Sunday, May 23, 2010

Body by Track Your Plaque?!

Although there are several exercise guidelines there really is no "Track Your Plaque" exercise program, but if there was one it would probably be a lot like the one that produced the picture at left. Yup, that is skinny, old (and getting older every day) HeartHawk after just 90 days (one with my head chopped off and one with my trademark sunglasses, to remain incognito). No "P90X" discs, no personal trainer, no high tech equipment, just some basic Track Your Plaque principles and a scare followed by a commitment. Read on!

I recently saw my endocrinologist who looked at my OGTT and HbA1c and proclaimed, "You're insulin resistant and prediabetic!" Looking for him to prescribe some new wonder drug, supplement, or spartan diet recommendations I asked, "So what can I do about it?" "Exercise!" was his one word reply which he repeated often. What? As a Track Your Plaque devotee I am used to heart scans, advanced lipoprotein testing, exotic supplements and all the bleeding-edge science that comes along with it. The more I objected and insisted there must be more we can do beyond "exercise" the more he insisted, "Exercise!" Finally, as the frustration grew in both of us he loudly blurted, "Look, you GOTTA exercise!"

Now, I had always gotten SOME exercise. Heck, at 55 years old I still kept up with guys on the basketball court one-third my age - once a week - and there was the problem. How much exercise was needed? A lot more: 30 minutes, 5 times per week, at 70% of my maximum heart rate. Well, like everything else I thought I might as well go "whole hog" and see what I could do. I was going to do 45 minutes per day, a minimum of 5 days per week (averaging closer to 6 days) and I was going to throw in some resistance training every other day.

Guess what, my blood sugar is lower and I even got a little muscle definition after a life of being a "bean-pole." I may actually take my shirt off this summer! The point I am trying to make is that exercise is an ESSENTIAL part of Track Your Plaque or any health program for that matter - and you don't need expensive DVDs or equipment, just a commitment to developing a daily habit to just do it!

Now, I won't kid you. It is often boring and tiring (but not a lot after a few weeks), and it is definitely not as much fun or easy as other things you might do instead (like eating and sleeping). But, if an underweight, old enough to join AARP, sit on my butt behind a computer all day kind of guy like me can do it, so can you! Vigorous exercise lowers your cholesterol, your blood pressure, your blood sugar (to name only a few benefits), and damn, just plain makes ya look better (oh yeah, I can rebound better too - though it didn't help my shot much unfortunately)! What else can do all that?!

Looking out for your heart health,


Friday, May 21, 2010

American Heart Association Exposed "Selling" Endorsements

I have been critical of the AHA in the past for their stodgy, politically correct perspective on heart disease but this takes the cake. No longer satisfied to endorse sugary, diabetes-inducing foods as heart healthy, they have expanded their coveted "Heart Check" endorsement to the Wii video game console on the premise that several of its games promote fitness. As one of my contemporaries titled it in his post on the Track Your Plaque Forum, "AHA whores for Nintendo." I could not have said it better myself!

What is stunning is that AHA has made selling their endorsement big business. Get a load of this brochure on the AHA website. Here is the AHA pitch . . .

"Shoppers want clear, simple purchase guidance from a trusted source. The American Heart Association heart-check mark increases product sales because seeing the mark on a package assures shoppers they are making a smart choice."

SMART CHOICE?!! OH REALLY?!! The AHA has figured out that they have created a trust factor among consumers (misplaced trust in my humble opinion) and want to cash in on it - big time.

  • Nevermind that they are hopelessly behind the the cutting-edge of heart health science (they continue to push dietary cholesterol and saturated fat as the keys to heart health - NOT!).

  • Nevermind they endorse foods like "Berry Burst Cheerios-Triple Berry" (22 grams of wheat and sugar, the top two ingredients). There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes and the AHA pushes sugar and highly-processed carbs into the veins of children as sure as if it were drugs through a needle.

  • Nevermind that regardless of whether your product is heart healthy or not THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET THE AHA ENDORSEMENT IS TO PAY FOR IT!
The AHA now seeks to expand their misuse of this misplaced trust to other dubious product groups and are putting the hard sell out on the streets. They charged Nintendo a whopping $1.5 million for their "endorsement." Think about it, the AHA and Nintendo are teaming up to put the outrageous notion in the minds of consumers that buying a video game is heart healthy because in certain, non-representative situations, you could get some aerobic exercise.

I do not doubt that you can work up a real sweat playing several different video games - but is that the norm? Will Nintendo put a label on "Super Mario Brothers" that states "Nevermind?" This is the same sort of outrageous claim the FDA has recently outlawed for other products. If your claim is not representative of typical results you can be sued! Any hungry lawyers out there?

I am sad to have come to now hold the opinion the once proud AHA has indeed become a "whore" to the almighty dollar. They have lowered themselves to the level of "used car salesmen" and "snake oil peddlers." There is a lot of talk about boycotts these days. How about we start with the AHA and the disreputable companies that buy into their hucksterism to push their products on unsuspecting consumers!

Yeah, that means you General Mills and Nintendo. Consumers have lots of options for breakfast foods and entertainment. What do you think their reaction will be when they find out you and the AHA have been distorting the truth?!

Looking out for your heart health,


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Nattokinase Revisited

I had one of my regular meetings with Doc Davis of Track Your Plaque book and website fame today where he remarked about a patient he encountered that nearly died of a pulmonary embolism after going off prescription anti-thrombotic medicine in favor of nattokinase.

Doc Davis has been a critic of nattokinase and endured the slings and arrows of its promoters and those statistical "n of one" users who swear by it. (Interesting to note that Doc Davis is part Japanese and is not without experience with natto as a food his mother made him eat - childhood trauma perhaps? LOL!).

I was curious enough to take a look at the debate on his blog and do a little of my own research. As most readers of my blog know I am a "numbers" guy. Normally, the ridiculous bloviating and hyperbole I found on some sites pushing nattokinase would be enough to turn me off but just because "bad" people say "good" things about a product does not preclude it from actually being good! On the other hand, there is some pretty damning science against the concept that nattokinase works (the small problem of any protein surviving the gut) as well as common sense that suggests if it did work it may be a dangereous way to self-medicate (at least with a prescription drug like Coumadin you are under supervision by a doctor).

For better or worse I decided to go to my trusted sources at PubMed and look at some of the more recent studies to see if there is anything new that supported casual and chronic oral adminstration of nattokinase to prevent heart disease. Here is what I found in a highly summarized (and editorialized) form so as not to induce boredom (use the links for more info).

Bioproperties of potent nattokinase from Bacillus subtilis YJ1.
Yup, nattokinase is still fibrinolytic - if it gets into the blood stream.

Purification and Characterization of Nattokinase from Bacillus subtilis Natto B-12
Now if we could only get this stuff to work orally as a functional food!

Combined nattokinase with red yeast rice but not nattokinase alone has potent effects on blood lipids in human subjects with hyperlipidemia
Nattokinase does not appear to exert its effects (if any) via lipids.

Enhancement of oxidative stability of the subtilisin nattokinase by site-directed mutagenesis expressed in Escherichia coli
Hey, we are getting closer to at least limiting oxidative degradation - still no panacea.

Purification, immobilization, and characterization of nattokinase on PHB nanoparticles
Nanoparticles are all the rage these days and may have some utility with stabilizing nattokinase but still no oral in vivo data.

Nattokinase decreases plasma levels of fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII in human subjects
Now we're talking - hard data with oral nattokinase in humans! Unfortunately, this was an open-label, self-controlled sudy with 45 people (15 in each arm). Can you imagine trying to get a prescription drug past the FDA with a study like this? Still, at least SOMETHING for proponents to hang their hats on.

Effects of nattokinase on blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial
Hey, hey! More human data and this time randomized, controlled, and with almost twice as many participants as the previous study. Too bad the end point was blood pressure data - but it did show improvement.

Effect of nattokinase on restenosis after percutaneous transluminal angioplasty of the abdominal artery in rabbits
Reminds me of Judah Folkman's comment when the media overhyped his results and declared he had cured cancer, "If you are a mouse and you have cancer we can take good care of you!" Lucky rabbits!

Cerebellar hemorrhage provoked by combined use of nattokinase and aspirin in a patient with cerebral microbleeds
Oh yeah, just when you thought everything was rosy this booger shows up. Just because something is not classified as a drug by the FDA does not mean it is safe for general use. First Doc Davis relates a story about nattokinase putting a patient at risk because id did not bust a clot and now here is someone who "over-busted!"

Nattokinase-promoted tissue plasminogen activator release from human cells
More geek science. Yeah, if you get it in the blood nattokinase has numerous effects. So do a lot of chemicals!

The fibrinolytic activity of a novel protease derived from a tempeh producing fungus, Fusarium sp. BLB
Here is an even more powerful natural product. Should everyone abandon nattokinase and rush out to buy tempeh - the next wonder supplement?

Here is what (I think) we know.

1. Nattokinase exhibits lytic effects in vitro.
2. It MAY have some effect taken orally in vivo.
3. If it does work no one knows the mechanism of action for certain. Consider this, maybe it is some component or action OTHER than the lytic effect seen in vitro. Why take the risky components to enjoy the effective components?
4. There is a tiny amount of evidence for nattokinase taken orally but certainly nothing conclusive.
5. There is absolutely NO safety data on it other than small study and anecdotal experience. Remember torcetrapib the wonder HDL drug? I couldn't wait for it to hit the market so I could take it! It did everything Pfizer said it would - then downstream the data showed it killed more people than it saved. No way would nattokinase be FDA approved based on existing HARD data.

It seems what we have in nattokinase is an interesting agent - but nothing more. Since it is unregulated we are all free to experiment (and I experiment plenty). But don't kid yourself - it is nothing more than an experiment with an unknown outcome! "Natural supplement" does not equal "safe" any more than "drug" equals "effective!"

As always, I remain a fan of Informed, Self-directed, Healthcare (ISH). But, stay informed, remain a skeptic, and play safe!

Looking out for your heart health,


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