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Electrolyte Balance – Part Two

Achieving electrolyte balance is a key step in getting to a place of optimal health. It isn’t an easy thing to do, what with the stress of everyday life (robs your body of potassium), working out hard (lose sodium) and trying to deal with out toxic environment. But, with a little bit of time and effort, you can get it right.

The key issue is getting the right balance of potassium and sodium everyday in your diet to attain electrolyte balance in the long term. As I mentioned in my previous blog on electrolyte balance, you need to get about a 2:1 ratio of potassium over sodium. As you recall, this is not what the average person living in the Western world is getting. According to research, we are nowhere near that ratio, as is evidenced by this important paper. In it they state that it is estimated that only 3% of Americans get the daily need of 4,700 mgs of potassium. That is insane!!! As they put it “Adequate dietary potassium is important for heart and bone health and reduces the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.”

We already have been made aware that many people get more than enough sodium, typically 3,300-3,400 mgs a day but that is only 1 gram more than is recommended. Potassium deficit’s are a much greater problem in my opinion. The best way is by increasing your dietary intake like I mentioned in the previous blog.

Now it sounds to some that I’m being a bit too repetitive on increasing potassium but the data out there shows that it is a crises in the making. Athletes are a group that needs to be aware of this, especially those who cramp a lot. Recently, I did a podcast interview with the guts at Clean Health in Sydney, Australia on the subject of electrolyte balance and athletes (you can find it on iTunes or other podcatchers). In it, I recount a conversation I had with a trainer where they mentioned another “biochemist” claiming that athletes do not need additional potassium as when tested after working out, their levels were high.

What the skeptic failed to realize is that most potassium is intracellular (inside the cell) and when looking at a blood test, you are measuring the extracellular (outside the cell) amounts. Athletes, especially high performing ones, are breaking up cells when they work out which would naturally increase their extracellular levels for a short time but that does not mean they don’t need it. Quite often they cramp precisely because they don’t have enough potassium. Electrolyte balance is key in preventing cramping and improving performance.

So next time you’re out looking for a electrolyte that is truly balanced, make sure it has a 2-1 ratio of potassium over sodium like the ones at KTS Products.

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Electrolytes – Balance is Key – Part 1

One of the most asked questions I am posed with is what supplement(s) would I want to take with me on a desert island and my answer always remains the same, electrolytes. There are others I would bring along depending on how many things I could take like Vitamin C, trace minerals and definitely B-Complex vitamins (wouldn’t want pellagra, beriberi or anemia). Electrolytes though would always be number one.

A better question would be, ‘If you were dropped into a western, developed country, which supplement would you most want to make sure you have available?’ My answer would definitely be electrolytes with a bullet. The balance between two components of electrolytes, sodium and potassium, are as messed up in the Western diet as could be imagined.

Before we go much further, we need to define what electrolytes are. The standard definition is ‘any fluid that conducts, or has the ability to conduct electricity.’ Distilled water does not conduct electricity so would not be considered an electrolyte. Most soft drinks like Cola’s can be called an electrolyte but they are very poor conductors. So what about those sports drinks that are mass marketed? They probably are but they have lots of things in them like sugar and food colorings that are not helpful and for many people, detrimental. Your best choice for good electrolytes contain a balance of salts without sugars, additives or colorings.

Going back to the question of electrolytes and the Western diet, why you might ask, do I feel so strongly about its need? According to research, the average human needs 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day and 2,300 milligrams of sodium. In the typical Western diet, we get about 3,400 milligrams of sodium, slightly above recommendations, but the real kicker is that we only get about 2,400 milligrams of potassium, almost half of what we should be getting.

Today’s health monitors tell us that we need to reduce sodium intake because of its implication in coronary heart disease and in particular, high blood pressure (hypertension). Problem is, most studies done to measure the benefits of sodium reduction come up way short. Frankly, they tell us that reducing sodium intake really doesn’t do anything beneficial unless the amounts ingested are far greater than the average person takes in. Medicine seems to be stumped which astonishes me as they are missing the other side of the equation, potassium deficiency.

The DASH study is supposedly the be all reason why reducing sodium works so well but when you look at the diet, it dramatically increased potassium and magnesium, two of the minerals most deficient in the Western diet. While sodium reduction was the focus, I propose that it was the improved diets (vegetables, legumes and fruits) that helped the most as well of increasing the minerals we needed.

Every food we eat contains potassium so our bodies do not store this essential mineral very well. We don’t need to. Sodium on the other hand, is found in far fewer foods so we have evolved to retain this mineral. For millenium, salt, which is known as sodium chloride or NaCl, was an expensive commodity and not available to everyone. Today, it is loaded into almost every processed food and is a cheap condiment. Because of the West’s reliance on fast food for its convenience and easy availability, we are getting all the sodium we need. Potassium? Not so much.

Fruits, legumes and vegetables are abundant in potassium but that is what we tend to leave out of our diets. And we don’t do this for a few days a week, we do this year in and year out. Continuing to be deficient in potassium should be one of the main concerns in today’s Western diet but unfortunately it isn’t.

Next time, I will continue showing how important electrolyte balance is and what systems within the human body are most affected by imbalances.

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Testosterone, MI and Stroke

Late last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article that purported that there was an increased risk of developing a myocardial infarction and stroke in men taking testosterone therapy if they had signs of coronary artery disease. The media jumped on the article and bellowed loud and long that this showed that men should not take testosterone and that doctors who use it are quacks. Problem is that the paper was deeply flawed and did not show what it claimed it did. This is sad as this error will not be picked up in the media and a lot of men’s health will be negatively affected.

So what is my support for my claim above, Dr. Eugene Shippen, MD  Medical Staff, St. Joseph Hospital, Reading, PA posted his open letter to JAMA on the FACT newsgroup at Gordon Research today. Here it is in its entirety

To the JAMA editor:

 

The article by Vigen et al has so many design flaws that the conclusions of increased risks of testosterone treatment should be questioned.(1)

1.     The most important design flaw is the choice of angiography as the primary entry variable that had NO effect on outcomes. Previous VA studies and their own current analyses demonstrate no risk differences for treated or non-treated men for cardiovascular disease mortality(2). Therefore, this variable not only had no bearing on the results directly, but it resulted in many time-related statistical complexities regarding treatment timing and event relationships.

2.     Additionally, this variable resulted in substantial exclusions that would have significantly increased the cohort numbers and important comparative results. For example, 2798 were excluded because testosterone treatment was started before angiography.

3.     If the actual deaths in the treated (67/1223 – 5-5%) and untreated cohorts (681/7486 – 9.1%) are simply analyzed, there is an amazingly similar reduction in actual death rates of 39.6% (5.5/9.1%) in the treated cohort. This is dramatically similar to the 39% reduction in overall mortality in testosterone treated men at VA facilities reported by Shore et al (2). The complexities of statistical analysis due to time and treatment variables reverses this clear mathematical data. How can this dramatic reversal to a 30% INCREASE occur when the RAW actual data say the opposite occurred! That is a 70% difference between actual and analyzed (manipulated) statistics?

4.     A serious flaw regards the time of testosterone treatment and relationship to event outcomes. For example, 1 in 6 of treated men filled only one prescription, yet these men were entered into the treatment cohort for the duration of the study. Duration of treatment or the time between treatments and endpoints is not clearly reported. It would be difficult, for example, to relate treatment for 1-3 months to an event 2-3 years later.

5.     Testosterone testing post-treatment was available for only 60% of the treatment cohort and was reported as 332.2 ng/dl for the “first repeat testosterone measurement”. This low value suggests poor compliance with any of the treatments. Where are the testing data for any additional tests over the treatment periods? There is poor treatment data for 60% and NO reliable data to corroborate adequate treatment for 40% of the cohort. Who can rely on the published conclusions?

References:

1. Vigen R, et al. Association of testosterone therapy with mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in men with low testosterone levels.JAMA. 2013 Nov 6;310(17):1829-36.

2. Shores MM, et al. Testosterone treatment and mortality in men with low testosterone levels. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 June;97(6):2050-8.

Hope you can share this and tell others the truth.

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Magnesium and Heart Disease

Magnesium rich foods

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Back in 1988, I did my first medical/health talk and I mentioned two things that helped prevent heart disease, vinegar and magnesium. Vinegar has been used for over 2,000 years to help lower systolic blood pressure. One teaspoon in eight ounces of water twice a day will do the trick. Magnesium though, has a much shorter history but is equally important in heart health.

According to a Harvard University study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, increasing your intake of magnesium may lower the risk of heart disease by as much as 30%. Their conclusion was “Circulating and dietary magnesium are inversely associated with CVD risk, which supports the need for clinical trials to evaluate the potential role of magnesium in the prevention of CVD and IHD.” The way the authors put it, they made a monumental discovery. Truth be known though, we’ve known about this for decades. Back in 1995 for instance, Altura and Altura published a paper on magnesium and cardiovascular disease.

A friend of mine, Dr. Mark Houston, a renowned cardiologist from Nashville, Tennessee, has told me often that he is big on magnesium.  Most doctors though believe that all you need is a healthy diet and you will get enough magnesium. Only problem is, it just isn’t true. In the typical Western diet, 68% of people don’t get the RDA of magnesium which is a pretty low dose to begin with. and research over the years proves it. Here is a paper that sums things up nicely.

But before you think magnesium is a one trick pony, think again. This essential mineral is involved in over 300 different enzyme pathways and has been shown to help blood sugar control, hormone production and regulation as well as in brain health.

When choosing a supplemental form of magnesium, avoid magnesium oxide. to get maximum absorption, use amino acid chelates like glycinate or citrate. Whatever form you choose, get at least 400 milligrams a day and if you can, go to 600. If you do, your heart will thank you later.

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Cholesterol Theory Takes Another Hit

Cholesterol being the demon fat that causes heart disease is a myth that desperately needs burying. The results of a study was just announced by drug manufacturer Merck claiming that its HDL-raising cholesterol drug Tredaptive was not effective at reducing heart attack risk. It also had unforeseen side effects.

Instead of coming to the realization that cholesterol may not be the cause of heart disease, they continue on their merry way of denial. One researcher commented “This is the death knell for niacin, for sure, but it really raises questions about the whole HDL hypothesis,” said Dr. James A. de Lemos, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Of course, blame the niacin for the failure not the hypothesis. How about maybe the drug attached to niacin was the problem not the B vitamin?

Another study on statins claims that they may not work on fully 40% of patients because they are resistant to the cholesterol lowering benefits of the drug. They lay blame on the protein resistin. Problem is, around 40-50% of people who suffer heart attacks have low or normal cholesterol levels. The benefits from taking statins for people without heart disease is minimal. As Dr. Jim L. Wright states,  “There’s no lifesaving benefit to statins for people without heart disease when you look at deaths from all causes in the less biased trials.”

Bias, that is the key word. Health care should not be driven by profit. It is why the health care costs in the United State have sky rocketed over the past three decades. In 2010, cholesterol lowering drugs accounted for $35 billion in sales worldwide. According to Dr. Navid Malik of Matrix Partners, “Statins have been the fairy tale story in the industry. But heart disease is still the number one killer in the western world, so one could argue how much value for money have we really got out of their use,” Studies that continue to come out from the manufacturers of cholesterol lowering drugs are fraught with bias but they go largely unchallenged by mass media.

Drug advertising amounts to a large portion of television and magazine income. So it should come as no surprise that they rarely if ever announce negative trials even though there are many out there. If you want to get the low down on why cholesterol isn’t the problem, you must get the book from Drs. Sinatra and Bowden called The Great Cholesterol Myth.

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