Metformin improves side effects of steroid treatment

From Pernicova I et al. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 25 Feb 2020

Long-term glucocorticoids, most often prednisolone, are prescribed for about 3% of European adults. The long term exposure can raise metabolic, infectious and cardiovascular risks.

This was a trial of 53 adults who had inflammatory disease treated with prednisolone but did not have diabetes, who were given either 12 weeks of metformin or a placebo.

The dose of prednisolone was 20mg or more for the first month and then 10mg or more for the next 12 weeks. The dose of metformin given was up to 850mg three times a day.

What improved:

Facial fatness was in seen in 52% of the placebo group but only 10% in the metformin group.

Increased blood sugar was seen in 33% of the placebo group and none of the metformin group.

There was improvement in insulin resistance, beta cell function, liver function, fibrinolysis, carotid intima media thickness, inflammatory parameters and disease activity severity markers in the metformin group.

There were fewer cases of pneumonia, moderate to severe infections and all causes of hospitalisation for adverse events in the metformin group.

What got worse:

Diarrhea was worse in the metformin group.

What didn’t get better:

Visceral to subcutaneous fat ratio was unchanged between the groups.

My comment: Looks like a clear winner for adding metformin to long term prednisolone treatments.

Statin study shows no memory loss

From BMJ 18 Jan 2020

An Australian study looked at how 1,000 community living Australians aged between 70 and 90 got on with memory and cognition tests over a six year period.

It found no differences between people who took statins and those who had never taken them. If anything, statin use reduced decline in memory especially in those with heart disease or who were carriers of apolipoprotein E4.

Magnetic resonance imaging of some of the group detected no effects of statins on total brain volume or on hippocampal or para-hippocampal volumes.

BMJ 2020; 368:m52

Stress may damage your immune response long term

Adapted from: Stress related disorders and physical health.  Song H. et al. BMJ 26 Oct 19.

This Swedish study of almost 145,000 brothers and sisters showed that any sort of anxiety or stress disorder was associated with an increased risk of life threatening infections, even when familial background, physical and psychiatric problems were adjusted for.

The study went on between 1987 and 2013. The stresses included post traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction, adjustment disorder and others. The patients were matched with healthy siblings when possible or matched comparative children from the general population.  They then looked for diagnosis of severe infection in the coming years such as sepsis, endocarditis, meningitis and other infections.

Severe infection rates per 1,000 person years were 2.9 for the stressed person, 1.7 for the healthy sibling, and 1.3 for the matched person in the general population.

They found that the effects were worse the earlier the age the diagnosis of the stress occurred.

Treatment with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors for PTSD seemed to reduce the negative effects on the immune system when given within a year of the stress diagnosis.

This research builds on information that PTSD produces more gastrointestinal, skin, musculoskeletal, neurological, heart and lung disorders.  Cardiac mortality has been found to be raised 27% and autoimmune disorder by 46%.

Why this happens could be due to the interplay between biological, psychological and social factors. Increased inflammatory response is considered by Song and colleagues to be a likely mechanism. Increased levels of interleukin 6, interleukin 1 beta, tumour necrosis factor alpha and interferon gamma have been found in those with PTSD.

PTSD has a heritability factor of 5-20% which is similar to what is found in families with depression.  It is likely to be polygenic.

Talking based therapies are generally even better for PTSD than drugs, so earlier intervention may have long term benefits not just on mental health, but physical health as well.

BMJ 2019;367:16036

Public Health Collaboration conference online a great success

The Public Health collaboration online conference 2020  was very successful.  The videos are available on You Tube for free making the conference even more accessible for everyone who needs advice on what to eat to stay healthy.

If you are able to contribute to the PHC fund to keep up our good work please do so. Sam Feltham has suggested £2.00.  This is via the PHC site.

This year there were contributions from mainly the UK but also the USA.

Visitors to this site will be very pleased to know that keeping your weight in the normal range, keeping your blood sugars tightly controlled, keeping your vitamin D levels up, and keeping fit from activity and exercise, are all important factors in having a good result if you are unfortunate enough to be affected by Covid-19. We have been promoting these factors in our book and website for several years now, mainly with the view to making life more enjoyable, especially for people with diabetes, now and in the future. The reduction in the severity  to the effects of   coronavirus is a side effect of these healthy living practices.

Several talks went into the factors and reasons for this, but in a nutshell, if you are in a pro-inflammatory state already, you will have a much more pronounced cytokine inflammatory response to the virus than is useful for clearing the virus, and you end up with inflammed lung tissue which leaks fluid thereby impairing your blood oxygen levels.

A talk that I found particularly apt was the talk from a GP who had had a heart attack at the age of 44 despite a lack of risk factors except for massive stress. He gives a list of self care practices that helped him. I would also include playing with your animals. Emma and I are cat lovers and can vouch for this!

My talk is about VR Fitness, which was the only talk this year which was specifically exercise related. The Oculus Quest has only been out a year and has been sold out since shortly after New Year. I was fortunate enough to buy one in anticipation of my imminent retirement, and it has been great as an exercise tool over the long, cold, dark winter and more useful than I had ever anticipated over the lockdown as a social tool.

There were several very professional cooking and baking demonstrations on the conference this year, and indeed, this could not have otherwise happened on a traditional stage format.  We had low carb “rice”, bread, pancakes and pizza demonstrations which may well help you if you prefer to see how it is done step by step or if you want to broaden your repertoire.

I was particularly taken with the pizza base idea from Emma Porter and I will follow up with this in a later post.  The whole video is available from the PHC  site which takes you to all the videos on You Tube.

 

 

 

Metformin reduces oesophageal cancer

Adapted from Wang QL et al. American Journal of Gastroenterology 1st January 2020

Metformin users were at a lower risk of developing oesophageal squamous carcinoma than non metformin users.

A growing number of observational studies have shown that metformin reduces overall cancer risk and a few specific cancer types such as colon, rectal, breast and stomach.

A population based cohort study included over 400,000 metformin and an equal number of non metformin users who were matched by age and sex.

There were 3.5 cases of oesophageal cancer in the metformin group per 100,000 person/years and 5.3 in the non metformin group. This finding was true for men, women and those in their sixties.  The odds ratio was 0.68 for metformin use.

Dr Aseem Malhotra: What is wrong with how we try to prevent cardiovascular disease

In part two of this series on cardiovascular disease Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist explains why putting faith in statins to resolve the cardiovascular disease epidemic is misguided. He explains that they only extend life by a matter of a few days yet need to be prescribed for years at considerable cost to the health service. Furthermore, he thinks that their side effects are not being explained to patients.

This is a medium length article which contains information on statins not readily seen in a single document.

https://www.europeanscientist.com/en/features/do-statins-really-work-who-benefits-who-has-the-power-to-cover-up-the-side-effects/

There are benefits to that pre-breakfast workout

Adapted from Edinburgh RM et al. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 21 Oct 2019 

Research suggests that blood sugar levels can be better controlled by planned eating and exercise timings.

This study was conducted in Bath and Birmingham and involved a six week trial of 30 overweight or obese men. They were divided into three groups. One group ate breakfast before exercise, one group after exercise and the third group made no changes to their diet or exercise (or lack of it). Groups one and two swapped over after the first six weeks.

The researchers showed that you doubled the amount of fat burned during exercise if breakfast was delayed. This was mainly because the group had lower insulin levels due to their prolonged overnight fast. They could therefore burn more fat in their fat stores or muscle. The groups did not do more exercise than the pre-workout breakfast group.

Groups one and two swapped over after the first three weeks. The men’s BMI averaged at 30 and was closely matched in each group. Although insulin sensitivity was improved in the longer fasting group, there was not any significant weight loss.

The optimal HbA1C for non low carbing type ones could be 6.5-7%

Adapted from Lind M et al. BMJ 28 August 2019

In type one diabetes in adults and children there could be a sweet spot for blood sugar control.

Under 6.5% severe hypoglycaemia rates increase. Retinopathy and nephropathy risks are not lower however below 6.5% compared to 6.9%. My comment:  In low carbers however, they have considerable protection against severe hypoglycaemia due to more precise meal/insulin matching, although they do experience more episodes of mild hypoglycaemia.

Risks for mild complications begin at levels over 7.0% and severe complications rise with levels over 8.6%.

Current guidelines vary in their HbA1C recommendations, anywhere from 6.5% to 7.5%.

The complication rates were based on 10,398 adults and children with type one diabetes on the Swedish National Diabetes Registry who were diagnosed between 1998 and 2017.

 

 

 

Soldiers improve their physique on a ketogenic diet

Adapted from Military Medicine January 2019 by Richard Al LaFountain et al of Ohio State University.

This is the first study of a ketogenic diet in military personnel. Daily ketone monitoring was done to personalise the diet. 29 subjects from various branches of the military took part over the 12 week study.

15 self selected to go on the ketogenic diet (KD) monitored by blood ketones daily. 14 continued their mixed diet (MD). Various measurements were done at the start and end of the programme.

All of the KD group were in ketosis throughout the 12 weeks as assessed by beta-hydroxybutrate levels. The KD group lost 7.7kg more (range -3.5 to -13.6kg) despite no calorie restriction. They lost 5.1% body fat (range -0.5 to -9.6%). 43.7% was visceral fat (range – 3.0  to – 66.3%) and had a 48% improvement in insulin sensitivity. There were no changes in the MD group.  There were no changes between the groups in aerobic capacity, maximal strength, power and a military specific obstacle course.

The authors conclude that this was a very well accepted intervention which showed remarkable improvements in body composition and weight without compromising physical performance in exercise training.

In the USA two thirds of active military personnel are overweight or obese which mirrors the general population. Nearly three out of four young people aged 17-24 fail to qualify for military service mainly due to obesity and failure to meet fitness standard thus posing an impending recruitment crisis.

The military usually follow the USDA’s dietary guidelines that advocates low fat, high carbohydrate foods. Americans have followed these recommendations for decades and have seen a marked rise in obesity at the same time. A diet that emphasises carbohydrate has the effect on suppressing fat oxidation and the production of ketones. Over half of active military personnel report drinking sugar and caffeine containing energy drinks in the past month.

Ketones produced while following a ketogenic diet have been shown to improve fat oxidation, enhance gene expression, inflammation, antioxidant defense and  healthspan. Fat loss without the explicit need to restrict calories is a benefit. Reversal of metabolic syndrome and obesity occurs. Previous studies have shown no detrimental impact on endurance and resistance training performance. The study was done in the military to see if this was a feasible approach.

The success of a ketogenic diet depends on commitment so we did not randomise the subjects. Both groups took part in identical physical training that emphasised strength and power.

Participants were recruited from the Ohio State Reserve Officer Training Corps and other local groups with a military affiliation.  We wanted people as similar as possible to the demographics of serving soldiers regarding age, sex, race and body mass. Participants were excluded if they had had previous experience of a ketogenic diet, were over 50, had certain illnesses, conditions, medications or allergies or who could not exercise safely.

The KD group were coached and were provided with unlimited frozen, pre-cooked meals and grocery supplies.  Carbohydrate was limited initially to 25g per day and protein to 90 g/d until ketosis occurred. Thereafter they could increase the amounts in their diet provided they stayed in ketosis. They were encouraged to use salt.  Carbohydrate was targeted at less than 50g per day including non starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, selected fruit and berries. Protein goals were 0.6 – 1.0g g/kg of lean body mass. Total energy intake was not restricted. Non starchy vegetables and fats were encouraged to reach satiety. Alcohol over 2 drinks a day was discouraged in both groups.  Participants checked their blood ketones every morning and sent pictures of their readings to the research team.

The mixed diet group had a minimum consumption of 40% dietary calories from carbohydrate.  All participants met with registered dieticians and were encouraged to eat to satiety with no specific caloric limit. Dietary supplements were not allowed.

All groups undertook a progressive resistance training programme two days a week for an hour at a time. They had one additional cardio training session a week consisting of running and body weight circuit training for at least 30 minutes. Each resistance training session ended with 15 minutes of whole body, high intensity circuit training.

Body mass and body composition was measured by DEXA. Fat was assessed by MRI. Indirect calorimetry was used to evaluate resting metabolic rate and the respiratory exchange ratio.

The most noteworthy result was a spontaneous reduction in energy intake resulting in a uniformly greater weight loss for the ketogenic group.  The visceral fat was also markedly reduced which leads to a reduced risk for insulin resistance and cardiometabolic disease.  Insulin sensitivity improved in the ketogenic group.

Normalisation of weight is important for soldiers because non combat musculoskeletal injury is 33% more common in this group.

Subjects in this study were overweight but not obese, so the weight loss effect could be expected to be even more in obese subjects.  Release of fatty acids and ketones are likely the cause of the satiety effect leading to less hunger. The weight loss in the ketogenic group was 80% from body fat mass.  44% of the fat lost was from the viscera, largely in the middle of the body.

Because the subjects decided what diet they would follow, selection bias can’t be ruled out. The KD  group was also slightly heavier at baseline than the MD group.  The two women in the KD group responded similarly to the men.

 

 

 

 

Nutrition Coalition: Type Two rates are down in the USA

RATES OF TYPE 2 DIABETES ARE DOWN…!
The CDC reports that “New cases of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. decreased by 35 percent since a peak in 2009 – the first sign that efforts to stop the nation’s diabetes epidemic are working…”

What are the reasons? One major change that we can see is that two nutritional approaches have been established by clinical trials to reverse T2 diabetes: (1) the keto diet or (2) a very-low calorie formula diet. Perhaps people are finding out about these options.

A third evidence-based option for reversing T2 diabetes is bariatric surgery.