Wednesday, May 5

What is hip music?

It's associated with jazz, but it's indescribable. You know it when you hear it, that's all. Here, soaring across the decades, "Pounding at my heart" from Ryuichi Sakamoto's 1994 Sweet Revenge tour, the essence of hip:


Monday, May 3

Is Naomi Campbell's urine the best Covid-19 vaccine?

April 11, 2020:

The remark in the title of this post harks to a comment from viewer Tress Braga at supermodel Naomi Campbell's YouTube video My Personal Vitamin & Supplement Routine. The video, posted on March 20, has already garnered close to 500,00 views and 3,184 comments, several of those quite critical. But Naomi, who is 49 years old and clearly in great health despite a high-stress globetrotting job, is intent on persuading that it's possible to strengthen the immune system with natural supplements to better defend against the Covid-19 virus. In this quest she can't be faulted. However, while her urine may not be the best Covid vaccine, I think without question it would be the most expensive.    

You'll appreciate the humor in Braga's remark when you get a load of what Naomi takes for breakfast. Another viewer, Natalie P (who at some point replaced her name with a screen name) undertook the task of listing for YouTube viewers the ingredients Naomi reels off as she plugs stuff into a blender. (Natalie might have missed one, if the powder shown in the video and labeled "insulin" was used.)  She also copied down the supplements Naomi said she takes in addition to the breakfast shake.

I'd never heard of three of the supplements on the list (EHB, NAC, Humacel). Same for some of the food powders. 

I have a few cautions and questions about Naomi's choices, which might have been compiled with the help of a nutritional consultant, but first here are the lists:
Morning shake recipe:
1 cup almond milk 1 tbsp cacao powder 1 tbsp matcha powder 1 tbsp baobab powder 1 tbsp collagen powder 1 tbsp artichoke powder 1 tbsp moringa powder 1 tbsp greens protein powder 1 tbsp vitamin C 2 tbsp pomegranate liquid 1/2 banana Ice Then blend!
Vitamins and supplements: Goldenseal drops into smoothie Elderberry syrup Zinc EHB (2 a day) [Pundita Note: EHB stands for Echinacosides, Hydrastine, Berberine; here's one formula.from Integrative Therapeutics, available at Amazon] Vitamin C liquid Papaya seeds NAC (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine) Vitamin D (50,000 IU a week) Vitamin B12 chewable Black seed Probiotics Multivitamin Humacel Pine Bark Extract Oregano Oil (carry it always) Turmeric Lavender Oil Pills (calming effect) Only natural supplements!

April 12, 2021

All right. Here we are a year later; Naomi is now 50 years old, doesn't seem to have contracted Covid, and when last I checked was on a grueling photo shoot in Kenya. Like the great football player Tom Brady, staying at the top of her profession demands almost superhuman stamina, which doesn't leave room for being incapacitated by illness. So Naomi Campbell's nutritional regimen makes sense for her. Does it make sense for the rest of us?

That was my question last year. So I decided to wait and see how the Covid pandemic unfolded before discussing Naomi's recommendations.  Given the severity of the pandemic during the past year, the expense of Naomi's nutritional regimen starts to look like a bargain if it can indeed greatly strengthen the immune system.  The bottom line, however, is that many people would not be able to afford the regimen.  

Just one of the supplements on the list, Humacel, costs $49.95 for a bottle of 60. But if the manufacturer isn't blowing smoke or simply wrong, Humacel (and I suppose similar preparations) could be a powerful aid for the immune system. Go to the Humacel website and read the product description.

I wouldn't attempt to add up the cost of just the breakfast ingredients, and I note that the list doesn't say what type of vitamin supplement Naomi takes, but the 'natural' brands can run into serious money.

It's all a judgment call; deciding which ingredients and supplements are best for you, and pruning ones that you think you can do without. 

Another concern:  While I've never used it, I do have a caution about pine bark extract. Years ago I'd heard such great things about it that I was on the verge of purchasing it when I decided to redouble my research into the extract, given its expense. I found one source, which unfortunately I've misplaced, that claimed pine bark extract blocks the body's ability to absorb Vitamin C.  

It's possible the source is wrong, or that the blocking effect is temporary, so that if one takes Vitamin C a few hours after the extract, it's no problem. But until I come across more scientific research about the extract and its effect on C, I wouldn't take it.  

I also raise an eyebrow about lavender oil pills. As herbalists always caution, essential oils are very powerful, and so they can have powerful negative effects if used in excess or in the wrong way. Naomi uses the pills against anxiety. There are plenty of supplements that can calm without fooling around blindfolded in territory that only professional herbalists should trod. 

From all I have learned over the years, my belief is that essential oils should not be used on a routine basis unless under the supervision of a licensed herbalist, and preferably one with a medical degree and/or degree in biochemistry. 

As to taking a 50,000 IU pill of Vitamin D once a week -- I wouldn't do it. Maybe Naomi knows more than I do in this regard. All I know is that the daily recommended dose for D was increased to 5,000/day a few years ago, and you'd have to factor in all daily nutritional sources (e.g., multivitamin) to be sure you're not taking too much. 
I think that even with 'natural' supplements, it's wise to look carefully before leaping. I take several supplements, and I am willing to play guinea pig. But I try to learn as much as I can, as a layperson, about a supplement before I take it.

Another point is reactions to ingredients. I'll assume that Naomi's regimen was worked out over a period of years, during which she added ingredients one or a few at a time. But the large number of combined ingredients in the morning shake would make it impossible for a person new to the ingredients to know which one could be causing a bad reaction.  So the best course would be to proceed slowly with the ingredients, gradually building the shake.

All right. I may have a few more comments later but right now I invite you to watch the video and ponder the list.


Thursday, April 29

There could be a problem with mRNA Covid vaccines

From an April 22 article published at Medical Life Sciences  that's headlined, Striking difference identified between mRNA vaccination vs. SARS-CoV-2 infection immune responses:

A team of scientists from the United States has recently compared the immune response elicited by natural severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination. Their findings reveal that, unlike vaccination, natural SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with a robust interferon response together with an induction of cytotoxic gene expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes. The study is currently available on the medRxiv* preprint server.

The article is directed at scientists specializing in the areas of research under discussion and therefore much of it is incomprehensible to this lay reader. Furthermore, the study is not yet peer reviewed and therefore can't be considered conclusive.  But this part of the article is reasonably understandable:

By specifically analyzing the B cell clonal expansion, the scientists indicated that the increased interferon response during SARS-CoV-2 infection might have induced the differentiation of plasma cells in COVID-19 patients. In contrast, the vaccine seemed to trigger the expansion of circulating memory B cells.

Furthermore, they observed enrichment of activated T cells and natural killer cells with a high level of cytotoxic effector functions in COVID-19 patients. However, they could not detect such an immune signature in vaccinated individuals.

The significance?

The study findings identify a notable difference between the immune responses induced by natural SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. While the vaccine-induced immune response is mainly associated with viral clearance and protective immunity, an immune reaction to SARS-CoV-2 significantly increases the risk of heightened inflammation and immunopathology.

The findings square with the claim by Covid vaccine developers that their vaccines, while not necessarily giving full immunity to the Covid virus, can be very effective at protecting against the worst symptoms of the disease. I think the implication of the claim is that the vaccines ward off the infamous "cytokine storm," which is actually the killer in many if not most Covid cases. 

If I understand the study's significance correctly, I have a question:  Could the vaccines, by bypassing the immune system's response to the virus, weaken the immune system's natural defenses if the vaccines are repeatedly administered, as with annual booster shots?

I assume that would be a very hard question for scientists to answer off the top of their heads. And testing for side effects of vaccines probably wouldn't be broad enough to suggest an answer.  

However, there is a way to come at the question without  spending years at a lab bench. That would be to ask if there are ways other than the mRNA vaccine to tamp down the Covid-related cytokine storms, but which don't bypass or supplant any of the immune system's defenses. Some scientists are already asking pretty much the same question. 

Take a look at this April 13 report from The Jerusalem Post:

Can a cup of yogurt 'cure' your case of COVID-19?

Pre-clinical research by Israeli scientists, published in Microbiome, indicates that Kefir could be used to treat cytokine storms caused by coronavirus.

Can a cup of probiotic yogurt help save the lives of people with COVID-19?

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev say they have identified molecules in kefir that are effective at treating various inflammatory conditions, including “cytokine storms” caused by COVID-19.

Kefir, which is similar to yogurt but thinner in consistency, is a fermented drink made by inoculating cow’s or goat’s milk with microorganism mixtures, such as yeast and bacteria. A cytokine storm is when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive and attacks itself – one of the leading causes of death in COVID-19 patients.

The research was conducted by PhD student Orit Malka and Prof. Raz Jelinek, vice president and dean for research and development at BGU. It was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Microbiome.

Several years before the coronavirus pandemic, Malka noticed that yogurt had a therapeutic effect and began studying it in Jelinek’s lab, Jelinek told The Jerusalem Post. They identified molecules in the yogurt that had dramatic antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

“One of the main reasons people die of COVID is the cytokine storm,” Jelinek said. “Cytokines are immune molecules that are designed to help the body fight invaders like viruses. But in certain circumstances, and scientists don’t know exactly why, the body goes into a sort of overdrive and secretes many cytokines – so many that it kills you. That is what happens during COVID.”

“We knew that we had found these molecules in yogurt with anti-inflammatory properties,” he said. “So, when COVID started, we said, Let’s see if these molecules can help against cytokine storms.”

Jelinek and Malka induced cytokine storms in mice. Then they watched what happened.

The mice that had the storm and were not treated died. But the mice that were treated with the molecules they found in the yogurt had a complete recovery. The molecules not only eliminated the cytokine storm, they also restored balance to the immune system.

“This was really remarkable,” Jelinek said.

The scientists said they also administered the molecules to the mice via their mouths; they were placed in water and entered the mice’s digestive systems just like a normal drink.

During the pandemic, Jelinek and Malka had hoped they could administer these molecules to patients who were in critical condition. But regulatory hurdles delayed the process, and they did not succeed, Jelinek said. Now, their next step is to conduct clinical trials with other cytokine storms.

“Cytokine storms don’t only happen with COVID,” Jelinek said. “This is a very bad condition with really very few treatments against it.”

The researchers are about to make a start-up company under the BGN Technologies umbrella for further development and commercialization of the technology. The company should formally be launched within the next few weeks, and then they will raise funds to conduct clinical experiments, Jelinek said. Hopefully, trials will begin within a few months, he said.

Prof. Eran Segal, a computational biologist for the Weizmann Institute of Science who has published extensively on the subject of probiotics, said that "I am a strong believer in the concept of probiotics when given for the right indications and after proper research and showing some benefits."

On the other hand, he said, "a lot of probiotics that are given, don't do anything."

"The potential is huge," he added. "I think it is still in the early days."

The path from the lab to the table is likely to be long, Jelinek admitted. Even though the molecules come from yogurt that people could eat every day, they would be considered a drug and will have to undergo the full scrutiny of any new medicine before receiving approval, Jelinek said.

As such, the company will likely take the molecules in another direction at the same time – as a food additive, probiotic or supplement – to speed up the approval process, he said.

Jelinek said he and Malka did other experiments with the kefir, and they were also able to demonstrate that the molecules have the potential to combat pathogenic bacteria. Specifically, they showed that the molecules were able to significantly reduce virulence of the causative agent of cholera, he said.

“This is the first demonstration that virulence of human pathogenic bacteria can be mitigated by molecules secreted in probiotic milk products, such as yogurt or kefir,” Jelinek said. “I don’t think there were any molecular mechanisms that people knew for sure would have a therapeutic effect. Now we know.”



Wednesday, April 28

Human nature vs the need to adapt to climate change

Recently economist Terry Anderson sat down with John Batchelor to talk about themes in a book of essays he edited, Adapt and Be Adept: Market Responses to Climate Change.  

The book is indispensable for businesspeople under the gun of changes in weather patterns that are threatening to destroy their companies and entire industries. But the tales Terry recounts, by turns funny, sad, and exasperating, lay out the shrewd ways that people found to profit from climate policies they knew were useless at stopping climate change. 

Now that the new received wisdom is that it's not possible to stop the climate from changing, the tack is to urge everyone to find ways to adapt to climate change. 

Yet what's clear from Terry's crash course is that human nature is most adept at doing what it wants to do for as long as possible. There's a good reason for this. Human societies reflect the "If it ain't broke don't fix it" rule, which works out to defending the status quo.  The business of being adaptable is okay for childless couples, adventurers, and CEOs desperate to keep their companies profitable, but the majority need and demand stability for child-raising and communities made up of families. 

Donald Trump won his first presidential campaign by in effect promising Americans that he would return their society to a stable way of life. Joe Biden won the White House by projecting a very stable personality and by promising that he and not Trump would restore stability to the USA.   

So is the question for the policy experts that Terry quotes how to be adaptable in ways that don't signal vast disruptions in society?  

I think the first question is whether it's true that climate change can't be stopped. When you cut the question into manageable bites, the answer is that it is demonstrably possible to stop and even reverse weather patterns that carbon emissions modelers  insist on terming "climate."  It's not possible to persuade those people to re-think their models, but it's been shown time and again that relatively small changes can produce big changes in the weather. An example I once quoted is that major loss of forest in one part of the USA  produced more rain in another part of the country -- and in direct, cause-and-effect fashion.

So the idea is to first sort out what can and should be changed, and aim adaptability at what can show quick changes. Once people see with their own eyes the success they have with small actions that don't disrupt society, they build up enthusiasm for making more changes.

Well, this is a big discussion, and a good launching point is Terry Anderson's talk on John Batchelor's radio show at CBS Audio Network. (Podcast) But the key is small changes taken by many people. Sweeping policies implemented in the wrong direction are what got us into this "climate" mess in the first place.  


Monday, April 26

Given that low oxygen is a symptom of low iron, here's the third thing Indian doctors should do

The first two things are administering the antioxidant vitamins E and C, as I explained in this post. While waiting for the oxygen tanks to show up, those two vitamins and in particular E should be given in massive doses to Covid sufferers who are having trouble breathing. 

Yet given that low oxygen is a red flag that a person can be chronically low in iron, the doctors should next give iron intravenously and do so immediately. They can test later for iron levels but in an emergency situation, just go ahead and plug iron into the Covid patient who is having trouble breathing.  

How much iron?  I don't know about IV administration but if I recall 45 mg is the 'safe' daily limit for oral ingestion of iron, although fairly recent research has shown that iron is better absorbed if it's taken every other day, not daily.      

All this said, I don't know how fast IV iron can raise the oxygen level, but I do know that the oxygen-saving action of E is virtually immediate, and with somewhat less assurance I think it's about the same for powdered Vitamin C.  So the beauty of E and C is that patients don't have to be admitted to the hospital before they can be treated with the vitamins. It can be done in the ambulance or while the person is lying on the ground outside the hospital waiting for a bed.  

As I noted in an earlier post, the only problem with E is that unlike C, it won't be absorbed unless it's administered along with some fat. Any kind of fat -- including butter, ghee, vegetable oil, or fatty cheese or fish, meat, etc.  This presents an obstacle for ambulance and ER personnel who'd be able to administer E even before the person is admitted to the hospital. 

The workaround I suggested was piercing E gel caps and squeezing the oil into vegetable oil, then pouring the oil down the person's throat if he's too sick to be spoon fed the stuff. There could be better solutions but that's the one I came up with on the fly.  

Now.  I want to show you a list of seven symptoms. Each symptom description is accompanied by a brief explainer but I'm omitting that. 

Covid Symptoms: Facing difficulty in breathing? These 7 symptoms indicate that your oxygen levels are down:

1. Breathlessness

2. High fever

3. Frequent coughing

4. High blood pressure

5. Restlessness

6. Chest pain

7. Confusion

If the short-tempered ones yell, 'Is this Covid or low oxygen they're talking about?'

The author is talking about both

In other words, people who are chronically low in iron would be particularly vulnerable to the deadliest aspect of the Covid virus.  So I find it a tragic irony that the author of the above list is an Indian writing for an Indian publication, and on April 23 -- as Indian Covid patients were suffocating while waiting for oxygen. But he doesn't make the connection, and obviously neither have doctors all around the world who've been treating Covid. 

Those doctors, and the public health agencies they listen to, are chasing a virus when they should first and foremost target the most deadly symptom of Covid, which is low oxygen. Vitamins E and C are stopgap measures; they don't cure low oxygen, but iron can. There are reasons other than low iron that can be responsible for the condition, but given the circumstances with the Indian Covid patients who have breathing difficulties, chronic low iron should be the first suspect.   

Here is an plain-English explainer from the top-flight Cleveland Clinic about the difference between hypoxia and hypoxemia along with a discussion of treatments for them. Note that the clinic's list includes a few symptoms not on the above one, but those can also indicate Covid infection.  

See also: What to expect from an iron infusion


Saturday, April 24

What to do for Covid patients in India who have trouble breathing and can't get oxygen (Revised 2 X)

I'm directing this to doctors who are treating Covid patients that have severe difficulty breathing.

Given that blood oxygen drops in patients with severe symptoms of Covid, and given that the antioxidants Vitamin E and Vitamin  C increase blood oxygen, I'm suggesting that doctors treating patients with Covid-caused  hypoxemia initially administer between 2,000 and 4,000 IU of Vitamin E.  (D-alpha tocopherol alone or with 'mixed' tocopherols beta and gamma.)  

At the same time, administer at least 10,000 mg of Vitamin C (preferably in powdered form and buffered with a milk product to prevent stomach upset, which can occur if megadoses of C are taken for an extended period.)       

NOTE:  Vitamin E cannot be absorbed by eating unless it's taken with fat. Any kind of fat -- butter, ghee, vegetable oil, fatty meat, etc.  

If the patient can't eat solid food, pierce the Vitamin E gel caps and squeeze the oils into vegetable oil or ghee or any fatty food that has been liquified, then spoon-feed the mixture to the patient. 

Vitamin E can be absorbed through the skin.  So the gel capsule can be pierced and the contents mixed with a salve and rubbed into the patient's skin. I don't know the absorption rate for this kind of administration but you can try doubling the initial dose.  

Additional considerations regarding Vitamin E:

> If there is dramatic breathing improvement in the patient within moments of absorbing an initial dose, administer at least another 2,000 IU of Vitamin E and monitor. Repeat about every 2-4 hours but remember that each dose of Vitamin E must be taken with some kind of fat.

> Keep in mind there is a high need for Vitamin E in people who've been severely depleted in the vitamin for long periods.   


> Because the synthetic type of E ("dl-") would have to be taken in very large doses to approximate the pure form,  it's better to use the pure d-alpha tocopherol. It would be the same for the mixed tocopherols.

>  How long to continue the mega-doses of Vitamin E?  Until the patient can breathe more easily on his own or receives oxygen. A maintenance dose could be as high as 400 IU three times per day with meals, totaling 1,200 IU.

NOTE:  Because Vitamin E is a blood thinner, patients on  blood-thinning medications who receive mega-doses of Vitamin E should be under a doctor's care. 

Vitamin C

>  The powdered form of Vitamin C can be mixed with juice and sipped. It can also be mixed into a salve and rubbed on the patient's skin.

>  After the initial dose of 10,000 mg, administer at least 5,000 mg of Vitamin C every half hour for several hours. A maintenance dose for a Covid patient would vary but at least 1,000 mg every half hour until the patient is recovered.  

>  Vitamin C has been administered intravenously to Covid patients, but to my knowledge in much smaller doses (1,500 mg 3-4 times a day) than I've suggested. See this report published in March 2020 about intravenous Vitamin C treatment for Covid patients; there are probably more recent reports on the topic available on the internet.

The allover point is that vitamins C and E oxygenate the blood; in the absence of oxygen treatment they can be life-savers.