatoes; Broccoli; Cauliflower; Spinach; Kale; Collards; Squash; Green beans; Bok Choy; Artichokes; Choose those with a low GI. Four suggested servings per day.

 

Fruits

Apples, Bananas, Grapes, Pears, Peaches, Oranges, Kiwifruit, Berries, etc. Choose those with a low GI. Three suggested servings per day.

 

Keep Glycemic Foods that are rated 55 or less (provided they contain no fat).

 

TYPES OF VEGETARIANS

There is a lot of confusion among the general public as to what vegetarianism is all about. This widespread confusion seems to arise primarily because there are so many types of vegetarians, some of whom are not well known. Some of these include: Flexitarians (people who like vegetarian foods, but eat meat occasionally), raw-food diet enthusiasts where food isn’t cooked above 115 degrees Celsius, and Pescatarians (they avoid meat and all animal flesh but they eat fish). There are also the macrobiotic diet followers where sea vegetables and Asian vegetables are promoted, while all sugar and refined oils are avoided. I would be content if you remember just three basic types of vegetarians: Lacto-vegetarians, Ovo-vegetarians, and Vegans.

When most people think of vegetarians, they think of lacto-ovo-vegetarians: People who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products. “Lacto” comes from the Latin for milk, and “ovo” for egg. This is the most common type of vegetarian in North America.

Lacto-vegetarian is used to describe a vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products. Many Hindu vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians who avoid eggs for religious reasons while continuing to eat dairy.

Ovo-vegetarian refers to people who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs. Some people are ovo-vegetarians because they are lactose-intolerant.

Vegan-vegetarian refers to people who do not eat meat of any kind and also do not eat eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin. Many vegans also refrain from eating foods that are made using animal products that may not contain animal products in the finished process, such as sugar and some wines. There is some debate as to whether certain foods, such as honey, fit into a vegan diet. If you are a diabetic vegan you must consider the effect of honey on your blood sugar. The diabetic should look to the Glycemic Index to see where honey fits in. If a vegan is not diabetic, he or she may well consider the use of honey in a vegan diet.

What follows are the benefits one might obtain from going Vegan.

 

57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan

Vegans are frequently misunderstood as fringe eaters with an unnatural passion for animal rights. While many vegans do feel passionately about animals, its time for others to see that a vegan diet and lifestyle go way beyond animal rights. Following a healthy, balanced vegan diet ensures a host of health benefits as well as prevention of some of the major diseases striking people in North America.

Nutrition

All of the following nutritional benefits come from a vegan diet full of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and soy products.

  1. Reduced saturated fats. Dairy products and meats contain a large amount of saturated fats. By reducing the amount of saturated fats from your diet, you’ll improve your health tremendously, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health.
  2. Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy for your body. When you don’t have enough carbohydrates, your body will burn muscle tissue.
  3. Fiber. A diet high in fiber (as vegan eating usually is) leads to healthier bowel movements. High fiber diets help fight against colon cancer.
  4. Magnesium. Aiding in the absorption of calcium, magnesium is an often overlooked vitamin in importance to a healthy diet. Nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens are an excellent source of magnesium.
  5. Potassium. Potassium balances water and acidity in your body and stimulates the kidneys to eliminate toxins. Diets high in potassium have shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
  6. Folate. This B vitamin is an important part of a healthy diet. Folate helps with cell repair, generating red and white blood cells, and metabolizing amino acids.
  7. Antioxidants. For protection against cell damage, antioxidants are one of the best ways to help your body. Many researchers also believe that antioxidants help protect your body against forming some types of cancer.
  8. Vitamin C. Besides boosting your immune system, Vitamin C also helps keep your gums healthy and helps your bruises heal faster. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant.
  9. Vitamin E. This powerful vitamin has benefits for your heart, skin, eyes, brain, and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. A diet high in grains, nuts, and dark leafy greens is full of Vitamin E.
  10. Phytochemicals. Plant-based foods provide phytochemicals, which help to prevent and heal the body from cancer, boost protective enzymes, and work with antioxidants in the body.
  11. Protein. That protein is good for your body is no surprise. It may be a surprise to learn that most Americans eat too much protein and in forms such as red meat that are not healthy ways of getting protein. Beans, nuts, peas, lentils, and soy products are all great ways to get the right amount of protein in a vegan diet.

Disease Prevention

Eating a healthy vegan diet has shown to prevent a number of diseases. Find out from the list below what you could potentially avoid just by switching to a healthy, balanced vegan way of eating.

  1. Cardiovascular disease. Eating nuts and whole grains, while eliminating dairy products and meat, will improve your cardiovascular health. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets go far in preventing heart attack and stroke.
  2. Cholesterol. Eliminating any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all dietary cholesterol from your diet. Your heart will thank you for that.
  3. Blood pressure. A diet rich in whole grains is beneficial to your health in many ways, including lowering high blood pressure.
  4. Type 2 diabetes. Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also “easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association.”
  5. Prostate cancer. A major study showed that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who switched to a vegan diet either stopped the progress of the cancer or may have even reversed the illness.
  6. Colon cancer. Eating a diet consisting of whole grains, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, can greatly reduce your chances of colon cancer.
  7. Breast cancer. Countries where women eat very little meat and animal products have a much lower rate of breast cancer than do the women in countries that consume more animal products.
  8. Macular degeneration. Diets with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, can help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
  9. Cataracts. Much the same way macular degeneration is headed off by a vegan diet, cataracts are also thought to be prevented through the intake of the same fruits and vegetables. Produce high in antioxidants are also believed to help prevent cataracts.
  10. Arthritis. Eliminating dairy consumption has long been connected with alleviating arthritis symptoms, but a new study indicates that a combination of gluten-free and vegan diet is very promising for improving the health of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  11. Osteoporosis. Bone health depends on a balance of neither too much nor too little protein, adequate calcium intake, high potassium, and low sodium. With a healthy vegan diet, all four of these points set a perfect scenario for preventing osteoporosis.

Physical Benefits

In addition to good nutrition and disease prevention, eating vegan also provides many physical benefits. Find out below how a vegan diet makes your body stronger, more attractive, and more energetic.

  1. Body Mass Index. Several population studies show that a diet without meat leads to lower BMIs–usually an indicator of a healthy weight and lack of fat on the body.
  2. Weight loss. A healthy weight loss is a typical result of a smart vegan diet. Eating vegan eliminates most of the unhealthy foods that tend to cause weight issues.
  3. Energy. When following a healthy vegan diet, you will find your energy is much higher. This blog post in Happy Healthy Long Life describes how NFL tight-end Tony Gonzalez started eating vegan and gained energy–while playing football.
  4. Healthy skin. The nuts and vitamins A and E from vegetables play a big role in healthy skin, so vegans will usually have good skin health. Many people who switch to a vegan diet will notice a remarkable reduction in blemishes as well.
  5. Longer life. Several studies indicate that those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle live an average of three to six years longer than those who do not.
  6. Body odor. Eliminating dairy and red meat from the diet significantly reduces body odor. Going vegan means smelling better.
  7. Bad breath. Vegans frequently experience a reduction in bad breath. Imagine waking up in the morning and not having morning breath.
  8. Hair. Many who follow vegan diets report that their hair becomes stronger, has more body, and looks healthier.
  9. Nails. Healthy vegan diets are also responsible for much stronger, healthier nails. Nail health is said to be an indicator of overall health.
  10. PMS. When switching to a vegan diet, many women tell how PMS symptoms become much less intense or disappear altogether. The elimination of dairy is thought to help with those suffering with PMS.
  11. Migraines. Migraine suffers who go on vegan diets frequently discover relief from their migraines.
  12. Allergies. Reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms. Many vegans report much fewer runny noses and congestion problems.

Too Much in the American Diet

The typical American diet not only consists of too much food, it also relies on too much of unnecessary food products or toxins. The following list explains how a vegan diet can eliminate these problems.

  1. Animal proteins. The average American eats twice as much protein as necessary for a healthy diet and much of that is from red meat. Getting protein from beans and grains is much healthier and reduces the risk for osteoporosis (see above).
  2. Cow’s milk dairy. The human body is not designed to digest cow milk and cow milk dairy products, yet the idea of milk being healthy is pushed through advertising. As many as 75% of people in the world may be lactose intolerant and many people suffer from undiagnosed milk allergies or sensitivities. By eliminating cow’s milk from your diet, you are improving your overall health.
  3. Eggs. Many nutritionists believe that the number of eggs in the American diet is too high. While sometimes disputed, it has been shown that eggs can raise cholesterol levels.
  4. Mercury. Most of the fish and shellfish consumed has mercury in it. While some fish have less than others, it is almost impossible not to be putting mercury in your body when you eat fish.
  5. Sugar. Most people have heard that Americans consume way too much sugar. Relying on other sweeteners that are not synthetic, processed, or derived from animal products is a healthier way to eat. Many vegans do not eat processed sugar due to the fact that most of the cane sugar is refined through activated charcoal, most of which comes from animal bones.

Other Benefits

In addition to the health benefits above, following a vegan lifestyle and diet also provides these benefits as well. From helping the environment to avoiding serious bacterial infections, learn other benefits to eating the vegan way below.

  1. Animals. Many people begin a vegan diet out of concern for animals. Whether opposed to the conditions of animals intended for food or eating animals in general, going vegan will help your conscience rest easily.
  2. Environment. Growing plants takes much fewer resources than growing animals. By eating vegan, you can help reduce the toll on the environment.
  3. E. coli. E. Coli comes from eating contaminated red meat and is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea. Young children, those with compromised immune systems, and elderly people can become extremely ill or die from E. coli. Eating vegan means completely avoiding the risk of E. coli infection.
  4. Salmonella. Another gastrointestinal illness from animal products, salmonella food poisoning is closely related to E. coli. The most frequent way people contract salmonella food poisoning is through contact with raw eggs or raw chicken meat from chickens infected with salmonella. Again, going vegan means eliminating this risk altogether.
  5. Mad cow disease. It’s safe to say that most people would want to avoid contracting a fatal, non-treatable disease. One way to ensure you don’t get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is by not eating animals infected with mad cow disease. While the incidence of mad cow disease is not reportedly so high in North America, it does exist.
  6. Global food supply. Feeding grain to animals meant as food sources reduces the amount of food that is available to underdeveloped nations. Many people will go hungry while that same food they could be eating is given to animals raised for slaughter. Eating vegan ensures that you have removed yourself from the participation of this imbalance.
  7. Hormone consumption. Eating animals that have been given hormones to speed growth (a common practice in the meat industry) means those hormones go into your body. Not only can this disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, but some of the hormones given to animals have shown to cause tumor growth in humans.
  8. Antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently given to feed animals, which can lead to bacterial resistance. Many of the antibiotics used to treat human infections are also used in feed animals.

Healthy Eating

A vegan diet can be a much healthier way to eat. Find out how to combine the vegan diet with other ways of eating for an even more healthy way to go or discover ways to keep your vegan diet healthy but more convenient with the resources below.

  1. Raw. A raw diet lends itself to veganism by the very nature of its design. Find out how to combine live and vegan diets with Raw Inspirations.
  2. Organic. Eating organic and vegan is super easy to do. Search for some great ideas on how to live and eat organic and vegan. My suggestion—search the internet.
  3. Fat-free. Vegan eating is typically pretty low in fats anyway, but the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen shows you how to make some delicious vegan food that is always fat free.
  4. Gluten-free. Due to allergies, Celiac’s Disease, or whatever your reason you avoid gluten, find out how to combine the best of gluten-free with vegan cooking in the Gluten-Free blog..
  5. Eating out. Eating out isn’t usually associated with eating healthy, but a vegan diet ensures there will be a lot less of the bad things in the food you choose. Many restaurants post their menu on the outside. Before you enter check out the restaurant’s menu in detail. If in doubt—ask questions when ordering.
  6. Lunch. Maintaining a vegan diet means you are likely to take your lunch more often than most people. Vegan Lunch Box offers recipes, tools, and ideas for carrying great vegan lunches every day.
  7. Dinner. Coming up with new dinner ideas is challenging for everyone–regardless of what type of diet you follow. Check out this amazing selection of vegan dinner recipes accompanied with mouth-watering photos of each preparation on Dinner with Dilip.
  8. Dessert. While not all the recipes on My Sweet Vegan are for dessert, you will find a large selection of sweet vegan recipes with the most delicious-looking photos.
  9. Wine. Pairing vegan food with wine may be challenging for those who rely on the old standard of “white with fish and red with meat.”
  10. Fun. These ladies know how to kick it with vegan cooking. Post Punk Kitchen offers some great recipes with a ton of fun infused in them. Be sure to go through the archives for more yummy food ideas. 

 

Post Script

Part I and II of this series looked at Diabetes in America. Converting to a Vegan diet will be one of the best things you’ve ever accomplished. Change is always difficult and requires effort. Given that scientific research has found tremendous benefits from a Vegan diet, including three to six years of additional life expectancy, I think it’s fair to say that making that effort to a more healthy Vegan diet will be time well spent.

Read Full Post »

A Balanced Life

 This Writer’s Own Story

 

I’ve been writing a Blog since May, 2008. Most of the topics I’ve dealt with have been very serious academic ones, never trivial. Some have been historical, or tributes like the female pilots of WWII, or Orson Welles.

 Recently, my daughter suggested that I write something more personal, combined with shortening my Blog articles. This, she said, would tend to make my articles more “Blog-like.” As an old social scientist and researcher by trade, it’s hard for me to give up old habits; but, I’ll try.

I thought I could give the reader an up close and personal look at who I am, and what I like or value or think about. Maybe letting the reader know who I am will make my focus or viewpoint on future articles more understandable.

Who am I? I thought I’d tell you about my early life; disappointments, failures, and mistakes; my most important social issue of the day; and finally—a few of my favorite things. As I talk about these things I’ll try to explain what they mean to me and how it contributed to a balanced life.  

 Early Family Life

 My childhood was a good one. My parents treated me as special—I was the baby of the family (A third born) having been born smack dab in the middle of World War II. Being the baby of the family I was spoiled, well loved, got all of the attention, got everything new including a bicycle much earlier than either my sister or brother.

My dad was especially very joyous at my birth; after all, it helped keep him out of World War II. But my dad was a major influence in my life. We’d have long discussions in the family kitchen about philosophy, religion, science, music, and a thousand other topics. He contributed the idea and importance of learning and education in life, and the belief I could accomplish anything in life. My father was born in 1906 in a poor family and was one of those early brainiacs who never finished high school; yet he became a public accountant at age 15, having passed all the state exams. But he had to wait, under California law at the time, until he was 16 before he could actually work as an accountant or hang out a shingle. As baby of the family I always felt wanted and loved, valued and, as a result, took an interest in all the possibilities for growth and development. I also had a very active imagination and was exceptionally inquisitive. I probably drove my parent’s nuts with all my questions.

My mother went to the middle of her senior year of high school, but was persuaded by her mother to drop out and go to work (a bad idea grandma, but then this was, of course, 1929 and the great stock market had crashed). More than anyone else my mother imparted to a moral outlook on life. And, she may have been a woman ahead of her time. I learned the unacceptability of a double standard for men and women. This influenced me greatly. To this day I feel that a cheating spouse is wrong on a number of levels. For one thing cheating isn’t about sex; it is about trust. Call me corny and old fashioned, but I have nothing but disgust for those who violate their marriage vows by being unfaithful.

  I have always regretted that I didn’t inherit the music genes of my mother, father and brother. I played trumpet in elementary school through my junior year of high school. But my musical talent was very limited   My mother could play the piano like a concert pianist. My father had a voice like Enrico Caruso and my brother could play 7 instruments. Both my parents loved reading and instilled in me a love of knowledge. My mother in fact had a better vocabulary than anyone I have ever known.

 When I was born I wasn’t told in advance that I had an older sister and an older brother. Sometimes, I could milk being a third born for all its worth; at other times, it was a bad place to be the smallest and youngest in the family. My sister was 8 ½ years older than me and my brother 5 ½. My sister taught me rudimentary words in Spanish when I was 8 years old. She also took me places including the movies, visits to Santa Claus when I was 4 or 5 years old, and to a 1950s version of a social dance club. I was very close to my sister. When she got married and moved out of the house, I learned I wasn’t immune to depression. I was in a depression for several months.

 I was an athlete growing up. As a youngster I loved the competition and feelings of success I got from sports. I’d go to Sir Francis Drake High School as a 10 year old and practice running track, and I loved the long jump and the standing broad-jump. I played Little League Baseball (10-12 year olds) in San Anselmo as well as Junior League Baseball (13-14 year olds). Later on at Novato High School, I played Junior Varsity Baseball in my sophomore year. In my junior year I played Varsity Basketball and, in my senior year was on the Varsity Track Team where I excelled as an athlete. I was Fourth all-county (Marin County) in the Shot Put in 1961 (in those years they awarded Bronze Medals to both the third and fourth place contestants in all-county meets). But I found going to the Regional Track Meet to represent my high school—the competition suddenly got really tough. I didn’t advance. I never made it to the Divisional level or the State finals. When I entered college I put athletics behind me to concentrate on academics. Reality set in. I knew upon entering college I wasn’t going to be the next John Baccabella (Chicago Cubs) or Reggie Carolan (San Diego Chargers) from Marin County.

 Into Each Life A Little Rain Will Fall     

 Growing up can be difficult, or it can be a lot of fun. The only times I got into trouble in school was wearing taps on the bottom of my shoes in Eighth grade (I thought it was cool) and in High School once “Making Out” on the school bus with a girl from the Freshman class.  

Like most people, my life was balanced in this regard. I experienced some pain in my life that I like to chalk up now to growth and development as a person. I know I’m not alone. Many people have had similar experiences growing up. Granted, most of my pain was psychological in nature, but, psychological or not, it affected my physical well-being as well.

Growing up I had an older brother who picked on me all the time, sat on top of me on the front lawn while rubbing grass into my face and mouth, and pounding on me whenever he felt the need to do so. This to me was torture. Lately, I have been very upset with the realization that the CIA and our military engaged in torturing prisoners of war. I have always despised the idea of torturing someone.  Growing up, I sometimes felt humiliated and helpless.  All I wanted to do was get bigger and stronger and get revenge. My opportunity finally arose. When I got to be 15 years old and had the near punching speed of a Muhammad Ali combined with the punching power of a George Foreman, I confronted my 20 year old brother with the revenge goal of beating the crap out of him. But, he could sense my growing power. We were now the same height, but physically I was much stronger. I was then told, “We’re adults now—we don’t act like children anymore.” All those years of abuse and I didn’t even get a chance to fight back. Oh, I got even in other ways; but that’s for another Blog to explain.  

 When I was 19 years old I fell in love for the first time with my pretty and smart 18 year old girlfriend (this was 1962). But life at that age is different for a guy. I wasn’t ready to get married; she was and could sense that I wasn’t there yet (Values were certainly different back then). Although we parted friends, the feelings of love I had for her didn’t go away for a very long time. This was a very painful experience for me but I knew in my heart she was right to dump me. I had in my head a subconscious timeline of the things I wanted to accomplish in life. And, getting married at 19 wasn’t part of my plan. 

 By the time my military service was complete I was just 23 years old and still not ready to settle down. I dated a young girl who had gone to the same high school as I. She was blond and stunningly beautiful, and had a very nice, sweet personality. She was perfect for someone to marry, and would make someone a trophy wife. But that someone wasn’t going to be me. I liked this girl a lot, but marriage wasn’t on my radar screen. I wanted a woman to marry who had a lot of depth.

 It wasn’t long however, before I met the love of my life. I fell in love with a young lass I met at college. She appealed to me in so many ways. My future bride was highly personable, really bright (which really appealed to me), cute, sexy, and she came from a very similar middle class background with many of the same values and outlook on life. I suddenly found myself ready to settle down. 

 Although in my adult life I had the usual disappointments, failures and mistakes, I also had a lot of success in my academic, personal, and professional life. A great marriage of 42 years, two fantastic children and grandchildren, and the opportunity to be creative top my list in life. Life has been very good to me. Everyone experiences painful events in life but I have to be honest. The truth is, I’ve led a very charmed life filled with hope, glory, and very little stress. When kidney cancer struck me in 2004, I discovered  I had a very positive attitude toward the disease. I was physically and mentally one tough SOB. I found I could face the very real possibility of death by being mentally strong, physically confident, and very determined to live. As it turned out, I’m now 5 ½ years cancer free.

My Current Life and Attitudes

 These days, in retirement, I’m still a person with many interests. What gives me meaning in life now is expressing myself through writing this Blog, writing books (my sixth book is soon to be published), and doing oil painting such as landscapes and abstracts and participating in art shows. I’m a trader on Wall Street. I diet and exercise, yet watch too much TV.

Where TV is concerned, I occasionally flip the TV channel to Shawn Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Nancy Grace when I’m really bored. Talk about pain and suffering—watching these clowns and pundits open their mouths imparting mindless dribble is nothing but excruciating pain, suffering and torture to watch and listen to. Nancy Grace is a tortured soul whom I really feel sorry for. Her fiancé was murdered when she was younger. She is so bitter about life all her hate and discontent spews right across the TV screen. Her I feel sorry for; the other two are just real bozos with sawdust rather than gray matter between their ears.

 My politics have always been complex, often defying general categorization. Politically, I am a middle-of-the-road independent, not ideological in any way. I favor gay rights and most liberal and civil rights causes. I hate class warfare because rich people and poor people want the same things in life. I favor the military and veterans, and respect many of the difficult problems facing homeland security. I like President Barack OBama and see him as smart and making intelligent choices. He’s inexperienced and untested but, in my gut, I feel he’ll rise to the challenges ahead. He will be one of our greatest problem-solving presidents. I also like VP Joseph Biden. I used to like George W. Bush right after 911. But when the torture issue surfaced and the bullshit denials followed, I lost all respect for him and that uneducated, psycho war criminal VP, Dick Cheney.

 I’ve been really pissed off since it was revealed that the Bush administration had a secret policy of having the CIA and military engage in torturing prisoners of war. In fact, the CIA has been involved in reprehensible, despicable acts and criminal behavior for more than 60 plus years, violating both national and international law.

 A national policy of torture has dishonored and disgraced our country and its people. Such a betrayal of our values and trust deserves complete total retribution with punishment for crimes against humanity. Just as prosecutors don’t generally allow excuses for first degree murder, one shouldn’t consider as relevant the differing motivations for committing war crimes, especially crimes against humanity. The excuses, reasons or motivations are irrelevant; it is the actual conduct or behavior that matters.  

 No pain in my life even comes close to the suffering caused by our own government. As more and more is revealed about the CIA and the U.S. military’s role in crimes against humanity, the more I want to see those responsible brought to justice. Just as those who were brought to justice during the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-46 got what they deserved (of the 22 original defendants 11 were hanged) so too those responsible in the Bush/Cheney White House, CIA and the military need to be brought to justice and tried for war crimes.

My fear at this point is that Attorney General Eric Holder will whitewash the investigation and the trials to follow, by restricting who is invited to the party. In that event, no amount of damage already done to our country’s honor and dignity will ever be repaired or restored. In future Blogs I will write in more detail on the issue of Torture Policy in America. Stay tuned. This issue isn’t going to go away any time soon. 

 What Are My Favorite Things?

 It is sometimes difficult to pin down why you like something or someone. But I’ll try to explain why I have favorite things or like certain people. Just like Julie Andrews sang in the 1964 movie Mary Poppins, I will describe “a few of my favorite things.”  Who knows: Maybe some of my favorite things are your favorite things.

 Some people get high on drugs; I never did that. I much prefer to get high on other people and life itself. The biggest highs in my life were getting married and “starting out my adult life.” It was a very happy time for me as when my children were born. I also glowed all day in 1994 when I hit a “Hole-in-One” at a local golf course on a Par Three.

 I love to laugh and smile a lot. Growing up my favorite comedians were Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. These days, I like Jay Leno, the late George Carlin, Wanda Sykes, and Henry Phillips. The later comedian is up and coming and combines stand-up humor with music. He sings great, plays guitar and the lyrics to his songs are outrageously hilarious. If you get a chance to watch or hear this guy—do it.

 I also find very entertaining and admire the actors and writers behind the following shows: House, Castle, Fringe, Warehouse 13, Royal Pains, Criminal Minds, Monk, and Psych.

 Sports are still important to me. I love NBA basketball and think Dwayne Wade is sensational, in fact the best since Michael Jordon. I want the Sacramento Kings to win an NBA Championship (I can dream can’t I) and I’m also fond of the Boston Celtics. They have so many good players.

I find baseball too slow for my likes and, like many people, only watch the World Series. I’m a big NFL fan (Go Raiders no matter what. Justin Fargas [Number 25] is really outstanding). Ever since my wife and I got our first color TV in 1970, watching sports has been really enjoyable. Now that we have a 52” HD Sony TV, it is even better.

 I still have a fantasy life even at age 66—all those pretty ladies on TV and in the movies.  Their names are many. Back in 1949, when I was 6 years old, I was in love with actress Joan Evans and, believe it or not, a very young Doris Day. As you see, like many men, I’ve been fantasizing all my life. Isn’t it great to be alive, folks! 

 My favorite actor is Clint Eastwood (a story telling genius) and a great movie director. I like action-oriented flicks and spy thrillers the best. Burt Reynolds I enjoyed watching in 1970 in his role as Dan August. I like a good comedy and a good love story (my softer side) once in a while; and on occasion, fantasy or animated features. The Wizard of Oz never gets boring to me, and I’ve been humming the tunes from that movie for over 60 years.

When I was young I liked Rock in Roll, Dixieland, Classical Music and Progressive Jazz. These days I like Reggae-Rock (listen to O.A.R. concerts), Country and Western Music (from Toby Keith to you guessed it—Taylor Swift). But, I have to confess the music I love the best is Classical Music. I love so many different types of music because they alter my emotions so quickly and easily. All music makes me feel good and drenches my mind with utter delight. The Russian composers are my favorite, such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (The Russian Easter Overture and Scheherazade) and Pictures at an Exhibition by Modeste Mussorgsky. All the Russian composers put dynamism into their music. They are musically fabulous. I probably have diverse musical interests today because my family growing up had such diverse musical interests and abilities. I also love the music of Debussy (Clair de Lune). My mother could play that piece on the grand piano. I also, in my quiet moments, like New Age music as well.

 My favorite singers are John Denver, Josh Ritter, and the late Glenn Yarbrough (Baby the Rains Must fall), Rod Stewart, Sarah McLaughlin, Kenny Rogers, Taylor Swift and Trisha Yearwood.

 My favorite musicians are Kenny G, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, and pianist, John Tesh (Live at Red Rocks). My favorite musical groups are O.A.R., BareNaked Ladies, and the eternal group, The Moody Blues (Nights in White Satan).

 My favorite movies are so hard to choose. There are so many. Currently at the top of my list (if I have to choose) is Pearl Harbor (2001) with Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale, The Wizard of Oz (1939), Titanic (1997), Spy Game with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt (2001), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and The Brave One with Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard (2007).

 Jason Statham (Crank and Transporter 1-3) movies are all great action and pure kinetic energy.  Nicolas Cage movies are wonderful entertainment, and I love to watch old B&W movies with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Charlie Chan (both Warner Orland and Sydney Toler), and Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto. I love everything on the Science, Discovery, and History Channels and admire every Ken Burn’s documentary ever made (especially that one on the Civil War and our National Parks).

 My favorite writers are James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Dr. Alex Cross is my favorite character in Patterson’s books and Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch in Connelly’s novels. I have an obsessive-compulsive personality and a verbal IQ of 135 (133 full-scale). I like the characters in Patterson and Connolly novels because they always seem compulsive, determined to get the job done, and they are really smart in the face of adversity and setbacks. If you prefer non-fiction, I read a lot of non-fiction books as well.

 If you’re looking for an excellent human interest story, please read A Sense of Belonging by Mel Martinez. It’s a story of a 15 year old boy who came to America in the Peter Pan program in 1962, escaping the communist regime of Fidel Castro. His parents had to remain behind in Cuba for another 4 years before he was reunited with his family. This is a very inspiring story because he could speak no English when he first arrived in the United States. Later Mel Martinez became a lawyer, got into Florida politics, became H.U.D. Secretary, and then became the first Cuban American to become a United States Senator. Read this book—you’ll like it.

 Well, now you have it. I’ve taken you on a very brief “look-see” at some highlights in my life, my issues, attitudes, and favorite things. This type of writing (up close and personal) can sometimes be very vain. But I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. This liberal/conservative/independent is signing off now. LOGIC AND REASON RULE! Thanks for coming to my party.

 

 

.

Read Full Post »

MY STRUGGLE WITH CANCER AND ITS RELIGIOUS MEANING

 

(A Personal Journey)

 

 

Have you ever been diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease? If so, how did you deal with its uncertainty? Did you worry that you might die soon, and what was your mental attitude? Were you terrified all the time? Or did you embrace a more positive “kick-ass” attitude such as, “I’m strong and can deal with anything, including death.”

 

Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with cancer, a potentially fatal disease. For me, I chose to celebrate life and to think positively. I do not presume to know how you or anyone else would react. All I can tell you is how I coped with cancer and how I determined what, if any, meaning could be ascribed to the experience.

 

So, how did all of this come about and why did a brush with death turn into a broader journey of self-discovery and search for specific religious meaning?  Where and when did it all start?  In May of 2004 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Through a process involving a Sonogram, a CAT scan, and an MRI, a tumor was discovered.  It was determined that the size of the tumor was very large, about eight inches long and approximately 5 inches wide. For about one month after the diagnosis I was discomposed. I didn’t know where to turn for answers.  Did I have Stage I, or Stage IV cancer, did I have any time left or was I already terminal?

 

At the age of 61, I was facing the very real possibility that maybe I wouldn’t live much longer. I might not live to see 62. After a month of worry and researching the net for answers, I had a three hour operation to remove one of my kidneys. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days during which I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink. I was amazed to discover that no eating and no water (just lemon swabs), other than that delivered by IV, was worse than the operation itself. By the third day of recovery, I was allowed to eat ice chips. Being a middle-class American I can say unequivocally, that I hadn’t missed too many meals in my life and yet I found the ice chips to be exceptionally satisfying. The last major surgery I had, I was young and bounced back quickly. This time, recovering from a kidney cancer operation was not an overnight event and it flat out wasn’t fun.  

 

Most of my life I was not a religious person. In fact, during my undergraduate college years in the early 1960s, I was definitely in the atheist camp intellectually and heavily influenced by writers such as Eric Hoffer, Bertrand Russell, Paul Tillich, Albert Camus, and John Paul Sartre and the philosophy of existentialism. I also was influenced by the academic fields of psychology and sociology, taking my baccalaureate in the former field and a minor in the latter field of study. During most of my life, the question of religion and mortality didn’t really matter to me at all. Nevertheless, I am aware that there is a large segment of our society who firmly believes that “God” will take care of them in life and in death.  Facing the real possibility of death by cancer, I began to wonder if there was some truth to this. (Plus I didn’t want to leave anything to chance if I could do anything to influence the results.) I began attending church, listening to sermons, attending religious studies classes and reading the bible.  

 

It wasn’t until I was home recovering, and had a chance to better reflect on what had happened, that I could begin to assess what it all meant. For me, two important and significant events happened as a result of my experience. (1) I learned a lot about myself and my behavior during this crisis, and (2) I began to ask myself the same types of questions that have both perplexed and stimulated human thought since the dawn of time.

 

What I learned about myself was that I took a rather positive philosophical stance on the issue of life and death, and I found that I was mentally and physically one very tough individual. One never knows until a crisis occurs how one might react. Rather than worry about myself, I became more concerned as to how my cancer would affect my loved ones. How were they reacting to the knowledge that I had cancer? What could I do to help allay their fears and anxieties?

 

I experienced tremendous support from my family and friends. I knew realistically that cancer might take my life, but I was also determined to take a “kick-ass” attitude toward the disease. I wasn’t going to let anything prevent me from living a full and long life. Whether my attitude had any effect on the cancer, the operation or recovery, I can’t say.  But soon after the operation I learned from a barrage of blood tests, and another MRI, that there was no sign the cancer had spread. When the pathologist’s report came back two weeks after the operation I learned that my cancer was, despite the very large tumor, Stage I, treatable and highly curable. Although I had a positive philosophical stance, I was never more relieved than when I got that news.

 

Two things happened while I was recovering at home.  First, I wanted to believe that my experience with cancer had a reason or purpose.  I needed the question “Why me?” answered. And, I wanted assurance that if I died because the disease came back, and there was such a place known as heaven, I would find myself in it.  In the months ahead, I became baptized in the belief that I was going to be a follower and supporter of Jesus Christ. I attended a conservative Assemblies of God evangelical church every Sunday, enjoyed the camaraderie with my friends, thoroughly enjoyed the music, and listened to the sermons with enthusiastic interest. I was glad to be alive.

 

But, as the initial scare of having cancer receded, I began to ask myself questions. Questions such as: Was it God that helped me through this trying time?  What if it had not been a success, is there really life after death; a Heaven or Hell? How could I know?  As I looked around the cathedral, I asked myself why do so many people have a strong trust in and a belief in the existence of God and others not?

 

At this point I still had a very open mind as to the evangelical preaching of Christianity, and the belief that Christ died for our sins. And I fervently hoped there was life after death. But something was troubling me from the very start. I was uneasy in my quick acceptance of the Christian doctrines that I was now being taught. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first.  I think my early years as an atheistic intellectual were beginning to influence my thoughts. The questions I asked myself then were once again popping up begging for answers. Gradually it became clear what was bothering me.  Where was the logic?

 

One Sunday morning I was listening to one of the sermons when the topic of evolution came up. The minister kept saying “evolution is just a theory.” Saying something that uninformed really awakened my researcher’s inquisitiveness. In fact, it really pushed my button. I was sure I knew much better than that. Evolution wasn’t just a theory but the very foundation of all biological life. It has 150 years of data across 20+ scientific disciplines. It is the most robust theory in all of science, and it describes the complex evolution of life on this planet. One would have to be completely blind to think otherwise.

 

In college I took science courses, and related methodologies, in physical anthropology, biology, calculus, physics, astronomy, and geology. But I also knew that much of my early college education in the sciences, and tools of science, was somewhat dated. My real strength and knowledge was in the twentieth century sciences of psychology and sociology.  Consequently, this wake-up call re-directed my thinking and re-kindled my innate curiosity. I soon began collecting books on science as well as religion. A researcher by career, I am not one to let important questions blow in the wind. I wanted to take responsibility for answering the questions for myself by myself. Being an intensely curious person, I began to investigate the nature of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. I read and listened and devoured knowledge wherever it was, including books, magazines, the internet, tapes and DVDs on Christianity and on Karen Armstrong’s book, The History of God.

 

I was determined to be objective and not let my emotional reaction to cancer continue to cloud my judgment. I began to question EVERYTHING in this world again like I did at age 20 or 21—all theories, facts, data, assumptions, values, and beliefs. Feeling foolish and stupid that I had allowed myself the luxury to think uncritically where religion was concerned, my appetite for analyzing and evaluating the important questions of religion versus science increased exponentially during the subsequent 2 ½ years. My voracious appetite for knowledge on religion and science had a direct impact on the tone and character of the second event in my life to come out of this experience—the writing of a non-fiction manuscript called, Trouble in Paradise: The Social and Intellectual Decline of Christianity and the Rise of Science..

 

So what conclusions have I come to during my struggle with cancer and its religious meaning? What “analytical insights” do I now have? By the way, I don’t like to use the term “belief” because beliefs are a dime a dozen and based on assumptions that lack the merit of evidence. I much prefer to use the term “analytical insight.” It too is based on assumptions, but it does carry with it the merit of logic and evidence.

 

In general, my analytical insight is that all religions, including Christianity, are cultural phenomena. My search for religious meaning and having cancer has no connection whatsoever. There is no meaning to it. Cancer is what it is, and its causes are very complex involving genetic and/or environmental factors. I really can’t personalize the experience of having cancer. Trying to derive meaning, or ascribing some sort of significance to cancer, was based on my egocentric need to believe that the physical and mental stress I endured had importance and value.

 

Once I got past this desire to connect meaning with my cancer experience, I began to use the “jeweler’s eye” to focus in on what religion and Christianity were really all about. After four years of study, and writing of the manuscript, these are my analytical insights: 

 

Up until this point I had believed in the idea of theistic evolution, i.e., the notion that religion and science need not be in conflict with one another, a position not unlike the position taken today by many mainstream protestant denominations. And, interestingly enough, this is also the position taken by the Catholic Church since Second Vatican II in 1965. Now I question my beliefs regarding theistic evolution.

 

The root of all religion goes back to Animism nearly 200,000 years ago. And monotheism grew out of the larger cultural experience of polytheism. That transition from polytheism to monotheism changed the emphasis from a spirit-centered world, reflective of many gods, to a human-centered world, reflective of just one god. Isn’t it amazing that a single god is ascribed with so many human characteristics and emotions?

 

Today, monotheism dominates the religious landscape worldwide. A human-centered world is really about culture with its never-ending collective Ego. Given human nature, I’m not surprised today that society (and the individual) puts itself at the center of the universe. Early cultures believed that the earth was at the center of the solar system , and along with it—mankind. No one back then  understood just how large the universe really was. This was what society believed for centuries before Galileo defended heliocentrism (the sun rather than the earth was at the center of the solar system) during the seventeenth century.  His defense of such a controversial theory violated biblical scripture of the times. But today heliocentrism is a widely held and accepted fact.

 

In such an egotistical social environment, culture got it wrong. God did not create man in God’s image, rather the opposite—Man created God in man’s own image. It is amazing to me that people use reason and logic all the time in their everyday lives, but somehow give religion a free pass from logical scrutiny. Many people believe in “a sky God who judges you” because they want to, not because they have personal knowledge behind supernatural hypotheses. They want to believe in an intelligently designed universe and designer. However, just ask people who have suffered from a lifetime of back problems and pain whether they think the human body was intelligently designed. My guess is you won’t find many takers with that proposition. And the concept of faith, rather than being simply reverential yearning, is really a “cop out” for not demanding evidence. Why does demanding evidence and promoting logic and reason trump belief and faith? I think the late comedian George Carlin summed it all up very well.

 

“Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades.  Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the resume of a supreme being. This is the kinda (expletive) you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude.”

 

Please periodically return to this blog and stay tuned for future topics. One of the first to be presented soon is to answer the question, “Will Christianity decline in the 21st Century?”

 

Read Full Post »