Salt Weakens the Immune System

A current study under leadership at the University Hospital Bonn, has concluded that a high salt diet not only is bad for blood pressure, but also for the immune system. Mice who were fed a high salt diet were found to suffer from more severe bacterial infections. Human volunteers who also consumed high levels of salt also showed pronounced immune deficiencies.

Sodium chloride which is the chemical name for salt, raises blood pressure which leads to the risk of stroke or heart attack. However, not only that – the recent study has proved for the first time that excessive intake of salt also significantly weakens an important part of the immune system.

The research team found their findings unexpected as previous studies pointed in the opposite direction. For example, infections with certain skin parasites in lab animals heal much faster if they consume a high salt diet. The macrophages which are immune cells that attack, eat and digest parasites, are very active in the presence of salt. Several doctors concluded therefore that salt has a generally immune enhancing effect.

The results from the current study show this generalization to be inaccurate. There were two reasons for this. The body keeps the salt concentration in the blood and in a variety of organs largely constant. Otherwise biological processes within the body would be impaired. The only major exception is the skin as it functions as a salt reservoir for the body. This is the reason additional intake of salt works so well for some diseases of the skin.

However, other parts of the body are not exposed to the additional salt that is consumed with food. It is filtered by the kidneys then excreted in the urine. This is where the second mechanism comes into play. The kidneys have a sodium chlorine sensor that will activate the salt excretion function. As a negative side effect however, this sensor also causes so called glucocorticoids to accumulate in the body. These in turn inhibit the function of granulocytes which are the most common type of immune cell contained in blood.

Granulocytes are scavenger cells. However, they do not attack parasites but mainly bacteria. If they are not able to do this to a sufficient degree, infections will proceed much more severely. The team was able to show this in mice that had listeria infections.

The team fed one group of mice a high salt diet and gave a normal diet to a control group of mice for comparison. In the liver and spleen of the mice fed a high salt diet they counted 100 to 1,000 times the number of disease causing pathogens. Listeria are bacteria that can be found in contaminated food for instance and can result in fever, vomiting and sepsis.

They also found infections of the urinary tract were found to heal much more slowly in lab mice that had been fed a high salt diet. The team traced this impaired ability to fight off bacteria infections to immune cells called neutrophils which digest bacteria. They believe the kidneys’ response to the high salt diet may indirectly affect the neutrophils.

Salt also appears to have a negative effect on the human immune system. The team examined participants who consumed six grams of salt in addition to their normal daily intake. This is about the amount contained in two fast food meals – two burgers and two servings of french fries. After one week, the team took blood from the participants and examined the granulocytes. The immune cells coped much worse with bacteria after the participants had started to consume a high salt diet.

In was also noted in the human participants, the excessive salt intake also resulted in increased glucocorticoid levels which inhibits the immune system. The best known glucocorticoid cortisone is typically used to suppress inflammation. Only through the team’s investigations in an entire organism were they able to uncover the complex control circuits that lead from salt intake to this particular immunodeficiency.

The findings are preliminary, and need larger clinical studies to confirm. However, according to the World Health Organization, a person should never consume more than 5 grams a day of salt. This amount corresponds to about one level teaspoon. Data from the Robert Koch Institute show that on average men consume 10 grams of salt per day and women 8 grams per day.

To view the original scientific study click below

A high-salt diet compromises antibacterial neutrophil responses through hormonal perturbation.

Unmasking the Differences between Face Masks

Surgical masks and N95 respirators are examples of personal protective equipment (PPE) which are used to protect the wearer from liquid contamination and airborne particles from contaminating the face. It is important to know the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission. Each type of mask and also cloth face masks serve different functions.

N95 respirators are tested and approved by the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). Their intended use and purpose is to protect the wearer from exposure to particles including small particle aerosols and large droplets. They are designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.

The N95 designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks a minimum of 95% of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. When fitted properly, the filtration capabilities of these type respirators exceed those of face masks. However, they do not completely eliminate the risk of illness. Leakage can occur around the edge of the mask when user inhales. N95 respirators are disposable and ideally should be discarded after each patient encounter and/or when the unit no longer forms an effective seal to the face, becomes wet or visibly dirty, breathing becomes difficult, or it becomes contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions or other bodily fluids from patients.

N95 masks are typically used in healthcare settings. The CDC does not recommend the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases including COVID-19. These masks are critical supplies that are primarily reserved for health care workers and first responders as recommended by the CDC.

Surgical masks are loose fitting, disposable devices that create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. They are typically used to to protect the wearer from splashed sprays and large particle droplets. They also prevent the spread of potentially infectious respiratory secretions from the wearers to others. They are tested and approved by the FDA.

Surgical masks are loose fitting and can vary in design. However, the mask itself is often flat and rectangular in shape with pleats or folds. The top of the mask contains a metal strip which can be formed to a person’s nose. Elastic bands or long straight ties help hold a surgical mask in place while being worn – either looped behind the ears or tied behind the head.

While a surgical mask is meant to block large particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter that might contain germs (bacteria and viruses), they do not filter or block very small particles in the air that could be transmitted by sneezes, coughs or certain medical procedures. They do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants due to their loose fit between the surface of the face mask and face. They are intended for one use only and should be discarded after each patient encounter.

Cloth face coverings many of which can be homemade, only offer a small degree of protection, but the may also help the slow spread of the COVID-19 virus. These type masks are what the CDC is recommending for use by the general public when in public settings.

Face cloths should not be placed on children under the age of 2, people who have breathing difficulties, people who are unconscious, or people who are unable to remove the mask on their own. They should be washed after each use. When removing a person should be careful not to touch their nose, eyes or mouth and hands should be washed immediately after removal.

They can be made from common materials. It should be kept in mind by wearers of these type masks that they can provide a false sense of security. While they do offer some degree of protection, they offer a lot less protection than respirators or surgical masks. One study indicated that homemade face masks may be half as effective as surgical masks and up to 50 times less effective than N95 respirators. However, they are better than not using any mask and offer some protection especially where social distancing is hard to maintain.

Removing Virus After Hand Washing – Paper Towels vs. Air Dryers

A recent study by a team at the University of Leeds, UK was set up to determine if using paper towels or air dryers is more effective for removing microbes when still contaminated hands are dried.

Hand drying is especially critical in helping minimize the spread of dangerous microbes which includes COVID-19. Failure to remove these microbes increases their transfer to environmental surfaces which increases the opportunity for them to be transmitted and spread. The study set out to investigate whether there are differences in the extent of transmission of the virus according to each hand drying method beyond the bathroom to the hospital environment.

Four participants simulated contamination of their hands/gloved hands using a bacteriophage which is a virus that infects bacteria and is actually harmless to humans. Their hands were not washed after contamination as the method used to simulate poorly and inadequately hand washing. Their hands were dried using either paper towels or a jet air dryer. Each participant wore an apron to enable measurement of body/clothing contamination during hand drying. The hand drying was performed in a hospital bathroom and after the participants exited, samples were collected from both ward and public areas.

Environmental surface sites were sampled following participant’s contact with hands or apron. These site samples included doors, stair handrails, chairs in ward and public areas, lift buttons, phones, buttons on intercoms to wards, stethoscope tubing and head piece and chest piece, the aprons, and armchairs that had been indirectly in contact with aprons. For the latter sample site, the participants were asked to cross their arms across their chest while using the apron and before resting their arms on the chair.

The study team found that both paper towel and air dryer methods statistically significantly reduced virus contamination of hands. For 10 out of 11 surfaces tested, significantly greater environmental contamination was detected after air dryers versus paper towel use. All surfaces sampled following the use of air dryers showed phage contamination compared to 6 surfaces after paper towel use. Average surface contamination following hand contact was more than 10 times higher after air dryer use versus paper towel use.

Viral dispersal to apron/clothing was 5 times higher with air dryers versus the paper towels. Phage transfer from aprons to armchairs via the crossed arms was detected only following air dryer use. This suggests that the transfer of microbes to environmental surfaces can occur directly from hands that remain contaminated after air drying, but also indirectly from a person’s body that has been contaminated during air drying.

The research team concluded that there are very distinct differences in regards to air drying versus paper towel drying in the residual microbial contamination of the participant’s hands and body. These differences in contamination translate into significantly greater levels of microbe contamination after air drying versus the use of paper towels from hands and body beyond the bathroom. Since public bathrooms are used by patients, visitors and staff, the hand drying method used has the potential to increase (using air dryers) or reduce (using paper towels) pathogen transmission in hospitals.

The team also notes that their findings have significant importance since there has been a general migration from use of paper towels to more air drying in many settings and areas in the world. The World Health Organization’s hand washing guidelines recommend the use of paper towels to dry hands. And they also recommend using a paper towel to turn off the tap. Paper towels should be the preferred method of drying hands following proper washing to help reduce the risk of virus contamination and spread.

To view the original scientific study click below

Dispersal of microbes to hospital surfaces following two hand drying methods: paper towels or a jet air dryer

Protect Against Deadly Covid-19 Complications with Exercise

A top exercise researcher has reported that regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which is a major cause of death in people with the COVID-19 virus. He is now urging people to exercise regularly as a way of possibly preventing or at least reducing the severity of ARDS.

Zhen Yan, PhD at the University of Virginia School of Medicine has shown that findings from medical research strongly supports the possibility of exercise as a form of treatment for those suffering from ARDS. Between 3% and 17% of all patients with the COVID-19 virus suffer from ARDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 20% to 42% of patients who become hospitalized with COVID-19 will develop ARDS. For patients admitted to an ICU the range is estimated at 67% to 85%.

Research that was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has suggested that about 45% of patients who develop severe ARDS will die. Right now what we hear is that social distancing or ventilators is all we have to avoid exposure or relying on a ventilator to survive the virus. However, 80% of confirmed COVID 19 patients have only mild symptoms with no need for respiratory support and the question is why.

Research findings in regards to an endogenous antioxidant enzyme may provide important clues. Extracellular Superoxide Dismutase (EcSOD) is a potent antioxidant that hunts down harmful free radicals which helps protect our tissues and prevent disease. Our muscles naturally produce this antioxidant secreting it into circulation to allow binding to other vital organs. Its production is enhanced by cardiovascular exercise.

A decrease in EcSOD is seen in a variety of diseases including ischemic heart disease, kidney failure and acute lung disease. Research conducted on mice suggests that blocking this antioxidant production worsens heart problems, while increasing its production has beneficial effects. A decrease in EcSOD is also associated with chronic conditions like osteoarthritis.

Research has suggested that even a single session of exercise increases the production of EcSOD. With the current COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Yan is urging people to find ways to exercise while still maintaining social distancing. Regular exercise has far more health benefits that we currently know. The protection exercise may provide against ARDS which is a serious condition that can develop in COVID 19 patients, is just one of the many examples.

Dr. Yan’s review has strongly suggested EcSOD has a potential and promising treatment for ARDS and a variety of other health conditions. Gene therapy is another example which may one day be used to increase the production of EcSOD so that its protection presence in lungs is enhanced in patients who are battling the COVID-19 virus.

Research has also shown that rats with chronic kidney disease had less damage to their kidneys when treated with human EcSOD. This antioxidant is being proposed as a potential therapy for diabetic retinopathy which is a complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness.

EcSOD may also prove beneficial for multi-organ dysfunction syndrome where multiple organs begin to fail. Treating the condition with general antioxidants has not been successful, however Dr. Yan suggests that understanding EcSOD’s workings may lead to doctors using it in a more targeted and more effective fashion.

It is often said that exercise is medicine. EcSOD has set a perfect example of the biological process of exercise to potentially advance medicine.

To view the original scientific study click below

Extracellular superoxide dismutase, a molecular transducer of health benefits of exercise.

High Dose Intravenous Vitamin C for Covid-19

The largest hospital system in New York is now giving high doses of Vitamin C intravenously for patients with COVID 19. The treatment is based on Chinese reports of this approach helping patients with the virus.

Critical care specialist and pulmonologist Dr. Andrew G. Weber has reported that his COVID 19 patients in intensive care are receiving 1,500 mgs of Vitamin C intravenously and are being re-administered the dose 3 to 4 times per day. These doses are 16 times more than the national recommended allowances of 75 mg for adult women and 90 mg for adult men. The approach is based on experimental treatments and small studies with COVID 19 patients in Shanghai, China.

The information from China describes patients with new coronaviral pneumonia who recovered and were discharged from the hospital after high dose Vitamin C. The information also states that early application of large doses of Vitamin C can have a strong antioxidant effect and improve endothelial function. High dose Vitamin C has been shown to not only improve antiviral levels but also can prevent and treat acute respiratory distress and acute lung injury.

Vitamin C is being widely used to treat patients with COVID 19 throughout the system. The treatment protocols do vary from patient to patient. Currently more COVID 19 patients are being treated in the hospital network in New York than anywhere else in the United States.

The Vitamin C treatments are being given along with other medicines including hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and other biologicals and blood thinners. These “cocktails” are being administered to severely ill patients on a compassionate care basis. The patients who received the additional Vitamin C showed significant improvement over those who did not.

Vitamin C levels drop dramatically in people with COVID 19 when they experience sepsis. Sepsis is an inflammatory response that occurs when the body overreacts to an infection. It therefore makes sense to try and maintain levels of Vitamin C.

A hospital in Wuhan, China is currently conducting clinical trials in regards to the effectiveness of high dose intravenous Vitamin C on COVID 19 patients.

A Key Ingredient in Mediterranean Diet May Extend Life

The team at the University of Minnesota Medical School researched olive oil and may have found what it is that activates the pathway to increased lifespan and health!

Previous studies into the Mediterranean Diet identified red wine as a key contributor to the health benefits of this diet. Red wine contains a compound known as resveratrol which activates certain pathways in cells to assist in healthier aging. What the recent research has shown is that it is the fat in olive oil that is activating the same pathway.

According to the team, just consuming olive oil is not enough to elicit all of its health benefits. They suggest that when combined with limiting caloric intake, fasting, and exercising, the effects of consuming olive oil are more pronounced.

They found that the way the fat in olive oil works is it first needs to get stored in microscopic things known as lipid droplets which is how the cells in our body store fat. When the fat is then broken down during fasting or exercising, is when signaling and the beneficial effects are realized.

The team will further their research by translating it to humans with the goal of discovering new ways to further tailor dietary regimens that will improve health both in the short term and long term. They want to understand the biology and hopefully change the paradigm of health care from a person seeing a variety of different doctors to treat a variety of disorders. The goal is to treat aging!

To view the original scientific study click below

Lipid Droplet-Derived Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Traffic via PLIN5 to Allosterically Activate SIRT1.

When to Eat to Manage Weight

How we balance weight gain and weight loss is predominantly due to what we eat, how much we eat and by how much we exercise. However, another important factor is often looked over. It isn’t just about how many calories we consume, but when we eat them that will determine how well we will burn those calories.

In a study by Researchers at the Vanderbilt University, the metabolism of mid aged and older participants was monitored in a whole room respiratory chamber over two 56 hour sessions using a random crossover experimental design.

In both sessions, lunch and dinner were served at the same times (12:30 and 5:45 respectively), but the timing of the third meal differed between the two halves of the study. In one of the 56 hour time frames the additional meal was served as breakfast at 8:00 a.m. In the other session a nutritionally equivalentt meal was served as a late evening snack at 7:00 p.m. The length of the overnight fast was the same for the two sessions.

Although the two sessions did not differ in the type or amount of food eaten or in the participant’s activity levels, the daily timing of nutrient availability along with clock/sleep control of metabolism, flipped a switch in the participant’s fat/carbohydrate preference such that the late evening snack meal resulted in less fat burned when compared to the morning session.

The results indicate the timing of meals during the day and night cycle affect the extent to which consumed food is used versus being stored. The study has important implications in regards to eating habits suggesting that daily fast between an evening meal and breakfast will maximize weight management.

To view the original scientific study click below

Eating breakfast and avoiding late-evening snacking sustains lipid oxidation.

Red Meat and Processed Meats Linked to Severe Health Risks

A new large study has linked consuming processed meats and red meats to a higher risk of death and heart disease. The study from Northwestern Medicine and Cornell University refutes a previous controversial study that showed it was not necessary for people to alter their diet in regards to processed and red meats.

Last fall the controversial report encouraged people to not worry about health risks by consuming processed and red meat which contradicts decades of nutrition advice. The report was widely criticized by public health experts including groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. The recent study highlights the potential harm of a meat heavy diet.

The current research included a diverse group of 29,682 people with a mean age of 53.7 years at baseline and included 44.4% men and 30.7% non-white. All diet data was self reported by the participants who were asked to complete a long list of what they consumed for the previous month or year.

The study pooled together a large diverse sample from six cohorts and also included long follow-up data for up to three decades, harmonized diet data to reduce heterogeneity, adjusted a comprehensive set of con founders, and conducted multiple sensitivity analysis.

The research has shown that consuming two servings of processed meat, red meat or poultry and not and fish per week was linked to a 3 to 7% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. And consuming two serving of processed or red meat and not poultry or fish per week was found to be linked to a 3% higher risk of all causes of death.

While it is a small difference, reducing processed and red meat such as deli meats, bologna, and pepperoni is worth trying to help reduce the higher risk of a variety of health problems. Modifying the consumption of these particular protein foods could be an important strategy for reducing the risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease at a population levels says the research team.

The study showed that the link to cardiovascular disease and mortality was robust. The previous meta analysis last November recommended people not reduce their consumption of processed and red meats. People interpreted it to mean it is was okay to consume these foods, however the team states that the science does not support that.

The findings reinforce recommendations for people to prioritize healthier food choices such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, fish, seeds, and nuts and limit the consumption of processed and red meats, fried foods, sugar laden beverages, and refined grains. Seafood, fish and plant based sources of protein such as legumes and nuts and including peas and beans, are excellent alternatives to meat. These foods are under consumed in the United States.

The study did find a positive association between consuming poultry and cardiovascular disease, but the evidence isn’t yet sufficient to make a clear recommendation in regards to poultry consumption.

Limitations of the study included only one dietary intake assessment and dietary behaviors could have changed over time. Also, cooking methods were not considered. Deep fat fried foods that contribute to trans fatty acids such as fried chicken and fried fish have been positively linked to a variety of chronic diseases.

To view the original scientific study click below

Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality

Mediterranean Diet can Promote Gut Bacteria

New research has indicated that eating a Mediterranean diet for a year can help boost gut bacteria which are linked to healthy aging. The five country study also indicates this diet can help reduce bacteria that is associated with harmful inflammation in older people.

Aging is associated with the deterioration of bodily functions and an increase in inflammation. Both are also associated with the onset of frailty. The Mediterranean Diet may act on gut bacteria in a way that helps curb the advance of cognitive decline and physical frailty in advancing years.

Previous studies have suggested that a restrictive/poor diet which is typical among older people and particularly those in long term residential care, reduces the types and range of bacteria or microbiome that is found in the gut and helps accelerate the onset of frailty.

The researchers in the current study wanted to see if the Mediterranean Diet might help maintain the microbiome in the gut of older people and help promote the retention and possibly proliferation of bacteria that are associated with healthy aging.

The team analyzed the gut microbiome of 612 participants aged 65 to 79 before and following 12 months of either consuming their usual diet or a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet was rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, fish and legumes and low in saturated fats and red meat.

The participants who were either on the verge of frailty or were already considered frail or not frail at the start of the study resided in five different countries – France, Netherlands, Italy, the UK and Poland. Those who stuck with the Mediterranean diet for the period of 12 months were associated with beneficial changes to the gut microbiome.

The results were associated with stemming the loss of bacterial diversity; an increase in bacteria types previously linked with several indicators of diminished frailty such as hand grip strength and walking speed, and improved brain function; and with reduced production of potentially harmful inflammatory chemicals.

Additional detailed analysis indicated that the microbiome changes were linked with an increase in bacteria types known to produce beneficial short chain fatty acids and a decrease in bacteria involved in the production of particular bile acids. An over production of these bile acids is linked to increased risk of bowel cancer, fatty liver, insulin resistance, and cell damage.

The bacteria that proliferated in response to the Mediterranean diet acted as keystone species which meant they were critical to a stable gut ecosystem and the pushing out of microbes linked with indicators of frailty.

The changes were mainly driven by an increase in fiber and associated minerals and vitamins. The vitamins and minerals noted were B6, B9, C, potassium, copper, manganese, iron, and magnesium. The findings were independent of the participant’s weight or age both of which influence the make up of microbiome.

There were some differences in the gut microbiome of participants depending on country of origin to start with, however the response to the Mediterranean diet after the 12 month period was consistent and similar irrespective of nationality.

The research team does note that their findings cannot establish a causative role for the microbiome in health and some of the implications are inferred rather than directly measured. The interplay of diet, host health, and microbiome is a complex phenomenon which is influenced by a variety of factors.

The results of the study shed light on some of the rules of this three way interplay. A variety of factors such as body mass index, age, initial dietary patterns, and disease status may play a significant role in determining the extent of the success of these interactions.

The Mediterranean diet may be a challenge for some older adults, particularly those with dental problems and/or difficulty swallowing. However, the beneficial bacteria implicated in health aging found in this study may potentially prove useful therapeutic agents to help ward off frailty.

To view the original scientific study click below

Mediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries.

Obesity Considered as Premature Aging

According to a new study led by Sylvia Santosa at Concordia University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the mechanisms by which aging and obesity develop are very similar. The team believes that obesity should now be considered premature aging because it predisposes people to acquiring potentially life altering diseases which are normally seen in older people.

Around the world there are an estimated 1.9 billion adults and 380 million children who are either obese or overweight. The World Health Organization says more people are actually dying from overweight than underweight.

With the goal of trying to comprehensively show that obesity parallels aging, the team reviewed more than 200 papers which looked at obesity’s effects and how obesity ages the body from a variety of perspectives. They looked at the immune system to shifts in tissue and body composition, and the processes of cell death and the ongoing maintenance of healthy cells that are typically associated with aging.

Previous studies have shown that obesity is linked to premature death and have shown that obesity induced apoptosis has been observed in mice livers, hearts, neurons, kidneys, retinas and inner ears. Obesity also inhibits autophagy which can lead to a variety of life threatening diseases.

The team notes that at the lowest levels inside the human body, obesity is a factor that directly speeds up aging mechanisms. At the genetic level, the team discovered that obesity influences a number of alterations generally associated with aging. These include the shortening of telomeres which are the protective caps found on the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres in people who are obese can be more than 25% shorter than those seen in control patients.

The study has also suggested that obesity’s effects on mobility, cognitive decline, stress, and hypertension are all similar to those of aging. From the cellular level, the team says obesity plays a significant role in the body’s defenses against age related diseases. Obesity will speed up the aging of the immune system through targeting different immune cells and that later weight loss will not always reverse this process.

Obese people can also be at a higher risk of sarcopenia which is a disease associated with aging and causes a progressive decline in muscle strength and mass. Additionally they have a higher risk of diseases such as the flu which will often affect obese people at a higher rate than people with normal weight.

The hope is that these observations will focus approaches to understanding obesity in a better way and also allow people to think about obesity in a different way.

To view the original scientific study click below

Obesity and ageing: Two sides of the same coin.