Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cutting-edge Science on Heart Disease

Another ground-breaking article was recently published in the journal Cardiovascular Disease: The diet–microbe morbid union.”[1] The diet–microbe morbid union.” Its implications are astounding; but also, not new. Sadly, many studies like this one have been consistently ignored, as nutrition in general has been ignored as the most practical, economic and wise approach to health and disease.

Ever since the Nobel Prize in Medicine was warded in 1908 we have known that our microbiota in the gut is stunningly important to our health. This new article reiterates the concept that the food we eat is modified, for good or bad, by the micro organisms that dwell in our gut. If the “bad guys” predominate — a result of poor diets low in fiber and high in sugar, fats and animal protein, and the overuse of antibiotics, acid-blocking pills and chlorinated water — the food we eat will be poorly metabolized (mitochondrial energy available to cells) and will result in the formation of molecules that increase inflammation, oxidation and toxicity of every cell, including those that form our cardiovascular system.

On the other hand, if we eat whole foods high in fiber and avoid the above problems, we will be colonized in the gut by the “good guys,” which will do a better job on the food we eat, leading to better metabolism and molecules that maintain cardiovascular health and decrease inflammation, toxicity and inflammation. The journal Nature has been so impressed by the simplicity of this concept that it placed probiotics on its cover issue March 4th 2010. The point of that seminal study? That the “other genome,” that of our friendly bacteria in the gut outnumber our own genes 150:1! So, who is running the show? Sapolsky said it best, when discussing the influence micro organisms may have even on our behavior:

Many of us hold the deeply entrenched idea that primate mammals are the most evolved [organisms]... If you [agree] you are not just wrong but a step away from a philosophy that the most evolved human beings are Northern Europeans... So, remember, there are creatures out there that can control our brains... with even more power than Big Brother... My reflection on a curbside puddle brought me to the opposite conclusion that Narcissus reached in his watery reflection. We need humility. We are not the most evolved species, nor the least vulnerable. Nor the cleverest.[2]

So, it is just like my French teacher used to say: “c;’est toujours la meme damn chose!” [3]The more advanced we think we are, the more the need to remember that simple answers must not be ignored in favor of high tech answers.

[1] Journal Nature April 6th 2011;472:40

[2] Bugs in the Brain: time for a bit of humility,” J.
Scientific American, March 2003;288:94.

“Always the same damn thing.”


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