What do daisies have to do with autism and Alzheimer’s risk?

Daisies have nothing to do with autism and Alzheimer’s risk but in order to simplify complex topics into real world strategies for preventative health care guidance the complexity has to be thoroughly understood. In the last post the medical and chemistry jargon got thicker than a field of daisies and taking a break can help the brain sort through the field to find a bouquet – metaphorically speaking.

In my real world I also found some online courses to help brush up on making sense of medical and chemical jargon for the lay reader or the health professional. I’m taking some online courses available through Coursera.org: Writing for the Sciences, Stanford University and Medical Neuroscience, Duke University, and for later in the summer: Essentials of Global Health, Yale University.

My own health has been helped by the information I gather – the bouquets of daisies can turn into good hair days and the ability to grow skin. It is easy to take health, and skin, for granted until you lose it and then a physician with a prescription pad is not always available with a helpful answer. “We don’t know what causes it or how to help you but this pain killer might leave you addicted and/or cause uncomfortable side effects” – not a helpful answer and may be a more dangerous answer than “Your lab tests are normal, why don’t you go talk to a therapist about your problems (probably psychosomatic/hypochondria).” Thanks, I’ll go for a walk and think about that, maybe I’ll be able to pick some daisies and get some fresh air and sunshine while I’m out.

Taking a break sometimes is just what is needed to allow the brain to sort through a complicated issue – the solution is there but it may need to be selected out of a field of many possible answers. Some exercise and  a little time to not think consciously about it can be what the subconscious needs to put together the pieces so the larger puzzle can be seen. (Don’t Solve Your Problems – Lolly Daskal) Taking a walk was a strategy that Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens liked to use: “If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.” – Charles Dickens – (For a More Creative Brain, Take Breaks – Inc.com) (Michael Simmons Quote)

A completed puzzle of a picture of marbles arranged in a rainbow pattern – it was more difficult than it looks.

Taking a walk may not help you solve all your tough puzzles but the exercise is still good for you.

A field of dandelions in front of a mountain (Note: Objects may be closer than they appear).

So what did daisies have to do with yesterday’s post – they represented the pause I took to let all the material that I had read settle into a few take home points about real world strategies that might help protect people with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s Disease or autism – vigorous exercise regularly may help; a diet with a lower than typical balance of calories from carbohydrates versus fats and protein (30% carbohydrate calories); and occasional fasting for a day or afternoon (14) may all help the body to clear out the protein deposits that seem to collect and lead to Alzheimer’s or autism changes in the brain.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. Thanks.

Connecting to the past through words

The written word allowed mankind to share knowledge in the present and across time. We can learn from others experience when it is shared in a written or audio format. Storytelling and reciting from memory was how history was passed down through generations for much of human history. The alphabet and written text in its various languages and appearance changed human culture.

Kurt Vonnegut was an exceptional wordsmith, crafter of words both real and of his own creation. To connect any interested readers or writers, in brief, I returned to the bookstore for a copy of Timequake to give to a friend and instead found a book that fills in yet more gaps in the biography, The Brothers Vonnegut, and autobiography/novel Timequake. Armageddon in Retrospect, And Other New and Unpublished Writings on War and Peace, (Berkley Books, 2008, New York), by Kurt Vonnegut, Introduction by Mark Vonnegut (one of his sons who is also a writer) is a collection of unpublished short stories and letters including one that was mentioned in both Timequake and The Brothers Vonnegut.

The letter was published in a newspaper after WWII. It is the initial, oh, you may not have heard yet family, but I’m not dead and no longer Missing In Action, letter to his lived ones. I haven’t read past the letter. Tears in my eyes make it difficult to read – or write. War is bad. We need to be reminded of that everyday until we figure out how to manage life more humanely. I share the hope that humans can do that soon.

Learning to write better may be a goal which reading well written words can help achieve. Learning to live better may be a bonus.

Previous post about The Brothers Vonnegut: https://transcendingsquare.com/2018/03/01/who-owns-science-or-should-all-ideas-be-shared/

Previous post about Timequake: https://transcendingsquare.com/2018/03/05/timequake-a-novel-by-kurt-vonnegut/

Disclosure: This information is being provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use.

Nutrients Rock – “School house” style

More recently in the past than the days of my childhood, at some point when I was first writing online ~ 2010/2011, I mentioned a goal or rather an idea to “be like” a pop singer and I think my admiration and what my idea actually was may have been misunderstood. Memorable and entertaining music can be a fun way to deliver educational messages not just fill stadium shows for adults.

The children’s song and video series called School House Rock is an early example of education set to rock music. Examples are available online: [Youtube: Preamble to the Constitution]

Teaching in song goes farther back though to early nursery rhymes and the “clean up, clean up, time to clean up” song. I don’t know if that tune has a title, I learned it as an adult after my kids were already too old for it to have worked. Some lessons are learned at certain stages of development and then unlearning those habits can be difficult later in life.

Here’s a slightly different tune than I remember but – use it regularly during preschool and you may be more likely to end up with a teenager who simply is used to and prefers to have and maintain a neat room. Sing the song while cleaning up with the children everyday while they are young and need the help. In a few years they’ll be singing the song and cleaning up naturally and may even teach younger kids how much fun it is: [Youtube: Clean up song]

  • Teaching healthy eating habits and a love for a variety of flavors starts with pregnancy when mom eats a variety of healthy and flavorful foods and continues during breastfeeding. The fetus and infant do sense some of the flavor variety in their nutrition they receive from mom.
  • Offering a variety of easy to digest foods as the toddler and child grows helps teach them that a variety of flavors are interesting and enjoyable. There can be a tendency for children to prefer a favorite but offer it too often and then they may suddenly get tired of it and not want it again. Offering a variety regularly and encouraging tastes of new things without forcing a certain amount can help make an environment that feels safe for a child to explore new tastes without negative effects resulting due to feeling pressured.
  • Controlling food intake can make disordered eating habits more of a risk later on in life; eating too much, too little, or too limited a variety can be examples of disordered eating habits. Ideally it is best to encourage a child to learn to listen to their own body’s hunger and fullness signals and eat when their are hungry of a variety of foods and stop when full. A healthy microbiome, the good guy bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract, also is important for appetite control and a good mood.
  • Fiber rich vegetables and other fiber foods are helpful for supporting the healthy types of GI tract bacteria. The good strains help protect us from bad strains and from yeast and other types of microscopic organisms. The good strains of GI bacteria have also been associated with a healthy weight and normal appetite. Some other types have been found to be common in patients with obesity and the bacteria may be playing a role in promoting an increased appetite and weight gain, more research is needed. Certain types of GI bacteria have also been found to produce different types of brain neurotransmitters, some that can increase anxiety and some that can increase a good mood.
  • So the take home point may be that bacteria that promote a good mood and healthy appetite sound like better passengers to feed and maintain during our journey through life.

Having wandered from my initial point, I’ll return to it, School-house rock style songs about nutrients might be a catchy, memorable way to learn about the nutrients. Young children could just be getting familiar with the larger message about their function and then the songs might be useful again during high-school or college along with flashcards to help learn the more complex nutrient names that go with the basic roles in the body. Chemistry students with a talent for tongue twisters can sing along with Tom Lehrer’s 1967 version of song from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical Pirates of Penzance where he shares all the chemical elements that were known at the time. [Youtube]

Now in a trip back through time you need either a time machine or a well-organized file cabinet. I’ve tried to organize my file cabinets over the years but at this particular stage of my life they are as rare as time machines – so instead of worrying about finding a particular scrap of paper with song lyrics about the vitamin B group from ten years ago I just grabbed a pencil and notepad:

B, B, B

You light my fire,

B, B, B

and give me energy

for all I require.

B, B, B

You light my fire,

B, B, B

energize my day

like a live wire.

Thiamin, Riboflavin,

Pyroxidine too,

Pantothenic acid, Cobalamin

and folate or folic acid are B’s,

Choline and biotin too,

Niacin or Niacinamide,

are also all B’s on my side.

B, B, B, B’s

Keep lightin’ my fire,

B, B, B, B’s

and I’ll never tire.*

(*obviously people do get tired eventually even with a good supply of B vitamins – lyrically the last line has more punch with the stronger statement then a more physiologically correct “so I won’t tire.” – this is why teams are helpful.) More info on the group of B vitamins: medlineplus.gov/bvitamins

Since I didn’t waste any time digging through old boxes or building a time machine, I just kept writing:

Iron, a red corpuscle’s friend,

helping make our muscles bend,

as we move about and play,

Iron carries oxygen all day,

delivering energy

throughout,

each muscle needs

a fair amount

to shorten and

lengthen as we

bend about.

And I kept writing, there are lots of nutrients:

Phosphorus, potassium,

Molybdenum, manganese,

Magnesium, calcium,

Sodium and copper

Are all trace minerals

We need each day

for enzymes to work

so that we can play.

And a draft to introduce the macro-nutrients too:

Protein, carbohydrates,

and fats,

are the three,

big macro-nutrients

on the nutrient

family tree.

As drafts for song lyrics go, it might be time to hire a song lyricist.

Addition: But finding a song lyricist also takes time so I wrote a couple more drafts instead,

The discovery of Vitamin C is an exciting story:

Ascorbic acid,

also known as vitamin C,

protected sailors from scurvy,

while they were away at sea.

Limes were a source

of the mysterious stuff

that helped men stay well

when oceans were rough,

and journeys were long

without a single stop

for fresh supplies

and a chance to shop.

Limes would stay fresh

for months, while at sea,

and provided the sailors

a good source of vitamin C.

Scurvy was the feared

disease of the sea

until it was seen

that citrus fruit cured

and prevented the dread disease.

Bleeding gums and sore knees?

How could a sailor chew hard tack

or climb trees?

Let alone scurry up the ship’s mast

to keep watch in the lookout’s post?

Vitamin D was also discovered early for its role in preventing rickets in children, but now it has a new story to share as well:

Vitamin D, we know,

helps our bones

be strong and grow,

and now we also know

Vitamin D acts as defense

for our nutrient family tree.

It helps immune cells

learn to know

which other cells are

friend or foe

and helps mom and baby

safely get to know

each other’s cells as family

and not as foe.

Not quite ready for Youtube yet, but everything starts somewhere.

The lyrics about vitamin D contain information that is not part of standard education about the nutrient – yet. The area of immunology during pregnancy and early implantation is advancing. The fetus plays a role in decreasing the activity of the maternal immune T cells. A decrease in the internal level of tryptophan within the maternal T cells seems to be involved. A diet containing large amounts of tryptophan was associated with more fetal loss than a standard diet in animal research. For ethical reasons this field of research takes place with lab animals or murine animals. [1]

And third, fetal survival depends on tolerogenic mechanisms
that block maternal T cell responses.” [1]

The estrogen level of the mother may affect the ability of the fetus to inhibit her immune T cells:

Estrogen treatment and pregnancy both induced FoxP3 protein expression to a similar degree both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that high estrogen levels during pregnancy may help maintain fetal tolerance by promoting regulation (65). Trophoblast-derived chemokines have also been implicated (63).” [2]

It had previously been known that estrogen has protective effects against autoimmune disease. Symptoms for some types can improve for a woman during her pregnancy and then flair back up after delivery.

Estrogen has been shown to protect against the development of autoimmune disease, yet the mechanism is not known.” (65)

The study found that estrogen treatment led to an increase in the FoxP3 protein in CD4+CD25 T cells. These are a type of regulatory T cell of the immune system which are essential for protecting against self intolerance – ie autoimmunity:

“Recently, in a TCR-transgenic mouse model where full protection against spontaneous experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis could be achieved by the transfer of wild-type CD4+CD25 T cells, Furtado et al. (47) showed that responsiveness to IL-2 was required for the suppressive function.”  [5]

Having walked this around a ball park or ocean going vessel, I’ll get to the point, cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, helps the body make adequate supplies of Treg immune cells, and it is better at it than calcitriol. [7] Calcitriol is a synthetic form of vitamin D3 called “Rocaltrol“, [8] I’m not sure of the exact difference chemically – but they both can help our body tell us who is friend and who is foe.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. A. L. Mellor and D. H. Munn, Immunology at the Maternal-Fetal Interface: Lessons for T Cell Tolerance and Suppression. Annu. Rev. Immunol. 2000. 18:367–391. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andrew_Mellor2/publication/12481340_Immunology_at_the_Maternal-Fetal_Interface_Lessons_for_T_Cell_Tolerance_and_Suppression/links/0912f50aa0af8ce00b000000.pdf [1]
  2. Indira Guleria and Mohamed H. Sayegh, Maternal Acceptance of the Fetus: True Human Tolerance. J Immunol 2007; 178:3345-3351; https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Indira_Guleria/publication/6468186_Maternal_Acceptance_of_the_Fetus_True_Human_Tolerance/links/55a4f85008ae5e82ab1f718a/Maternal-Acceptance-of-the-Fetus-True-Human-Tolerance.pdf [2]
  3. Saito, S., Y. Sasaki, and M. Sakai. 2005. CD4(+)CD25 +high regulatory T cells in human pregnancy. J. Reprod. Immunol. 65: 111–120. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/15811516/ (63)
  4. Polanczyk, M. J., B. D. Carson, S. Subramanian, M. Afentoulis, A. A. Vandenbark,
    S. F. Ziegler, and H. Offner. 2004. Cutting edge: estrogen drives expansion of the CD4 (+)CD25(+) regulatory T cell compartment. J. Immunol. 173: 2227–2230. http://www.jimmunol.org/content/173/4/2227.long (65)
  5. Pascal FeunouLionel PoulinClaude HabranAlain Le MoineMichel Goldman and Michel Y. Braun, CD4+CD25+ and CD4+CD25 T Cells Act Respectively as Inducer and Effector T Suppressor Cells in Superantigen-Induced Tolerance. http://www.jimmunol.org/content/171/7/3475 [5]

  6. Mostafa G. Aly, Karina Trojan, Rolf Weimer, Christian Morath, Gerhard Opelz, Mohammed A. Tohamy, and Volker Daniel,

    Low-dose oral cholecalciferol is associated with higher numbers of Helios+ and total Tregs than oral calcitriol in renal allograft recipients: an observational study. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2016; 17: 24.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4906900/ [7]

  7. “Rocaltrol,” “Calcitriol,” http://www.rxlist.com/rocaltrol-drug.htm [8]