Two out of three Danes suffer from chronic diseases
- that can often be remedied with simple diet changes and specific supplements
The number of Danes suffering from one or several chronic diseases is a lot higher than previously thought, according to a group of scientists behind a new study from Danish Center for Healthcare Improvement at Aalborg University. Diseases such as hypertension, elevated cholesterol, depression, bronchitis, asthma, type 2 diabetes, rheumatism, and osteoporosis are among the most widespread ailments. Although there may be a reason of underlying factors, diet and lack of essential nutrients often play a key role. This is something that we have written about over the years on this website, and we have tried to gather some facts from various articles. Simple diet changes and the use of relevant nutritional supplements may play a key role in the treatment of these chronic ailments that come at a huge price, both to the individual sufferer and to society.
The largest study of chronic diseases to date shows that 65.5 percent of Danes from the age of 16 years and older suffer from one or several chronic diseases. The alarming number is nearly twice as big as former estimates. It is the first time in history that a study maps out a whole nation’s chronic diseases, and this study is based on data from registers, hospitals, and practitioners.
According to the main author, Michael Falk Hvidbjerg, PhD, who is a researcher with the Danish Center for Healthcare Improvement at Aalborg University, both politicians and health professionals need to get a clear picture of the number of chronic diseases in order to plan the right strategy for treatment and prevention.
Also, it is vital to treat the underlying causes through a much more targeted health policy, because most of the of diseases are linked to lifestyle. In the following, we will look closer at the things that each individual can do.
Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and elevated cholesterol
Asthma and bronchitis
Vitamin D is highly important for the immune defense and for controlling inflammation. Lack of vitamin D is a common problem, especially because the sun during the summer period is our primary source of this nutrient and the diet only provides small quantities of vitamin D. Too much time spent indoors, the use of sun factor cream, lack of sunshine during the winter period, being dark-skinned, and being overweight are some of the things that cause vitamin D deficiency during the winter period or, in some cases, all year round. Vitamin D supplementation combined with standard asthma medication can cut by 50% the risk of asthma attacks that normally require hospitalization, according to a meta-analysis from Queen Mary University in London (QMUL).
Lack of vitamin D in itself can increase your risk of asthma, which is why one should always make sure to have sufficiently high blood levels of the nutrient all year round to protect the airways. This is also relevant for preventing colds and influenza, which can often trigger asthma and bronchitis.
Pregnant women can take fish oil supplements to prevent asthma in their offspring, according to a Danish study. However, all adults should consider taking fish oil because the omega-3 fatty acids in combination with vitamin D help counteract the type of inflammation that is associated with asthma and bronchitis.
Older people and people with chronic diseases have an increased need for vitamin D and can benefit from taking a supplement. Because vitamin D is a lipid-soluble nutrient, it is best taken in oil in gelatin capsules so the body can absorb it more readily.
Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and elevated cholesterol
Type 2 diabetes is spreading like a bushfire around the globe. The early stage of type 2 diabetes is called metabolic syndrome and is characterized by insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol, hypertension and enlarged waist circumference with visceral fat, which is potentially harmful. Studies show that supplementation with organic chromium yeast enhances the effect of insulin and improves cellular glucose uptake.
Vitamin D is believed to be necessary for the conversion of pro-insulin (a precursor of insulin) into insulin. Overweight people and diabetics have an increased need for vitamin D, and magnesium is also needed to activate and regulate vitamin D in the body.
Several studies have shown that overconsumption of fructose that is found in sugar, fruit, juice, wine, and sweeteners like corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) burden the liver, literally turning it into a “fat factory” with a disrupted lipid metabolism. High quantities of fructose increase your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), elevated cholesterol levels, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Beware that it is not cholesterol from the diet that is the problem. It is the consumption of too many different types of sugar that increases blood levels of cholesterol as a result of a burdened liver with disrupted lipid metabolism.
People with metabolic syndrome, elevated cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes need to eat a healthier diet that provides energy from other sources, where more protein, more healthy fats and fewer carbohydrates should be given first priority.
Today, diabetes is treated with various types of drugs, but these do not address the underlying causes that can affect all organs. It turns out that the widespread vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiencies are associated with diabetic neuropathy, which is a serious complication of diabetes.
At the same time, cholesterol-lowering statins are known to deplete levels of Q10, the compound that is necessary for cellular energy turnover, the heart, and the cardiovascular system. That is why statin users are advised to take 100 mg of Q10 daily as a supplement to counteract statin-induced side effects.
|Q10 supplements generally have poor bioavailability. Therefore, one should always stick with a preparation that has documented quality and bioavailability.|
Elevated blood pressure is the main cause of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Potassium controls and lowers blood pressure by way of many different mechanisms, including enzyme processes and neurological impulses to the muscles and heart. Always make sure to balance your intake of sodium and potassium.
Science has discovered that lack of zinc, which is rather common, contributes to elevated blood pressure because it inhibits the kidneys’ ability to regulate sodium levels. This was shown in a study that is published in the American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology.
A meta-analysis carried out by scientists from Indiana University School of Medicine Strategic Research Initiative reveals that daily intake of 300 mg of magnesium lowers blood pressure within a month.
Magnesium is involved in over 350 enzyme processes, and it is believed that magnesium has a direct and positive influence on blood pressure via the nervous system or via its influence on the balance with nutrients such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and vitamin D. A study that is published in the science journal Hypertension shows that omega-3 from e.g. fish oil also has a positive influence on blood pressure regulation. As mentioned earlier, elevated blood pressure is often part of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, and diet changes are needed. Normal weight and waist circumference are also important.
Israeli researchers from Shahid Sadough University of Medical Science have conducted a placebo-controlled study of 70 patients with type 2 diabetes. The study showed that daily supplementation with 200 mg of Q10 lowered their blood pressure significantly.
Lack of vitamin D at birth and in the first years of life is associated with an increased risk of childhood hypertension and hypertension in adult life, according to a study that is published in Hypertension. The scientists therefore advise pregnant women to have their vitamin D levels measured. They also recommend that pregnant women and children get the necessary supplements to help them prevent hypertension later in life. One should always consult a physician before discontinuing one’s use of anti-hypertensive medicine.
It is often a good idea to combine a vitamin D supplement with a magnesium supplement because magnesium is involved in enzyme processes that control and activate vitamin D
More and more people suffer from depression, and many do not benefit from their prescribed medicine. In fact, there medication is often linked to side effects. Earlier studies show that lack of omega- fatty acids that are primarily found in oily fish play a major role in depression, which is because the brain and nervous system depend on these essential fatty acids – and they are often missing in modern diets.
Several studies link depression to brain inflammation with an overreactive immune system. Scientists from Harvard University have carried out a study of 155 people that suffered from severe depression. The participants were either given omega-3 fatty acids (1,060 mg EPA + 900 mg DHA) or matching placebo for two months. At the end of the study, the researchers observed that supplementation with EPA had the greatest anti-inflammatory effect and therefore was most effective against depression. So, when you buy fish oil, look at the declaration to see how much EPA the supplement contains.
Another study that is published in PLoS One shows that magnesium supplementation is safe and effective for people suffering from mild to moderate depression. The scientists have also discovered magnesium’s biochemical effect on mood. Many people with winter depression lack vitamin D and B vitamins and should compensate for these deficiencies. One must also make sure to get plenty of daylight and exercise. There are even special light therapy lamps that can be used in the treatment of depression. People with severe depression should always seek professional help.
Since the 1980s, glucosamine sulfate has been used to treat osteoarthritis because this form of glucosamine has shown the best results in studies. In contrast, glucosamine products based on glucosamine hydrochloride have not been able to demonstrate the same convincing outcome. There has been a lot of confusion and discussion about glucosamine’s role in treating osteoarthritis because people have not really distinguished between the two forms.
According to a report issued by the financially independent European expert group ESCEO (European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoarthritis), glucosamine sulfate should be first-line therapy for treating osteoarthritis and should be considered before non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) that are linked to serious side effects and death.
It is essential to choose pharmaceutical-grade glucosamine sulfate, not dubious supplements of unknown quality that are peddled online without documentation for their effect or content.
Other rheumatoid diseases
Rheumatoid diseases are very common. One in eight Danes takes NSAID drugs that can increase the risk of bleeding stomach ulcers and other side effects and may even lead to early death. It is therefore important to look for natural ways of treating rheumatoid diseases and relieving pain.
British scientists have tested if supplements of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil can lower pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It turns out that you get the best effect from large quantities of fish oil with EPA and DHA (preferably 900 - 1,200 mg of EPA).
Many sufferers of rheumatism feel worse during the winter, and that may be because they lack vitamin D. One way to deal with that is to travel to warmer countries. Another (less expensive) method is to stay home and simply take a vitamin D supplement.
Researchers from National Jewish Health in Denver, USA, conducted a study and found that vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory effect hinges on the amount of the nutrient in the blood. The best results are seen with blood values above 50 nmol/L. In Denmark, blood levels of vitamin D should ideally lie in the range between 50-160 nmol/L and preferably between 75-120 nmol/L. Vitamin D is measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatoid diseases are caused by joint inflammation, so eating an anti-inflammatory diet is also bound to help.
|When you start on a fish oil supplement it normally takes a month for the optimal effect to kick in. For treating depression and rheumatoid diseases where inflammation plays a key role, experts normally recommend getting 900 - 1,200 mg of EPA daily. Remember to look at the declaration so you know how much EPA is in the product.|
Osteoporosis is an insidious scourge. Doctors primarily focus on calcium and vitamin D but osteoporosis can also be a result of lacking vitamin K2 and magnesium, and it is vital that these nutrients are properly balanced with calcium. If not, calcium may do more harm than good. Soft drinks, stimulants and medicine (including statins) may disrupt the body’s bone-building processes. Building and maintaining strong bones is much more than getting calcium, and it is also essential to exercise (it must be the type of exercise that stimulates the bones).
A call to health authorities and politicians
Unhealthy diet habits cause more chronic diseases than anything else. They are to blame for every fifth death worldwide and are now considered the single largest life-threatening factor. However, it is not just the responsibility of the individual. There is an urgent need for international collaboration between politicians, agriculture, the food industry and the health sector. This was pointed out in a recent study (Global Burden of Disease) that is published in The Lancet.
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