Saturday, December 28, 2002 Issue 1

Provided by Richard Grossman, L.Ac., O.M.D., Ph.D.


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In the News

Condition of the Month

Test of the Month

Self Help

Recipe of the Month



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Dear Friends,

Welcome to my first edition of Healing Points E-Newsletter.  For this first edition, I decided to focus on Cardiovascular Health, since heart disease is the number one cause of death.  It is also quite easily prevented.  I hope you get great value from Healing Points.  Your comments, suggestions, questions, (and praise) are appreciated. 

In the News  - Cholesterol Drug Dangers

Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Suppress Immune System

The most popular class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as the statins, have been found to suppress certain immune system cells known as helper T-cells, according to new research from Switzerland.

In an interesting twist on the study's findings of this adverse effect, however, it is being hailed as a benefit.

The researchers and subsequent media reports have focused on the fact that the drugs may be useful for treating transplant patients. However, how this immune suppression could affect the vast majority of patients taking the drugs is not discussed.

"This unexpected effect provides a scientific rationale for using statins as immunosuppressors, not only in organ transplantation, but in numerous other pathologies as well," the researchers conclude.

Researchers found that in laboratory-grown cells, the statin drugs suppressed the activation of helper T-cells. T cells, of which there are 4 types, are a group of lymphocytes produced in the thymus gland. The four types are:

*    Helper T cells

*    Killer T cells

*    Suppressor T cells

*    T4 cells


Helper T cells, the type suppressed by the statin drugs, act by recognizing foreign pathogens and then activating the production of the proper T cells and B cells in response.

The statin drugs used in the study included the following:

Lipitor™ (atorvastatin)

Mevacor™ (lovastatin)

Pravachol™ (pravastatin)


The concentrations of the drugs were very similar to doses used in patients, Dr. Wulf Palinski of the University of California, San Diego, explained in an editorial accompanying the study.

In comments to Reuters Health, Dr. Palinski notes that "how the statins worked was not well-established. The current study suggests a biological mechanism for how these drugs work."

Nature Medicine, December, 2000; 6: 1311-1312, 1399-1402


Dr. Grossaman’s Comment:  There is another way to lower the immune system.  It’s called AIDS.  This study again shows that using pharmaceutical drugs should be a last resort for the treatment of simple conditions that respond excellently to nutritional and dietary healing.

Condition of the Month - Arteriosclerosis


Intimal thickening of one or many arteries due to localized accumulation of fatty material (atheromas).


There are several types of arteriosclerosis, the global term for formation of atheromas in the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the most important kind of arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis effects are the major cause of mortality from illness in the U.S. (at least 33%). The disease seems to favor blood vessels of high importance (cardiac, kidney, cerebral), and the peripheral arteries (causing much illness). The mechanism of atheromatous development is still theoretical, but suggests that injury to the lining of the blood vessel from turbulence, hypertension, hypoxia (lack of oxygen), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or free radicals causes smooth muscle cells to proliferate at the lesion site to initiate regrowth of tissues. Low Density Lipoprotein attaches to the smooth muscle cells to stimulate them to multiply. But the uptake of cholesterol (a major component of LDL) into the inner lining of the blood vessels leads to the formation of an atheroma that is later hardened by calcium deposits.


Other implicated factors include the following:


Homocysteine is believed to contribute directly to the early stages of atherosclerosis by damaging the intima, the cells that line blood vessels. Elevated serum homocysteine levels are found in 20 - 40% of the population. Patients with even slightly elevated homocysteine have more than three times the risk of suffering a heart attack compared to those showing normal homocysteine levels. (Stampfer, MJ, et al. JAMA 1992;268:977-981. Many cardiovascular patients have mild elevations. (Franken, DG, et al. Amer J Clin Nutr 1993; 57:47-53). Studies have revealed that homocysteine levels strongly correlated with blood and dietary folic acid and dietary intake of Vitamin B-6. (Selhub, J, et al. JAMA 1993;270:2693-8.) Likewise, similar, though weaker, inverse correlations were found for blood levels of Vitamins B-12 and B-6 and homocysteine. The lowest homocysteine levels corresponded with dietary intakes of folic acid and Vitamin B-6 well above the RDA.


Hydrogenated oils (including partially hydrogenated oils) are significantly atherosclerotic. Ironically, hydrogenated oils such as margarine were for many years believed to be healthier because they were cholesterol-free. However, the rise of myocardial infarctions and heart disease in general can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s, when hydrogenated oils were first being introduced and used in foods. Hydrogenated oils are unsaturated oils that are heated, pressurized and then chemically altered with nickel (or a similar metal), changing the biochemical formation from the natural "cis" formation (liquid state at room temperature) into the synthetic "trans" formation (solid state at room temperature). It is now suggested that the synthetic and foreign quality of the trans oil creates damage to body tissues causing atherosclerotic formation and cancer. Furthermore, polyunsaturates allow significant formation of free radical compounds, thought to cause endothelial damage and predispose to formation of atheromas. Epidemiological research shows that people were eating high cholesterol diets for hundreds or thousands of years (meat, cream, butter, eggs, lard), and yet the epidemic of heart disease began only earlier this century, after the introduction of hydrogenated oils. Of course, this is one among many other contemporary factors related to heart disease, including pollution, sedentary lifestyle, refined sugar and flour products, and poor meat quality due to chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and other additives. Almost all the long-lived, healthy communities where degenerative disease and heart disease were unknown included significant meat or dairy in their diets (Schmid). It seems that the argument that cholesterol alone is the villain in heart disease falters at the evidence of those communities. It now seems that use of monounsaturated oils such as olive an canola, and moderate use of short-chain fatty acids (butter) may be the best way of maintaining "healthy" fat intake.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include: high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus (hyperglycemia), obesity, family history, increased serum lipids, diet high in fats (unsaturated, hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils), sedentary lifestyle, aging, men in general, and women after menopause.

Test of the Month

Comprehensive Cardiovascular Assessment

There's more to cardiovascular health than meets the eye...

You may look and feel great, and your cholesterol levels may even be low-but you could still be at high risk for heart disease. A new test can identify your hidden risks.

Why is it important to get tested?
Almost half of all heart attacks strike people who don't know they're at risk-people without well-known risk factors such as fatty diets, hypertension, smoking, or high cholesterol. That's one reason cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America today, claiming more lives than cancer, accidents, and AIDS combined. However, with this simple test you can find out your hidden risk factors and take steps to protect your health.

What are my hidden risks?
Lipids are fats in the body. Simply speaking, your risk of heart disease is related to the level of blood lipids in your body-i.e., your total cholesterol level. The higher your total cholesterol, the greater your risk. But researchers have recently found that the complete picture is actually much more involved than that.

Scientists have identified new warning markers, related to blood clotting and inflammation, that can play a major role in determining whether an individual will suffer a heart attack. Using these latest advancements in cardiovascular research the  unique Comprehensive Cardiovascular Risk Profile that measures ten important markers and their ratios:

Homocysteine • LDL cholesterol • C-reactive protein • HDL cholesterol • Fibrinogen • Apo B • Lipoprotein(a) • Apo A-1 • Triglycerides • Total cholesterol

What do these markers mean?
You may already be familiar with some of the lipid markers such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which are increased by a diet high in saturated fats or carbohydrates and often lead to heart disease. And HDL cholesterol, commonly called the "good cholesterol," which is bolstered by exercise and fish oils, and actually protects your cardiovascular system. Apo A-1 and Apo B are important protein components of these two cholesterols that influence their movement in the bloodstream and determine their impact on your cardiovascular system.

But besides these important standard markers, there are new independent risk factors that can double or even triple your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Researchers at Harvard recently discovered that C-reactive protein, a protein that indicates inflammation in the body, serves as a strong risk predictor of future heart attack and stroke. Levels of this important protein are increased by past or current infections, such as chlamydia pneumoniae.

Another new marker, homocysteine, is an amino acid that can scrape the lining of blood vessel walls, triggering fatty deposits and atherosclerosis. One study found that men with high homocysteine had 3 times greater risk of heart attack, even when adjustment for other risk factors was considered!

Lipids and proteins are transported through your bloodstream together in packages called lipoproteins. Lipoprotein(a) has been cited by many researchers as the most important marker for predicting the severity of future heart disease. Like homocysteine, it is strongly influenced by heredity.

And finally, fibrinogen is an important agent in the blood clotting process, with high levels linked to both heart disease and stroke. Like the blood lipids, fibrinogen is affected by factors such as smoking, stress, obesity, and aging.

How will I understand the overall test results?
Having a combination of risk factors greatly increases your overall risk of heart disease. That's why your test results will also include a Cardiovascular Risk Index, determined by a multivariate analysis of all of your individual risk factors. So in addition to each individual marker, you get a general indication of your overall cardiac risk.

What kinds of treatment can improve my risk status?
The good news is that almost all the risk factors for cardiovascular disease are modifiable. Cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels can often be managed through an active treatment program that addresses diet, exercise, and stress reduction. C-reactive protein can be reduced using anti-inflammatory agents. And despite being strongly influenced by genetics, homocysteine and Lp(a) can be modified with nutritional therapy. In fact, research evidence confirms that comprehensive lifestyle changes may be able to reduce the effects of even severe heart disease after only one year, without the use of drugs.

Ask yourself: It is currently estimated that 57 million Americans-over one-fifth of the entire U.S. population- have some form of cardiovascular disease. Answer these questions to see if you may be at risk.

*    Do you have a personal history of heart attack, coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, or stroke?

*    Do you have a family history of heart disease?

*    Are you overweight?

*    Do you smoke, drink, or use drugs?

*    Do you suffer from kidney disease?

*    Do you have diabetes?

*    Is your blood pressure high?

*    Do you feel chronic fatigue?

*    Do you often feel anxious or depressed?

*    Do you seldom exercise vigorously?

*    Are you experiencing stress?

*    Is your diet high in saturated or partially hydrogenated fats?

*    Do you use or have you used oral contraceptives?

*    Are you a post-menopausal woman?

*    Do you have a thyroid disorder?

*    Have you experienced chronic illness?

*    Have you been diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance (estradiol, cortisol, insulin, melatonin)?

A yes response to any of the above questions indicates an increased risk of heart disease. The Comprehensive Cardiovascular Risk Profile can provide you with the crucial information you need to reduce your risk.

Self Help- Humor – Part 1

"Humor in the darkest of places is a sign of emergence from grief and depression, an indication of embracing life and healing. Humor can minimize suffering by giving us power in what appears to be a powerless situation." (Klein, p. xxi)


Psychological Benefits:

• Humor gives us power:

We transcend our predicaments and are lifted above our feelings of fear, discouragement, and despair. Bill Cosby has said, 'if you can find humor in something, you can survive it.' People who can laugh at their setbacks no longer feel sorry for themselves. They feel uplifted, encouraged, and empowered. (p. 4)


• Humor helps us cope:

As Hans Selye said, "Nothing erases unpleasant thoughts more effectively than concentration on pleasant ones. Humor helps us cope because it instantly removes us from our pain. Much of the suffering we experience is not a result of our difficulties but how we view them; not so much the event as our relationship with it. By focusing our energy elsewhere, humor can diffuse our stressful events. It releases built-up tension of emotions such as fear, hostility, rage, and anger. Psychoanalyst Martin Grotjahn, author of Beyond Laughter, noted that "to have a sense of humor is to have an understanding of human suffering and misery." (p. 7-9)


• Humor provides perspective:

Humor lends a fresh eye. It expands our picture frame and allows us to see more than just our problem. 'Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up but a comedy in longshot,' as Charlie Chaplin once quipped. (p. 10-13)


• Humor keeps us balanced:

One of the most compassionate things we can do for ourselves is not take ourselves and our imperfections too seriously. When we can find some humor in our losses, those things that we push away, then we are 'honoring our imperfections and chipped edges.' (p. 17)


Physiological Benefits:

That humor is beneficial to our physical well-being is not a new idea. Voltaire has said, 'the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.'

(p. 17)


Norman Cousins calls laughter 'inner jogging.' When we are engaged in a good, hearty laugh, every system in the body gets a workout. As he reported in Anatomy of an Illness, 'I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.' (p. 18)


William Fry, Jr. has studied and reported on many of the physical effects of laughter. He indicates that laboratory studies have shown that mirthful laughter affects most, if not all, of the major physiologic systems of the human body, and is much like aerobic exercise. The cardiovascular system is exercised as heart rate and blood pressure rise and fall again. The heavy breathing creates a vigorous oxygen exchange in the lungs and works the respiratory system. Muscles release tension in the tightening and subsequent relaxation of laughter. And opiates may be released into the bloodstream, resulting in a further sense of well-being. (p. 19)


There is a connection between laughing and crying. Each provides a cathartic cleansing. Each is an important mechanism for releasing stress and tension. Crying is an important part of pain, loss, and grief. We must give ourselves permission to cry, both tears of sorrow and tears of joy. Kahil Gibran once wrote, 'The selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.' (p. 20)

Recipe of the Month

Babaganouj (eggplant dip)

• ingredients:

1 large eggplant

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 dashes cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. basil

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup tahini (raw sesame butter)

1-2 tbsp. tamari (soy sauce without wheat)

• method:

1. Pierce eggplant in several places with a fork. Bake at 450° for about 35 minutes until tender and shriveled. Allow to cool.

2. Meanwhile, grind dry spices in mortar and pestle or rub between hands to grind.

Peel eggplant and mash or puree in blender; if eggplant is organic, it is fine to leave skin intact.

3. Add garlic, dry spices, and parsley and mix.

4. Add lemon juice and tahini and mix again.

5. Season to taste with tamari. Allowing to set will enhance flavors. Serve as vegetable or bread dip, or sandwich spread.


• variation:

1. Thin babaganouj with non-fat yogurt to taste.

2. Stud the eggplant with several cloves of peeled garlic before baking; the heat renders the garlic wonderfully mellow.


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