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How exercise combats Heart Disease, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Introduction

It may surprise you to learn that getting fit won’t just help you lose much weight. It’ll help you do something far more important because it will help keep you alive and just as important it’ll help you thrive.

It is now becoming clear that the major diseases in the west are diseases of our lifestyles. They never used to occur on such a large scale. The good news is that because they’re caused by our lifestyle, they can be treated and prevented by our lifestyle too.

The problem is that most attempts to treat these illnesses through lifestyle stop us having fun. As trivial as that sounds the way we have our fun is literally what is killing us. But it’s not the fun itself that’s the problem. It’s just how we go about having fun. How we think of it.

I want to show you ways to literally have your cake and eat it. To set targets to have fun every day and know that this is keeping you healthy not making you sick. First I want to show you directly how doing something as simple as getting fit really can prevent and treat serious illness.

You’ll see how being fit forces your body to manage its fuel sources well. Fuels in the body are like fuels we use elsewhere. Both electricity and petrol are dangerous if not handled correctly. So are the fuels our bodies use. Sugar is the fuel we’re going to focus on. Technically it’s known as carbohydrate but for simplicity, because few people understand the term carbohydrate, we’ll stick to sugar.

Sugar is actually toxic to our bodies. It can cause all sorts of damage. Of course we’ve evolved mechanisms to prevent or repair this damage. As long as these mechanisms work correctly we stay healthy. It’s when they don’t work correctly or stop working altogether that we get sick.

We’ll see how two major diseases: Diabetes type 2 (Mellitus) and Heart disease can both be treated or prevented simply by getting fit. Both diseases are related to bad sugar management within the body. Getting fit fixes the sugar management and with time can help fix these diseases.

The problem: Diseases of unregulated sugar

Getting fit makes the body work correctly. In this example it handles sugar correctly. Reducing the insulin required. Lowering blood sugar and insulin concentrations.

Disease

Disease is obviously the opposite of fitness. So the underlying question here is how to prevent or cure disease to regain fitness. The message throughout this blog is that regular challenges are necessary to develop a strong enough mind, body and soul to both prevent major damage occurring and also provide fast repair and recovery to a pre damaged state. So either injuries don’t last long because they’re fixed quickly or prevented in the first place. Each disease and its prevention follows this basic principle.

Common Factors

To most people our bodies, and the processes that make them function, seem so complex and impossible to understand that we don’t even bother learning about them. Instead we rely on other peoples knowledge and experience.

This isn’t just a shame it’s a recipe for a heart attack. The irony is that our minds and bodies are more important to us than anything we own. Yet the basic reasons why they go wrong are common and well understood. The same way we all know the basics about taking care of our prized possessions, from our houses, to our cars, computers and everything else. It makes sense to know the basics about taking care of ourselves and our loved ones.

So, with that in mind in this section we’ll consider the common illnesses we face today and the common factors involved in preventing or curing them. First, have a read of my discussion What factors make us kick the bucket? elaborating on this basic point, that we in general know less about ourselves than we do about our possessions. This means we know less about fixing problems with our bodies than problems with our possessions. That just doesn’t seem right.

Active Immunity

In terms of disease resistance some forms of immunity are provided for us, we don’t do anything to make them happen. Like taking a cough medicine. We may take it but it doesn’t teach our body anything about overcoming the illness or set up a system to prevent a future recurrence. This is passive immunity.

Being fit is about active immmunity. That means that we’re teaching our body how to deal with future threats. How to be strong and resilient enough to overcome future challenges. Just like our immune system prepares for current and future infections. By developing our fitness we prepare our bodies for current and future challenges.

The threats I describe are the diseases or challenges. Nutritional interventions are more about passive immunity. Learning to become fit is more about active immunity. You’re training your body to resist infections and overcome challenges. At the same time you are becoming active in your life, not passive. You are making your destiny not watching your life go by.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

What is heart disease?

At the simplest level heart disease is when your body starts to have trouble pumping enough blood around your body. This is because the blood vessels aren’t clean, supple and soft like they should be. Instead they’re rough, covered in fibrous plaques and rigid, unable to expand and contract easily. This is known as atherosclerosis.

When this happens around your heart it is known as coronary heart disease. If you don’t get enough blood to your heart then when you’re under pressure and your heart needs to work over time it just doesn’t get the nutrients it requires. Without the nutrients it can’t work hard for long and starts to get damaged. This would happen to any organ that has a restricted blood supply in this way.

What causes heart disease?

Unfortunately no one knows the exact cause. We believe that’s because there are lots of reasons which each contribute to the problem. Two of these factors are sugar and Insulin levels in the blood.

There is increasing evidence that high levels of sugar and Insulin in the blood system can encourage the kinds of damage we see in heart disease. The explanation is that sugar and Insulin in high concentration can be toxic. Leading to damage to the walls of arteries. To heal the artery walls inflammation occurs. Natures healing process. But if damage is occurring faster than the healing process then chronic inflammation and incorrect repair will result. Leaving the artery walls injured and unable to function properly. This is heart disease.

When this happens over a long time the damage builds up and prevents the blood vessels from transporting blood properly. This heart disease eventually becomes critical.

What reduces risk of heart disease?

Put simply you reduce your risk of heart disease by reducing blood sugar and insulin levels. Unfortunately there are no reliable and safe medications to do this. Eating less sugar should help but it also seems to mean having less fun. There is however another way you can do this. Through being more active. We’ll talk about this later.

What troubles me with most approaches to treating heart disease is that humans are assumed to be essentially weak creatures. That nature has no answer to these problems and that humans must manufacture their own solution. This means medical or nutritional interventions which cost money and often have side effects.

The point of this article is that I don’t accept this. On a daily basis the human body overcomes many difficulties. There’s plenty of evidence that a well maintained body does not suffer from these maladies and does not require interventions. So my question is, what natural, possibly lifestyle, factors should we be considering that may be preventing our bodies from repairing this damage in the first place? or even prevent the damage itself.

Next we will learn about Type II Diabetes. A condition linked to heart disease and that has two of the same contributing factors. High blood insulin and sugar levels.

References

Diabetes Type II (NIDDM)

What is Diabetes Type II?

In Greek, Diabetes means sweet urine because the main symptom is an inability to control blood sugar levels. This is because the cell mechanisms for regulating blood sugar have been disrupted.

In type 1 diabetes this is because your body can’t produce insulin. Insulin helps regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. So an inability to produce insulin leads to an inability to control sugar levels. The only treatment is injections of insulin.

The most common form of Diabetes, Type 2, is a disease of our modern sedentary lifestyles because our bodies develop resistance to insulin. Meaning that they can produce insulin but the cells of the body no longer respond correctly to it. Disrupting our ability to control blood sugar because much more insulin must be released into the blood than normal to control blood sugar levels. Many people have this condition without even knowing because it develops slowly over many years.

Diabetes is a serious condition because it is associated with long term illnesses including: cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney failure, and diabetic retinopathy (retinal damage).

A problem of sugar regulation

Diabetes is a problem of blood sugar regulation, but why is this important?

If you don’t regulate blood sugar properly many functions of the body become disrupted. In Diabetes the primary problems are the dangers of high and low blood sugar and high blood insulin levels. Long term there is increasing evidence that not regulating sugar properly can cause harm to the cells of our body. It is even being claimed that diabetes drives Atherosclerosis.

Sugar itself can also cause damage. An example is advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and their influence on diabetes

How we regulate sugar

The way our bodies regulate sugar is through the hormone insulin allowing glucose transfer into cells. Normal cells respond to the presence of insulin by moving glucose transporters to the edge of the cell wall and initiating transfer of glucose.

What disrupts sugar regulation? What is insulin resistance?

This glucose transfer goes wrong in Diabetes Type II because cells start losing their natural response to the presence of Insulin. There are several types of glucose transporter. The one implicated in Diabetes is Glucose Transporter 4 (GLUT4) because it responds directly to the presence of insulin. GLUT4 is the glucose transporter found in (skeletal) muscle and fat (Adipose) cells

In type 2 Diabetes the number of GLUT4 receptors present in the cell membrane declines. The ability to transfer glucose in and out of a cell is directly proportional to the number of GLUT4 receptors. So each time an Insulin molecule attaches to a cell less GLUT4 receptors respond. This can lead to sugar shortages within the cell and an inability to clear sugar from the blood. Both situations can have serious consequences.

This is often compounded by the pancreas secreting more insulin in an effort to trigger greater uptake of glucose within cells. Over time this feedback loop can overload the pancreas and create problems in producing any insulin at all.

My interpretation of why insulin resistance occurs is that the body is constantly adapting to our lifestyle and looking for ways to save precious resources. When you lead a sedentary life you rarely create a big demand within your cells for carbohydrate. So the GLUT4 receptors are lost by the cell. There seems no need. This lack of GLUT4 receptors leads to a low rate of glucose transfer in cells when Insulin is present. This is known as Insulin resistance.

How important is insulin resistance?

The size of the problem can be large because insulin resistance affects two thirds of the human body since it affects both muscle and fat cells which account for around two thirds of an average humans weight.

The solution: Get fit to regulate sugar properly

Now we’ll look at how we can help both heart disease and type II diabetes simply by being more active and getting fit. As simple as it sounds it really is a way to prevent or reduce these serious conditions.

Why get fit?

So we’ve seen that when sugar is not regulated within the body it acts like a poison, it causes damage. We’ve also seen that two major illnesses are connected to poor blood sugar and insulin regulation. Heart disease is worsened by too much sugar and insulin hanging around in the blood. We’ve seen how Type 2 Diabetes leads to high levels of blood sugar and insulin due to an inability to regulate sugar because you are not sensitive enough to insulin.

Now, we’ll find out a natural way to regain your insulin sensitivity and bring your blood sugar and insulin levels back to normal. It’s common for people to look for a medical, generally pill based, cure. So often there is one. But in this case you don’t actually need one. The answer is literally as simple as getting of your butt.

Only a highly functioning efficient human is capable of reaching their best. That’s obvious. Not so obvious is that the very act of getting fit directly reduces the risks of the major diseases of the 20th century. This is because the major diseases these days are caused by our wealth. Never before have we had it so nice.

Unfortunately it turns out that the things we used to do to avoid these illnesses we no longer do. That’s why we get sick. The 20th century was the first ever where the majority of the western population didn’t have to do all that much to meet their basic needs of food, shelter and safety. For the millions of years that preceded we had to work very hard to achieve these basic needs. That hard work is something we’ve evolved to need. With the unprecedented rise of diseases of affluence we’re starting to realise just how much we need to move. It’s literally becoming a matter of life and death.

Movement as medicine

The act of becoming fit changes your body for the better. It has now been confirmed that exercise changes your DNA which is the reason I recommend exercise. Getting fit literally means getting healthy but few people know just how much a positive impact fitness has on health. Unfortunately most people get fit to lose weight though that isn’t the primary benefit of exercise because it excellent at helping you keep weight off but exercise alone doesn’t help you lose weight.

What getting fit does best is make your body work properly by making your body stronger and more able to survive or even thrive in really tough conditions. The kind of conditions that might cause heart disease or diabetes in other, unfit individuals.

Controlling sugar

What is not commonly known is that regular exercise can reverse the reduction in GLUT 4 receptors within cells that we see in sedentary individuals. The same reduction in GLUT 4 receptors we associate with insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes.

Research shows that this is because exercise places a high demand on the carbohydrate (sugar) stores of the bod and It tests its ability to mobilise and use carbohydrate to power the muscles to create movement. In fact most of the adaptations that happen when you get fit are designed to conserve carbohydrate by using it efficiently. As a result the body will increasingly prefer fat as a fuel to the point that small amounts of exercise have been shown to have a big impact on the bodies ability to regulate carbohydrate.

I was introduced to GLUT 4 and its role in controlling blood sugar levels while studying for my degree in sports science. It became clear that activity forces the body to regulate sugar well. I kept hearing that the main factor determining running, cycling or swimming performance was the rate of sugar use within the body. The key being the use of blood sugar over muscle sugar (glycogen). This created a sugar sparing effect that could prolong activity.

To get technical a major review of sugar and exercise performance by Hargreaves and friends in 1995 reported“Under most circumstances membrane transport of glucose is the rate limiting factor of glucose uptake in exercise”

In simple terms this means that the speed at which sugar can be transferred from the blood into cells determines the amount of sugar available for running around or cycling or any other activity. So what does all this extra sugar in the cell mean?

It means you can run further.

Bergstrom et al 1967 muscle glycogen concentration and exercise capacity.
muscle glycogen concentration (mM/kg) v time (min)
low 80 : 60 mins
medium 100 : 100 mins
high 200 \; 180 mins

Fat being used instead of sugar when high sugar sports drinks were consumed to Fallowfield et al 1996
Hitting the wall while running a marathon is when your muscle carbohydrate runs out.

Glut 4 levels have been shown to be closely related to oxidative capacity. In english this means higher GLUT 4 levels means you can run faster for longer.

As you learnt in the explanation of diabetes. GLUT 4 is the glucose transporter in fat and muscle cells that listens for insulin. It determines insulin sensitivity. When insulin is present it moves to the cell membrane and starts transporting sugar.

Contractile activity results in an increase in plasma membrane glut4 content. This means that using your muscles moves GLUT 4 to the cell membrane. When you move regularly your cells start to contain even more GLUT 4 transporters than before.

The effects of muscle contraction (exercise) and insulin are additive. They both stimulate glucose uptake. This is what makes moving around even better at clearing sugar from your blood. The act of moving makes the GLUT 4 transport sugar and the addition of insulin from your pancreas makes the effect even greater. So you clear sugar from the blood even faster than you would normally. So your risk of diabetes and heart disease is reduced much faster because you move.

So how big an impact does this change in GLUT 4 have? In 1998 henriksson and friends concluded that 75% of the sugar consumed during exercise was taken up by muscle. Their exact words were

“skeletal muscle is the principle site of glucose uptake under insulin stimulated conditions and accounts for approximately 75% of glucose disposal following glucose infusion.”

This ties up with other findings that insulin resistance affects two thirds of the human body

Overall you can see that the research clearly shows that exercise increases sensitivity of skeletal muscle to insulin, improving your ability to regulate blood sugar and reducing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

So, in summary. Exercise has been shown to reverse insulin resistance by creating a scarcity of carbohydrate within muscle cells. This creates a need for more GLUT4 receptors which the cell begins producing. These new receptors increase the rate that carbohydrate can enter and exit the cell and increase the response the cell makes to the presence of insulin molecules. This is how our cells reverse insulin resistance in response to exercise.

The reason is simple. Sugar is crucial to exercise performance. Transport of sugar across the cell membrane is the key factor in using sugar during exercise.

References

Hargreaves 1995 skeletal muscle carbohydrate metabolism during exercise. Summary of all data.

  1. Sports med 1998 jan wallberg henriksson et al p 28
  2. Role of exercise training in the prevention and treatment of insulin resistance and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Ivy 1997
  3.  How insulin allows entry of glucose into cells explains very clearly how glut 4 is key to insulin related disorders.
  4. molecular basis of insulin resistance pt2
  5. can you reverse insulin resistance?
  6. The many ways to regulate glucose transporter 4.: 2009 paper. Needs subscription to view paper. explains in detail latest knowledge on GLUT 4 regulation

Outstanding questions

This article doesn’t explain all we know. There are many further questions:

What type of exercise, intensity, regularity has an impact on GLUT 4 response?
Low intensity has little impact. HIgh – medium has greatest impact. What is high intensity?

The result: No disease when sugar properly regulated

Diabetes Type II

We learnt earlier that Diabetes is a disease of poor sugar control where the sugar controlling insulin pathway is ineffective or inefficient. We also learnt that certain kinds of activity are capable of correcting the process of insulin encouraging sugar to travel from the blood to the inside of cells.

It’s because of this that Brad thompson of oncolytics goes so far as to say that Type 2 Diabetes is generally considered a self inflicted disease. Brad is an expert in micro biology and cell dynamics who appeared on This week in virology (TWIV). During the episode Brad backs up what we’ve seen in this article. That type 2 diabetes is nothing to do with genetics. Everything to do with lifestyle. Exercise being the main lifestyle factor able to reverse insulin resistance.

So how do you exercise to prevent or treat diabetes?

This is a very important and complex question. The simple answer is just to move more than you do now. The more you move on a daily basis, the more you will be able to now and in the future. Learn to listen to yourself. Your mind, body and soul. Balance is extremely important. You can be too active or not active enough. Both can cause harm. So you need to learn what the right balance is. The aim of this article is to inspire you to become more active in general. Future articles will explore becoming active in detail.

For now. Just look at your current balance of activity and rest. Is it appropriate for you? should you be doing more? What kind of activity do you want to do? Regular activity over many years is far more important and helpful than sporadic bursts. So choosing activities you enjoy is key because you’ll then stick to them because you want to do them.

In the meantime lots of people have already addressed the question. So instead of spending a lot of time explaining how to do it I’ll leave it to a doctor to explain how to go about managing diabetes through exercise

Coronary Heart Disease

We have just seen that with Diabetes, our bodies forget how to handle sugars but we can remind them. So is there a similar story with heart attack and strokes and the arterial disease that causes them?

Thankfully there is. We saw that a key factor in heart disease is persistent high blood sugar and insulin levels. High levels of sugar and insulin travelling in our blood cause damage which can lead to heart disease.

We also saw that with increasing fitness our ability to quickly reduce blood insulin and sugar levels improves. So activity helps heart disease by reducing the damage that occurs to the blood vessels in the first place. In turn this reduces the inflammation that occurs. Providing less opportunity for Atherosclerosis (artery hardening) to form.

As your fitness improves your ability to control sugar and insulin levels improves. Eventually the rate of damage to your blood vessels becomes less than the rate they can be repaired. Over time they will then recover.

So how do you exercise to prevent or treat heart disease?

The advice is the same as for Diabetes. Just move more than you do now. Do it every day. A little every day is much better than a lot in a short period.

Conclusion

So, while Heart disease and Diabetes are both complex conditions with many causes. You’ve seen how the simple act of being more active can play an important role in treating and preventing both.

If nothing else, by being active you are strengthening your body and teaching it to function correctly instead of letting it become lazy and weak, open to the threats of diseases like heart disease and Diabetes.This is the theme of this article. That our bodies are inherently strong and well designed to thrive. Yet without a manual to guide us, our lifestyles often cause as many problems as they solve. This isn’t a bad thing. Just something that we can address once we understand our bodies relationship to our lifestyle.

How do I know I’m getting fitter?

Would you be able to telling you were getting fitter. More importantly would you know whether the fitness you’re gaining is helping fight Diabetes and heart disease?

Now that you know that you need to train your cells to produce more GLUT 4 receptors. This means cells can use blood sugar instead of their internal sugar supplies. This means that not only do they save their internal sugar supplies until when they really need them later in the activity or when you’re really working hard. It’s also much easier for your cells to replenish their internal sugar stores. That means that when you’re fit you’re ready to work hard much sooner after an intense training session than before.

In fact I now believe that Training is about fast recovery: fitter people actually heal faster. That’s the point. Activity forces your body to work around challenges. Makes you strong enough to overcome challenges and quickly get ready for the next challenge. This is made possible in many ways including Glut 4 adaptations, more blood carrying capillaries, and sugar and water saving effects.

So a simple measure you can use to see that your activity is helping you fight disease is to time how long it takes to do something you find physically difficult, but also how long it takes for you to be ready to do it again. As always. Build up to this. Don’t worry about how fast the improvements come. Rushing is generally a quick way of injuring yourself or worse. Just know that over time things you find difficult now will seem much easier and you’ll be able to do them much more regularly and in comfort.

That’s the end of this long article. I hope you’ve found it useful and feel more empowered in using your body to its fullest.

[Learn more about]

References

Links that should appear in this chapter but haven’t found a place yet:.

  1. Learn more about reversing insulin resistance
  2. Training is about fast recovery: fitter people heal faster. That’s the point. activity forces your body to work around challenges. Makes you strong enough to overcome challenges. Glut 4 adaptations, capillaries, sugar and water saving effects.
  3. Calorie and nutrient intake over time: pins actual calorie values over time to increasing weight. Doesn’t point out the lack of data on activity
  4. how crucial is your diet to your health?
  5. You can’t burn fat without a carbohydrate flame. A general point that must be made clear The body has an abundant supply of fat for energy but a very limited (generally around 500g) store of sugar (carbohydrate) in the form of glycogen. Carbohydrate is crucial to providing energy because you can’t burn fat without a carbohydrate flame. This is because the citric acid cycle
  6. Horizon: The truth about exercise. Brilliant episode: In line with everything I believe. Much of his research is from Loughborough. Shows that 3 mins High intensity Training per week has major health benefits, and that just being active in general is most important. Common theory is being challenged. It’s easier than we thought to get fit. High intentsity exercise and can 3 minutes of exercise a week help make you fit
  7. How white blood cells are transported could explain heart disease

Cholesterol

cholesterol

Cholesterol gets a lot of bad publicity but the truth is that it is an essential part of all cells and so it is no real surprise that it is abundant in the human body. The prevailing theory is that cholesterol is the cause of modern diseases but how strong is the evidence to support this theory? and what, if anything could be the alternative explanation?

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a chemical that is abundant in the membrane of every cell in your body. It is a type of fat with the structure of a steroid.

read more at cholesterol and cell membranes.

What does it do for us?

Cholesterol essentially keeps the cell membrane from turning to mush. Which means it keeps the cells in your body intact because it is a structural component of the cell membrane.

Why do we worry about it?

So cholesterol is prevalent in all cells and does useful things for us so why should we be worrying about it? The general evidence is that a correlation between high levels of a certain types of particle (LDL) that transports fats like cholesterol and high levels of heart and vascular problems like heart disease and stroke. It is also clear that high levels of LDLs containing cholesterol also often occur in people with fatty streaks and plaques in their arteries which are related to heart problems aswell

What I think really causes high cholesterol

The idea that cholesterol is the culprit only makes sense when you are looking for a scape goat to blame or something to fix with drugs because it doesn’t answer the question of why cholesterol is increasing or what makes it dangerous.

You see LDL cholesterol levels also have a correlation with lack of activity and general lack of fitness and one important aspect of being fit is the ability to recover quickly. For example fit people recover heart rate, blood pressure, glucose and fat blood levels faster than unfit people. Those are just a few of the measures but most if not all measures of health are improved in fit people

So when you consider the role of cholesterol as a support for both the cell structure and processes that the cell membrane performs then the story becomes clearer. As our populations have become less active and better fed they have become less fit. Being less fit means their bodies are much worse at both repairing the daily damage that occurs to cells throughout the body and managing the excess energy that is being consumed,

If cells are not repaired properly then their contents would start to leak out and be found around the body and cholesterol would obviously start to form cell membranes in the wrong place. Given that cholesterol is a core part of cells it is also a core part of the cell recovery process. So where repairs are occurring you would expect to find a lot of cholesterol just like there are lots of bricks and mortar in a building site.

The excess energy becomes a problem because all energy is dangerous when it is not stored properly. We know this from energy sources we use like electricity, wind and fossil fuels which in the right place are safe, but very unsafe in the wrong place. Fuels in the body are the same and can start to cause big problems. Carbohydrate, fats and proteins are also dangerous if they are not properly handled. So the body of an unfit individual will not handle energy properly which will lead to even more damage.

This explanation shows why ldls with high cholesterol would be more prevalent than hdls that have low cholesterol but gives a practice explanation about how the situation occurred and how to fix it that is also backed up by research. The ratio of hdl to ldl simply reflects your bodies ability to repair existing damage to cells and reduce further damage from rogue energy.

I have deliberately kept this explanation short and punchy instead of going in depth into the science because I feel it is more important that you understand the story. If you want to know more then please ask and I would be more than happy to share but for now it’s more important that you understand on a cellular level just why your body needs to move throughout the day just as much as it needs to breath. Breathing provides oxygen and remove carbon dioxide but movement gets nutrients to where they are needed and makes your body keeping everything working as it should and in line with what you need for your life.

If you want to know more then check out a different view on cholesterol, what factors make us kick the bucket? and Can you manage Coronary Heart Disease through physical activity?

Check out my other articles to learn more about preventing obesity, heart disease and Diabetes, dementia and alzheimers and even Cancer through exercise

References

hyperphysics: cholesterol

cholesterol and cell membranes.

How white blood cells are transported could explain heart disease

The article Nanoparticles cause cancer cells to die and stop spreading is a fascinating explanation of a very exciting discovery but I got even more out of it. I love it when I take something from an article that wasn’t quite what it intended. What I found was a key insight into circulatory function and how red and white blood cells differ in the way they are transported through the body.

This is critical because we know a lot about blood but mainly that is about red blood cells and plasma. We know something about white blood cells and very little about how they move around the body. Read through this excerpt from the article to see what I mean.

When attempting to develop a treatment for metastases, King faced two problems: targeting moving cancer cells and ensuring cell death could be activated once they were located. To handle both issues, he built fat-based nanoparticles that were one thousand times smaller than a human hair and attached two proteins to them. One is E-selectin, which selectively binds to white blood cells, and the other is TRAIL.

He chose to stick the nanoparticles to white blood cells because it would keep the body from excreting them easily. This means the nanoparticles, made from fat molecules, remain in the blood longer, and thus have a greater chance of bumping into freely moving cancer cells.
There is an added advantage. Red blood cells tend to travel in the centre of a blood vessel and white blood cells stick to the edges.

This is because red blood cells are lower density and can be easily deformed to slide around obstacles. Cancer cells Have a similar density to white blood cells and remain close to the walls, too. As a result, these nanoparticles are more likely to bump into cancer cells and bind their TRAIL receptors.

Did you notice the clear difference in how white blood cells travel through the body and the obvious relationship with damage occurs to the circulatory system in cardiovascular diseases. Damage occurs in the walls of blood vessels. Red blood cells travel through vessels but white blood cells travel by moving along the vessel walls themselves. They stick to the edges.

The implication here is not that the immune system is causing the problem. Though that could be the case. Instead I feel that disease and injury really is the cause of heart disease. The white blood cells may make things worse by being sticky but I have read that sugar harms both blood vessels and the immune system.

It seems pretty clear that vascular disease revolves around fights that break out inside vessels damaging their walls. So I’m just hunting down the parties involved and trying to piece together the events leading up to the fight. For now the evidence is pointing to sugar and fat having a party in the blood network and causing trouble. The white blood cells are closest to hand and try to contain the situation. Cholesterol gets involved because it is the bodies building and haulage system. Cholesterol brings building blocks to make new cells and takes away waste. That’s why it gets the blame. It’s going to be at every site of damage and the worst damage will have the most cholesterol.

Related Articles

How activity and exercise improves your health

Child running around a wet play area

For years we have been told that exercise is good for us. Now the evidence is becoming indisputable.  Being inactive is as bad as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. It could even be more serious than that.

Over the years I’ve found so much information I didn’t know what to do with it. I mainly shared it through my original blog or kept it private hoping to share it when I found the right approach. For many of these articles I’ve now been waiting years which just isn’t helping anyone.

I recently realised my blogs are the perfect medium on which to share because I’m most interested in the discussions and debate around this topic. I don’t feel I have the answers, I share because I’m interested in learning and using what I learn to help me on my journey through life.

I have now started to organise all I have found and it’s re invigorating my dreams because the message really is about living your life. The act of living itself is what we must do. Moving is living. Activity to me isn’t just physical it is mental and emotional. Thinking about things makes your brain active, experiencing emotions involves both your brain and your body.

For now most information will be about physical activity because that is what is most available. Though I am looking for and finding interesting articles in all three areas. Over time this and all the other posts will grow as I continue this life journey.

Diseases

For now I’m creating a series of articles covering the various topics related to activity and health. So far I have published:

Key articles

Activity is so useful throughout life that I’ve also compiled a list of the main articles worth reading to build your general knowledge.

Useful Reading

Here is more useful information

Exercise and weight loss: Do we know it all yet?


Watching The men who made us thin is a double edged sword for me. I like to learn more about the food and fitness industries and I certainly learn a lot watching the show however I do think the presenter Jacques Peretti has his own opinion and I can’t say it is completely accurate. I feel it is almost as biased as the industries he is trying to expose.

I feel the show is confusing the issue as does pretty much everything I read on nutrition or exercise. There is generally too much politics. They gloss over the fact that we used to be active all the day instead of the little bit we are these days. More importantly because we were active all the time we were much fitter. So when we were active we burnt more calories per minute than we do now. We had both quality and quantity of energy expenditure because the fitter someone is the more calories they can burn per minute. Their body knows how to make this possible because exercise is about finding ways to burn more calories and get more done so those who exercise more regularly get better at burning calories for longer.

During my degree I learnt a lot about how the body uses energy, adapts to exercise and how we track the energy itself. I also learnt a lot about interpreting science and coming to my own conclusions. I read a lot of research at the time. Often off my own back because my personal goal was understanding how to treat diseases like obesity. My conclusion is actually that we don’t have perfect methods to track the energy use of the body and so we cannot draw perfect conclusions from any of our research. Frustrating but that is a common argument in any area of research. I just don’t think many people want to accept that.

Activity also has many more impacts on the human body than simple calorie burning and each can be essential to losing weight. To say it simply I feel a body needs to function properly in order to lose weight. That means it must know when to use certain types of energy and how to clean up the waste products they create. It also means that all the processes a working body requires to function properly do so. Functions like sleep so the body can repair all the daily damage that happens during the day.

By solely focusing on calories burnt people always miss the much wider and more important picture of what activity and just a balanced lifestyle itself can really do for us. So this really is a simple case of reductionism gone too far. The implications of research are misinterpreted. This is why I try to distill everything into common sense that I can apply and believe in. The facts I am convinced by are that we used to eat more yet we had very little obesity. During the second world war, during rationing, people on average ate more than we do now.The main and clear difference is the quality and quantity of activity. Back then you had to move to live. Only the rich could be lazy and funnily enough only the rich had the health problems the west now suffer from. This active lifestyle is not assumption. It is what I find when I ask people about how things used to be. Before everything was so automated and easy. People really did have to get food from the local shops every day because they didn’t have fridges and freezers. My mum was telling me about keeping milk and butter under the sink. What else would you do.

As regards data I use government data because it is open, generally methodically collected and unbiased as much as any data can be unbiased. It also reflects a large population making the results more valuable. The trend is clear. We ate much more then than we do now. I only wish they had tracked activity as well. I couldn’t find this data for any country in the world so I couldn’t make a comparisonThe difference is subtle. We didn’t do more intense exercise, it was more gentle instead but this adds up. I have not seen studies on the energy requirement of manual labour like washing, farming, mining and other active jobs compared to sitting at a desk typing. But I think it is safe to assume it was more taxing than our current work situation. We forget just how long we spend every day doing very little to tax our muscles and expend energy. Even adding small amounts of activity occasionally may not add up to much per minute but per day it could be 50-100 calories or more which adds up to half a stone of fat per year. Funnily enough that is about how fast many people add weight and why it is so hard to spot.

The truth is that you don’t actually have to eat much more to put on a lot you just need a lot of time or just to stop moving. What is noticeable when you look for it is the lack of data on how much energy we burn on average per day. There is no data on this to match the data for what we eat. Recently it has started to be recorded but it just doesn’t go as far back as that on nutrition. All I see is that we have consistently been burning less calories per day than we used to. Particularly over the course of a year. We are busier than ever but this activity does not translate into movement any more like it used to. Of course many people would still be bigger if they were active. That was true then as is now but not so many.

What I see is a longtail of energy expenditure. We track the headline numbers of how much energy is burnt to move us a certain amount but not the less obvious aspects like the cost of cells regenerating in response to activity and energy lost as heat. We also don’t have perfectly accurate methods of tracking the stored energy consumed. Add to that the other deeper side of weight loss which is about consistency and a balanced life. Activity can have a powerful effect because it makes you want to eat and do the right things. It gets your cells to behave properly. These wider and complex effects of exercise are not understood or promoted very well. Only the obvious effects like energy consumption get the attention.

Only when you consider the full impact of exercise or lack of it on your entire well being do you realise the contribution it can make over a lifetime. That means understanding that when you’re tired you don’t want to do the right things. Activity can help improve your sleep but can take 4 months to have an impact. Exercise can also help store and use energy properly, improve bones, use electrolytes better and improve mood but we do not know how long these improvements will  take for each person or the types of activity required. Often it is not even the activity but the environment the activity puts you in that is the benefit. The social and emotional bonds you create and experiences you enjoy have as much an impact as any direct physical benefits.

Activity also makes you stronger so you can resist the impact of daily life. I am not the first to suggest that high cholesterol and added weight can be a consequence of lots of damage within the body. Being active makes your body better at recovering and thus repairing the damage. The body systems thus work well and normal service is resumed. Energy is used properly and you can and want to do the things that your body needs.

Essentially proper activity and recovery are key to balance in life. This is something that could never be appreciated when applying such a narrow vision like tv programmes tend to. So ultimately I see that these shows end up drawing fact from fiction because they do not consider the debate in the complex way it needs to be seen. Instead they use statistics to promote the very confusion they aim to eradicate.

Wow. this article has certainly got me opinionated. But then, as a scientist and engineer that is how I have been trained. Truth is truth. If we don’t have the full data yet then we can not draw full conclusions. We must search for the full truth and not assume. I am getting increasingly confident in the opinions I draw because I have researched quite widely and then applied what I have found. It does not mean I am right but I can see how each theory stands up to every test I can apply to it. These programmes unfortunately don’t present theories I can fully believe in.

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Why a food addict can not go ‘Cold Turkey’


An important part of of this blog is about my journey of self discovery. Figuring out who I am and then how to fit my life around me so it is fun and flexible not a limiting straight jacket.

One thing I have discovered is that I am addicted to food. I don’t know many people who like food as much as I do. As a simple example I can remember visiting an all you can eat restaurant where I ate all I was given, finished all the left overs and still left hungry, starving in fact. The problem is that I don’t see any help out there for people like me. How to be healthy and happy while managing a food addiction. All the advice is to give up or limit food. Always to avoid the stuff you love and basically stop having fun through food. I’ve tried it and found it doesn’t work. At least not for me. I can keep it up for a few months but in the end I just lose the will to do it and go back to my old ways. In essence it is unsustainable.

In fact all addiction management approaches seem to require boring you into submission. And here is the kicker. The phrase they use to describe avoiding food includes food. Not stuff I want to avoid like Brussels sprouts, I might add but stuff that makes me salivate and think of food.  They named it ‘cold turkey’. How unhelpful is that!!! How can a food addict avoid stuff if the addictive food is in the title itself?

Homer Going Cold Turkey

Homer Going Cold Turkey

Then there is the biggest problem, completely avoiding the stuff you are addicted to. That’s fine for smoking and alcohol. You do not need them to live. Sure, you will go through a very nasty withdrawal period but it will be worth it. However the current treatment for addiction is abstinence and they happily apply it to food.

Hmm. Seriously!!! Am I the only one that has noticed that food addiction is very different. Traditional approaches cannot work. You must eat to live you can’t just abstain. The Withdrawal process from food is not a natural healthy process that will leave you in better shape. No. It is a process you should avoid because your body freaks out and prepares for potential starvation. That is never a good situation and is harmful. But, as you all know, that’s precisely what is recommended. Detox and avoidance.

At least this is how most people interpret the healthy message regardless whether it is presented that way or not. They treat it as addiction and follow the recommended approach for general addiction. Ignoring the specific needs of food addicts. By focusing on food quantity, how much you eat and how often, they ignore food quality, what it does for you and what it is like to eat. I do not think the focus on quantity over quality works. Particularly for food. You do need to reduce quantity, there is no doubt about that, but I think there are better ways.


That is why I have my blog. Sharing my journey through food addiction. My choice is to learn to love this side of me, discover how to tame it and become healthy through being happy. To me that means indulging my addiction. Learning how to keep it happy. I believe that you crave what you can not have and that it takes a lot of energy to fight or cover up cravings. In the end they often win anyway. So my approach is to deal with my cravings when they are small. Indulge myself regularly and create a lifestyle where the next indulgence is never far away. It seems crazy but it works for me and my personality. It is easier to stick to a lifestyle that makes me happy because I am less happy when I veer from it. That is the opposite of the traditional abstinence approach where I am not happy. I find that  for my heart/tastebuds abstinence makes the heart grow fonder of banned foods and it is hard to stay on track.


How will this approach work? Quality over quantity. The rules have not changed. You still need to eat less and eat the right things. What I am doing is directing my energy on improving the quality of my food. Focusing on noticeable improvements in taste and texture. Learning how to combine foods for the best result. By focusing on taste, texture and experience I then find it easier to eat less. Not every time mind you but in general. I find it much easier to leave some of what I am eating or even order a smaller portion. By focusing on quality I am happy to reduce quantity. This works for a lot of reasons but mainly because I’m really craving an experience, a treat. Since I know the next treat isn’t far away it’s much easier to have a nibble then stop.

It’s not a perfect solution but I am definitely happier this way and it is working. It is pretty easy to be honest because I keep finding new foods and combinations to keep things interesting and sustainable. Nothing is off the menu I just have lots of ways to enjoy the fun in life and keep my balance at the same time. I never ban anything but might not have it for a while because there are so many other things to enjoy.

By bringing taste to the fore I find I don’t want to over eat because it ruins the experience. I’m not fighting my hunger because I’m full and not fighting my need for an experience cos I’ve had it. So I can leave it there with no guilt. No regrets.

Learn more about preventing obesityinsulin resistanceheart disease and Diabetesdementia and alzheimers and even Cancer through exercise