Category Archives: Cholesterol

Low Vitamin D Linked to Obesity and High Triglycerides


Understanding of the various ways vitamin D effects the body is growing rapidly. Originally this vitamin was thought to only effect calcium in the blood and bone but recent research shows it possesses important influences on the immune system and cancer development. A study just published in Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism June 2012 now shows that this same vitamin can possibly influence metabolism. A common disorder of metabolism known as Syndrome X or the Metabolic Syndrome is characterized by high triglycerides and low good cholesterol (HDL), abdominal obesity, along with elevated blood pressure and blood sugar. The researchers discovered those with vitamin D levels between 16 and 20 were 75% more likely to develop the Metabolic Syndrome within 5 years than those with vitamin D levels above 34 (levels below 30 are considered low).

Whether low vitamin D is the cause of the Metabolic Syndrome is unclear. Vitamin D prevents fat cells from reproducing, helps the natural process of triglyceride breakdown and helps regulate blood sugar by making insulin work more efficiently. Without enough vitamin D the fat cells could multiply faster, triglyceride levels accumulate and blood sugar rise as is seen in Metabolic Syndrome.

As I have explained in previous posts at metabolism.com, vitamin D is also related to development of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and obesity in Type 2 Diabetes which could be considered a more advanced form of Metabolic Syndrome.

Doctors’ efforts to monitor vitamin D levels are being hindered by new regulations by Medicare and private insurance carriers to deny payment for vitamin D screening. Lately, a number of my patients’ vitamin D tests were denied by insurance carriers with patients being charged over $200 per test because it was not “indicated”.

Recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are debated. When skin is exposed to sunlight it manufactures vitamin D so there is thought that people who get sun exposure should not need vitamin D supplement but that is not borne out in reality. Previously the recommended daily allowance (RDA) was 400 units per day an amount which has been increased slightly for the elderly. Some experts recommend 1000 unit daily or more. In my practice I generally recommend starting at 1000 units and then rechecking 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels a few months later. Some individuals require 4000 unit or more daily to achieve vitamin D levels over 30. When purchasing vitamin D the D3 form appears to be converted in the body more rapidly than the D2 variety. High priced brands of vitamin D, in my opinion, are a waste of money.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

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Coconut Milk as Health Food? You’ve Got to Be Kidding.


Much as has been said recently about the health benefits of coconut milk and coconut oil. Coconut milk is a white liquid mixture of water and the white “flesh” of the coconut and is considered a more diluted form of coconut oil a thick clear liquid. Coconut extracts have been used in commercial food products, non-dairy creamers and cooking for many years but lately there has been a burst of publicity for coconut oil and milk as a new form of health-food with beneficial properties including increasing energy, preventing cancer and speeding weight loss.  I have seen it being added to ice cream and even bottled water. I want to sound a note of warning here.

 

Most physicians and nutritionists will advise against having too much fat in the diet for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, fats have lots of calories. In addition dietary fat can increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) content of the blood leading to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Among the different kinds of fat that raise LDL the worst are the saturated fats. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 120 calories with about 90% of the coconut oil being saturated fat.  In fact the saturated fat, palmitic acid, takes its name from the plant that produces coconuts, the palm tree. Compare this to the fat in dark chocolate which is 30% oleic acid, the healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.

 

Oils which are far more beneficial for preparing foods are unsaturated fats including the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. I like canola, safflower and olive oil due to their high content of these healthier fats.

 

Coconut oil has many other applications which are useful outside the body. It can be used as a diesel fuel, deodorant, insect repellent, to make soap, and as a moisturizer for hair and skin.  My advice is to think twice however, before supplementing your diet with it.

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Mom Told You Fish is Brain Food. She Was Right.


Recent information from a 20 year study confirms what Mom told you about fish being good for the brain .  Using MRI studies of the brain researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that the size of certain brain regions crucial to intelligence were bigger in those who ate baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis.  In Alzheimer’s Disease these same areas shrink as the disease progresses.  Intelligence and memory testing by the researchers confirmed that having more brain volume in these areas correlated with better brain function. For fish eaters the rate of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease during this study was only 8% while non-fish eaters went on to Alzheimer’s  38% of the time. The researchers concluded that the benefit of fish eating probably results from the protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the brain. Omega-3 fatty acid contains high concentrations of EPA as well as another benefical nutrient DHA.

Fish oil is known to have other benefits as well, such as reducing certain fats in the blood, particularly triglycerides. In another recently released study those with high triglycerides taking 1.8 grams of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) for twelve weeks showed a 22% reduction in triglyceride levels . The EPA in this study was derived from the omega-3-fatty acids in fish oil. The researchers point out that there is still limited proof that lowering triglycerides leads to a reduction in heart attack risk, although reducing irregular heart beat after heart attack may be reduced by consuming nutrients such as EPA.

For more helpful information on nutrition and health check out my new book, Metabolism.com

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