Rare Gene Mutation Allows Some People to Thrive on Minimal Sleep

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

In the U.S., working around the clock is still glorified. According to the documentary “Sleepless in America,” 40 percent of Americans are sleep-deprived. Many get less than five hours of sleep per night.

The cost is rarely considered, even though it includes reduced productivity and an increased risk of serious accidents.

Tired drivers are as dangerous as drunk or drugged ones, and experts believe sleep deprivation may have played a role in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Staten Island ferry crash and the Three-Mile Island nuclear meltdown, just to name a few.

Besides raising your risk of accidents that may harm or kill you or others, research clearly shows that skimping on sleep will decimate your health in a number of different ways.

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that lack of sleep is a public health epidemic, noting that insufficient sleep has been linked to a wide variety of health problems.

Genetic Mutation Makes Some People More Efficient Sleepers

Interestingly, there are a few rare individuals who can get by on very little sleep without incurring any noticeable harm. There’s an actual condition called advanced phase sleep syndrome — a genetic mutation that allows you to be fully rested after as little as four to six hours of sleep.1

In the TED Talk above, Ying-Hui Fu, Ph.D.,2 a professor at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine who studies the genetic basis for humans who have shorter sleep duration discusses some of her findings.

She and her colleagues have identified several genetic mutations that produce “extreme morning lark phenotype,” as well as mutations that allow short sleepers to thrive.

A 2009 study investigating a mother and daughter with this rare gift found a genetic mutation on a specific gene transcription facilitator may be responsible. The gene DEC2 is involved in the regulation of your circadian clock, which is part of the equation.

DEC2 also appears to induce more efficient sleep with more intense REM states, and researchers believe this is the primary reason why people with advanced phase sleep syndrome can thrive on so little sleep and suffer no ill health effects. According to Fu:3

“Clearly people with the DEC2 mutation can do the same cleaning up process in a shorter period of time — they are just more efficient than the rest of us at sleeping.”

Chances Are, You Need More Sleep Than You’re Getting

People with genetic mutations that allow them to be extreme short sleepers are also typically very optimistic and naturally energetic,4 Fu notes. Many work two jobs at a time, not because they must but because they’re highly motivated. And, since their sleep requirement is so low, they can.

However, the chances of you having this genetic mutation are very slim. It’s been estimated that far less than 1 percent of short sleepers (people who claim to function well on less than the normal seven or eight hours of sleep) have the mutation — the remaining 99 percent are actually sleep-deprived.

Another estimate is that 1 in 10,000 may be genetically predisposed to short sleep. For everyone else, you really need right around eight hours of sleep every night for optimal health and wellness.

According to Fu, if you deprive yourself of just two hours of sleep per night for one week, your mental alertness will be the same as if you stayed up for 48 hours straight.

Sleep restriction can also lower your motivation and enjoyment, so skimping on sleep to get ahead professionally or to have more time to do things you like is actually counterproductive.

Habitual Short Sleepers May Be More Tired Than They Realize

In another study,5,6 researchers at the University of Utah used MRI scans to look at the neurological wiring of habitual short sleepers, revealing those who did not report daytime dysfunction had enhanced connectivity between the hippocampus and the sensory cortices.

These areas are involved in memory and sensory input processing respectively. In other words, it appears short sleepers may be able to more effectively perform memory consolidation tasks during the daytime, thereby reducing their brain’s need for sleep.

That said, the researchers also found that many may actually be underestimating their need for sleep. The researchers first compared data from individuals who reported normal sleeping patterns with those who reported sleeping six hours or less.

The short sleepers were then subdivided into two groups: those who reported daytime dysfunction and those who claimed to function optimally.

Both groups had brain connectivity patterns that were more typical of sleep while in the scanner, opposed to patterns suggesting wakefulness, suggesting the short-sleepers were nodding off even though they’d been told to stay awake during the procedure.

On the one hand, this meant they were more likely to be engaged in memory consolidation tasks, which can occur even during quick nod-offs. On the other hand, it may also suggest they’re not quite as rested and functional as they imagine. As reported by R&D Magazine:7

“For short-sleepers who deny dysfunction, one theory is that their wake-up brain systems are constantly in overdrive. Which could mean that when they are trapped in boring fMRI scanners, they have nothing to do to keep them awake and therefore doze off.

‘It looked like the short-sleepers showed brain connectivity changes that look like they were preferentially falling asleep.

This was not only the case for short sleepers who reported being tired during the day, but also for the ones who said they felt fine,’ [Dr. Jeff] Anderson added … [T]hey may be falling asleep during the day under low-stimulation conditions, often without realizing it.”

3 Types of Short Sleepers

On the whole, researchers appear to agree that a vast majority of short sleepers are fooling themselves and really are not wired to get by on four to five hours of sleep. They’re also in agreement that you cannot train yourself to require less sleep.8,9

Likewise, natural short sleepers cannot force themselves to sleep longer, and will report feeling worse for wear if they do. As noted by Ethan Green, founder of No Sleepless Nights, there are three general types of short sleepers:10

  • Those who have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, which prevents them from sleeping as much as they’d like
  • Those who falsely believe they don’t need much sleep and, for work, study or social reasons, chose not to sleep for more than six hours per night
  • True short sleepers, who due to their genetic makeup can thrive and function well on very little sleep

How can you tell if you’re a natural short sleeper? Green offers the following common-sense suggestions:11

  • Take a vacation of at least two weeks; ideally avoiding jet lag
  • If needed, take a couple of days to catch-up on lost sleep
  • Each night, go to bed at your normal time — preferably as soon as you feel tired, and do not set your alarm clock
  • Over the course of several days of going to bed and rising without an alarm clock, you will know how much sleep your body needs

Is It Possible to Become a More Efficient Sleeper?

While researchers such as Fu suggest we may one day be able to figure out a way to enable people to sleep less by tapping into our genetic code, until then, we’re stuck with our natural sleep needs. You can, however take steps to become as efficient a sleeper as possible. The most effective way of optimizing your sleep needs is to set and keep a consistent wakeup time. As reported by BBC News:12

“Neil Stanley, [Ph.D.,] an independent sleep consultant … says that when your body gets used to the time it needs to wake up, it can use the time it has to sleep as efficiently as possible. ‘Studies show that your body prepares to wake up one and a half hours prior to actually waking up. Your body craves regularity, so if you chop and change your sleep pattern, your body hasn’t got a clue when it should prepare to wake up or not’ …

Stanley says that a lot of people with sleep issues actually don’t have any problem sleeping, instead they have an expectation that they need to sleep for a certain amount of time. ‘If we could all figure out what kind of sleeper we are, and live our life accordingly, that would make a huge difference to our quality of life,’ he says.”

Risks Associated With Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation, or a lack of quality sleep, has a significant impact on your brain health and your overall health and wellness, including the following:

? Increased risk of car accidents

? Increased accidents at work

? Reduced ability to perform tasks

? Reduced ability to learn or remember

? Reduced productivity at work

? Reduced creativity at work or in other activities

? Reduced athletic performance

? Increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease

? Increased risk of depression

? Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

? Decreased immune function

? Slowed reaction time

? Reduced regulation of emotions and emotional perception

? Poor grades in school

? Increased susceptibility to stomach ulcers

? Exacerbates current chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and cancer

? Cutting one hour of sleep a night increases the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress13

? Contributes to premature aging by interfering with growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep

Beware of Light Pollution

The challenge of getting quality sleep increases each year as new technological devices are produced that keep you entertained. When you are forced to go without electricity, such as when camping or if the power goes out, you sleep deeper and arise more rested. It’s important to realize that light sources at night interrupt your circadian clock and melatonin levels, both responsible for how deeply you sleep and well-rested you feel the next day.

LEDs and fluorescent lights are particularly troublesome because of the isolated blue light peaks that are not balanced by red and near infrared.14 Incandescent lights emit red and near infrared wavelengths and very little in the blue wavelengths.  

Importantly, LEDs may promote age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness. To learn more about this, please see my interview with Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology, embedded here for your convenience.

According to a study published in Current Biology, increasing the number of hours you’re exposed to artificial lighting may even have an effect on the strength of your muscles and density of your bones.15 Researchers studied rats kept under 24-hour lighting conditions for six months and compared their strength and bone density to a control group exposed to 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark. The experimental group experienced weight gain, reduced strength and had higher blood glucose.16

Even Dim Light During Sleep Can Have Adverse Effects

Recent research also reveals even dim light exposure during sleep can affect your cognition the next day. Twenty healthy men slept in complete darkness for two nights in a row. On the third night, they were exposed to a dim light of either 5 or 10 lux while sleeping. (One lux is equal to the brightness of a surface illuminated by one candle, placed 1 meter (3.28 feet) away from the surface. Twilight is just below 11 lux, whereas an object illuminated by the light of the full moon is about one-tenth of a lux.17)

After the second and third nights, the participants performed working memory tests while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The goal was to evaluate the effects of dim light exposure during sleep on functional brain activation during a working memory task the next day.

When sleeping under 10 lux light conditions, there was decreased activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus, an area of your brain involved in response inhibition, attentional control and the detection of relevant cues when performing a task.18

In other words, past a certain point of very dim light, nighttime light exposure can have a direct influence on your brain function, specifically your cognition and working memory. However, animal research suggests even as little as 5 lux may have adverse effects.

In one study, hamsters exposed to 5 lux at night for four weeks altered their neuronal structure, which in turn caused the hamsters to exhibit symptoms of depression. Another animal study also found that nighttime exposure to 5 lux — this time for three weeks in a row — produced both depression-like symptoms and impaired cognition.

How to Compensate If Your Job Demands You Work at Night

I reviewed the ill effects of working night shift in November, and why you need to do everything in your power to avoid working them. But if you absolutely are unable to stop working night shifts, then your best option is to always wear blue blocking glasses during the night and make sure that when you get up, and it is night, that you get some blue light exposure. The best blue light is from the sun as it is balanced. But, obviously, the sun is not up if you are getting up at night.

So, I would suggest using a conventional clear incandescent bulb in combination with a cool white (blue enriched) LED bulb. You need both, not one or the other, as the LED will give you the blue and the incandescent the balancing red and near infrared spectrum. You will only need to use the bluish LED light for 15 to 30 minutes, following the recommendation described below. This will help you to establish your new circadian rhythm.

You might need to play with the number of bulbs you use, as up to 10,000 lux have been shown to be effective for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). My guess is that these doses are far too high if you are not treating SAD but trying to help your body to optimize all the systems necessary for performance during night shift.

Ideally, you should start with incandescent light immediately after getting up, thereby simulating sunrise. After half an hour or so you should add the cold white LED light, mimicking the sun´s ascent toward high noon. Once you feel the photonic energy boost, you can stop the LED use, since an overdose causes more damage than good. Bluish (LED) light generates excessive amounts of free radicals if not adequately balanced by red and near infrared light.

After you finish your blue light exposure it would be wise to limit your further exposure to blue light. This means using only incandescent bulbs at home, and if you go out of your home, avoid any additional exposure to LED or fluorescent bulbs by wearing your blue blocking glasses. While this process is far from ideal, it should mitigate the damage that most who are engaged in night shift work encounter.

Remember your BEST choice is to stop night shift working and get full sunlight exposure in the daytime, and that it will be virtually impossible to imitate the full-spectrum and brightness of natural sunlight, even with a high-quality UV lamp, cool white LED bulbs and bright incandescent lights.

It’s better than nothing, but by working nights, you are depriving yourself of a crucial component for health, namely natural sunlight. The sun’s rays are not only the catalyst that allows your skin to produce vitamin D, sunlight also plays a role in mitochondrial health and is really important for healthy vision.

How to Improve Your Sleep Quality

Increasing the number of hours you sleep to eight each night and improving your quality of sleep may help to significantly reduce your risks associated with sleep deprivation. Below are several suggestions that may help.19,20 For a more comprehensive list of strategies, see my previous article, “Want a Good Night’s Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed.”

? Turn your bedroom into an oasis for sleep

Your bed is a place to sleep and rest comfortably. Only two other activities will not significantly impede a restful sleep: reading and intimate relations with your significant other. Anything else, such as work, computers, cells phones or watching television will reduce the quality of your sleep.

Reduce any noisy interruptions from pets or outdoor activities. You might consider removing your pet from the bedroom or using a white noise machine to reduce interruptions from outdoor noises.

? Establish a soothing pre-bedtime routine

Humans are creatures of habit. When you establish a soothing bedtime routine you go through each evening before bed, you’re more likely to fall asleep easily. Activities such as a warm bath, reading a good book or relaxation exercises may help you fall asleep easier.

If you have trouble falling to sleep one night, it’s better to leave the bedroom and read quietly than to try even harder to fall asleep. I would strongly recommend using blue-blocking glasses if you do this, to prevent your reading light from further depressing your melatonin production.

? Keep a consistent schedule

When you go to bed and wake up at the same times, your body becomes accustomed to the routine. This helps regulate your circadian clock so you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. Keep this routine even on the weekends.

? Get plenty of bright sunlight exposure in the morning and at noon

Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning stops production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and signals to your body that it’s time to wake up. Outdoor sunlight is best, so you might even want to take a quick walk outside.

Not only will this increase in physical activity help you sleep later, but taking your walk outdoors — either first thing in the morning or around noon when the sun high — gives you more exposure to bright sunlight.

Light intensity is measured in lux units, and on any given day, the outdoor lux units will be around 100,000 at noon. Indoors, the typical average is somewhere between 100 to 2,000 lux units, about two orders of magnitude less.

I take a one-hour walk every day in the bright sunlight on the beach, so along with boosting my vitamin D, I also anchor my circadian rhythm at the same time and I rarely ever have trouble sleeping.

? At sundown, dim your lights (and/or use amber-colored glasses)

In the evening (around 8 p.m.) you’ll want to dim your lights and turn off electronic devices. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. After sundown, shift to a low-wattage incandescent bulb with yellow, orange or red light if you need illumination.

A salt lamp illuminated by a 5-watt bulb is an ideal solution that will not interfere with your melatonin production. If using a computer or smartphone, install blue light-blocking software like Iris — an improved version of f.lux.

The easiest solution, however, is to use amber-colored glasses that block blue light. I found an Uvex model (S1933X) on Amazon that costs less than $10 and works like a charm to eliminate virtually all blue light.

This way you don’t have to worry about installing programs on all your devices or buying special light bulbs for evening use. Once you have your glasses on, it doesn’t matter what light sources you have on in your house.

? Check your bedroom for electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

These can disrupt your pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.

? Exercise daily

Your body thrives on exercise and movement. It reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. Exercise will help you get to sleep more easily and sleep more soundly. However, your body also releases cortisol during exercise, which may reduce your melatonin secretion. Exercise at least three hours before bed, and earlier if you can.

? Keep your room cool

The optimal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 68 degrees F. If your room is cooler or warmer, you may have a more restless night’s sleep.21 During sleep your body’s core temperature drops to the lowest level during a 24-hour period. The cooler your room is, the more conducive it may be to your body’s natural drop in temperature.

? Evaluate your mattress and pillow

You’ll experience more restful sleep when your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive. You’ll want to consider replacing your mattress after nine or 10 years, the average life expectancy of a good-quality mattress.

? Downshift your mental gymnastics before bed

Put all your work away at least one, and preferably two, hours before bed. You need a chance to unwind before falling asleep without being anxious about the next day’s plans or deadlines.

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How Pharma Just Stole Your Tax Dollars

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

In December 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

After easily passing through the House of Representatives during the summer of 2015, the bill (H.R. 34) stalled in the Senate until the end of November, 2016, when it was put on a fast track and pushed through the Senate with a 94-5 vote.

The nearly 1,000-page Act touts some impressive-sounding rhetoric, like a $1.8-billion investment in cancer research and another $1 billion pledged to fight the abuse of opioids, heroin and other addictive drugs.

Over the next decade, the 21st Century Cures Act pledges $6.3 billion in spending and will “streamline” drug and medical device approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1

Unfortunately, drug, vaccine and medical device manufacturers and lobbyists are the big beneficiaries of the Act, as the International Business Times (IBT) reported:2

“Originally conceived as a bill to boost research, the law has been revised and tweaked countless times to build bipartisan support.

At the same time, pro-industry groups have used the bill as a vehicle to achieve their long standing legislative agenda: to reduce the regulatory burden of bringing products to market.”

The 21st Century Cures Act Relaxes FDA Standards

Dr. Michael Carome, director of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen’s health research group, told International Business Times that “all sorts of goodies” were added to the Act, courtesy of medical device and pharmaceutical companies.3

In a nutshell, the Act makes it easier for these industries to bring their products to market by loosening testing requirements.

The relaxed FDA standards will no longer require drug companies to conduct large, randomized, controlled human clinical trials, considered to be the gold standard for proving pharmaceutical product safety, including approval to sell a drug to treat more than one condition.

Instead, observational data could be regarded as sufficient to “prove” safety and approve the drug for multiple uses.

Also concerning, the Act grants “breakthrough” medical devices expedited regulatory approval and, in some cases, allows industry to submit only summaries of data to the FDA when seeking approval. Drug companies will also be allowed to team up with insurance companies to promote off-label uses for their drugs.4

Experimental Drugs and Vaccines Fast-Tracked to the Market at the Expense of Public Health

While the Act is disguised as a consumer-friendly piece of legislation, it will make it easier for experimental vaccines to be fast-tracked to licensure by the FDA.

Almost all new vaccines licensed by the FDA and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for use by children are subsequently added to state vaccine mandates for children to attend school.

Some are also added to mandates for adults to work in the health care and daycare professions.

The Act also weakens informed consent protections for people taking part in experimental vaccine clinical trials, as well as allows the use of surrogate endpoints to evaluate vaccine effectiveness.

For instance, many cancer drug studies use surrogate endpoints, which means the study may not reveal whether the drug improves survival or quality of life, but instead may evaluate a different outcome, such as tumor shrinkage.

The problem is that it’s often unknown whether the surrogate endpoint, such as tumor shrinkage, leads to better health outcomes. The end result is that FDA-approved drugs and vaccines may appear to be more effective and beneficial than they really are.

Further, the Act will enable the FDA to accept “novel statistical analyses and clinical experience related to a new vaccine’s reactivity, instead of requiring drug companies to conduct large randomized clinical trials to demonstrate safety,” the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) reported.5

“It [also] prevents vaccine manufacturers from being sued in civil court if an FDA licensed vaccine given to a pregnant woman causes the injury or death of her unborn child in the womb,” NVIC noted.6

Presidential Veto Urged to Protect Public Health

NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher referred to the 21st Century Cures Act as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and NVIC called for a presidential veto of the legislation passed by Congress in order to protect public health.

“Instead of building a firewall between industry and government to protect the public health and safety, Congress has allowed the pharmaceutical industry to further co-opt the federal vaccine licensing and policymaking process,” she said, continuing:7

“There is a difference between prescription drugs and medical devices designed to help sick people get well, which are subject to product liability in civil court, and vaccines given to healthy people that are not.

Congress has handed the liability-free vaccine industry another free pass to make unlimited profits by exploiting Americans legally required to purchase and use inadequately tested vaccines.”

Fisher is far from the bill’s only critic. Harvard historian Daniel Carpenter warned that the relaxed FDA standards found in what he dubbed the “19th Century Fraud Act” could take us back more than a century.

Dr. Reshma Ramachandran,co-chair of the National Physicians Alliance, IBT reported, also harshly criticized the bill, stating it could seriously distort the meaning of “FDA-approved.”8

Senators Openly Opposed to the Legislation

While the Act easily passed through the Senate, not all members were fans. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was among those who called the Act “a bad bill,” with others reporting that lobbyists were so pleased with the heavily padded bill that they referred to it as a “grab bag” and a “Christmas tree.”9 Sanders openly criticized the bill and its drug company “handouts:”10

“At a time when Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, this bill provides absolutely no relief for soaring drug prices … The greed of the pharmaceutical industry has no limit, and this bill includes numerous corporate giveaways that will make drug companies even richer …

It’s time for Congress to stand up to the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, not give them more handouts.”

Among Sanders’ objections was a provision in the Act that would allow antibiotics to be approved even if they’d only been tested in small clinical trials on a limited number of patients.

The drugs could have risks that are not detected during the small studies, and approval could lead to their inappropriate use in a large number of people.11

Considering the fact we’re facing a proverbial avalanche of antibiotic-resistant disease, issuing ineffective antibiotics is foolhardy in the extreme. It may simply add fuel to the fire of drug resistance, while simultaneously failing to help patients.

Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also criticized the bill and its “giveaways to the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries.”12

“Does the Senate work for Big Pharma that hires the lobbyists and makes the campaign contributions, or does the Senate work for American people who actually sent us here?” Warren asked.13

A Slick PR Campaign

The 21st Century Cures Act was written largely by the pharmaceutical and health care industries, according to emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by InsideHealthPolicy. Its name makes the promise of cures for currently incurable diseases plaguing the nation.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee even went so far as to use cases of dying children and their families to promote the bill, “suggesting that a new law is somehow going to inspire researchers to suddenly cure their diseases,” Motherboard reported.14

Sadly, with the bill’s passing, drug companies and device makers will enjoy increased profits from putting their products on the market with less oversight. Patients will inevitably be harmed when some of these products turn out to do more harm than good, and the children whose lives were promised to be saved will continue their fight to stay alive.

Instead of furthering the ability to prevent and cure diseases, the 21st Century Cures Act threatens to undermine public safety. The legislation actually contradicts other recent laws calling for more stringent research into drug effects based on age and sex differences, for instance.

Three years ago, a law was passed directing the FDA to make sure all age groups and both sexes are included in testing to ascertain safety and efficacy. Just last year, the General Accountability Office also concluded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) needs to make analysis of sex differences a priority.15

Meanwhile, the PR campaign and intense lobbying efforts used to get this bill passed played unfairly on people’s heartstrings, using sick children as mere pawns to further their corporate greed.

If you have a debilitating and lethal disease, you may be willing to take risks you’d never take under normal circumstances. This bill will make medicine increasingly risky for everyone, including in the case of fast-tracked vaccines (and there are literally hundreds of experimental vaccines in the pipeline) that could become state-mandated for use in healthy children and adults.

“The 21st Century Cures Act is being sold as a way for the FDA to quickly license experimental pharmaceutical products for people suffering with rare or life threatening diseases, whether or not those products have been adequately tested.

However, greasing the FDA’s licensure skids to make experimental drugs available for the sick and dying who voluntarily choose to use them is one thing, while greasing the skids to bum rush experimental vaccines to licensure that government will legally require healthy children and adults to buy and use is quite another,” Fisher said.

How Many New Drugs and Devices Will Come to Market in 2017?

As regulators continue to grant the FDA “regulatory flexibility” to usher more drugs and vaccines to market, public trust in the Agency is at a historic low. One study in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that 37 percent of respondents in an online poll agreed the FDA is “intentionally suppressing natural cures for cancer because of drug company pressure.”16

Some have even suggested the 21st Century Cures Act is the beginning of the end for the FDA and that the agency will eventually be eliminated altogether.17 There is perhaps no better evidence of where the FDA’s loyalty lies than in the sheer number of new drug approvals granted in 2015 — 45 in all, which is the most new drug approvals granted in one year since 1996.18

About 60 percent of the new drug approvals were granted some type of expedited review process, allowing them to come to market faster. With the 21st Century Cures Act in place, only time will tell how many new drug approvals will be granted in 2017 and how public health will be altered as a result.

As it stands, Carome told IBT, the final version of the bill is “a bad deal for patients,” making it easier for drugs, vaccines and medical devices to get approved without demonstrating consumer safety,19 and that just isn’t right.

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A New Way of Looking at Heart Disease and Novel Treatment Options

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

We have an epidemic of heart disease in this country and the conventional treatments, such as the use of statin drugs and surgeries involving artery bypasses and stents, typically do not work well. So, what does?

Dr. Thomas Cowan is a family physician and a founding member of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

In his book, “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease,” which is also available as an audiobook from Audible, he helps answer that question.

It’s a fascinating book, and not overly technical, making it an excellent addition to any layman’s health library.

“Basically, the book has three parts,” Cowan says. “For whatever reason, my destiny in my career is that I take on some of the biggest accepted wisdoms … [and] I try to figure out whether they’re actually true or not.

The first part is my [personal] story … [In] the second part, I examine the theory that the heart is a pump. I say that the heart is not a pump. Then I explain why the blood moves and what the heart is doing, and the interesting ramifications of that.

The third part is … [about] what causes heart attacks … Here is an interesting point: I learned in medical school there were four major coronary arteries. In some places, it says three. In some places, it says two.

Even the basics of how many major coronary arteries we have is actually in dispute. It’s a matter of semantics.”

Questioning the Role of Arterial Plaque in Heart Attacks

Regardless of the exact number, conventional wisdom states that the coronary arteries, i.e., major blood vessels, supply all of the blood flow to the heart. If one or more of them gets blocked with plaque, a bottleneck forms that prevents blood from getting through.

The area downstream from that blockage doesn’t get any blood, and hence no oxygen or nutrients. The first indication that this is occurring is pain, which we call angina. As the problem progresses, the pain worsens, which is called unstable angina. Eventually, if left untreated, you end up with a heart attack.

The field of cardiology is primarily focused on getting rid of the plaque, whether by using stents, doing bypasses, angioplasties, lowering cholesterol (since the plaque is supposedly caused by excess cholesterol), or putting the patient on a low-fat diet.

“[Conventionally], it’s all about the plaque,” Cowan says. “My point in the book is that it’s NOT about the plaque.”

The Problem With Viewing the Heart as a Pump

Cardiologists and doctors in general are taught that the walls of the heart create pressure, which causes propulsion of the blood through the body. In essence, the heart is viewed as a pump — a pressure propulsion system caused by the muscular contraction of the ventricles.

However, your body actually contains an enormous amount of blood vessels. Most of the blood vessels in your heart and body are capillaries, which are very thin-walled, very narrow tubes.

If you were to spread these blood vessels out, they would cover three football fields. If you were to place the blood vessels end to end, in a series, they would encircle the Earth between one and three times.  

“The pump theory is you have a 1-pound, somewhat thin-walled organ, and it’s going to pump [blood] around the Earth every single day for 70 years; 60 to 70 times a minute. That 1-pound, thin-walled organ can [supposedly] generate enough pressure [to do that] by squeezing …

Frankly, that’s ridiculous. But it actually gets worse than that. If you do a flow velocity diagram, it turns out that the blood is moving the fastest at the heart, both before and after the heart.

As it goes into the arterioles and then the smaller arteries, it gets to the capillaries … [where] it actually stops and does a little shimmy, or it goes very slow, depending on who you believe … The analogy is, a narrow river goes fast and when it goes out into a wetland, it goes very slow.

It has to go slow — it has to stop almost — to exchange the gasses and the food. So not only are we pushing all the way around the Earth, but halfway around our travel, we stop and then we get going again. You’re expecting that to be all from the push from behind …

It even gets worse than that because we have an outflow tube of the left ventricle called the aortic arch … which is shaped like McDonald’s arch. The blood goes from the left ventricle, out the aortic valve, through the arch, then down to the body.

The analogy here is if you stick a similarly shaped arched garden hose off your spigot outside your house, and then turn it on really hard, which recreates the pumping … you would expect the garden hose to straighten out because if you put pressure, the arch would straighten.

In fact, you can look on any angiogram and catheterization and you can see that arch actually bends in a little bit during systole, which from a pressure propulsion model makes absolutely no sense at all.”

The Hydraulic Ram Model of the Heart

Clearly, if your heart stops beating, you won’t live very long, but if the heart isn’t actually pumping the blood, how does it work? In his book, Cowan describes the heart as a hydraulic ram, which he explains thus:

“What does the heart do? The blood is moving fast. It comes into the heart. The heart stops the blood, and like a hydraulic ram, it holds it back. The walls expand. The pressure differential happens, and then it opens the gate and comes out.

More so when the blood is in the heart, because of the unique shape of the heart … The heart is a vortex-creating machine … [I]t has these trabeculae (fibers) inside the heart. Each area of the trabeculae is connected with a certain part of the body.

[One] area of the heart is connected with the spleen, another area of the inner part of the heart is connected with the foot, and so on.

The blood comes in and these areas of the heart create their individual spirals, and package up certain parts of the blood, like the old red blood cells, into a vortex and send it to the spleen, whereas another part sends the fresh new red blood cells up to the brain.

If there’s a cut on your leg, it dissolves some of the inner fibers, puts that in a vortex and sends that to the cut on your leg. It’s so wild. Again, there’s an article about this on my website, as hard as it is to believe, that actually documents that in very clear terminology how this happens.”

What’s Water Got to Do With It?

Interestingly, the work of Gerald Pollack, author of “The Fourth Phase of Water,” was instrumental in helping Cowan understand the function of the heart and how blood flows if it isn’t being pushed or pumped by the heart.

First off, if any pumping action were to be involved, it would actually have to occur at the capillaries because that’s where the blood stops and needs to get moving again. However, the solution nature came up with is far simpler. As the blood moves up the venous tree, the blood vessels narrow and eventually coalesce to come back to the heart.

This narrowing of the vessels makes the blood flow faster, in and of itself. Valves and muscular contractions also play a role. However, the primary way blood moves has to do with water. As Pollack has described, water can exist in four phases, not just three. The fourth phase of water is formed by the interaction of water and a hydrophilic surface.

“What happens with that is you form a gel layer, or protective layer, on that hydrophilic surface, which is negatively charged. Therefore, the opposite of positive charge is dissolved into the bulk water in the middle of the tube (capillary or blood vessel) … All you need is a hydrophilic tube, which forms a gel layer, which is negatively charged, and then the bulk water is positively charged. The positive charges repel each other and that starts the flow going up the hill,” Cowan explains.

Sun, Earth and the Human Touch — Three Key Principles for Healthy Blood Flow

Pollack has also clearly demonstrated there are three natural energies that result in separation of charges that create flow:

1. Sunlight charges up your blood vessels, which increases the flow of blood. When the sun’s rays penetrate your skin, it causes a massive increase of nitric oxide that acts as a vasodilator. As much as 60 percent of your blood can be shunted to the surface of your skin through the action of nitric oxide. This helps absorb solar radiation, which then causes the water in your blood to capture the energy and become structured.

This is a key component for a healthy heart. The ideal is to be exposed to the sun while grounding, meaning walking barefoot. This forms a biological circuit that makes it work even better.

2. Negative ions from the Earth, also known as earthing or grounding. This also charges up your blood vessels, creates a separation of charges, creates more positive ions and allows the blood to flow upward, against gravity.

3. The field effect or touch from another living being, such as laying on of hands.

As noted by Cowan, “The best thing is to be, more or less, with shorts or naked on the beach, with the saltwater, which acts as an electrical conductor, holding hands with somebody you love. That’s how you structure the water.” Sun exposure, grounding, and skin-to-skin contact are three prevention strategies that, ideally, everyone should be doing. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier or less expensive than that.

“The water is a battery. Those inputs separate the charges, charge the battery, the battery does work and it starts flow. That flow, just through Bernoulli’s principle, which is the wider it is, the slower it goes, [when it] narrows, it goes faster. That is the reason the blood moves, in a nutshell.”

Does Plaque Really Cause Heart Attacks?

As mentioned, Cowan does not ascribe to the plaque theory of heart disease. Instead, he makes a strong case for heart disease being a problem rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction. What’s wrong with the plaque theory? For starters, if plaque were responsible, there would have to be something in the blood or blood vessels causing the plaque, such as cholesterol or inflammation.

And, since all blood vessels are identical — there’s no difference between the splenic artery, the femoral artery or the coronary artery, for example — if there’s plaque in one artery, there should be plaque everywhere, and an attack should theoretically occur just about anywhere in the body, depending on where the blockage is. Yet people do not have “spleen attacks,” or “foot attacks,” which would be the result of a bottleneck of plaque forming near these organs.

“There is such a thing as renal artery ischemia. But basically, there are only two organs that have attacks. The brain, we call that a stroke, and the heart, we call that a myocardial infraction (MI) or a heart attack,” Cowan says.

“Why not the other organs? Because that suggests there’s something different about those organs. It’s not the blood vessels because the blood vessels, they’re the same. There’s something different about the heart and the brain that’s causing the attacks. It’s not the blood flow.”

In the ’40s and ’50s when the plaque theory began to emerge, most cardiologists rejected it, noting there’s massive collateral circulation between the coronary arteries and this massive network of fine blood vessels. It doesn’t really matter whether one area gets blocked or not, because the whole thing is like the wetlands; it will simply compensate for a blockage in one area by increasing blood flow elsewhere.

What’s Wrong With the Plaque Theory?

Post-mortem autopsy studies — which are available on Cowan’s website, — looking at arterial blockages in the area leading to the part that had an attack showed that only 18 percent were actually blocked. That means that in 82 percent of cases, a blocked artery was NOT the cause of the heart attack.

So, what caused it? In another study, 66 percent of normal 50-year-olds who died in car accidents were found to have a one or more, greater than 90 percent stenosis or blockage of a coronary artery! Yet none of them had any symptoms.

“I’m not saying blockages are good. I’m not saying plaque is good. What I am saying is it’s nowhere near sufficient to explain why people have heart attacks,” Cowan says.

“Every week somebody comes in and says ‘I’m not feeling as well as I used to. I have some chest pain, a little shortness of breath walking up the hills. I went on a 5-mile walk yesterday and I’m not doing as well as I used to. I went to the cardiologist. He did tests and found I have a 95 percent blockage in one of my coronary arteries. He said if it blocks any more, I’ll have a heart attack and die… [and that I] better have a stent or an angioplasty.’

I think to myself, No. 1, if all of the blood flow comes through these coronary arteries and he’s got 95 percent blockage of this major vessel, how did he walk up this 5-mile hill? In fact, how is he even standing upright if he’s got less than 5 percent blood flow to a major part of his heart?

So, you mean to tell me if he blocks from 5 percent to 2 percent, that’s it? Curtains in, you die? The reality is 5 percent is 0 percent, and blocking to 2 percent is the same as 0 percent. It’s very clear that the theory that the blood squeezes through the bottle neck in the vessel is complete nonsense.

The blood does not squeeze through the bottleneck. It bypasses it. It goes through these collateral vessels and the flow is more or less normal, although there is some problem in the heart, but it’s not because of that blockage. That’s why the Mayo Clinic and other studies, when they unblock the blockage, it doesn’t do any good for the patient.”

In Cowan’s view, there is only a small subset of patients that might benefit from bypass intervention, specifically if you have a greater than 90 percent stenosis (blockage) of the proximal part (the early part) of the left anterior descending (the primary artery that supplies blood to your heart).

The Real Cause of Heart Attacks

If a blockage isn’t the cause of the heart attack, then what is? Cowan makes a strong case for three basic causes of heart attacks, in the following order of importance or likelihood:

1. Decreased parasympathetic tone followed by sympathetic nervous system activation. You have two nervous systems, a central and an autonomic. Your autonomic nervous system has two arms: the sympathetic fight-or-flight, and the parasympathetic, which governs rest and digestion.

Decreased parasympathetic tone results from stress, diabetes, high blood pressure and other factors, including emotional and psychological ones. That’s the first thing that happens. Then, while under the influence of a low parasympathetic tone, you experience some sort of emotional, psychological or physical stress that activates your sympathetic nervous system.

This shifts your cell metabolism from the mitochondria to the cytoplasm, meaning the cells in your heart shift from using fat for fuel, to generating fuel in a glycolytic way through the fermentation of sugar. Once that glycolytic shift occurs, you enter into glycolytic metabolism where you burn sugar for fuel and make lactic acid. As in other muscles, lactic acid in the heart muscle causes the telltale cramps and pain known as angina.

Since your heart cannot stop contracting to allow the blood flow to flush out the lactic acid, the lactic acid builds up, causing localized metabolic acidosis that necroses or destroys the cardiac tissue. Also, when the tissue becomes acidic, calcium cannot enter the tissue. As a result, the heart muscle cannot contract properly.

Next, pressure in the arteries embedded in the non-moving area of your heart builds, which then breaks off little pieces. These are the “clots” conventional cardiology believes are the cause of the heart attack.

But the clots are not due to plaque, they’re the result of pressure in the non-moving area of your heart, which is the result of not getting calcium into the cells, which is the result of lactic acid forming from the altered metabolism in the heart. This chain of events, Cowan believes, is the real cause of most heart attacks.

2. Collateral circulation failure. Diabetes, smoking and high-stress all affect collateral circulation, not major blood vessels, and all of these are known to raise your risk of a heart attack.

3. Particularly badly placed plaque formation. This is not the norm, but could occur.

Indeed, one of the problems with using carbohydrates as a primary fuel — which a majority of people in the West are doing — is that it generates more reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals. Chronically, this will cause mitochondrial damage. I like to simplify it by saying that carbs are dirty fuels — dirty in the sense that they generate excessive amounts of free radicals that poison the mitochondria.

It’s this dirty fuel — the net carbs — that creates fermentation metabolism and subsequent lactic acid production. The answer is not to take more antioxidants. The answer is to reduce the production of free radicals by reducing net carbs and increasing the amount of healthy dietary fats you eat.

This is a core tenet of a healthy diet, and if you understand Cowan’s explanation above, and how carbs act as a dirty fuel, you’ll have a good understanding of why a high-sugar diet causes heart disease and heart attacks.

Treatment Alternative for Heart Disease

To address the primary issue of decreased parasympathetic tone followed by sympathetic nervous system activation, an adrenal hormone called ouabain, or strophanthin, could be used. Strophanthus is the name of the plant, the active ingredient of which is called g-strophanthin in Europe, and ouabain in the United States.

G-strophanthin is an endogenous (meaning “made in us”) hormone that goes into your blood, to your heart, where it converts the lactic acid into pyruvate, which is actually the preferred fuel for your heart. In this way, g-strophanthin breaks and eliminates the buildup of lactic acid that is causing all the trouble. Not only that, it converts it to a fully usable fuel, allowing your heart to function properly again.

G-strophanthin also helps create more neurotransmitters of the parasympathetic nervous system. So it performs two central functions: 1) It supports your parasympathetic nervous system, and 2), It flushes out lactic acid. Unfortunately, strophanthus can be hard to find. You cannot simply pick it up at your local health food store.

“Strophanthus was first identified by the famous African explorer, Livingston, who apparently saw the natives dip their arrows in it. They would make a really high dose and it would stun their prey … He dipped his toothbrush in a strophanthus extract and noticed the change in his heart rate. It slowed down. Basically, from there, it became a heart medicine.

It’s in the same family as digitalis, but digitalis doesn’t convert lactic acid into pyruvate. Digitalis does not support the parasympathetic system. It’s really different because digitalis is fat soluble, while ouabain, g-strophanthine is water soluble. There are a lot of differences.”

How to Find Strophanthus

For over 20 years, strophanthus was the main treatment for angina and heart attack prevention in Germany. Millions of doses were given and hundreds of studies were done. One 1972 study involved 150 patients with angina. After taking strophanthus for one week, 144 were symptom free. After two weeks, 146 were without symptoms. It clearly has a long history of successful clinical use.

“In fact, in the ’50s and ’60s, there was a test called a strophanthin challenge test … All physicians know, sometimes a person comes in with chest pain. We don’t know if it’s because they’re breathing too hard or if it’s muscle pain or something.

You want to figure out whether that’s from their heart. They [would] give them g-strophanthin. If the pain went away, it was considered from their heart. That was the g-strophanthin challenge test, because simply, it flushes the lactic acid. No lactic acid, no pain. But it’s not just for pain relief. It actually breaks the cycle that leads to heart attacks,” Cowan says.

“Now, there are very few places to get it. There’s one compounding pharmacy in Germany, which you can import [from]. There’s a company in Brazil that makes an extract of the strophanthus seeds. That’s what I’ve been using mostly for about 10, 15 years. I’ve had it tested so I know how much ouabain per milliliter is in there.

It’s been one of the best medicines I’ve ever used. People [who] can’t walk to the mailbox, they take it for a couple of weeks, they can walk to the mailbox, go skiing, etc. It relieves their chest pain and it does the exact things that you would hope a medicine would do.”

To make strophanthus more available, Cowan suggests finding a practitioner who is willing to give it to you and supervise your medical condition. Then contact Cowan’s office via Cowan will talk to the practitioner and explain how strophanthus works and how it should be taken. The practitioner can then obtain it through the website and give it to you.

Enhanced External Counterpulsation — Another Alternative Treatment for Heart Disease

Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) is an alternative for bypass, provided you’re not dealing with a proximal left anterior descending (LAD) obstruction. EECP will increase collateral circulation, which is another common factor responsible for heart attacks. will tell you if or where there is a site that does this in your area. It’s a Medicare insurance-approved therapy, believe it or not. There are studies that show just EECP alone will relieve about 80 percent of angina. It definitely has some conventional literature behind its effectiveness. It’s very simple and straightforward,” Cowan says.  

As explained earlier, the reason you don’t experience a heart attack due to blockage is because you’re protected by collateral circulation. However, if you have diabetes or chronic inflammation, that will eventually deteriorate your small blood vessels (capillaries), reducing this built-in protection.

EECP works by inflating compression cuffs on your thighs and calves that are synchronized with your EKG. When your heart is in diastole (relaxed), the balloons inflate, squeezing the blood. This is a very powerful and safe alternative to coronary bypass surgery for most. Rather than bypassing one or two large arteries you create thousands of new capillary beds that supply even more blood than bypassed vessels.

The sessions are about one hour long, and one requires about 35 sessions to receive benefit. It has insurance approval for angina, and even if you had to pay the $5,000 dollars out of pocket, it is certainly far safer than having your chest cracked open.

It is also very effective for many other conditions like heart failure and diastolic dysfunction (which is an emerging cardiac epidemic). Many professional and elite athletes use it as an aid to maintain cardiac fitness when they are injured and unable to actively exercise.

EECP Triggers Growth of New Blood Vessels

By doing that for an hour, five days a week for seven weeks (a total of 35 treatments), your body will form new blood vessels, thereby improving your collateral circulation. It’s as simple as that. Your body will literally sprout new blood vessels in response to the increased pressure. In addition to eliminating angina, the new flow may also increase your physical endurance and sexual function by 20 and 40 percent. The effects typically last five to eight years.

“Some people call this “passive exercise,” because [that’s] the only other thing I know of that actually really encourages the sprouting of new blood vessels. [H]igh intensity strength training … encourages new blood vessel formation. If you’re going to make muscle, you have to make more small blood vessels to nourish the flow.

That’s what happens. Anytime you’re doing high intensity strength training or running up hills or whatever it is you’re doing, that also does it. It makes more collateral circulation,” Cowan explains.

“The problem is a lot of people who come with heart disease, you can’t tell them to do high intensity training or hardly any exercise. The only thing they can do is just lay on the bed and do this passive exercise. Then they have much more capacity. Then they can get into more of a strength training or some sort of exercise program, and have a much greater capacity.”

More Information

Hopefully this interview has intrigued, encouraged and inspired you to pursue and investigate this topic in more detail, because the potential to transform your life and the lives of those you love is certainly available. Cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes are enormously common, and they simply do not need to be.

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Cowan’s book, “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease.” You can also find more information on I also published an article written by Cowan in 2014, in which he provides his perspective on the real cause of heart attacks, which you can read through.

“Hopefully, we’ll have some sort of newsletter and be able to really develop a community of people who are interested in looking at a whole different way of understanding and approaching heart disease,” Cowan says.

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Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal
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