The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How the Caveman Lived


My concern—and hence our looking backward in time— is with the beneficial impact of reduced caloric intake on retarding, and in some cases reducing, the spread of prostate cancer. Dietary restriction, as I noted in our last blog, seems to trigger an ancient strategy written into all animal genomes, that when food is scarce, resources are switched from breeding to tissue maintenance.

In recent years biologists had considerable success in identifying the mechanisms by which cells detect the level of nutrients available to the body. One goal now is to find drugs that trick these mechanisms into thinking that famine is at hand. The positive results even include evidence that the immune system benefits from reduced caloric intake, and that there is a connection between brain function and adipose tissue in relation to obesity.

A recent study in PLOS Biology discusses the relationship between LDL, hunger, leptin, the brain, and the benefits in a number of areas: there is a ubiquitous receptor in the brain, adipose, and liver called the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1) which regulates leptin signaling. LRP1 has some of the following properties: lipoprotein metabolism, neurotransmission, synaptic plasticity (adaptability of the neuronal junctions), clearance of beta amyloid. (note the variant epoE4 of epoE is associated with Alzheimer's Disease), and basic cell survival.

There is now a small subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors.  Or as they sometimes refer to themselves, dietary cavemen. Their interpretation of this metaphor involves fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are appropriate, but they avoid foods like bread and pasta that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. These Dietary Cavemen are convinced that the human body evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and that our survival in today's world depends weaning ourselves off many millenniums of bad habits.

Now imagine if you will that you are a caveman, out innocently picking berries when you suddenly come nose to nose with a saber-tooth tiger. While you were simply gathering, the tiger was actually hunting, and the sight of you makes his mouth water.

It is our good fortune that millions of years of evolution have endowed you with a set of responses that take over automatically in the event of an emergency. Faced with the tiger, your hypothalamus sends a message to your adrenal glands and within seconds, you can run faster, hit harder, hear more acutely, think faster, and jump higher than you could only seconds earlier.

The transformation is instantaneous. In a heartbeat, so to speak, your heart is pumping at two to three times the normal speed, sending nutrient rich blood to the major muscles in your arms and legs. The tiny blood vessels (called capillaries) under the surface of your skin close down so you can sustain a surface wound and not bleed to death. Even your eyes dilate so you can see better.

In the same instant, all functions of your body not required for the life-saving struggle about to commence are shut down. Digestion stops; ditto sexual function; even your immune system is temporarily turned off. If necessary, excess waste is eliminated to make you light on your feet.

Your suddenly supercharged body is designed to help improve the odds of survival, with the result that you narrowly escape death. Once the danger is past, you find a safe place to lie down and rest your exhausted body. Much the same situation appears to apply when your attacker is prostate cancer.

In my next blog I will consider the elements of a diet that increases the possibility of such survival.

1 comment:

Bob said...

First of all, this is a very interesting blog which I have just discovered. Kudos to you two for a clever pairing of patient and practitioner.

I found this blog googling "prostate gland as big as an orange." A friend of mine today told me today he will soon have surgery for just this condition, which astonished me. I was amazed a fellow his size (he and I are smallish men, about 5 1/2 feet tall) could harbor a gland so large and not know until disaster struck and he simply couldn't urinate.

Anyway, I came across this post browsing through the archives, and it reminded me I've always been curious about BPH and prostate cancer in pre-industrial populations. Has it been studied much? Any literature on the subject?

Speaking also of low-carb, if you are familiar with Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, you know there was an abundance of missionary doctors early in the 20th century who were amazed at the lack of degenerative disease in colonial, pre-industrial populations consuming native diets. No mention of prostate issues as I recall. So I'm curious what you might have on the subject.

Thanks for an intriuguing and useful blog.