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  • Gut Bacteria Pills Reduce Inconsequential Markers of Heart Disease; Resveratrol May Be A Better Alternative

    July 10, 2019: by Bill Sardi

    If cholesterol, body weight and insulin resistance are true drivers of heart disease then the revelation that a certain strain of gut bacteria, when given to overweight individuals, cut these risk factors in half, could shake up modern medicine’s understanding of cardiovascular health.  The anatomical center of heart disease would move from the liver where cholesterol is formed to the intestines below the stomach where trillions of bacteria reside.

    Before you jump to co conclusions and run to the health shop to find the Pasteurized Akkermansia muciniphila strain of gut bacteria responsible for modification of these pre-disease markers in the present study that is making news headlines, there may be some better alternatives. – namely the red wine pill resveratrol

    The newly published human research is a follow-up from an animal study published in 2007. There were no safety problems or side effects noted among the 32 human subjects who completed the study. However, 8 of the 40 people originally enrolled in the study did not complete the 90-day regimen and withdrew from the study, which suggests there may have been some unidentified problem with tolerability.

    The reason why such studies are attractive to the public is that this suggests, in the minds of many, that adults can go on eating sweet and carbohydrate-rich foods and never pay the price.  Lighting matches and then repeatedly using fire extinguishers is not good approach to fire prevention or heart disease prevention.  Even the US Army is moving toward a so-called ketogenic diet primarily comprised of saturated fat (butter, lard, coconut oil) to produce lean soldiers.  Now a ketogenic donut would be the invention of the century.  Short of that, maybe a resveratrol donut would do (more below).

    Diet: origin of the problem

    Public health authorities in league with the food industry spawned the diabesity epidemic when the Food Pyramid (now abandoned) promoted grains (pasta, cereal, bread) that are used to fatten domesticated animals in the feeding pen before they are pushed to the slaughter house.  And Americans bought into this advice because it tickled reward centers in the brain. Add refined sugars, particularly high fructose corn syrup that is added to bacon, peanut butter, and many other prepared foods, and you have fomented a hedonistic society.  Another non-surprise: high-fructose corn syrup deleteriously alters gut bacteria.  If you now feel like a lab rat, well, you have been fed like one if you live in America.

    Modern medicine loved the new business; never thought to prevent it

    Doctors didn’t mind, it filled their waiting rooms and the anti-diabetic drug metformin became the drug of choice to deal with the problem.  More than 80 million prescriptions for metformin were written in 2016.  This drug often induces short-term memory loss from drug-induced vitamin B12 deficiency.  But the more common reasons for abandoning metformin are symptoms of nausea, abdominal pain and loose stool.

    Wait! The above symptoms are suggestive of a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency.  Sure enough, upon investigation, metformin induces a B1 shortageMetformin rides on transport molecule intended to carry thiamine.  Therefore, it theoretically induces low-grade beri beri! No wonder Depends adult diaper sales are on the upswing.  This represents disease substitution not disease prevention.  Metformin, rivaling resveratrol as a widely extolled anti-aging pill, may be a covert metabolic monster.  A shortage of thiamine (B1) impairs transport of oxygen to tissues.

    Long-term use of metformin has been found to reduce risk markers for heart disease (but maybe not sudden mortal heart attacks).  Not surprisingly, metformin is documented to increase the population of Akkermansia bacteria in the gut.

    How did controlling blood sugar levels with metformin rather than cholesterol improve heart disease markers? Given that cholesterol-lowering drugs only modestly reduce the risk for non-mortal heart attacks, this suggests the entire drug paradigm to keep Americans healthy is smoke and mirrors.

    Side bar: sudden-death heart attacks due to shortage of electrolyte minerals

    As an aside, in case you want to know what really prevents drop-dead sudden-death heart attacks, which comprise ~75% of all heart attacks, one needs to understand these are electrical storms in the heart, not cholesterol plaque blockages of coronary arteries.  Sudden-death heart attacks are indicative of a shortage of electrolyte minerals the heart requires to facilitate heart muscle contractions that comprise a heartbeat.  The primary missing electrolyte minerals associated with sudden-death heart attacks are potassium and in particular magnesium.

    The Akkermansia pills did not completely eliminate known risks, and frankly cholesterol may not be the best marker for disease mortality because statin drugs that lower cholesterol production in the liver are not only potentially liver-toxic but they only reduce the risk for non-mortal heart attacks by about 1%.   So gut bacteria pills are looking better every minute.

    How does it work?

    Given that the bacterial strain was not live, having been heat Pasteurized, is educational.  It is triggering some other pathway in the body.  It works indirectly.  The bacterium does not need to grow in the gut like grass seed to be effective.

    It is all as it seems?  One bacterium among thousands

    It is estimated there are about 100 trillion bacteria that live inside the digestive tract, outnumbering the number of living cells in the body.  There are some 5000 bacterial strains.  There is more than one bacterial strain that is beneficial to health.  That is why prebiotics (molecules that favorably alter gut bacteria composition) rather than probiotics (actual non-pathogenic bacteria like Acidophilus and Bifidus) are preferred.

    Which leads our investigation to resveratrol, that infamous red wine molecule concentrated in fermented wine and dietary supplements.  But resveratrol has been roundly dismissed by modern medicine as a metabolic impossibility because researchers say it is not bio-available – it is bound to detoxification molecules (glucuronate, sulfate) in the liver and cannot possibly exert any health benefits.

    But now resveratrol doesn’t necessarily have to enter the blood circulation and get past the liver.  Maybe resveratrol’s ability to favorably alter the composition of gut bacteria (intestines) is its secret.  Consumption of resveratrol has been shown to increase Akkermansia bacteria in humans and reduce inflammation and insulin resistance (in Caucasians, not others).

    Resveratrol plus quercetin has also been demonstrated to produce a similar beneficial effect in lab animals. Maybe resveratrol was working all along without increasing measurable concentrations in the blood.  Let’s not forget, resveratrol thins the blood to prevent blood clots in coronary arteries and works better than aspirin and spares heart muscle from damage should a heart attack occur.

    Increases in Akkermansia bacteria in the human gut are not confined to probiotic supplements or red wine resveratrol supplementation.  Allicin, the active principal from fresh-crush garlic, or an alkalinized garlic pill that assuredly produces allicin, produces a similar boost in Akkermansia in the family of molecules in the digestive tract.

    But that idea of a resveratrol donut is certainly one worth mulling over.

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