Let’s maintain healthy skepticism about nutrition research

We keep reading and hearing about conflicting research and fantastic remedy cures. This needs a healthy dose of skepticism. At the very least we need to keep in mind that relationships between food/herbs and health/disease are not linear( see below). For example, the in vogue “magic” spice Turmeric in sensible amounts may be great thing, but in excess it can be a poison as well. How much more you need depends on how much do you consume currently as well as your physiological constitution.

Non-linear relationship between health and quantity of food/herbs/drugs

Alas, to find the right amount ( also known as recommended daily allowance) for optimal health one needs to listen to their own bodies! Slow and steady does it.

Regarding the quality nutritional research here are some excerpts from experts, some of who are less liked than others. Loannidis, a professor of medicine and health research and policy at Stanford University School of Medicine in California opines:

  • Nonstop barrage of associations reported between various foods and chronic diseases inappropriately implies causation and potentially causes more harm than good to the public
  • The noise is much stronger than the signal, even under the best circumstances
  • The field’s reliance on epidemiology to answer questions far too complex for epidemiological methods to address
  • The number and types of confounding (factors) are so intricately related to so many dimensions of lifestyle, social environment, economic status, education, personal experiences, social connectedness, our whereabouts and local circumstances, our personal circumstances…. What and how we eat is dictated by zillions of things, and there’s no way we can measure them. (Confounding is concluding that A causes B when, in reality, some other factor Z causes B. Often times A and Z are related, leading to wrong interpretations.)
  • We have 250,000 different foods and 300,000 edible plants alone, and each time we eat something, it’s different. Our genome is very complex and has many variants, but it’s fixed in our whole lifetime. Nutrition changes from one meal to the next.
  • (We need) …”large-scale, long-term, randomized trials on nutrition…especially for assessing diet patterns”

In a counter argument Walter Willet from Harvard’s School of Public Health says:

  • We agree that we have measurement error, but it’s not to a degree that would make the information not useful, Of course we understand that we cannot measure anything perfectly, but your study doesn’t depend on perfect measurement.
  • The key to meaningful epidemiological nutrition studies, is reducing measurement error through correction and repeating measurement over time with replication, thereby dampening or averaging out measurement error.
  • There’s a lot of bad meta-analyses floating around, and part of it is that anyone with an Internet connection can do a meta-analysis,”.. But high-quality pooled data analyses reveal highly consistent, reproducible results across studies, 

According to Prof. Loannidis we should keep in mind the following when we look at biomedical or any research for that matter:

  • The smaller the studies conducted in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
  • The smaller the effect sizes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
  • The greater the number and the lesser the selection of tested relationships in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
  • The greater the flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
  • The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.
  • The hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Unfortunately the controversies in nutrition are not limited to just specific foods but apply to entire food classes and the food pyramid itself. To name a few: Low fat-high fat; low carb- high carb; low protein-high protein; sugar yes-sugar no; plant-animal, GMO-organic. You can pick any side and come out with supposedly convincing arguments.


-John P. A. Ioannidis. “The Challenge of Reforming Nutritional Epidemiologic Research” JAMA. Published online: August 23, 2018. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2018.11025.


-“Is Nutrition Research Seriously Flawed?…” Tara Helle on medscape.com


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.

Global Vitamin D deficiency amidst a shining sun, fortified food….and Roundup?

Isn’t it strange that there is a global deficiency of Vitamin D? Even if your doctors tested it and found the levels too low, they simply suggest a supplement. Have we ever bothered to find out why? Is there something deeper, a macro factor, lurking in our food supply?

Prevalence of low vitamin D status in adults worldwide:

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 6.52.52 PM.png

Institute of Medicine considers Calcidiol or 25 (OH)D level <50 nmol/l to be deficient while others consider deficiency level below 75 nmol/l (Source: NCBI “Is vitamin D deficiency a major global public health problem?” by Cristina Palacious and Lilliana Gonzalez 

Vitamin D is fat soluble and in its inactive form, comes from dietary vitamin D2 (of plant origin-yeast, fungi) and D3 (of animal origin-fish, egg yolk). However, the primary source is exposure to the sun’s UVB rays which convert one form of body cholesterol into D3.

Subsequently, both D2 and D3 are first activated through P450 class of enzymes in the liver and converted into Calcidiol or 25(OH)D which is the storage form of vitamin D with a half life of two to six months. Our blood reports track the level of Calcidiol in the body. Calcidiol is further converted by the kidneys by P450 enzymes into Calcitriol or 1,25(OH)D which has a half life of four to six hours. The conversion into Calcitriol is controlled by complex hormonal regulation in the body which among other things  is triggered by inflammation present in the body.  Inflammation accompanies every single disease and existence of chronic diseases would imply that body’s Calcitriol stores get rapidly depleted.

Deficient vitamin D levels are associated, among other problems, with calcium and potassium deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, osteoporosis, increase in parathyroid hormone, type 2 diabetes, depression and cancer. There are number of factors that can influence vitamin D levels, such as exposure to sunlight which in turn depends on the latitude, clothing type, excess use of sunscreen, fat malabsorption, toxic liver, parathyroid disease, low calcium intake and a poor gut health.

My focus here is on the gut microbiome which supposedly results in suppression of the  P450 enzymes which are critical for Vitamin D availability to the body.  Unfortunately, glycophosphate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, has been found to be associated with this suppression of these P450 enzymes. In fact a host of non-communicable diseases, including obesity, celiac disease, leaky gut, anemia, thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma, breast and counting) have all been associated with the global presence of this herbicide in the food chains. And yes, the honey bees are also dying due to this very reason!

While Monsanto denies any disease causation and experts still debate the implied causation/validity of some studies, global use of Roundup has been steadily going up. Global use is up about fifteen times since 1996. In fact, EPA has increased the allowed glycophosphate tolerance levels (in ppm) to go up. For example, during the period 1993 to 2015, for soy grain it went from 20 to 40, in corn grain from 0.1 to 5, for oat grain from 0.1 to 30, and for wheat also from 0.1 to 30. As a consumer your total intake would obviously be the sum total of all glycophosphate contained in food that you eat.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 3.51.28 PM.png

Source: Springeropen.com, National Agriculture Statistical Service  

Incidentally, this increased use of glycophosphate has been predominantly applied to genetically engineered herbicide tolerant crops. Yet even organic and non-GMO crops are subjected to glycophosphate because of water run-off as well as overground and underground seepage, which finally goes into our oceans. In addition to being used as a weed killer, glycophosphate is also being directly sprayed on crops as a pre-harvest desiccant to help dry the grain. The extent of this practice has not yet been fully quantified.

Where does this leave us? Unfortunately there are no simple solutions to be found by just looking at one piece of the puzzle. This is NOT a scientific paper or an in-depth analysis. We are simply trying to connect the dots and it doesn’t paint a nice picture. We started with vitamin D and ended up with glycophosphate. Any disease is a systems problem. There are multiple factors in both the internal and the external environment that are responsible. As consumers of sugar, corn, soy and wheat, let us at least stay tuned because this involves our entire food ecosystem.

Sources and references:

1)NCBI”Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin” by Rathish Nair and Arun Maseeh Low

2)NCBI “Vitamin D Status: Definition, Prevalence, Consequences and Correction” by Neil Binkley and others, 

3) NCBI “Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally” by Charles M. Benbrook 

4)NCBI “Is it time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?” by Laura N Vandenberg and twelve others

5)Mdpi.com “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases” by Anthony Samsel  and Stephanie Seneff

6)NCBI “Inflammation and vitamin D: the infection connection” by Meg Mangin and others

7) Monsanto Roundup Cancer Lawsuit – Law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman

8) NCBI “Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis” by Laura Tripovic and ten others.

9) Plos.org  “Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations ≥40 ng/ml Are Associated with >65% Lower Cancer Risk: Pooled Analysis of Randomized Trial and Prospective Cohort Study” by  Sharon L. McDonnell and others.

10)NCBI “Facts and Fallacies in the Debate on Glyphosate Toxicity” by Robin Mesnage and Michael N. Antonio

11)NCBI: “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance” by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff 


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.

Abnormal levels of micronutrients are associated with cancer gene expression.

Cancer is associated with multiple iterations of detrimental mutation variations, of both activating and suppressor kinds, in the genome over time. We all react differently to nutrition and the end result is a function of gene diet interaction along with our genetic susceptibility to cancer.  During normal cell division the code of the DNA genes is transcribed ( or expressed!) into RNA, a copy of which is translated into proteins that do the work of signaling, communication and controlling metabolism.  Over the course of a few billion iterations a handful of errant mutations do happen, but they usually are taken care of by the body’s regulatory mechanisms like suppressor genes.  It is epigenetic ( i.e in addition to the changes in genetic sequence) regulation that ensures which genes are transcribed to RNA in each cell. One such more researched epigenetic process involves methylation  which stems from either addition or removal of methyl group (CH3) to the the DNA’s genetic base.

Epigenetic regulation is impacted by multiple factors which include nutrition, behavior and environment. This for instance, can lead to either hyper-methylation or hypo-methylation, both of which are associated with adverse epigenetic regulation which in turn is associated with  cancer and a host of other non-communicable diseases. Besides, these epigenetic changes could endure at least four subsequent generations.

Here are some observations from recent and ongoing vitamin related nutrition research on the topic:

  • B Vitamins ( folate, folic acid, B2, B6 B12 and especially folate), according to a growing body of evidence, modulate epigenetic mechanisms, disturbance in which is associated with cancer and other diseases.
  • Vitamin C or ascorbate can be epigenetically involved in cancer and other diseases.
  • Vitamin D is central to many body processes. It plays a central role in hormone physiology and the maintenance of a normal epigenetic landscape.

While the above discussion is only illustrative and certainly not exhaustive , as a takeaway please request your doctor to track Vitamin D and and other micronutrient levels on an annual basis. Your insurance may not cover these tests because they are deemed investigational, but you owe it to yourself and future generations don’t you?

Remember that gulping the alphabet vitamin soup is not a magical way to be healthy. Excess and deficiency of nutrients could be both harmful and it is important to maintain a diverse nutritional intake which ensures a normal level of micronutrients in the body. Alas, the body is a complex system which needs to be in harmony both internally and with external stimuli for proper functioning. There are just no shortcuts!

References:  “Epigenetics and Lifestyle” by Jorge Alexjandro-Torres and others ( NCBI),     ” The Epigenetic Role of Vitamin C in Health and Disease” by Vladimir Camarena and others (NCBI); “Vitamin D and the epigenome” by Irfete S. Fetahu and others (NCBI)


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.

Medicine Nobel for “molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms” . Didn’t Ayurveda already mention it a few thousand years ago?

Ayurveda and “Circadian Rhythm And Well-being

“This 2017 Nobel Prize winning research work is based on the circadian rhythm, which refers to biochemical oscillators that respond to solar cycles. Laureates Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash discovered that PER, the protein encoded by period, accumulated during the night and was degraded during the day. Thus, PER protein levels oscillate over a 24-hour cycle, in synchrony with the circadian rhythm.

It is striking to note how Ayurveda establishes the link between the revolution-rotation of the earth and human health. According to Ayurveda, the different tridoshas (the three humors: Vata, Pitta and Kapha, in the body that need to be balanced for perfect health), are predominant during different times of the day. For instance, Pitta Dosha which controls digestion, metabolism and energy production is high between 10am and 2pm. Pitta ensures the availability of energy to perform various activities. This very well correlates with the high alertness, best co-ordination and fastest reaction times shown in the illustration below. Research works on circadian rhythm from the perspective of Ayurveda correlate the time of the day and hormonal activity, very similar to the degeneration of protein with the day as discovered by the laureates. For example, Kapha dosha is predominant in early phase of the day. Most of the hormones are at the peak level in the morning and they decline with the time and are lowest at the evening time.”

From Nobel Prize summary:

“Keeping time on our human physiology

The biological clock is involved in many aspects of our complex physiology. We now know that all multicellular organisms, including humans, utilize a similar mechanism to control circadian rhythms. A large proportion of our genes are regulated by the biological clock and, consequently, a carefully calibrated circadian rhythm adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day (below). Since the seminal discoveries by the three laureates, circadian biology has developed into a vast and highly dynamic research field, with implications for our health and wellbeing.

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 8.12.01 AM.png

 The circadian clock anticipates and adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day. Our biological clock helps to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release, blood pressure, and body temperature.”

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 8.13.08 AM.png

 A simplified illustration of the feedback regulation of the periodgene. The figure shows the sequence of events during a 24h oscillation. When the period gene is active, period mRNA is made. The mRNA is transported to the cell’s cytoplasm and serves as template for the production of PER protein. The PER protein accumulates in the cell’s nucleus, where the period gene activity is blocked. This gives rise to the inhibitory feedback mechanism that underlies a circadian rhythm.”

Source: Swarajyamag.com; Nobelprize.org


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.

Stress induced hormone imbalances and cancer gene expression

I often struggle with my friends who look for a simple solution to their health problems while totally ignoring the impact of their crazily paced lives on their minds and hormonal balances. Unfortunately excessive stress:

Reset, slow down, take a deep breath, cuddle and secrete some beneficial oxytocin!

Source: NCBI  “Stress and hormones” by Salam Ranabir and K. Reetu

NCBI ” Oxidative Stress Gene Expression Profile Correlates with Cancer Patient Poor Prognosis: Identification of Crucial Pathways Might Select Novel Therapeutic Approaches” by Alessandra Leone, Maria Serena Roca and others

NCBI ” Genes responsive to both oxidant stress and loss of estrogen receptor function identify a poor prognosis group of estrogen receptor positive primary breast cancers” by Christina Yau and Christopher C Benz


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.

Use of supervised and unsupervised machine learning to make Prakritic evaluations

In Ayurveda disease is the result of a “Vikritti” or disturbance in the steady state “Prakritic”  constitution of an individual.  This study focusses on an algorithmic classification of  “Doshas” in an attempt to evaluate the “Prakriti”.

“In Ayurveda system of medicine individuals are classified into seven constitution types, “Prakriti”, for assessing disease susceptibility and drug responsiveness. Prakriti evaluation involves clinical examination including questions about physiological and behavioural traits.

A need was felt to develop models for accurately predicting Prakriti classes that have been shown to exhibit molecular differences. The present study was carried out on data of pheno- typic attributes in 147 healthy individuals of three extreme Prakriti types, from a genetically homogeneous population of Western India. Unsupervised and supervised machine learning approaches were used to infer inherent structure of the data, and for feature selection and building classification models for Prakriti respectively. These models were validated in a North Indian population.

Unsupervised clustering led to emergence of three natural clusters corresponding to three extreme Prakriti classes. The supervised modelling approaches could classify individuals, with distinct Prakriti types, in the training and validation sets.

This study is the first to demonstrate that Prakriti types are distinct verifiable clusters within a mul- tidimensional space of multiple interrelated phenotypic traits. It also provides a computa- tional framework for predicting Prakriti classes from phenotypic attributes. This approach may be useful in precision medicine for stratification of endophenotypes in healthy and diseased populations.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 2.13.18 PM

Source: journals.plos.org

Study: Recapitulation of Ayurveda constitution types by machine learning of phenotypic traits by Pradeep Tiwari and others.


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.


Use of Nada, the sound of silence in meditation

(Listen to the sound of what appears to be a didgeridoo at 39.40 into the discussion.)

The Shankhmukhi mudra is often used as a part of the series of steps in achieving a meditative state. Have you ever wondered how this sound “sounds”? Try to listen to your own anahata sounds and decide whether it is your simple affliction with tinnitus of something more and deeper than that!

The Yoga Upanishad (36-38) says ” that when the Nada sound has reached the middle  of the head it sounds like a mountain-cataract”. So maybe you hear something akin to this?

I found an interesting piece by Kimba Arem on this topic:

She writes:

“The Nāda yoga system divides music into two categories: internal music, anahata, and external music,ahata. While the external music is conveyed to consciousness via sensory organs in the form of the ears, in which mechanical energy is converted to electrochemical energy and then transformed in the brain to sensations of sound, it is the anahata chakra, which is considered responsible for the reception of the internal music, but not in the way of a normal sensory organ.

The anahata concept refers to one’s own personal sound vibrations, which is thought to be so closely associated with one’s self and the self that a person can not share their anahata with another human being. In other words, this inner sound is sacred and once reached will open the practitioner’s chakras, which ultimately will unite the body to the divine/cosmos.

With continued sounds, a focused mind and controlled breath, the individual can, according to Nāda yoga, “listen in on” their own anahata, their own “inner sound”, which can take up to nine different forms. Such a process of inner awareness and sensitivity leads to increased self-recollectedness and finally to awakening.

To concentrate on this inner sound as a support for meditation is very helpful to tame the mind, and when it has been clearly recognized, used for self-recollectedness in outer life as well. Eventually, it can be experienced as penetrating all matter and indeed vibrates eternally throughout the Creation.”

This is what the classic Sanskrit treatise Hatha Yoga Pradipika has to say on the subject Chapter IV( verses 83-87):

“The sound which a muni hears by closing his ears with his fingers, should be heard attentively, till the mind becomes steady in it.81.

अभ्यस्यमानो नादो|अयं बाह्यमावॄणुते धवनिम |
पक्ष्हाद्विक्ष्हेपमखिलं जित्वा योगी सुखी भवेत || ८३ ||

abhyasyamāno nādo|ayaṃ bāhyamāvṝṇute dhvanim |
pakṣhādvikṣhepamakhilaṃ jitvā yoghī sukhī bhavet || 83 ||

By practising with this nâda, all other external sounds are stopped. The Yogî becomes happy by overcoming all distractions within 15 days.82.

शरूयते परथमाभ्यासे नादो नाना-विधो महान |
ततो|अभ्यासे वर्धमाने शरूयते सूक्ष्ह्म-सूक्ष्ह्मकः || ८४ ||

śrūyate prathamābhyāse nādo nānā-vidho mahān |
tato|abhyāse vardhamāne śrūyate sūkṣhma-sūkṣhmakaḥ || 84 ||

In the beginning, the sounds heard are of great variety and very loud; but, as the practice increases, they become more and more subtle.83.

आदौ जलधि-जीमूत-भेरी-झर्झर-सम्भवाः |
मध्ये मर्दल-शङ्खोत्था घण्टा-काहलजास्तथा || ८५ ||

ādau jaladhi-jīmūta-bherī-jharjhara-sambhavāḥ |
madhye mardala-śangkhotthā ghaṇṭā-kāhalajāstathā || 85 ||

In the first stage, the sounds are surging, thundering like the beating of kettle drums and jingling ones. In the intermediate stage, they are like those produced by conch, Mridanga, bells, &c.84.

अन्ते तु किङ्किणी-वंश-वीणा-भरमर-निःस्वनाः |
इति नानाविधा नादाः शरूयन्ते देह-मध्यगाः || ८६ ||

ante tu kingkiṇī-vaṃśa-vīṇā-bhramara-niḥsvanāḥ |
iti nānāvidhā nādāḥ śrūyante deha-madhyaghāḥ || 86 ||

In the last stage, the sounds resemble those from tinklets, flute, Vîṇâ, bee, &c. These various kinds of sounds are heard as being produced in the body.85.

महति शरूयमाणे|अपि मेघ-भेर्य-आदिके धवनौ |
तत्र सूक्ष्ह्मात्सूक्ष्ह्मतरं नादमेव परामॄशेत || ८७ ||

mahati śrūyamāṇe|api megha-bhery-ādike dhvanau |
tatra sūkṣhmātsūkṣhmataraṃ nādameva parāmṝśet || 87 ||

Though hearing loud sounds like those of thunder, kettle drums, etc., one should practise with the subtle sounds also.86.

घनमुत्सॄज्य वा सूक्ष्ह्मे सूक्ष्ह्ममुत्सॄज्य वा घने |
रममाणमपि कष्हिप्तं मनो नान्यत्र छालयेत || ८८ ||

ghanamutsṝjya vā sūkṣhme sūkṣhmamutsṝjya vā ghane |
ramamāṇamapi kṣhiptaṃ mano nānyatra chālayet || 88 ||

Leaving the loudest, taking up the subtle one, and leaving the subtle one, taking up the loudest, thus practising, the distracted mind does not wander elsewhere.87.”


All content is for educational purposes only. Please consult your medical practitioner before attempting any therapeutic, nutritional, exercise or meditation related activity.