Cortisol – Part 1 – Relationship to Stress

Cortisol is, in many ways, a perplexing hormone. A certain amount of cortisol is necessary for optimal health, but too much or too little can be unhealthy. During acute episodes of stress, more cortisol is released to help the body cope with physical or psychological stressors (Tomlinson 2004). Its primary functions in the body are:

-Regulation of blood glucose levels in the liver;
-Regulation of the immune system;
-Regulation of carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism.

Essentially, cortisol is regarded as an anti-inflammatory hormone, a blood glucose modulator, an immune-modifier, and an adaptation hormone (Chrousos 2000). Depending on diet, exercise, stress, and time of day, serum levels of cortisol can vary.

During healthy conditions, cortisol levels peak in the early morning hours (usually around 8AM) and dip to their lowest between midnight and 4AM. The complex process of cortisol biosynthesis and release is sensitive to disruption by both internal and external factors (Beishuizen 2001; Tomlinson 2004; Weerth 2003). In the face of chronic psychological stress, for example, the adrenal glands excrete an abnormal amount of cortisol in an abnormal rhythm.

Cortisol, being a catabolic hormone (a hormone that breaks down tissues), when out of balance and unregulated, can have detrimental effects on body composition. Moreover, too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, while too little can lead to autoimmunity and rheumatologic disorders (Chrousos 2000; Wu 2008; Muneer 2011; Sapolsky 2002; Tak 2011).

Cortisol receptors are expressed throughout the body, including in the brain; therefore, derangement of the biosynthesis, metabolism and release of cortisol can disrupt many physiologic systems (Beishuizen 2001).

Next week we will explore Cortisol and its relationship to weight.

Telomeres and Reversing Aging – Part 1 – The Science

telomeres age

This is complex and controversial subject that many are interested in and has spawned a growing industry of testing, research, and products…

First off, what is a telomere:

Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like plastic caps at the end of shoelaces. Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. Without the caps, shoelaces become frayed until they can no longer do their job as well, just as without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job as effectively.

In recent years, research points to telomeres being the key to cancer and aging. The story goes: the shorter they are, the worse off you are. Can the length of your telomeres help predict how long you’ll live? Can telomere research unlock the key to eternal youth?


What does it mean to lengthen telomeres?

Are we speaking about lengthening all teleomeres in all cells? Can we control which cells this is done to? Is this even a true bio-marker of aging?

Less than 1% of a person’s cells have the enzyme telomerase and tare capable of increasing their chromosome’s telomere length. The other 99% are incapable of doing so. What about neurons, and heart cells that typically do not divide and where their telomeres do not shorten with age? Most liver and kidney cells cannot lengthen telomeres. The 1% that are the most critical include white blood cells and many stem cells.

Should we be increasing telomere length? 90% of cancer cells do this. The fact that telomeres shorten may actually allow us to live longer as it may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Correlation and Cause

It is a fact that many species have longer telomeres than humans but live a fraction of their life span. Many studies have shown a correlation within a particular species between telomere length and length of life. The evidence is that length is a good bio-marker of aging within a particular species and even that telomere attrition causes aging itself.

Testing on telomeres is done with white blood cells. A higher rate of telomere shortening of any kind might indicate an increased rate of cellular damage, but it doesn’t tell you what is causing the damage.

Is this simply another indicator of systemic inflammation? We will examine this more in our next article, and look at the products and “cures” for lengthening telomeres.

Part 2: How to Choose a Superior Genetic Test

The saying You get what you pay for – has symbolic meaning when it comes to genetic testing on several levels.
Choosing the right genetic test comes down to key factors – but it is best illustrated by an example:

Let’s say you want to build a house.
You hire an architect and he creates blueprints for you.
You see the blueprints and everything looks impressive – so you feel that it is ok to move forward.
What if there are errors? What if the architect based his decisions on information that was not current or relevant to your needs and reality? What if he did not double check measurements?

Genetic testing is the same way.
Unless you are academically trained in the field (and continue to upgrade your skill-set), it is impossible to fully understand the reality and scope of genetic tests.

The most common genetic tests are for disease and health conditions.

How do tests vary aside from price?
The majority of diseases are caused by several mutations in multiple genes, only rarely are diseases caused by mutations in a single gene.

One can assume a few things here:
1. The cheaper the test – the less genes and SNPs (markers that make up each gene) that are tested per condition;
2. The less relevant data and research is used as larger/current and updated research studies are more expensive;
3. The report most likely will not help you know with certainty what you are at risk for – and what to do about it;
4. Cheaper tests are interested in your genetic data, not your health.

It is important to remember more than 1 gene make-up the majority of disease and conditions. Therefore, a trained professional must be able to read and analyze all your test result, and if necessary, propose further testing.
We begin our work with you by conducting an extensive and inter-active health history. We believe that genetic testing is impactful on you and your loved ones, so it is important to fact gather to determine which test(s) are best for you. The majority of our patients come to us with a test or panel in mind, and more than 50 percent of the time, end up getting another test(s) done after this…

Next, after the test results are available, we sit with you and go over everything and then allow you to go home, reflect, analyze and ask further questions. Our analysis goes beyond what the test states – as we analyze the relationships between the genes, current health status, bloodwork and other diagnostics we may have on hand.

We then, together, make a plan based on the results on what to do to prevent gene expression, help with a goal be it overall health, weight, fitness, athletic performance from our individualized epigenetic plans. In some cases we may recommend testing family members as well. We are also available to discuss results with other members of your medical team.
We continue to support you down the road, and in some cases may update your results as new studies and data become available.

We work with experts around the world. If you need a specific test for a rare disease, we can find it for you, lobby the government for funding if available, and be your advocate.

We are always updating and moving forward with the industry to new tests, new standards, all in your interests.

Genetics is the future of medicine. Current medical models cannot support individual needs for health. We are here to provide that bridge and continue to make it stronger. As technology and testing changes, so do we – our goal is to always offer you the best options available at pricing that makes sense for the superior services we offer.

As always, there is the golden rule we follow: Our testing services are private. No data is sold, shared, or kept on file.

In our 3rd part of our series, we will discuss – Epigenetics and how to use your genetic test results to improve your life quality and longevity.