As a great fan of Julia Child, I was very pleased to read Mark Bittman's Op-Ed in the New York Times on March 26th: "Butter Is Back." Bittman's piece is based upon a new article in the Annals of Internal Medicine assessing the negative impact of fats in the diet. Researchers from the UK assessed 72 different studies using a methodology called "meta-analysis" whereby many studies can be cross-compared and analyzed together.
The bottom line is that there is no evidence indicating that saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease. This means that there is no clear negative impact caused by natural fats such as butter--which is great. But how can this be? And if we translate this into best diet suggestions for a myeloma patient, what can be recommended?
As Mark Bittman points out, our attention now needs to shift to the true culprits in diet-- sugar and ultra-processed foods, such as margarine--instead of "Real Food" alternatives like butter or fat in meat or chicken. So-called "low-fat" carbohydrates (snack foods) are key factors in contributing to being overweight or obese.
And this is where the focus really shifts to myeloma, for which being overweight is a clear risk factor. An important new article contributes to the growing literature linking obesity to an increased risk of myeloma. This study from the University of Texas shows that a cytokine (growth hormone) called adiponectin can reduce myeloma cell growth. But with obesity the adiponectin levels drop really low, thus releasing the myeloma for more active growth. There is thus a very important feedback loop whereby in the absence of obesity adiponectin can keep potential myeloma growth in check. Thus, trying to stay trim is definitely helpful and healthy. There are even data that show staying fit and active can slow the aging process.
A truly fascinating new study suggests that there may be additional ways to slow or even reverse aging: rejuvenating your brain and your body. A study from the University of California, San Francisco (lead author Dr. Saul Villeda) shows that giving blood from a young animal to an older animal can counteract and reverse the effects of aging. Although a variety of effects, including improvements in the immune system, have been noted in the past, this particular study focused on brain functioning. There were definite benefits and improvements. The intriguing question is why? What is it in young blood that can reverse aging?
The answer is fascinating because it involves the sirtuin/CREB signaling pathways--the ones impacted by resveratrol present in red wine, which has also been linked to anti-aging properties! Obviously much more work is needed, but the implications extend from the role of blood transfusion, neurobiology, and aging, to what constitutes a health diet, which can help keep your blood and body young!
For now, some simple recommendations remain the same. It is entirely possible to eat better right now, as Mark Bittman said in his May 6 Op-Ed, " Leave 'Organic' Out of It." Eat "Real Food" and natural drinks (include some red wine, if that is allowable in your situation), and be positive about all the new advances in understanding and novel treatments as they become available.
As usual, stay tuned for all new developments.
Dr. Brian G.M. Durie serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.