Major news about one of my favorite molecules, l-fucose. In addition to being part of the antigenic structure of the H antigen found in blood group O, fucose is now garnering attention as an important component in learning. Although neurophysiology spends quite a bit of time looking at the neurosynaptic junction (the gap between two nerve cells, where nerve conduction occurs) most of the emphasis is on the neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) that can jump the gap.
However, what goes into holding the synapse together may be as important a factor in cognition and learning as what jumps across the synapse. And that appears to be lectin-like receptors on one side of the nerve synapse which bind to fucose as a ligand on the other.
In other words your nerves have a sweet tooth for fucose.
Reaction in the brain involving fucose skyrocket during periods of intense learning. And human milk is a very rich source of the sugar, with amounts far higher than all other species. The sugar content of human milk varies by ABO blood type and secretor status which makes me want to do a study looking at learning differences along blood group and secretor status in breast fed and bottle fed children.
The fucosyltransferase enzymes FUT1, FUT2 and FUT3 are very intimately involved in determining ABO, secretor and Lewis blood types and recent research has linked serum B12 levels (another important player in proper nerve function) to the FUT2 (secretor) gene.
Fucose and fucosylation have a big role in ontogeny (the origin and the development of an organism from the fertilized egg to its mature form) via it's role in the development of the Lewis X antigen (FUT9) which supports cell-to-cell-adhesion in embryos. Lewis X expression in the brain is in turn controlled by the PAX6 gene, which regulates many elements of nerve growth in addition to forming the architecture of the iris.
The link between PAX6 and Lewis X (FUT9) may explain why a recent study showed that at least some aspects of personality were determined by the genetics of iris formation. Close-up pictures were taken of the study participants' irises, and they also filled out a questionnaire about their personalities. The researchers looked at crypts (pits) and contraction furrows (lines curving around the outer edge of the iris), which are formed when pupils dilate. It was found that those with more crypts were likely to be tender, warm and trusting, while those with more furrows were more likely to be neurotic, impulsive and give in to cravings.
PAX6 is gene that helps regulate embryonic differentiation. PAX6 also has some interesting effects on adrenal and pancreatic function as well as norepinephrine expression in the gut via the enteric nervous system. Maybe there's a future in medicine for the iris after all.
Going forward, I predict that soon the best thing to use in kids who are learning-challenged will not be the usual suspects like Ritalin or SSRIs, but rather glycomic agents from the diet that enhance fucosylation. These drugs do enhance the function or persistence of neurotransmitters, but fucosylation enhancers seem to enhance the stability of the entire neural network. It makes no sense to up-regulate neurotransmitters if you haven't insured that the nerves are holding to each other in the first place.
Of course, most of the old blood typers know that Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosis) is a decent source of fucose.
Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets
We report the unexpected resolution of longstanding schizophrenic symptoms after starting a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. After a review of the literature, possible reasons for this include the metabolic consequences from the elimination of gluten from the diet, and the modulation of the disease of schizophrenia at the cellular level.
Previously, Dohan (Acta Psych Scand 1966, 42(2):125-152) observed a decrease in hospital admissions for schizophrenia in countries that had limited bread consumption during World War II, which suggested a possible relationship between bread and schizophrenia. Early work with lectins clearly showed that the brains of schizophrenics bind lectins differently than the brain tissue of non-schizophrenics, which appears to make sense in that the carbohydrate content of schizophrenic brain tissue (in addition to dementia and a few other illnesses) revealed the existence of spherical deposits in the inner and middle molecular layers of the dentate gyrus in the hippocampal formation which contained fucose, galactose, N-acetyl galactosamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, sialic acid, mannose and chondroitin sulfate; many of these blood group active carbohydrates with known lectin binding affinities (link).
Over the years some of the most stirring letters I've received from book readers have centered around improvements in family members with schizophrenia. Almost all of these letters have been from or about blood type O schizophrenics, which may mean that the nutritional approach to schizophrenia might necessarily differ by foods and blood type. We are now only beginning to understand the effects of tissue glycosylation on the development and maintenance of brain neural networks.
Until I fell ill in February, it had been decades since I'd been in "patient" mode. Now, I have something of a complicated health picture and am dealing with the medical profession on my own behalf constantly.
What's changed over the years? Why do I, who used to work in Medicine in New York, find it such alien(ating) terrain?
There are those who say my native New York doctors and facilities are notoriously more professional and proficient than those here in California. Others say the whole profession has morphed into one in which patients must, much more than ever, concertedly advocate on their own behalves, doctors being less likely to automatically consider themselves accountable to actual patients, due to all the billing/regulatory intermediaries. Radiologists are more likely to rush-read images, and doctors to settle for mere reports without viewing actual films, etc.
I have been struggling with this, having lost the more aggressive insistence that came with the New York territory. I have always counseled the ill, including friends, to clearly assert themselves with medical professionals, and now I find myself in the position to discover how difficult that is to do when ailing. It is far easier said than done, so I'm humbled about it and smell a wildly fertile field in Patient Advocacy/Relations, for those of you seeking new careers.
I spent almost thirty adult years outside Medicine's crosshairs. Needing to avail myself of its services these days, I must mobilize great stores of energy, relearn old skills, learn new systems, and engage new techniques for navigating this terrain, said not-quite-Pollyanna.
Thanking God for the ol' B spirit, plasticity, resilience, equanimity, and cheer.
Internet troubles over the weekend kept me from blogging. I'm hearing on the news that the United Nations wants to take over the internet and tax me for each time I access a site. I would sure miss the unlimited access I now enjoy, but these two days proved that I can exist quite nicely without the internet.
Saturday we drove back into New Hampshire for a ride on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. We got up early and packed a picnic lunch anticipating getting close to the train station and finding a picnic area with a good view. Instead, there was a major accident on the Mass Turnpike. We spent all of our extra time sitting in traffic. We arrived at the train station with just enough time to sit on a railroad tie and eat our lunch before it was time to board.
The route was along the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. Out one window we saw fall colors and luxurious vacation homes. Out the other window we saw the lake, sailboats, and charming islands. After the stressful car ride, the sounds and motion of the train were so relaxing. My sister remembered that the home where we grew up was about a half mile from a railroad track. She said she liked hearing train noises in the night and feeling that all was well.
For dinner my sister fixed pan grilled chicken with stir fry broccoli and carrots. It was a feast.
Sunday morning we went out for breakfast at IHop. One of their specials this month is two eggs with two mini sirloin steaks and hash browns. That sounded just right for a Type O. Everyone else had pancakes of one kind or another, but my meal was perfect.
We talked about all of the places we could go and things we could do, but in the end, everyone agreed that we needed a day of rest. After lunch we took a walk around the neighborhood where my sister lives. It was an interesting mixture of colonial era and very modern. In one block we would see a historical marker, in the next a state of the art swimming pool.
I caught up on work that I needed to do for my clients. Everyone else read and took naps. We went to the grocery store and bought cod fillets and scallops for dinner. She put a bread crumb and cheese topping on everyone's cod except mine. I found a garlic seasoning blend in her spice cabinet, which was delicious. We had potatoes (sweet for my sister and me, white for the two husbands) and salad.
Wow, can't believe how long it has been since I blogged. About the time we started moving into our own place. A happy time, nonetheless, stressful. Not as stressful as moving into a relative's basement two years ago, but despite getting rid of a ton of stuff then, we still have lots of stuff that needed moved again.
I still have boxes and boxes to unpack and pictures to hang. Now that my kids are back in school, and happy about to be there, I have a little more time to breath. The beginning of the school year was rocky, as my son still gets sick and tired very easily, but things are stabilizing and improving now. He still goes in for Neuro Modulation Therapy from time to time, and that has accomplished a couple more miracles this month. He used to have no energy to play after school, but now he just keeps playing all day long and is even starting to do chores. They go to a Montessori charter school, where there are really learning to take pride in their work, and that is carrying over to home. I'm so happy about all this that it almost brings me to tears to think about it. (I don't see a crying and smiling emoticon, or I'd put it in here).
My compliance hasn't been ideal through all these changes, but it was improved enough to maintain my June losses. Now I'm on fire again, and so is my new Traeger grill/smoker. It was getting hard to figure out what to make for dinner, especially in the protein department, but now it is fun again. I made a delicious London Broil last night (more like a big thick steak), I marinated it in olive oil and ume boshi plum vinegar and seasonings (ok, I'll admit, there was some A1 in there, which isn't ideal, but isn't as terrible as most sauces). I browned both sides, then turned down the heat to smoke (about 200 degrees F), and basted it with the marinade every so often. It took about 2 hours for a 1 1/4 pound cut. It still had some pinkness in the center, and wash quite tender. Even my youngest (an O) loved it, and it it so hard to get him to eat beef. I'll have to repeat that meal. I made salmon burgers for my As. I had more of the steak for breakfast today, with some baby portobello mushrooms and eggs. I've also cooked Alaskan salmon, shrimp, halibut, asparagus, summer squash, red peppers, and all-beef natural hot dogs. They were all better on the Traeger, although I haven't perfected their recipes yet, they still have some room for improvement before I describe them or post the recipes. The halibut was pretty good, but I rushed it and I think it would have benefited from a little more time on the smoke setting.
I was having a hard time figuring out what kind of grill to get, Gas grills don't always get the right flavor for me and the flare-ups are a problem, I don't know or want to know what is in charcoal (I know you can buy mesquite charcoal though) and I wanted something easy to light so I'd use it more often. Then I discovered Traegers with their all-natural-wood pellets...it's easy to light and use like gas, but gives a great flavor, with no chance for flare-ups because the flames don't touch the food (it has a fan to circulate the heat). I got the smallest one because it was about the same price as the gas grills I'd had my eyes on, and it's plenty big considering I don't have to move the food around on the grill to cook it right. (I'm not being paid or given anything by Traeger to write this in my blog, I'm just a normal customer).
I'm still doing SWAMI, even though I have yet to re-confirm my secretor status (blood and saliva tests didn't agree, so I'm going to re-do the saliva test). Oddly enough, my SWAMI doesn't change much whatever my secretor status or genotype. A few neutrals I don't care for much anyway will come and go, but I will re-confirm that and get it all finalized soon. So it's kind of a type O thing, with very little dairy, no sugar, and of course, no gluten. I've done BTD long enough that I know in my heart what foods are good for me individually, as long as I avoid the junk I will naturally gravitate toward those foods. I no longer have my heart set on being a certain type, I'm me no matter what type that is. All three genotype diets did good things for me, as did both the type O and O-nonsecretor diet. They all have delicious choices. I'm not going to get hung up on what I can't have, when so many things are good for me. I guess I've come to a certain acceptance of my own individuality, I remember really not wanting to be a gatherer or an explorer, hunter seemed fine, but a B type seemed best, and that was never gonna change. Now I'll just give my body the fuel it needs, and not care what others "get to" eat.
Since returning from a vacation last weekend, I'm happy to report that I've only had 3 bites of avoids in the last four days (usually a bit of something with sugar in it). On busy days, it is helpful just to have some veggie sticks in baggies for snacks. My biggest food challenge is to snack on healthy foods often enough that I don't get too hungry to prepare real foods for meals. Roasted pumpkin seeds are another great snack. Sometimes though, a glass of water is all I need.
Things have been pretty busy lately with all the Jewish holidays, and then trying to get into a routine with the kids and school. Leah is nearly 18 and pretty much does her own thing; I simply need to keep the house well stocked with healthy foods for her to prepare for herself. 12th grade is turning out to be far less stressful than 11th grade was. Meanwhile, Hannah is in 11th grade this year, is taking 2 AP classes and has a part-time job. Jack, my 10 year old, is having a hard time adjusting to the increased workload of middle school. Both of the younger two are having trouble with time management. I’m trying to keep everybody well fed and get them to bed on time, but I’m not always successful.
I also want to encourage everybody to exercise, but I’m having the most trouble with that one. If I let my son ride his bike before homework, will the homework be finished early enough to get him to bed on time? If he does his homework first, will it be too dark outside when he’s done? The middle school is only 1/3 mile from our house, and I wish he’d walk to and from school daily. He won’t walk there on purpose, but I don’t stress if he dawdles a bit in the morning and misses the bus.
Hannah seems to be finding ways to be more active. Her high school is a large building, and she probably walks a mile every day through those halls. Occasionally she’ll walk the 1.5 miles home. More often she’ll walk to or from a friend’s house after school. About once a week she’ll do some yard work- cutting down branches, weeding, and bagging up the cuttings. She always wants company outside, and it’s usually my job to hold open the bags while she fills them. In the past 2 months or so, she’s definitely firmed up and started to slim down. I’m not sure if the scale yet reflects these changes, but she’s dropped about one dress size since the summer- and without a formal exercise routine.
Getting myself to exercise is often my biggest struggle. The one time I went for a 20 minute walk during the school day, I felt great! I just have to find the time and energy to actually do it regularly. It’s just far too easy to find excuses not to: I just showered and I don’t want to go for a walk with wet hair. I have something cooking that might burn if I leave the house. It’s too hot/cold/rainy outside. I’m feeling too tired. Never mind that I own a few exercise videos and a treadmill, which can be used in my pajamas, in any weather, and I can hear the kitchen timer while using them. I need to actually clear away the clutter before using either one, and it just hasn't happened yet.
There is one thing I've managed to be consistent about for the past month or so. I was having HORRIBLE lower back pain in one specific area. Somebody suggested Active-Isolated-Stretching, and I took out a book from the library about it. After doing all the exercises a few times, I selected the 6 that seemed to target the muscles causing me the most trouble. Besides stretching the tight muscles causing the pain, these also provide a gentle workout for other muscles in my legs and torso. I’ve been doing the recommended 10 reps each morning, plus 5-10 reps each night. It only takes about 5 minutes each time.
My lower back pain has improved, but it’s not yet completely gone. I’ve been fairly consistent with the exercises; I’ve skipped it a handful of times, only to have the pain get worse. The pain is keeping me honest- without it, I’m sure I would have abandoned this exercise routine.
So, I’ve been doing this simple routine for about 10 minutes a day for the past month, even during the crazy busy holidays. The other day, I noticed that my thighs and buttocks are much firmer than they used to be. I think my abdominal muscles may have firmed up as well, but it’s hard to tell under the layer of fat. I forgot to wear bike shorts under my skirt when I took that 20 minute walk on Monday, and I did NOT have the expected problems with my thighs rubbing together and irritating the skin. All this firmness from 10 minutes a day? Wow!
This is incredibly encouraging. I can easily imagine the benefits I’d get from a regular walking routine.
Today we visited Historic Deerfield. Homes from the 1700s settlement have been restored inside and out. We learned about how the early settlers lived what they wore, and what they ate. It was fascinating to see hand woven baskets, hooked rugs, and needlework. Though they lived on the edge of the wilderness, they wanted their homes to be attractive. As archeologists have dug around the area they have found both pieces of locally made redware and fine china imported from England.
We signed up for an architectural tour. In a typical Connecticut Valley colonial home the chimney was built first. They were two story houses with two rooms downstairs on either side of the chimney and two upstairs. That is so practical for cold New England winters. As soon as the family prospered, they would add a 2nd chimney so they could have eight rooms with a hall down middle.
At the Hearth Cooking Demonstration we watched how the colonists prepared their vegetables. It was an art to prepare meals, something that is lost today with modern appliances. The docent showed us a brick oven on the side of the fireplace. The wife would build a fire in the oven and when the bricks were red hot, she would bake bread. When the bread was done, she put puddings and pies in the cooling oven. Last of all she would put in a pot of beans that would cook for the rest day.
Sometimes people complain that preparing food for a multiple Blood Type family is too complicated and time consuming. Food preparation in Colonial America was a full time job - every single day. The food looked delicious, but we weren't allowed to taste because they don't have the required federal permits.
We bought our lunch at a sandwich trailer - not exactly historically authentic - but modern visitors have to eat. Two things on the menu interested me - a hamburger and a chicken quesadilla in a gluten free tortilla. I stood in line doing pros and cons. My Type O body wanted beef, but if I got the hamburger I would throw the bun away. If I got the quesadilla, I would throw away the cheese. I smiled politely and asked if I could have a hamburger in the gluten free tortilla. The way the guys in the trailer looked at each other it was obvious that I was the first person to ask for that. But they did it, and I was happy with the results.
Yesterday was our only full day in Vermont. We wanted to make the time count, so I went on google and found an interactive map that shows the best fall colors. Not sure whether it is updated weekly or daily; not sure what we would have seen on other roads; but it took us to some incredibly beautiful sites.
The day again started out misty. HH says I am in incurable optimist, but it seemed to me that the fog on the mountains made the colors of the trees up close appear even more vivid.
As we went around a curve my eye caught a glimpse up a side road, and I asked HH to turn back. We came upon the loveliest site. It was a pond, surrounded by trees at the peak of their color. The reflection in the still water was stunning. As I walked around to take another picture, I saw a hand lettered sign. "Joye Kings pond; no trespassing". On one hand, I don't blame her for not wanting photographers traipsing across her property, but it sure didn't seem like a "joyful" thing to say.
We stopped for lunch in French restaurant in Brandon, called Cafe Provence. Not only do they serve beautiful food with fancy names, but they offer cooking classes. Somehow it surprised me to find an amazing international restaurant in a small town setting. I had steak and salad with crispy onions. It was perfect! HH ordered their signature turkey sandwich. He didn't care for the tomato based sauce; but then again he is a Subway sandwich man.
Because of the weather we had not even looked into trails in the Green Mountains. But a sign by the road said: "Robert Frost interpretive trail." I did not realize that Robert Frost spent much of his adult life in New Hampshire and Vermont. I put on my parka to protect my camera equipment from the mist; HH grabbed an umbrella; and we started off down the trail.
The mist stopped. The fog lifted just a little. As we walked through "the yellow wood" there were plaques with selections from Frost's poems. The trail was not long - with all of our stops to read and take pictures, it took about an hour. In one word, that hour was refreshing: the poetry, the beauty of the trees, and a turn in the weather at just the right moment. We got back in our car, and as we pulled back on the road, HH turned on the windshield wipers.
My life is centered on my faith in God. I did not pray for good weather on this trip. Local farmers need rain, just like we need rain in Texas. It did not seem right to presume upon God and ask for a change in weather for the convenience of my vacation. We were enjoying the day just as it was described in the poem "God's Garden." And God surprised us with an undeserved blessing.
In the afternoon, we turned the car toward Massachusetts. My sister is living there for one year, and before the day was over I got to give her a hug!
Henry Ford, it is said, commissioned a survey of the car scrap yards of America to find out if there were parts of the Model T Ford which never failed. His inspectors came back with reports of almost every kind of breakdown: axles, brakes, pistons -- all were liable to go wrong. But they drew attention to one notable exception, the kingpins of the scrapped cars invariably had years of life left in them. With ruthless logic Ford concluded that the kingpins on the Model T were too good for their job and ordered that in future they should be made to an inferior specification.
For the automotively challenged, the kingpin is the main pivot in the steering mechanism of a car or other vehicle. Originally this was literally a steel pin on which the moveable, steerable wheel was mounted to the suspension. It is usually made out of metal.
This story, well-known on the internet, was originally told by Nicholas Humphrey in 1976, and often referred to by other biologists including Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins, the latter recounting the story in what is, by far, the most pessimistic chapter ("God's Utility Function") in his book River Out of Eden.
John Hawks, who has an interesting anthropology weblog takes a look at the Henry Ford story, and why evolutionary biologists seem to love it so:
Of course, the truth is natural selection doesn't cut back the quality of functional parts easily, either. Selection also has to overcome fixed costs in order to change populations: costs stemming from pleiotropy, epistasis, and coevolution with other kinds of organisms (e.g. predator-prey relationships, mutualisms, and mimicry). How much selective advantage can come from reducing femur diameter a smidgeon? It can't be very much, and it might easily be outweighed by the manifold costs of changing osteoblast function to accomplish it. In other words, adaptation is constrained by the same sorts of problems that constrain industry. Ruthless efficiency can rarely be maintained in biology or in manufacturing.
But then again, was the story even true?
Barbara Mikkelson over at the Urban Legends website thinks not, but offers an additional insight:
Though the legend is almost always positioned as a "let's screw the consumers" tale, on rare occasion it has been presented as an example of intelligent design."*
It all reminds me of the Edward de Bono books I read as a kid.
* She includes a similar type of anecdote about another engineering triumph, from WWII:
"A proposal was made to armour bombers in the places where the returning planes showed most damage from anti-aircraft fire. One young analyst suggested that instead, the planes should be armoured where the returning bombers showed no damage. He inferred that the planes that did not return were being damaged in the places that the returning planes were not. His suggestion was implemented and an X% reduction in lost planes resulted."