Statins, Curcumin, and Butterbur
Low-Fat, Low-Calorie, Low-Sodium Diets
Jan 9, 2005
Personal Update, Jan. 9, 2005
I have just received and read "The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life: How to Eliminate Virtually All Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer", by Ray Kurzweil. The book endorses Nathan Pritikin's diet, holding fat intake within 10% of one's total calories. Ray Kurzweil cites the fact that in the long-term Framingham study, essentially no heart attacks ever occurred to individuals with total cholesterol levels below 160, and no heart attack ever occurred in the 40 years of the study to anyone with serum cholesterol levels below 150. Based upon the Framingham data, Mr. Kurzweil recounts the risk of a coronary event as a function of the ratio of the total cholesterol (TC) level divided by the HDL level. It is given by 1.357 ln(TC/HDL) - 1.1875. This risk vanishes for Total Cholesterol/HDL = 2.4. (This risk factor must then be adjusted for other risk factors such as smoking, obesity, Type II diabetes, hypertension, etc.) This formula helps to explain why the caloric-restricted subjects in the Washington University study have developed clear arteries. Their average TC was 157, and their average HDL level was 65, yielding a risk ratio of 2.415.
Ray Kurzweil's book, published in 1994, doesn't have the benefit of further information about C-Reactive Protein and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
He also shows charts indicating that cancer is also rare in countries in which a very low-fat diet prevails... an idea presented by Roy Walford in "Beyond the The 120-Year Diet". For example, the Philippines are shown having about 1/10th the breast cancer and 1/20th the prostate cancer found in the U. S., with a fat intake that's about 1/5th of ours. However, in investigating Dr. Walford's charts, I was led to the suspicion that these low cancer numbers might reflect a younger population and less accurate reporting of cancer. But considering the inflammatory role of the omega-6 fats, it might just be true. Certainly, a low-omega-6-and-saturated-fat, low-sodium diet is worth consideration in warding off both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Personal Update, Jan. 8, 2005
Tommie Jean and I have been taking turmeric, and later, curcumin, haphazardly for a year and a half now, but the references to the UCLA study inspired me to get serious about curcumin for the past two days. What a difference! I have one minor touch of arthritis in my right foot, presumably from having to wear tight wing-tip shoes to work all those years. I visited a podiatrist this week to get advice on orthotics that I might use to keep my toe from bending so much when I run my daily two-and-a-half miles. Yesterday, I began taking a curcumin capsule a day, and it has had as immediate and dramatic an effect on my foot as would ibuprofen or Excedrin. What's exciting about it is that it says that these herbal remedies really do have the same kind of potency as pills.
In the process of investigating curcumin, I came upon a discussion of Celebrex and Vioxx, and why they cause heart attacks and strokes. It seems that Celebrex and Vioxx, by inhibiting COX-2 enzymes, force arachnidonic acid to metabolize along two alternative metabolic pathways that lead to the production of two other harmful cytokines called thromboxane A2, which causes abnormal blood clotting in the arteries, and leukotriene B4, which attacks the inner linings of the arteries. Thromboxane A2 production is blocked by aspirin, and leucotriene B4 is blocked by curcumin. However, patients taking Vioxx and Celebrex have been encouraged to avoid aspirin, since it might add to the moderate stomach distress caused by the COX-2 inhibitors. As a result, these patients have gotten relief from their arthritic symptoms but at high cost in terms of cardiovascular disease.
The most effective way to alleviate inflammatory disease processes, including Alzheimer's disease and arthritis, is to increase one's intake of omega-3 oils, and to lower one's intake of omega-6 fats. This latter move cuts the production of arachnidonic acid, and can greatly reduce the amount of arachnidonic acid available for inflammatory processes. However, curcumin is another string to this bow, and an exciting one, I think.
Alzheimer's affects about 1% of people over 65 in some Indian villages. Elderly residents of rural India, who eat copious amounts of curry, appear to have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the world: 4.4 times lower than that of U. S. citizens. The National Institute on Aging is currently recruiting Alzheimer's patients for a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study of curcumin against existing Alzheimer's disease.
The more I read about curcumin, the more motivated I am to keep on taking it.
The Life Extension Foundation has published two good articles regarding occult inflammation and arthritis relief.
Thanks to Johnny Asia and Ronald Penner
I'm greatly indebted to Johnny Asia, "The Guitarist of the Future" ("The 21st century belongs to Asia"), and to Ronald Penner for these two articles linking curcumin with protection against Alzheimer's disease, as well as possible shielding from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Tommie Jean and I have been taking curcumin for about a year-and-a-half now. We began with turmeric, which is almost entirely comprised of curcumin. (Curcumin gives turmeric its vivid saffron color.) Turmeric doesn't have a strong taste, but its taste made it less than ideal when spread in significant amounts on food. We're currently buying, from the Life Extension Foundation, 900 mg. curcumin capsules that contain 60 mg. of bioperine to aid absorption. It's sold 60 to a bottle for $13.16 a bottle in lots of four bottles during the Life Extension Foundation's annual "Super-Sale". Is it working? Who knows? However, these articles, describing a pilot study by UCLA's Gregory Cole, help reinforce our decision to continue taking curcumin.
Dr. Cole also mentions its possible utility in alleviating multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
Here are additional references to curcumin's properties.
Johnny Asia has also sent an article suggesting that use of statin drugs may possibly impair brain function, and an article that finds ingestion of butterbur extract reduces the frequency of migraine headaches.
Since no pharmaceutical patents can be taken out concerning curcumin, studies of its safety and effectiveness are valuable, and might be expected primarily out of universities.
Disk Technology Marches On
Today's Science News features had drive technology. Hitachi has just announced that it will deliver a 500 gigabyte hard drive this quarter (Hitachi to unveil 500-gig hard drive - CNN), marking another milestone in computer technology. The new half-terabyte hard drive will be released next month (February, 2005), and will initially cost $520. The next milepost will come when a one terabyte disk drive becomes available, a development that we might see within a year or two. It will come just in time for those HDTV TV shows and dual-layer DVD movies we'll want to record.
In an unrelated announcement, Toshiba has announced its intention, beginning in the summer of 2005, to market disk drives that use perpendicular recording. This long-sought goal will permit disk drives with nearly twice today's storage densities. Meanwhile, Maxtor has reported that it can more than double disk capacities on the cheap by switching to perpendicular recording. This would allow Maxtor to increase storage on its 400 gigabyte drive to 900 gigabytes. This is based upon an areal bit density of 137 gigabits per square inch (206 megabits per square millimeter). The anticipated upper limit for perpendicular recording approaches 1,000 gigabits per square inch, permitting 5-to-6-terabyte disk drives--something we might see in the 2010-2012 time frame.