Hemp Oil – Pros and Cons

Depending on where you live, hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, is legal again. There are all kinds of advocates out there for the use of this plant for just about everything. Apparently Ford Motor Co. even made a car body out of hemp back in the day which was stronger than steel.

More importantly for this website, hemp oil has got a lot of attention in the last couple of years due to its purported health benefits. I have a couple of bottles in the cupboard and use them on salads from time-to-time. It’s not my “go to” fat for salads; that’s olive oil. Once or twice, I’ve used the oil on my roast chicken to help the seasoning stick. I’ve stopped that due to its low smoke point.

Before I go into the supposed benefits, one thing on taste. I tend to drink a few tablespoons of olive oil and avocado oil each week. I was doing that to a lesser extent with hemp but have fallen off on that somewhat. Why? It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that I find disagreeable. It’s sort of nutty, but for some reason it doesn’t agree with my taste buds. I only use it on salads now sporadically.

The Benefits

There are a lot of lists out there that talk about using hemp oil for your hair and skin. I’m not interested in that. This is simply about consuming the oil.

  • Hemp oil contains essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid (54%) and alpha-linolenic acid (17%).
  • The 3:1 ratio of linoleic to alpha-linolenic acid may be ideal for promoting good health.
  • It has some monounsaturated fat (11%). Mark Sisson has a good article on the importance of monunsaturates.
  • It contains cannabidiol (CBD) which may help with anxiety, sleep and mental health; however, it is early days when it comes to research. It may also be an anti-inflammatory. N.B., When I got my first delivery of hemp oil, I took a tablespoon before bed for three nights in a a row. I didn’t notice any improvement in my sleep; however, I’m a good sleeper anyway, so I don’t know what the oil would have done for me in any case.
  • The oil contains sitosterol, which has hypocholesterolemic properties, and tocopherols, which have both antioxidant and anticancer activities. Both are present in “sufficient efficacious quantities” according to a study in the Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods.

The Negatives

  • Linoleic acid when it comes from canola/rapeseed and other highly processed foods can be very inflammatory and hence unhealthy. There is an argument that linoleic acid coming from natural, non-industrialised sources have health benefits, however. The jury may still be out here.
  • Low smoke point so it’s not good for cooking.
  • CBD oil in high doses caused reproductive toxicity in mice according to this study. CBD affected testosterone production and the sperm quality.

Conclusion

Hemp oil seems like a bit of a mixed bag to me with the scale tipping towards positivity overall. My guess is that more research needs to be done on the health benefits and potential negatives of this oil. I’ll still use it on salads from time-to-time but will mainly stick with olive and avocado oils.

Metformin: Side Benefits?

Common Diabetes Drug Associated With Risk Of Low Levels Of ...

Readers will know that when I was diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor got me on to insulin injections. After adopting the paleo diet, I didn’t need insulin anymore, but eventually I needed metformin to help control my blood glucose.

I was on the fence at first with metformin. I’m a stubborn man, and I wanted to fight high blood glucose naturally without the metformin. However, I serendipitously stumbled onto an article which mentioned the cancer rates of diabetics who take metformin v those who don’t. The metformin takers had a much lower rate of developing cancer than the non-takers. That was enough for me. Having seen family members go through chemo and hospice, anything that would reduce my chances of that end was worth doing. Onto the metformin I went.

That was seven years ago, and I didn’t follow up on any of the the side-benefits of metformin. However, this medicine has been popping up more and more on the net, so I thought is was worth doing a bit of research and sharing it with you.

Metformin and Cancer

So yes, there continues to be a raft of studies out there suggesting that metformin has cancer fighting qualities:

Metformin and Diabetes Complications

  • Stroke – A study published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases followed a group of Type-2 diabetics and found that 9.2 percent of those who took metformin had a stroke, compared with 17.5 percent of those who did not take it.
  • Dementia – Metformin may reduce the risk of dementia according to this study published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences, and Medical Sciences.
  • Heart Problems – A study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases concludes that metformin may help protect against coronary events and heart failure.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – Metformin may reduce the risk for AMD by 58 percent, according to a study published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.

Other Possible Benefits

  • Fatty Liver – Metformin may help with the host of problems associated with fatty liver according to this study from the Balkan Medical Journal.
  • Osteoarthritis – Metformin seemed to help people lose cartilage at a lower rate than those who did not take metformin according to this study in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.
  • Alzheimer’s DiseaseResearch in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders found that metformin improved a range of cognitive skills although this was a short pilot study.
  • Anti-inflammatory Research in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology concluded metformin has anti-inflammatory properties. A study from Circulation Research also touted the drug’s ability to combat inflammation.
  • Autophagy – Nature Research concluded that metformin promotes autophagy. The journal Cell Metabolism drew a similar conclusion about autophagy but also noted the drug’s ability to normalise mitochondrial function and fight inflammation.

Conclusion

I obviously need this drug to thrive and survive. However, it is great to know that there is a solid, and growing, body of scholarship out there arguing that metformin is not just for diabetes. I have seen a few paleo/keto bloggers discussing the idea of healthy non-diabetics taking metformin to optimise health. I’ve got no opinion on that. The research, however, suggests that doing so may not be as outlandish as it seems.

Fighting Inflammation – Foods I Eat

20 Ways to Fight Inflammation | Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance

Inflammation is a killer:

Chronic Inflammation Is The Silent Killer Of Men

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/chronic-inflammation-is-a-silent-killer-of-men_b_590cef7ce4b056aa2363d4ec

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20040223,00.html

This tells you how far behind the times I was. Time Magazine was writing about this in 2004! Oh if only I had a time machine.

One of the worst things that poor blood control can lead to is chronic inflammation. Readers will know I work hard to keep my blood glucose levels in a tight range. I also believe in regular fasting which can fight inflammation and promote ketosis and autophagy.

I also take a variety of supplements that have purported anti-inflammatory benefits.

Moreover, there are certain foods I avoid like the plague.

Yet, as important as the above measures are, I believe it is important to eat foods that will not raise my blood glucose and fight inflammation.

These are my mainstays:

  • Grass fed beef
  • Roast chicken with skin
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Egg yolks
  • Lamb
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Rocket
  • Dandelions
  • Cos lettuce
  • Garlic
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • 90% Dark chocolate and above
  • Cheese – cheddar, parmesan and Red Leicester
  • Full fat cream

According to recent research the only food above that may be mildly inflammatory is the beef. However, the linked study does not say what kind of beef? Grass fed? Grain fed? My view is that grass fed beef is a healthy option in moderation.

As an aside, one of the really inflammatory foods pointed out in the above study is bacon due to the amount of nitrates. I think I’ll have to reconsider this as a treat. Fortunately, there is a non-nitrate bacon on the market.

Conclusion

Diabetics are more susceptible to inflammation. Anything that can help lower the inflammation load, whilst keeping blood glucose down, is crucial for optimal health. That means that my diet needs to be reasonably limited. That said, the above list shows that with some creativity anyone following the paleo/keto lifestyle, even one as strict as mine, can enjoy a varied diet.

Collagen – Why I Take It

Collagen: ‘Fountain of Youth’ or Edible Hoax?

Some people are touting collagen as the fountain of youth. I don’t mean injections. I mean supplements. I don’t care about aging really when it comes to looks. We get old; c’est la vie. But I’m all about quality of life. Until I shuffle off this mortal coil, I want to be in optimal health for as long as possible. Which is why I’m back on the collagen supplements.

I had found a really good supplement a couple of years ago but it was pricey. When I was abroad last summer, I found a cheaper version in bulk, but I really didn’t like it. It didn’t mix well with my coffee, and I could taste it. It’s been collecting dust in my cupboard for six months; I finally binned it the other day. That was $50 down the drain.

So I bought some really good stuff from Amazon, and I’ve started taking it again on a daily basis. To hell with the somewhat high cost. I think it’s worth it. Why? Joints and cartilage. The older we get the less collagen we make. Our joints need collagen. Many argue that collagen supplements will maintain joint health and reduce pain. I don’t have joint pain, but I am in my forties. Anything that will help slow the process of aging is a bonus. Given that I’m running more because of the bloody lockdown means I need all the help I can get.

Another bonus is that collagen contains glycine. This is an amino acid that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. I’m a big believer that inflammation is a killer and the root of many of mankind’s health problems. Anything that fights this is good for me too.

So most websites or product labels say you need to take this daily for two or three months to see feel any results. I’ll report back in October on this one.

Pork Experiment – Fresh Pork Chop

Well this wasn’t what I was expecting. My blood was a respectable 7.6 mmol/L this morning. Since my water/black coffee fast, 7.6 is the highest blood glucose level that I will accept. In contrast, I was sometimes waking up with levels above 10 mmol/L or even 12 mmol/L.

On Sunday morning, I had the same reading (7.6 mmol/L). What did I do yesterday, so I can mirror the same variables over the next four Sundays with marinated pork chops, bacon, prosciutto and steak? I had some bacon for breakfast, did some light gardening for a couple of hours, had some nuts and prosciutto for lunch and did a five set circuit of press-ups, arm curls, planks and sit ups.

What did I eat for dinner? KISS = keep it simple stupid. I had a high quality pork chop sautéed in butter. That’s it. About half-way through, I tore up some fresh sage from the garden and threw it in to infuse the butter.

There are no conclusions yet, but this is good news insofar as fresh, unmarinated pork does not seem to affect my blood adversely, at least not in moderate quantities. That said, I’d like to return to the conclusion from the Weston A. Price Foundation study that I wrote about two weeks ago:

The early blood coagulation and clotting observed after consuming cooked unmarinated pork are adverse changes in the blood. A shorter blood coagulation time is associated with increased systemic biochemical inflammation as well as the possible formation of blood clots in the body, as in heart attack or stroke. This condition in the blood, if chronic, is associated with increased risk of chronic degenerative disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and others.

Chronic inflammation is not good for me. Maybe a nice roast pork will be a once a month treat during the autumn and winter? I’ll have to weigh up the benefits versus the costs on that one.

A Chat with my Pharmacist

Because of some government mandated diktat one of the pharmacists at my chemist shop wanted to discuss my metformin prescription with me yesterday.

He was an amiable enough chap (a diabetic too) and the questions weren’t particularly intrusive. We got talking about diet, and he said some things that were revealing on a couple of levels. I’m quoting here from memory, “If you eat a fatty meal, like fish and chips, you may get some stomach cramping due to the fat content.” Well this was interesting. What diabetic, who is taking metformin, would want to deal with such a huge intake of carbs that come with fish and chips? Clearly, diabetics are still being told they can eat such unhealthy foods in moderation. Also, he pointed the finger for stomach cramping at the fat. Maybe? But what kind of fat? Fish and chips are drowned in rapeseed (i.e., canola) or maybe palm oil. I don’t think either of these are healthy, they are proven to be inflammatory, and I avoid them like the plague. I don’t get any cramping with the good fats I consume in high quantities (e.g. coconut, olive, etc.).

The pharmacist then went on to talk about carbs and said something like “you should watch your carbohydrate intake. Past advice, which called for cutting down fat, helped people with their health, but we know now that carbohydrates can make you feel hungry a lot more, so you may eat more.” Of course, this was not news to me, at least the part about carbohydrate addiction. What was interesting was the kind the cognitive dissonance that this guy had in his head. More carbohydrates and less fats was good because it meant we eat less fat. But, eating more carbohydrates will make you more hungry which may mean you’ll eat more, therefore making you fat. It amazes me how people can hold contradictory propositions in their heads at the same time. On a more positive note, it looks like some truths are starting to filter down into the zeitgeist. Specifically, carbs make you hungry! Who knows where we’ll be in five or ten years. Maybe the fatwa against fats will end too!

Inflammation: Foods I Avoid

I am a big believer in the argument that chronic, systemic inflammation is the root cause of many of mankind’s health woes.

Lo and behold, the standard western diet sets everyone up for chronic inflammation: sugar, wheat, soybean oil, corn oil, palm oil sunflower oil, trans-fats, glucose-fructose and food-based products.

Of course, I don’t eat any of the horrible sh*t above. Yet, as a diabetic, I need to be extra-vigilant when it comes to inflammatory foods. After all, high blood glucose in itself will lead to systemic inflammation. Keeping my blood in the ideal range is a daily challenge; I don’t need inflammatory foods making that harder. Even if such foods are not high in sugar or carbs, I have a suspicion that the inflammation these foods cause raise my blood glucose nonetheless.

So what do I avoid:

  • Most dairy (exceptions: double cream for coffee and hard cheeses in moderation)
  • Alcohol (even red wine sadly)
  • Egg Whites (I’m allergic)
  • Fresh Pork (suspected allergy, experiment to confirm)
  • Sugar substitutes
  • Most processed meat (I believe that the risks here are overstated when it comes to bacon, some charcuterie and quality sausages; none of these has impacted my blood glucose negatively)
  • Tomatoes (evidence is mixed on nightshades, but I steer clear)
  • Grain fed beef (as much as I can afford)

Diabetes, Cholesterol and Statins

Statins Cause Diabetes - Consumer Reports

I do not believe the current medical orthodoxy concerning cholesterol. There has been so much research written debunking the party-line (cholesterol is bad and must be lowered at all costs) that I am amazed that it still has so many supporters.

Mark Sisson, Bill Sardi, Dr Joseph Mercola, Dr David Brownstein, Dr Mark Sircus, Johnny Bowden and Dr Stephen Sinatra have all argued against the conventional wisdom. Those are just some of the bigger names out there. A brief duckduckgo.com search finds so many more.

How is something that is needed in every cell, is present in every cell bad for me? I agree with the writers above and believe that it isn’t. As Sisson argues:

As a naturally self-regulating system, the body isn’t going to produce something that is intrinsically pathological. Maybe that could happen in really rare genetic mutations, but everyone produces, utilizes, and relies upon cholesterol. It simply doesn’t make sense that cholesterol is evil.

Several authors above draw links between high cholesterol numbers, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation. But it is not the cholesterol that is causing the inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidation and inflammation lead to high cholesterol numbers. Dr Mercola writes “If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body to heal and repair.” What kind of things can lead to inflammation for a Type-2 diabetic like me? High blood glucose levels, lack of exercise, poor diet, booze, sugars, carbs, food-based products, etc. According to Dr Sircus:

What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods. Low magnesium though is the most basic culprit as is excessive irregular breathing, which reduces both CO2 and O2 levels in the body, both of which cause systemic inflammation.

Which leads to my cautionary tale. If I hadn’t already done my research on cholesterol, inflammation and oxidation years ago, I would be much more susceptible to the siren call of statins from my current diabetes nurse. Statins are medicines that lower cholesterol numbers (marginally) and as a result, so the argument goes, help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Now my cholesterol numbers are good for a normal civilian, but according to conventional wisdom are a bit high for a diabetic.

Here, one might say “Well, if they lower your cholesterol, why not just take them. It couldn’t hurt could it?” My counter to that is that the statins would not help my underlying inflammation even if there was any. It would be treating the symptoms, not the disease. More importantly, the benefits of statins in lowering cholesterol and therefore lowering the chance of heart attack and stroke appear, at best, debatable. At worst, they are non-existent.

And this isn’t the end of it. The more you look into statins the more dangerous they seem. These are the side effects of statins provided by the NHS in the United Kingdom:

Common side effects

Side effects can vary between different statins, but common side effects include:

headache
dizziness
feeling sick
feeling unusually tired or physically weak
digestive system problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or farting
muscle pain
sleep problems
low blood platelet count


Uncommon side effects

Uncommon side effects of statins include:

being sick
memory problems
hair loss
pins and needles
inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which can cause flu-like symptoms
inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can cause stomach pain
skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash
sexual problems, such as loss of libido (reduced sex drive) or erectile dysfunction


Rare side effects

Rare side effects of statins include:

muscle weakness (myopathy)
loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
tendon problems (tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones)


Muscle effects

Statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation (swelling) and damage. Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.

Your doctor may carry out a blood test to measure a substance in your blood called creatine kinase (CK), which is released into the blood when your muscles are inflamed or damaged.

What the NHS site does not mention is that creatine kinase is a marker for severely damaged muscle tissue which can mean a host of serious medical problems including: myocardial infarction (heart attack), rhabdomyolysis (severe muscle breakdown), muscular dystrophy, autoimmune myositides, and acute kidney injury.

Conclusion

My current diabetes nurse and the one before that both asked if I wanted to take statins even though my cholesterol numbers were good; I politely declined. Do they know about the complications and the laundry list of side-effects? Very likely no. They are just well-meaning people who are doing what they’re told to do. If they see a cholesterol number above (enter arbitrary number), then they recommend statins. Maybe I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure I know a hell of a lot more about cholesterol and statins than they do. I am very glad I do my own research.

Pork Experiment

Glucose Spike?

Long-time readers (the site’s been up for nearly a month!) will know that I love pork. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that fresh pork was spiking my blood glucose. A bit of research pointed to a study revealing that fresh, non-cured pork led to coagulation and blood clotting. The study concluded:

The results suggest that unmarinated cooked pastured pork may be unique in producing these coagulation effects on the blood, which also appeared quite rapidly, in less than ten minutes after blood draw, and did not clear up during an hour of observing the blood under the microscope.

The early blood coagulation and clotting observed after consuming cooked unmarinated pork are adverse changes in the blood. A shorter blood coagulation time is associated with increased systemic biochemical inflammation as well as the possible formation of blood clots in the body, as in heart attack or stroke. This condition in the blood, if chronic, is associated with increased risk of chronic degenerative disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and others.

I finished that post stating I was going to conduct a similar experiment on myself. I’m going to start this on Sunday. My plan is to eat the following over the next four Sundays: a pork chop, a pork chop marinated in apple cider vinegar, bacon and a steak. The amount of meat will be roughly the same on the four Sundays. Finally, I will eat the same foods on the preceding Saturdays and during the day on the Sundays. Exercise will be the same as well. I’ll write those details up on Monday when the blood glucose results come in.

Pork – The Other White Meat or Tasty Poison?

Too Rare for me

A very provocative title I admit. Full disclosure, I love pork. It’s so versatile: chops, roasts, gammon, ham, bacon, sausages. You get the point. All are delicious in their own way, well, save for that highly processed, pink ham. I never developed a liking for that one. Too salty.

Still, I agree with Homer. The pig is a truly magical animal:

Remember when this show was funny?

So why a title that casts possible aspersions on the little oinkers. After all, what have they done except taste delicious?

It’s simple. I have the sneaking suspicion that certain types of pork are raising my blood. The particular culprits appear to be roast pork loin and grilled pork chops. As I mentioned in a previous post, this could be due to the protein density of the lean pork. It might have been my now abandoned vice of drinking two, or sometimes three, glasses of wine with a roast pork. All are possible. Indeed, some sites, which look like clickbait frankly, claim that pork is a food that won’t spike a diabetic’s blood. Maybe it was me and not the pork. I hope so.

However, I’m not the only diabetic who has experienced a surprising blood glucose spike after eating pork. Various forums have no clear answers it seems. Could it be the protein? The fat? Something else?

After a little bit of bouncing round the internet, I came across this study from the Weston A. Price Foundation. The study took three volunteers and fed them various forms of pork in order to determine:

1. Is there an effect from consuming pork on the blood as observed in dark-field live blood analysis?

2. Does unprocessed pork have a different effect than processed pork? We thus determine whether traditional preparation methods of pork affect the blood differently than the modern method of simply cooking fresh pork.

The study:

compared the consumption of cooked fresh pastured pork; apple cider vinegar-marinated fresh pastured pork; uncured pastured bacon; and uncured pastured prosciutto. [It] also investigated the consumption of cooked fresh pastured lamb, as another unprocessed meat for comparison with fresh pastured pork.

You can go see how the study was conducted yourself, but live blood samples were taken and the three volunteers were on the same Weston A. Price Foundation recommended diet and in good health. None were diabetics.

So, what were the results of eating fresh pastured pork:

The results show unequivocally that consuming unmarinated cooked pork shows a significant negative effect on the blood. Five hours after consumption, subjects showed extremely coagulated blood, with extensive red blood cell (RBC) rouleaux (cells in the formation of stacked coins), RBC aggregates, and the presence of clotting factors, especially fibrin, which is seen as white threads in dark-field microscopy.

A couple of days later the subjects had fresh pastured pork which was first marinated in apple cider vinegar (with the mother) for twenty-four hours. The result:

this blood sample [of one subject] show[s] a very slight stickiness or tendency to aggregate, and a few platelet aggregate forms are seen, with no fibrin. The subject’s blood is largely unchanged from before. The other two subjects showed essentially no change before or after consumption of the marinated cooked pork.

Bacon consumption, similarly, showed no significantly negative effects on the blood and ditto for prosciutto and ditto for the lamb.

The conclusions of the study are revealing:

1. Consuming unmarinated cooked pastured pork produces blood coagulation and clotting in blood examined at five hours after eating; however, consuming marinated cooked pork does not produce any blood coagulation or clotting.

2. Consuming processed forms of pastured uncured pork, including bacon and prosciutto, does not produce any blood coagulation or other visible changes in the blood at five hours after eating.

3. Consuming unmarinated cooked pastured lamb does not produce any blood coagulation or other visible changes in the blood at five hours after eating.

4. No changes in white blood cell activity, white blood cell clumping, crystals, microbes, or spicules (indicating liver stress), were found before or after consumption of all five preparations of pork and lamb.

The results suggest that unmarinated cooked pastured pork may be unique in producing these coagulation effects on the blood, which also appeared quite rapidly, in less than ten minutes after blood draw, and did not clear up during an hour of observing the blood under the microscope.

The early blood coagulation and clotting observed after consuming cooked unmarinated pork are adverse changes in the blood. A shorter blood coagulation time is associated with increased systemic biochemical inflammation as well as the possible formation of blood clots in the body, as in heart attack or stroke. This condition in the blood, if chronic, is associated with increased risk of chronic degenerative disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and others.

So Now What?

The rest of the study speculates why unprocessed pork causes the coagulation, but you can read that yourself. What I’m planning to do is my own experiment with the same food mentioned in the study. Details to follow