Sunday, November 25, 2007

Obesity Part II: Why Vitamin C, Niacin, and Multivitamins May Help

Metabolic functions in the body are known to be regulated. In today’s column I will discuss the regulation of body weight, blood sugar, and vitamins.

Body weight, blood sugar, and vitamins are each vital to health. Both high and low values are life-threatening. The proposal that the nervous system is designed to continuously measure and respond to blood sugar, body weight, and vitamin status makes sense to me.

Any diabetic can tell you that blood sugar levels must be maintained within a normal range. When blood sugar strays outside the normal range the effects are immediate. Unless corrected within days, blood sugar levels significantly outside the normal range are deadly. To maintain excellent health, blood sugar levels should be continuously maintained safely inside the normal range.

If I am correct, the body perceives falling blood sugar levels (and therefore fluctuating blood sugar) as an emergency. The regulatory control systems act to correct the problem. Hunger directs the body to consume easily absorbed carbohydrates, preferentially sugar. Subconscious commands direct the digestive system to accelerate the decomposition and absorption of carbohydrates. The movement of food into the colon is halted to maximize the extraction of sugars from the food already in the small intestine. Food already in the stomach is directed into the small intestine. Extra saliva, stomach acid, bicarbonate, maltase, lactase, sucrase, and amalyase are secreted.

Since controlling blood sugar is an emergency, the blood sugar control loop over-rides other control loops regulating less urgent factors. Maintaining a set weight and maintaining cellular vitamin status are obviously less urgent.

When the body perceives falling weight, hunger directs the body to consume more energy-rich food. Subconscious commands direct the digestive system to halt the movement of food into the colon. Anyone who has tried to lose a lot of weight can attest to the effectiveness of this system. As the body loses weight, hunger becomes increasingly extreme and the movement of food into the colon will literally come to a halt to ensure that every calorie consumed – even the calories in fiber – is put to use. To accomplish this task, the calories contained in fiber are shared with bacteria hosted by the digestive tract.

When the body perceives rising weight, feelings of nausea and fullness direct the body to consume less food. Subconscious commands direct the digestive system to accelerate the movement of food. Other subconscious commands direct the metabolism to speed up, causing more calories to be released to the environment as heat.

The body reacts to falling and rising vitamin levels in a similar fashion to falling weight. Hunger, fullness, and nausea direct the body to consume more or less vitamin-rich foods. Subconscious commands direct the digestive system to accelerate or halt the movement of vitamin-rich foods. The proven laxative effect of vitamin supplements supports this hypothesis.

If I’m correct, the body operates at least three independent control loops that each depend upon the use of conscious feelings to control what and how much food is eaten, and subconscious commands to the digestive tract to control secretions and food movement. Failure of any of the thousands of body parts involved (there are probably more “nervous-system” parts than “mechanical” parts) can lead to weight gain and/or other chronic health problems. One observable – weight gain – can have hundreds or thousands of different causes. With so many different causes, there can not be a single solution to the problem.

How can vitamins help? Vitamins are a necessary component of many of the tools the body uses to build an adult from an egg and sperm. Ensuring that the body has extra vitamins available in the food and supplements eaten is a good idea. Extra vitamins in the right place at the right time can reduce the number of inevitable errors that occur during growth and development. Fewer errors mean stronger, smarter, healthier adults. Extra vitamins can have healing powers. This is particularly well understood for niacin and vitamin C and has been the subject of several of my previous columns. This means extra vitamins can help with obesity by healing the broken parts I referred to above.

If I’m correct, vitamins are monitored and controlled, greatly reducing the danger of overdosing. Overdoses can cause a laxative effect, nausea, and fatigue – clear signals to reduce consumption. In the absence of these signals (or other known vitamin side effects), it is unlikely that key vitamins are doing any harm. There is much to gain, and little to lose by responsibly and knowledgably taking multivitamins along with extra vitamin C and niacin when needed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Obesity Part I: Why Vitamin C, Niacin, and Multivitamins May Help

The body has many parts devoted to the processing of food. As a result, food processing is subject to multiple regulatory feedback loops. Working together, these feedback loops regulate body weight. Malfunctioning of any body part responsible for processing food or malfunction of any of the feedback loops can throw off body weight on the high side or the low side. For this reason, there are multiple causes of obesity and emaciation. I’ll devote several columns to exploring this complex system.

We live in a world with abundant food. When hunger occurs, food is easily obtained and people typically eat in response until a natural feedback loop kicks in to repress the desire to eat. The feeling of fullness that stops eating is a vital component of the body’s strategy for maintaining a set weight. It is not, however, the only strategy. Once eaten, the ingestion of food into the body is not inevitable. A second vital component to regulate weight is control over the absorption vs. rejection of food once it has been eaten. All food is not absorbed. A substantial fraction is excreted as solids. This is not because the excreted solids are indigestible. Ordinary food is nearly 100% digestible. Starving people do not excrete solids. Even fiber is absorbed. The body colonizes bacteria which can break down fiber. People can digest fiber just like cows. For people, however, the digestion of fiber is inefficient, and requires a long residence time in the digestive tract. The body only allows food to reside that long in the colon when it is starving.

The digestive process is not under conscious control. The regulatory loops that control the numerous fluids secreted into various parts of the digestive tracts and that control the mechanical forces that propel food along the digestive tract are entirely under the control of the subconscious. This remarkably complex system has some ability to sort through the food we eat and absorb more of what we need most while rejecting more of what we need the least. As people age, problems inevitably arise with one or more aspects of the body’s complex weight regulation systems. The problems commonly manifest themselves as obesity or emaciation. Look for yourself inside a nursing home. How many of the residents appear to be at a healthy weight?

If you want to maintain a healthy weight, it helps to grow up healthy and strong, and to efficiently heal any damage life brings to the digestive tract. The digestive tract is regularly attacked by microbes, so this is no easy task. I’ve argued in past columns that vitamin C and niacin have proven power to facilitate wound healing, and I’ll make the same argument again here. Vitamin C, niacin, and multivitamins are especially important for children. In addition to helping to heal wounds from any injuries that toxins or pathogens cause, extra vitamins help build a healthier digestive tract and immune system in the first place. With luck, increasing use of vitamin supplements by children will lead to reduced rates of childhood obesity.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Multivitamins and Vitamin C Prevent Anorexia – Prove It Isn’t True

I believe that more than 90% of the cases of anorexia and other eating disorders are caused by vitamin deficiency. If you are looking for good doses to start with, click here. I believe the simple act of ensuring that all children get plenty of sunshine without sunblock and take at least 500 mg/day of vitamin C and a multivitamin will prevent most cases of anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. I challenge the health care community to provide statistics comparing the prevalence of eating disorder in teenagers getting plenty of sunshine and taking at least a multivitamin and 500 mg/day of vitamin C vs. teenagers who don’t take any vitamin supplements. In the long run, I believe that >99% of eating disorders will be prevented in children who get regular sunshine without sunblock and take at least 500 mg/day of vitamin C, at least 250 mg/week of time release niacin, and a daily multivitamin. I can't even ask for statistics because giving time-release niacin supplements to children is an almost unknown behavior. Read more here, and here.

Here’s what the health care community would have parents believe. I took this from a specific website, but I found similar words at most healthcare websites dealing with eating disorders:

“Eating disorders are typically precipitated and perpetuated by a combination of genetic, developmental, and psychological factors, requiring a multidisciplinary team approach (physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, dietitian) to treatment. Anorexia Nervosa is particularly difficult to treat, often necessitating repeated episodes of hospitalization to prevent extreme weight loss. Bulimia Nervosa is usually not life-threatening and may respond well to cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication or a combination of the two Binge Eating Disorder often responds well to behavior modification-based weight-loss strategies alone. Family members can render assistance by providing regular, well-balanced meals and emotional support.”

Where in that paragraph does it say that eating disorders are a known symptom of pellagra and beriberi. How does the healthcare community justify not linking the fact that eating disorders are caused by vitamin deficiency in the minds of parents? This behavior must stop. It undermines the credibility of the mainstream medical community.

For some teenage girls, problems absorbing thiamine may contribute to causing anorexia. The form of thiamine in multivitamins requires special proteins to be absorbed into the bloodstream and other special proteins to be absorbed into certain cells. Easily absorbed forms of thiamine exist. Incredibly, these forms have not yet been added to common multivitamins. So, the 99% prevention rate that I believe is possible will likely require this recommended change in multivitamin formulation in addition to adoption of niacin as a regular supplement. Read more about thiamine and anorexia here

I’ll end this column with the same words I used to end my last column on eating disorders. Anorexia is difficult and expensive to cure. Roughly 5% of the teenage girls in America struggle with eating disorders. Every parent should be afraid that their daughters might fall victim. Vitamin deficiency causes anorexia. Even for healthy children, the benefits of vitamin supplements at or below the government’s safe upper limits far outweigh the risk of any harm. What do parents and physicians of children with eating disorders say when asked why they didn’t insist that the children in their care take vitamin supplements as a preventative measure? For some unlucky children, a one RDA vitamin won’t be enough to prevent eating disorders. What do the parents and physicians of these children say when asked why they didn’t insist that these children take vitamin supplements at the safe upper limit? If, God forbid, my children develop eating disorders, I’ll know it had nothing to do with vitamin deficiency.

It has now been 8 months since I first wrote this column. A substantial amount of evidence has emerged supporting this hypothesis, and I have written several more columns on this topic. Read the most recent one here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vitamins May Help Prevent Heavy Metal (e.g. mercury) Poisoning

Awareness about the danger to children from heavy metal pollution is on the rise. There are many recent articles are focusing on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Look here, here, here,and here. Mercury concentrates in fish. The form of mercury found in fish is acutely toxic to the youngest members of our society (both before and after birth). The form of mercury found in fish is known to cause brain damage. Levels of mercury in fish are rising because mercury emissions from industrial activity are continuously adding to the already dangerously high levels of mercury in the nation’s lakes and streams. The percentage of children requiring special education services has risen dramatically and is approaching ten percent. At some point the public will realize that there is a clear connection between these two trends.
Several previous blog entries address this issue. I asserted that vitamin supplements may protect growing children from heavy metal poisoning. Recently, the OMNS published an authoritative press release that reached the same conclusion. The press release documents extensive recent scientific studies proving that vitamins protect growing animals from heavy metals poisoning.
I have devoted two recent columns to the scientific evidence that extraordinarily high doses of vitamin C and niacin have been scientifically proven to heal wounds. I believe that the damage caused to the nervous system by heavy metals can be characterized as wounds. In many cases, I believe the wounds caused by the presence of heavy metal poisons can be healed.
Vitamin C and niacin are safe. I raised my children from the ages of 1 and 3 using vitamin C, niacin, and multivitamin supplements. All families should be afraid of the danger posed to their children by heavy metal pollution. All parents should consider niacin, vitamin C, and multivitamin supplements for their children. The children have much to gain and almost nothing to lose.