Why do alcoholic men develop so-called man boobs and other feminine traits? We know estrogens produce feminization, and our liver clears estrogens from the body. As such, the original theory was that alcohol-induced liver damage led to the retention of excess estrogens. The problem was that when researchers measured estrogen levels, they weren’t elevated. What’s more, even those with cirrhosis of the liver appeared to clear estrogens from the body normally, and men’s testicles started shrinking even before serious liver disease developed.
So, alternative explanations were considered. If it’s not due to estrogens produced endogenously, meaning within the body, maybe alcoholics are being exposed to “exogenous estrogenic substances from dietary sources”—perhaps from phytoestrogens in the plants that alcoholic beverages are made from. The discovery that plants could contain hormonal compounds was made back in 1951 by two Australian chemists charged with finding out the cause of an “epidemic of infertility in sheep that was ravaging their nation’s wool industry.” It took them ten years, but they finally figured out the cause: a compound called genistein, present in a type of clover, and the same phytoestrogen found in soybeans.
You can read about the dreaded clover disease on scare-mongering websites, but you’ll note they never talk about the difference in dose. To get as much as the sheep were getting from clover, you’d have to drink more than 1,000 cartons of soymilk a day or eat more than 8,000 soy burgers or about 800 pounds of tofu a day.
This is not to say you can’t overdo it. There are two case reports in the medical literature that describe feminizing effects associated with eating as few as 14 to 20 servings of soy foods a day. But at reasonable doses, or even considerably higher than the one or two servings a day Asian men eat, soy phytoestrogens do not exert feminizing effects on men.
So, back in 1951, we realized plant compounds could be estrogenic. Two German researchers realized that perhaps that’s why women who handle hops start menstruating, and, indeed, they found estrogenic activity in hops, which is the bittering agent used to make beer. They found trace amounts of the soy phytoestrogens, but in such tiny quantities that beer would not be expected to have an estrogenic effect. In 1999, however, a potent phytoestrogen called 8-prenylnaringenin was discovered in hops, which I discuss in my video The Most Potent Phytoestrogen Is in Beer. In fact, it’s the most potent phytoestrogen found to date, fifty times more potent than the genistein in soy, “provid[ing] an obvious explanation for the menstrual disturbances in female hop workers in the past.” Today, we have machines to pick our hops, so our only exposure is likely via beer consumption, but the levels in beer were found to be so low that they shouldn’t cause any concern.
Then in 2001, a study on a hops-containing “dietary supplement for breast enhancement” raised the concern that another phytoestrogen in hops called isoxanthohumol might be biotransformed by our liver into the more potent 8-PN, which would greatly augment the estrogenic effect of hops. This study was conducted on mice, though. Thankfully, a study using human estrogen receptors found no such liver transformation, so all seemed fine…until 2005. “[T] he liver is not the only transformation site inside the human body.” The human colon contains trillions of microorganisms with enormous metabolic potential. It’s like a whole separate organ within our body, with a hundred livers’ worth of metabolizing power. So, let’s effectively mix some beer with some poop and see what happens.
Indeed, up to a 90 percent conversion was achieved. Up to then, “the concentration of 8-PN in beer was considered too low to affect human health. However, these results show that the activity of the intestinal microbial community could more than 10-fold increase the exposure concentration.” This can explain why you can detect 8-PN in the urine of beer-drinkers for days: Their gut bacteria keep churning it out. Obviously, the amount of straight 8-PN in beer is not the only source of estrogen effects given this conversion. So, a decade ago, the question remained: Might drinking too much beer cause estrogenic effects and feminize men? See my video What Are the Effects of the Hops Phytoestrogen in Beer? for the update.
Image Credit: Robert Owen-Wahl / Pixabay. This image has been modified
Chlorophyll is the green pigment that makes green leaves green. If you search for chlorophyll in the medical literature, a lot of what you find is about fecal fluorescence, a way to detect the contamination of carcasses in the slaughterhouse with feces to reduce the risk of food poisoning from pathogens harbored within animal feces. Fecal matter gets on meat either “with knife entry through the hide into the carcass, and also splash back and aerosol [airborne] deposition of fecal matter during hide removal”—that is, when they’re peeling off the skin. If, however, the animals have been eating grass, you can pick up the poo with a black light. As you can see in my video How to Regenerate Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Naturally, a solution of chlorophyll is green, but, under a UV light, it lights up as red. So, if you have a black light in a chicken slaughter plant, you can get a drop on the droppings. The problem is most chickens aren’t outside anymore. They’re no longer pecking at grass so there’s less fecal fluorescence. We could let them run around outside or we could save money by just adding a chlorophyll supplement to their feed so we can better “identify areas of gut-spill contamination” on the meat.
The reason I was looking up chlorophyll was to follow-up on the data I presented in my Eating Green to Prevent Cancer video, which suggests that chlorophyll may be able to block carcinogens. I found a few in vitro studies on the potential anti-inflammatory effects of chlorophyll. After all, green leaves have long been used to treat inflammation, so anti-inflammatory properties of chlorophyll and their break-down products after digestion were put to the test. And, indeed, they may represent “valuable and abundantly available anti-inflammatory agents.” Maybe that’s one reason why cruciferous vegetables, like kale and collard greens, are associated with decreased markers of inflammation.
In a petri dish, for example, if you lay down a layer of arterial lining cells, more inflammatory immune cells stick to them after you stimulate them with a toxic substance. We can bring down that inflammation with the anti-inflammatory drug aspirin or, even more so, by just dripping on some chlorophyll. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons kale consumers appear to live longer lives.
As interesting as I found that study to be, this next study blew my mind. The most abundant energy source on this planet is sunlight. However, only plants are able to use it directly—or so we thought. After eating plants, animals have chlorophyll in them, too, so might we also be able to derive energy directly from sunlight? Well, first of all, light can’t get through our skin, right? Wrong. This was demonstrated by century-old science—and every kid who’s ever shined a flashlight through her or his fingers, showing that the red wavelengths do get through. In fact, if you step outside on a sunny day, there’s enough light penetrating your skull and going through to your brain that you could read a book in there. Okay, so our internal organs are bathed in sunlight, and when we eat green leafy vegetables, the absorbed chlorophyll in our body does actually appear to produce cellular energy. But, unless we eat so many greens we turn green ourselves, the energy produced is probably negligible.
However, light-activated chlorophyll inside our body may help regenerate Coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is an antioxidant our body basically makes from scratch using the same enzyme we use to make cholesterol—that is, the same enzyme that’s blocked by cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. So, if CoQ10 production gets caught in the crossfire, then maybe that explains why statins increase our risk of diabetes—namely, by accidently also reducing CoQ10 levels in a friendly-fire type of event. Maybe that’s why statins can lead to muscle breakdown. Given that, should statin users take CoQ10 supplements? No, they should sufficiently improve their diets to stop taking drugs that muck with their biochemistry! By doing so—by eating more plant-based chlorophyll-rich diets—you may best maintain your levels of active CoQ10, also known as ubiquinol. “However, when ubiquinol is used as an antioxidant, it is oxidized to ubiquinone. To act as an effective antioxidant, the body must regenerate ubiquinol from ubiquinone,” perhaps by using dietary chlorophyll metabolites and light.
Researchers exposed some ubiquinone and chlorophyll metabolites to the kind of light that makes it into our bloodstream. Poof! CoQ10 was reborn. But, without the chlorophyll or the light, nothing happened. By going outside we get light and, if we’re eating our veggies, chlorophyll, so maybe that’s how we maintain such high levels of CoQ10 in our bloodstream. Perhaps this explains why dark green leafy vegetables are so good for us. We know sun exposure can be good for us and that eating greens can be good for us. “These benefits are commonly attributed to an increase in vitamin D from sunlight exposure and consumption of antioxidants from green vegetables”—but is it possible that these explanations might be incomplete?
Through witnessing the effect Alzheimers has on a family member’s emotional wellbeing and their path to slow mental deterioration; spurred my desire to pursue a degree in preventative care. As a young person, I used to wonder how a patient got this disease, and if there was a solution to prevent it. Most cases of Alzheimer’s occur later in life but alarmingly, it’s beginning to also appear in younger people.
As the fields of lifestyle medicine and preventative care grow, researchers have found that a vegan diet is key to reduce the risk of this devastating disease. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, our genes may not be our determined destiny. The question that we need to ask is: how can we alter the course of a disease that might be lurking in the future of our overall health?
Diet and mental health
Although it’s not as often discussed, our mental health has the same degree of importance as our physical health. And, just as a good diet is key to good physical health, it’s also the key to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and shield our mental health in the long run. In fact, it has been found that diet is interrelated with many conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and many others. Astonishingly, studies indicate that diet can influence the body’s nervous system. A higher chance of cognitive decline is seen in patients that indulge in a diet rich in saturated fats, dairy, meat products, fat, and sugar.
Another interesting report is that neurodegenerative disease risks are lowered with a vegan diet that is high in antioxidants, fiber, and low in saturated fats. It’s also been shown that cognitive health is improved with a vegan diet. Individuals in mid-life with plant-based diets low in saturated fats demonstrated a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The middle-aged group of low-risk patients was then compared to individuals with unhealthy diets high in meat and dairy food. The eye-opening results were that the latter group had a much higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease than the patients with a healthy diet. The healthy diet patients had an 86-90 % decreased risk of dementia and a 90-92% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with the patients with an unhealthy diet. A follow-up long-term study over 20-30 years found that individuals with higher cholesterol levels in mid-life had a 50% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Even though Alzheimer’s disease is affected by genetics and age-related factors, it does not lessen the fact that the risk of Alzheimer’s is heightened by increased blood lipids, blood pressure, and diabetes.
Prevent Alzheimer’s with your diet
In 2013, the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain agreed on evidence-based guidelines for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Decrease saturated fats, trans fat, hydrogenated fats. They agreed that decreasing the intake of saturated fats (dairy products meats and certain oils) and trans fats or hydrogenated fats (processed foods) reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The replacements they recommended are vegetables, pulses, fruits, and whole grains.
- Eat foods high in Vitamin E. Vitamin E should come from food sources rather than supplements. Consume foods high in vitamin E, such as seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Vitamin B12 or fortified foods should be a part of the diet. Patients must be cautious when using multiple vitamins by choosing supplements without iron and copper. I
- Avoid products with aluminum. You should avoid antacids, baking powder, and products containing aluminum.
- Do aerobic exercise. You must add aerobic exercise to your schedule, which will cause blood flow to the brain to increase neural connections. One practical example of this is 40 minutes of brisk walking three times per week.
These are all practical and doable guidelines we can all follow, right?
I should add that there is one more power food that can boost the protection of the nervous system: berries. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are effective because of their high flavonoid content. Flavonoids are considered neuroprotective and only found in plants. In one study with approximately 130,00 subjects over the course of 20 years, scientists found that individuals that consumed the most berries had a significantly lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Increased intake of flavonoids slowed down cognitive decline.
The conclusion that these healthcare providers came to was that the vegan diet can protect the nervous system and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Compelling, isn’t it? After realizing how berries can positively impact my cognitive health, I quickly compiled a list of dishes with blueberries to implement in my meals. Here are two that are easy and creative.
- 1 package (6 ounces) frozen raspberries, divided
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 2 medium bananas
- 1 shredded coconut
- 1 cocoa nibs (I substitute this with carob chips)
- 2 tablespoons dried apricots, chopped
- 35 pistachios, shelled
- 10 fresh or frozen blueberries
Blend the smoothie base ingredients, pour the smoothie into a bowl, then top with the toppings.
[second recpie –> see link below]
Tofu, soymilk, miso, tempeh, edamame—these and other soy products, including the soybeans themselves, are high in nutrients you tend to associate with other legumes, including fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, protein, and zinc.
Soybeans naturally contain a class of phytoestrogens called isoflavones. People hear the word “estrogen” in the word “phytoestrogens” and assume that means soy has estrogen-like effects. Not necessarily. Estrogen has positive effects in some tissues and potentially negative effects in others. For example, high levels of estrogen can be good for the bones but can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. Ideally, you’d like what’s called a “selective estrogen receptor modulator” in your body that would have proestrogenic effects in some tissues and antiestrogenic effects in others. Well, that’s what soy phytoestrogens appear to be. Soy seems to lower breast cancer risk, an antiestrogenic effect, but can also help reduce menopausal hot-flash symptoms, a proestrogenic effect. So, by eating soy, you may be able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
What about soy for women with breast cancer? Overall, researchers have found that women diagnosed with breast cancer who ate the most soy lived significantly longer and had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence than those who ate less. The quantity of phytoestrogens found in just a single cup of soymilk may reduce the risk of breast cancer returning by 25 percent. The improvement in survival for those eating more soy foods was found both in women whose tumors were responsive to estrogen (estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer) and those whose tumors were not (estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer). This also held true for both young women and older women. In one study, for example, 90 percent of the breast cancer patients who ate the most soy phytoestrogens after diagnosis were still alive five years later, while half of those who ate little to no soy were dead.
Soy consumption has also been shown to benefit our kidneys, which appear to handle plant protein very differently from animal protein. Within hours of eating meat, our kidneys rev up into hyperfiltration mode. But, an equivalent amount of plant protein causes virtually no noticeable stress on the kidneys. Eat some tuna, and within three hours, your kidney filtration rate can shoot up 36 percent. But eating the same amount of protein in the form of tofu doesn’t appear to place any additional strain on the kidneys.