High blood pressure and possible ethnic differences

On page 66 of a new book Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways, by Thomas Bollyky, it is mentioned that early Western medical personal working in Africa in the 1920s were surprised to find no cases of hypertension/high blood pressure among the native African people. Only one native woman was known to be overweight and it was noted that she worked in a brewery which led the medical person in the document to speculate whether beer drinking could be fattening (yes it can). The first case of hypertension in a native African person wasn’t noted until the 1940s.

Question: Does the Western style of living or working or export of Western products cause hypertension in native Africans? If native Africans living in their traditional environment using their traditional diet have no risk for hypertension then what changed that caused an increased risk? This topic is also important for prenatal health as preeclampsia can include hypertension/high blood pressure and it does tend to be an increased risk for women with African American ancestry. The DASH diet may be helpful, for more on preeclampsia risk factors and possible tips for prevention or management, see Preeclampsia & TRP Channelseffectivecare.info

I’ve discussed this topic in my early days of blogging when I found a research article from ~ 1970s that noted ethnic differences in health outcomes but did not take into account possible differences in average ethnic diet at the time. (I haven’t found that article in my files yet. I will update this post if I do find it.) To get to the point directly – native African groups may have kidney differences that conserve calcium better, and possibly not conserve as much magnesium, as other ethnic groups. This would be protective when calcium was not very available in the diet but then would be an increased negative health risk if the diet contained a lot of calcium or phosphorus.

Low magnesium levels, particularly when there is also plenty of phosphorus may increase cardiovascular risks. Adequate magnesium levels are protective and elevated magnesium is unusual and may be increase cardiovascular risks. In good health the body maintains magnesium and other electrolyte levels within specific ranges. (5) Higher magnesium levels have also been associated with higher levels of potassium and of albumin, a blood plasma protein, (6), which is important for fluid balance and transport of a variety of chemicals in addition to magnesium (such as steroids, fatty acids, and thyroid hormones (wikipedia/serum albumin), about 30% of serum magnesium is carried in a non-electrically active form on proteins, primarily albumin (Clinical Biochemistry/serum magnesium) (9).

There may be differences in rate of urinary loss of albumin in different ethnic groups. With the presence of excess abdominal weight participants in a renal study of Hindustani-Surinamese, or African-Surinamese ancestry had an increased likelihood of albuminuria than participants of Dutch ancestry with the greatest risk found in the Hindustani-Surinamese group. (7) Asian Americans and African Americans were found to have better blood albumin levels in a renal study and the Asian Americans had better renal biomarkers compared to other ethnic groups in the study. (8)

When looking at hypertension and high blood pressure risk with the same diet in modern research there is a significant increased risk for African Americans to have high blood pressure and to have it occur earlier in life than in whites. (prevalence in the U.S. of hypertension in adults was “42 % for blacks and 28 % for whites,” (2011-2012)). (2)

So it is a good question – how did hypertension frequency in Africans in the 1920s change from zero to 42% for African Americans in the United States, in 2011-2012? Diet differences that were noted in 2009-2010 between white groups and African American groups were more cholesterol and sugar and less fiber, whole grains, nuts/beans/seeds, fruits and vegetables for the African Americans on average. Dairy intake was not mentioned as being significantly difference. In another research comparison calcium intake was lower on average in African Americans but so was magnesium (Table 1). (2)

Within the introduction and Diet and Blood Pressure sections of the article it is mentioned that ethnic differences in cardiovascular metabolism has been noted in African American groups and that their reduction in blood pressure when following the DASH diet was even better than the reduction in people of other ethnic background who followed the diet (it includes a magnesium rich Beans/Nuts/Seeds group as a daily/weekly recommendation). The INTERMAP study found an increased Sodium to Potassium ratio in urinary excretion and less total Potassium urinary excretion for the African American participants than white participants. (2)

Other research has also supported the idea that high blood pressure may have more to do with excess sodium (salt) intake in relation to low potassium intake than just having to do with the amount of sodium in the diet. Potassium is found in all vegetables and fruits in varying amounts, beans/nuts/seeds, and in liquid milk and yogurt. (Kidney dialysis and other patients with Chronic Kidney Disease have to avoid excess potassium so this article includes a list of potassium rich foods for the purpose of educating regarding what needs to be limited but for people of average kidney health it is a list of good sources to include in the diet: Potassium and Your CKD Diet, National Kidney Foundation.

Learning is an ongoing process, in the meantime some possible health tips for people of any ancestry:

  1. Adequate magnesium is essential for kidney and heart health and high blood pressure is an early symptom of low magnesium levels. Dietary sources may not be sufficient if intestinal absorption is poor or if renal losses are excessive. Epsom salt baths or footsoaks or magnesium chloride are topical forms. Adequate protein and phospholipids in the diet are also important to provide the albumin and other specialized transport molecules that carry magnesium and other chemicals within the vascular or other fluids of body tissue. More information about magnesium sources and symptoms of deficiency are available in a previous post: To have optimal Magnesium needs Protein and Phospholipids too.
  2. Adequate calcium and vitamin D are needed for health however excess may cause an imbalance between calcium and magnesium levels as magnesium is excreted along with excess calcium by the kidneys and less magnesium may be absorbed by the intestines as vitamin D causes increased absorption of calcium and magnesium but calcium may be more available in a modern processed food diet. For more information about vitamin D sources see: Light up your life with Vitamin D, peace-is-happy.org. Deficiency of calcium or of vitamin D can cause secondary hyperparathyroidism which can also be more common in renal failure due to excess phosphorus buildup and deficiency of active vitamin D. The healthy kidney is involved in activating vitamin D. (Secondary hyperparathyroidism, National Kidney Foundation) Calcium is plentiful in most dairy products and is also found in almonds, sesame seeds, beans, dark green leafy vegetables and other produce. Variations of a 2000 calorie menu plan shows that even a vegan diet can provide 1000 milligrams of calcium per day and a menu with dairy products can provide an excess with over 1600 milligrams of calcium, see: Healthy Hair is the Proof-of a healing diet.
  3. The DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) may help because it encourages potassium and magnesium rich vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. Calcium is provided without being over recommended with two to three servings of dairy group foods. See example daily/weekly diet plan recommendations here: What is the DASH diet?, dashdiet.org.
  4. Adequate without excess protein helps protect the kidneys from having to overwork excreting nitrogen from excess protein breakdown. Adequate water is essential for kidney and vascular health as it helps with excretion of toxins and transport of nutrients and oxygen in the vascular system. More information about protein and water recommendations are available in a previous post: Make every day Kidney Appreciation Day.

/Disclaimer: This 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. Thomas Bollyky, Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways, 2018, MIT Press, https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/plagues-and-paradox-progress
  2. Chan Q, Stamler J, Elliott P. Dietary factors and higher blood pressure in African-Americans. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2015;17(2):10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315875/“Marked ethnic differences exist in bone metabolism and development of calcified atherosclerotic plaque (CP). Relative to European-Americans, African-Americans have lower rates of osteoporosis (despite ingesting less dietary calcium), form fewer calcium-containing kidney stones and manifest skeletal resistance to PTH (1,2,3). Systemic differences in regulation of calcium and phosphorus appear to be involved (4). Related phenomena may include the markedly lower amounts of calcified CP in African-Americans, despite the presence of more severe conventional cardiovascular disease risk factors (5,6,7,8,9). Together these observations suggest biologically mediated ethnic differences in the regulation of bone and vascular health.” […]  “The DASH/DASH-Na diet BP reduction was more pronounced for blacks compared to whites [313637]. Although the DASH dietary approach has been incorporated into lifestyle changes recommended for patients with HTN [3], data show that few hypertensive Americans consume diets even modestly concordant with the DASH diet and less so for blacks [38]. Only about 19 % of individuals with known HTN from NHANES 1999–2004 had DASH-concordant diets.”
  3. Barry I. Freedman, et al, Vitamin D, Adiposity, and Calcified Atherosclerotic Plaque in African-Americans,J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 March; 95(3): 1076–1083. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841532/?tool=pubmed]  
  4. Potassium and Your CKD Diet, National Kidney Foundation, https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium
  5. Ryota Ikee, Cardiovascular disease, mortality, and magnesium in chronic kidney disease: growing interest in magnesium-related interventions, Renal Replacement Therapy2018 4:1,   https://rrtjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41100-017-0142-7
  6. Noriaki Kurita, Tadao Akizawa, Masafumi Fukagawa, Yoshihiro Onishi, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Shunichi Fukuhara; Contribution of dysregulated serum magnesium to mortality in hemodialysis patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism: a 3-year cohort study, Clinical Kidney Journal, Volume 8, Issue 6, 1 December 2015, Pages 744–752, https://doi.org/10.1093/ckj/sfv097
  7. van Valkengoed IG, Agyemang C, Krediet RT, Stronks K. Ethnic differences in the association between waist-to-height ratio and albumin-creatinine ratio: the observational SUNSET study. BMC Nephrol. 2012;13:26. Published 2012 May 7. doi:10.1186/1471-2369-13-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492102/
  8. Frankenfield DL, et al., Differences in intermediate outcomes for Asian and non-Asian adult hemodialysis patients in the United States, Kidney International, Vol 64, Issue 2, Aug. 2003, pp 623-631 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0085253815493706
  9. M H Kroll, R J Elin, Relationships between magnesium and protein concentrations in serum. Clinical Chemistry Feb 1985, 31 (2) 244-246; http://clinchem.aaccjnls.org/content/31/2/244.long

Pumpkin seeds – rich in zinc

Pumpkin seed kernels, raw, unsalted.

Pumpkin seed kernels are a good source of protein, essential fats, fiber, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals – and a great source of zinc which may be lacking in vegetarian or vegan diets. (Pumpkin Seeds – Benefits, nutrition and dietary tips.) (Other vegetarian sources of zinc.)

Work is progressing on the development of pumpkin seed flour for use as a food thickening substance for use in gravies or other sauces or stews. It would increase the protein, essential fatty acids, and other trace nutrient content of the resulting foods. (10) The use of pumpkin seeds in the diet may also prove to be protective against cancer and liver or kidney injury; and as a good source of antioxidants such as carotenoids (vitamin A family of nutrients) the use of pumpkin seeds in the diet may prove to be helpful against many conditions that involve excess oxidative stress. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) They are also a source of vitamin E (tocopherols), other phytosterols, and linoleic acid, a beneficial polyunsaturated fat. Pumpkin seed oil may be helpful in wound healing. (15) Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of phospholipids, (16), which are important for skin and membrane health.

Pumpkins are considered a drought tolerant plant for gardeners. Adequate water is needed to grow larger pumpkin and squash but the vines can survive limited water conditions. The seeds of other summer and winter squash are also nutrient rich and also may be more drought tolerant plants. (11, 12) Enough but not too much water at the right times are critical. Flooding or severe drought may both harm the garden yield. Mulching and drip irrigation or other watering methods applied at optimal stages of growth can be the water thrifty solution for best yield. (13, 14)

The seeds of butternut squash and some types of winter squash can be collected when trimming the squash and later toasted and eaten as a crunchy nutritious snack. India grocery markets may also have shelled squash seeds available for sale. They are slightly smaller and paler in color than the shelled pumpkin kernels in the image above.

Magnesium is one of the beneficial nutrients found in pumpkin seeds. It is a mineral that is needed in greater quantity during pregnancy and high blood pressure/hypertension can be a symptom of deficiency. Preeclampsia and the more severe eclampsia are complications characterized by high blood pressure and edema/swelling that can occur during pregnancy. Toxins collect in the excess fluid buildup and can risk a brain condition similar to hypertension encephalopathy in the more severe eclampsia. Seizure activity can result and death for the woman and expected infant are risks. Magnesium is used as an intravenous or intramuscular injection to reduce risk of the seizures during eclampsia. The mineral seems to help protect the blood brain barrier and reduce swelling in the brain during eclampsia. It’s role as an antioxidant to reduce free radical toxins may be involved but the exact mechanism for its benefit in eclampsia is not known. (2, page 139)

More information about preclampsia is available in a previous post, and more information about food sources and supplement sources of magnesium is also available in a previous post.

I have several writing projects in draft mode however they overlap – pumpkin seeds, a good source of magnesium and zinc, helped my previous prenatal clients who had a history of preeclampsia or high blood pressure in a previous pregnancy prevent a reocurrence of the problem. Why? Possibly because of the magnesium and other beneficial nutrients which could be protecting the blood brain barrier and might then also be helpful for preventing harm to oligodendrocytes and protect against demyelination – a risk that can occur with some types of encephalopathy (3).

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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827242/Megan Ware, What are the health benefits of pumpkin seeds?, July 24, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303864.php
  2. Mehmet Kaya, Bulent Ahishali, Chapter 9: The role of magnesium in edema and blood brain barrier disruption, page 139, in the book edited by Robert Vink, Mihai Nechifor, Magnesium in the Central Nervous System, University of Adelaide Press, 2011, adelaide.edu.au, free ebook pdf, https://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/magnesium/magnesium-ebook.pdf  (2
  3. S. Love, Demyelinating Diseases, J Clin Pathol. 2006 Nov; 59(11): 1151–1159.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1860500/ (3)
  4. Scientific Studies collection on a commercial website by Pepo Farms, https://pepofarms.com.au/scientificstudies/ (4) which includes:
  5. M. Gossell-Williams, A. Davis, N. O’Connor, Inhibition of Testosterone-Induced Hyperplasia of the Prostate of Sprague-Dawley Rats by Pumpkin Seed Oil. Jun 2006, Vol. 9, No. 2 : 284 -286. 
  6. C. Z. Nkosi, A. R. Opoku, S. E. Terblanche, Antioxidative effects of pumpkin seed (Cucurbita pepo) protein isolate in CCl4-Induced liver injury in low-protein fed rats.
  7. Fahim AT Abd-el Fattah AA Agha AM Gad MZ
    Effect of pumpkin-seed oil on the level of free radical scavengers induced during adjuvant-arthritis in rats.
    In: Pharmacol Res (1995 Jan) 31(1):73-9 ISSN: 1043-6618
  8. Suphakarn VS Yarnnon C Ngunboonsri P, The effect of pumpkin seeds on oxalcrystalluria and urinary compositions of children in hyperendemic area. In: Am J Clin Nutr (1987 Jan) 45(1):115-21 ISSN: 0002-9165
  9. Matus Z Molnar P Szabo LG [Main carotenoids in pressed seeds (Cucurbitae semen) of oil pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo convar. pepo var. styriaca)] Olajtok (Cucurbita pepo convar. pepo var. styriaca) magjabol nyert presmaradek ossz-karotinoid-tartalmanak es karotinoid-osszetetelenek meghatarozasa. In: Acta Pharm Hung (1993 Sep) 63(5):247-56 ISSN: 0001-6659 (Published in Hungarian)  * The main carotenoids included per the Pepo Farms site: “The main components of the press-residue were lutein [3,3′-dihydroxy-alpha-carotene = (3R,3’R,6’R)-beta,epsilon-carotene-3,3′-diol; 52.5%] and beta- carotene (beta,epsilon-carotene; 10.1%). In addition to the above- mentioned pigments it was successful to reveal the presence of violaxanthin, luteoxanthin, auroxanthin epimers, lutein epoxide, flavoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, 9(9′)-cis-lutein, 13(13′)-cis- lutein, 15-cis-lutein (central-cis)-lutein, alpha-cryptoxanthin, beta- cryptoxanthin and alpha-carotene (beta,epsilon-carotene) in small quantities.”  (4)
  10. Initial food technology research on the preparation and use of pumpkin seed flour for use in more nutritious gravy type sauces: Sharma G, Lakhawat S., Development, Quality Evaluation and Acceptability of Pumpkin Seed Flour Incorporated in Gravy. J Nutr Food Sci 7:613. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000613      https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/development-quality-evaluation-and-acceptability-of-pumpkin-seed-flourincorporated-in-gravy-2155-9600-1000613.php?aid=91345
  11. EllenB, Growing Drought Tolerant Vegetables, June 9, 2009, ThriftyFun.com, https://www.thriftyfun.com/Growing-Drought-Tolerant-Vegetables.html (11)
  12. Troy Scott, Drought Tolerant Vegetables for your Garden, July 9 2018, HeavenlyGreens.com http://www.heavenlygreens.com/blog/drought-tolerant-vegetables-for-your-garden (12)
  13. Joan Morris, Vegetable Gardening in a Drought, mercurynews.com, April 1, 2015,  https://www.mercurynews.com/2015/04/01/vegetable-gardening-in-a-drought/ (13)
  14. Extension Utah State University, Vegetable Irrigation: Squash and Pumpkin, Horticulture/Vegetables/2015-4,   https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1744&context=extension_curall (14)
  15. Bardaa S, Ben Halima N, Aloui F, et al. Oil from pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) seeds: evaluation of its functional properties on wound healing in rats. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2016;15:73. doi:10.1186/s12944-016-0237-0. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827242/ (15)
  16. Zh.Y. Petkova, G.A. Antova, Changes in the composition of pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita moschata) during development and maturation. Grassas Y Aceites, 66 (1), Jan–March 2015, e058. http://grasasyaceites.revistas.csic.es/index.php/grasasyaceites/article/viewFile/1523/1658 (16)

Demyelination, continued.

The last post got a little long and it included a link to another health writer who was summarizing a large amount of material on the topic of demyelination – it is amazing what you can learn by reading. I only mentioned the article, (22), briefly because it was already a long post and I hadn’t checked the other writer’s references, (it is primarily all medical research from peer reviewed journals (22.1)); and some of his recommendations are not typical, however I had read of them elsewhere so it seemed thorough and well written. The truly intriguing part for me was just how many other conditions there are that may be susceptible to demyelination and increased negative symptoms due to nerve degeneration.

I have a few of the problems that were mentioned and I have had early symptoms of nerve numbness and pain in my extremities – fingertips particularly. Health is easier to maintain then to restore once chronic conditions develop. I have managed to reverse the nerve numbness and occasional pain that I was having in my fingertips but it is with several daily or weekly health habits, not just a simple take-this-medication-once-a-day solution.

The list of psychiatric conditions that may also have demyelination summarized in an article about possible ways to regenerate myelin, (22):

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Dyslexia 
  • Language disorders 
  • Stuttering 
  • Autism 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • Cognitive decline 
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Tourette’s syndrome 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Tone deafness
  • Pathological lying
  • (22)

That is quite a list – protect your oligodendrocytes, because they protect your ability to think and communicate, to control your ability to control your movements and to have stable moods, reduce anxiety, and control your ability to be able to read and speak and to be able to control your impulses and ability to prevent yourself from lying or saying things you don’t intend to say, and to be able to understand that your thoughts are your own thoughts, and to be able to hear accurately. The reference given for the information is this article: [45].

Neurology is the study of the nervous system, Psychiatry or Psychology is the study of mental health and neuropsychiatry is the study of mental symptoms caused by neurological conditions.

This topic of psychiatric conditions and other conditions that may also have demyelination is also reviewed in a summary of Neurotoxicology for neurologists: (6.Neurotoxicology). Neurology is the study of the nerves and nervous system. The nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord and all of the nerves throughout the body. It is subdivided into two main categories: the Central Nervous System (CNS) refers to the brain, the spinal cord and nerves of the brain and spinal cord; and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) refers to the nerves throughout the rest of the body. Neurologists are medical doctors who specialize in conditions affecting the nervous system. They may focus on a subspeciality within the field of neurology (What is a neurologist?, HealthLine) Interestingly dementia, chronic headaches, and Multiple sclerosis are mentioned as possible conditions they treat but all the other psychiatric conditions mentioned in the list that may involve demyelination are not mentioned.

The overview article on Neurotoxicology does mention that psychiatric symptoms may occur in patients with neurological conditions but that the symptoms tend to be dismissed by neurologists, and are not studied in depth, so more reliable information is needed about psychiatric symptoms presenting with neurological disorders  – see “Psychiatric and behavioural disorders.” (6.Neurotoxicology) An article for neurologists goes into more detail about psychiatric symptoms that might deserve consultation with a neurologist rather than having the patient only see a psychiatrist: Neurological syndromes which can be mistaken for psychiatric conditions. Early symptoms of Multiple sclerosis for example sometimes may be mistaken for a psychiatric condition. (Neurological syndromes) Talk therapy or psychiatric medications are not going to help a patient regenerate their myelin after all. Neuropyschiatrists are neurologists that also have a degree in psychology and specialize in treating patients with mental health and behavioral symptoms related to neurological disorders. (neuropsychiatrists)

PTSD was also mentioned as a psychiatric condition that may have demyelination.[45]

Reading the article that was referenced for the list of psychiatric conditions that may also have demyelination [45] provided an additional condition that was not added to the list in the summary article about potential ways to help regenerate myelin (22) – PTSD also may involve demyelination, and confirmed the rest of the list were mentioned [45] . The article also includes more background information about the function and development of the myelin sheath in learning and behavior.

Nerves with myelin provide a much faster signal and oligodendrocytes myelinate several different nerves so there is additional benefit in signals that work in a coordinated manner to also improve speed of function. The myelination occurs over time so the phrase practice, practice, practice applies. Peak time of life to learn skills is in our youth because that is when the majority of myelination occurs -starting in early childhood and continuing until the early twenties even up to age thirty. Healing after injury or learning a new skill later in life would still require the practice, practice, practice so the speedy pathways between groups of nerve cells develop their myelin sheaths in coordinated connections. [45]

This information may help show the difficulties faced by people with PTSD or other psychiatric conditions – the brain connections are coordinated in patterns learned from traumatic memories or are stuck in Obsessive Compulsive patterns. The problem with impulse control might also make more sense if there is simply “leaky” wiring in the brain. Signals that were intended to do one thing might end up activating other behaviors because the myelin sheath is no longer functioning as expected.

A cognitive therapy technique, involving frequent practice/repetition of new ways to talk to yourself – it might help strengthen more positive neural networks with new myelin sheath connections.

Learning new patterns of thinking, replacing traumatic or anxious thoughts that were learned as a child or during a traumatic phase of life can take time and a lot of repetition but it is possible, just like it can be possible to relearn how to walk or do other basic life skills after a stroke or traumatic physical injury. A book by Shad Helmstetter, PhD discusses how to rephrase your own internal self talk to be more positive and gives examples for a number of different types of concerns. I found the technique helpful for emotional overeating and share phrases that I wrote regarding healthy eating and lifestyle and a link to the book in a previous post: “What to Say When You’re Talking to Yourself.” The recommendation that I followed was to read the statements several times every day – for a while, months even. I don’t remember how long I read them daily but it was for quite a while and I still have the little ring binder of statements that I wrote.

Often changing behavior patterns is easier when the new pattern is created first, rather then trying to stop the old first. Build the new and then the old is no longer needed.  Addition, I found the source of that idea:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

A new way to think about demyelination – what is the underlying problem? Possibly excess cell death, at rates above the ability to breakdown and remove nucleotides (ATP, ADP, UTP, UDP).

The article on demyelination and cognitive disorders, [45] , also mentioned that adenosine plays a role in signaling oligodendrocytes to make myelin and an article with more information on the topic mentions that increased amounts of ATP, ADP, UTP, UDP can signal breakdown of myelin. Increased presence of those chemicals was suggested to possibly be due to increased cell death without normal clearing away of the old cellular material. And some types of Multiple sclerosis seems to involve increased levels of the enzyme that breaks down adenosine so there would be less available to signal the production of myelin. (8.adenosine in MS)

Take home point – protect against excessive cell death and/or mitochondria damage by not having excessive glutamate (11.link) or aspartate – excitatory amino acids that may be overly available in the modern processed food diet – and by having adequate magnesium to protect the cells from their interior by providing the needed energy to block ion channels in the cell membrane and prevent excessive amounts of calcium, glutamate or aspartate from being able to cross the cell membrane and enter the cell’s interior.

As usual however, it is not that simple, (not that avoiding glutamate and aspartate in the diet is easy, they are in many processed foods), other things can also cause excessive cell death.

  • Exposure to toxins in the environment or due to drug use, illicit or legal, can cause excessive cell death and lead to demyelination disorders. An overview:(6.Neurotoxicology)
  • Lack of oxygen can also be a cause. Lack of nutrients in general can increase the breakdown of cellular parts to provide enough nutrients however if malnutrition is severe and ongoing the breakdown (autophagy) can become excessive. (7.Metabolic Stress, Autophagy & Cell Death)
  • Traumatic injury and infection can increase the  rate of cell death above the level that the body’s detoxification systems can cope with clearing away the cellular material. Traumatic injury is associated with increased risk for infection for reasons that are not well understood, the immune system is considered functionally suppressed: (10.Immunobiology of Trauma) Also mentioned briefly in the Skeletal Muscle section of this overview: (6.Neurotoxicology).
  • Anything that causes excess oxidative stress may cause increased rates of mitochondria breakdown so protecting against stress is protecting the mitochondria which is protecting the cells. (7.Metabolic Stress, Autophagy & Cell Death) Mitochondria are the main energy producers within cells and make up about thirty percent of the volume of cardiac/heart cells. Other type of mitochondrial problems can also increase risk of their switching from promoting health through energy production into a mode that promotes cell death. One of the roles mitochondria play in normal health is storage of excess intracellular calcium. If the mitochondria become dysfunctional then the extra calcium is released into the cell where it can signal increased activity such as release of cannabinoids from the membranes. (9.mitochondria in CVD)

This is approaching really long again, so I am stopping here for now.

/Disclosure: This 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. Jordan Fallis, 27 Proven Ways to Promote the Regeneration of Myelin. Feb. 18, 2017, Optimal Living Dynamics,   https://www.optimallivingdynamics.com/blog/25-proven-ways-to-promote-the-regeneration-of-myelin (22)
  2. Reference list: https://www.optimallivingdynamics.com/myelin-references (22.1)
  3. R. Douglas Fields, White Matter in Learning, Cognition, and Psychiatric DisordersTrends Neurosci. 2008 Jul; 31(7): 361–370.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2486416/ [45]
  4. Butler CZeman AZJ, Neurological syndromes which can be mistaken for psychiatric conditions
  5. Anne Masi, Marilena M. DeMayo, Nicholas Glozier, Adam J. Guastella, An Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Heterogeneity and Treatment Options. Neuroscience Bulletin, Vol 33, Iss 2, pp 183–193, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12264-017-0100-y (autism link)
  6. Harris JBBlain PG, Neurotoxicology: what the neurologist needs to know.


  7. Brian J. Altman, Jeffrey C. Rathmell, Metabolic Stress in Autophagy and Cell Death Pathways. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Sep 1;4(9):a008763 http://cshperspectives.cshlp.org/content/4/9/a008763.full (7.Metabolic Stress & Cell Death)
  8. Marek Cieślak, Filip Kukulski, Michał Komoszyński, Emerging Role of Extracellular Nucleotides and Adenosine in Multiple sclerosisPurinergic Signal. 2011 Dec; 7(4): 393–402.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3224637/ (8.adenosine in MS)
  9. Sang-Bing Ong, Asa B. Gustafsson, New roles for mitochondria in cell death in the reperfused myocardium. Cardiovascular Research, Vol. 94, Issue 2, 1 May 2012, pp 190–196, https://academic.oup.com/cardiovascres/article/94/2/190/268169 (9.mitochondria in CVD)
  10. Dr. Daniel Remick, pre-ARC Director, Immunobiology of Trauma, pre-Affinity Research Collaborative (ARC), Boston University Medical Center, http://www.bumc.bu.edu/evanscenteribr/files/2009/07/pre-arcimmunologytrauma.pdf  (10.Immunobiology of Trauma)
  11. Howard Prentice, Jigar Pravinchandra Modi, Jang-Yen Wu, Mechanisms of Neuronal Protection against Excitotoxicity, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, and Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Stroke and Neurodegenerative Diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Vol. 2015, Article ID 964518, 7 pages,Hindawi.com https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2015/964518/ (11.link
  12. Blaylock, R.L. (1996). Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Health Press. ISBN 0-929173-25-2
  13. Blaylock, R.L. (a neurosurgeon) podcast Excitotoxinshttp://www.blaylockhealthchannel.com/bhc-ep-18-excitotoxins (Excitotoxins podcast)
  14. Excitotoxicity, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excitotoxicity (Excitotoxicity)
  15. Aspartic Acid, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartic_acid (Aspartic Acid/Aspartate)