The Cure For Wellness
The shape-shifting morals of any society metamorphose with the behavior of its individual members. Through the choice of action and non-action we cast votes in a twisted sort of democratic election, nominating the variable truths and virtues we submit to. But however honest our intentions may be, humans are not without bias and this shoddy conventionalism surrenders poignant examples of skewed principles and taboo points of fact.
For example, in May of 2016 an unsupervised child climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo where a western lowland gorilla, known as Harambe, was being held.
Upon seeing the young child and hairy beast together, a wild frenzy swept through the crowd as delirious visions of King Kong reeled through their impressionable minds. The public noise and wide-eyed shouting served to unsettle the nervous Harambe and inflame his agitation.
Fearing for the child’s life, a crack shot zoo keeper gunned down the animal to the dismay of environmentalists worldwide who were all quick to voice criticism. One of the more comical quips of dissent was facetiously tweeted by Ricky Gervais when he said, “It seems that some gorillas make better parents than some people.” The comedian’s words were priceless, but why such appall over a dead animal?
Well, human babies are easy to make. Gorilla babies are not. Yet, we outnumber their declining existence by an overwhelming 76,000 to 1. This inequality, accentuated by the inward visions of Man, only seems to underscore the idea that a small, insipid child was worth more than a critically endangered species.
Harambe’s death is not the first, nor the last, example of the atrocities found in our comparisons of human versus animal life. Also in 2016, a rather bizarre event took place at the Metropolitan Zoo in Santiago, Chile where a 20-year old had forced his way into a lion enclosure, stripped naked, and taunted the lions into charging him. As they began to bite and “play” with this deranged youth, a zoo keeper was once again compelled to open fire on the caged beasts. Despite Africa’s lion population decreasing 90% in the past 75 years, two of these majestic big cats were valued less than even one suicidal young man.
What do these actions tell us about society?
Many quite remarkable things, but for sake of brevity let’s just say the polls have closed. Our present society has nominated its own members as the most cherished, the most prized, and the most revered form of living tissue this pale blue dot has ever seen. Mother Nature cannot put down human self-importance with the population declines in any of her furry little friends. Human beings are the apex of evolution and nothing will stand in the way of human progress. Nothing!
The flawless beauty and divine brilliance radiating from homo sapiens outshine all of Nature’s previous attempts at biological perfection. This is why the loss of a human life is such heartfelt tragedy, to loose something so inescapably beautiful. Tenfold is the pain and agony felt when a member of our community dies prematurely, before their time, before they’ve had a chance at a full life.
Because of our own self-appraisal, it becomes a moral imperative that we evaluate the leading cause of premature death and correct it, posthaste!
Maraca-Shaking Elephant In The Room
Health and longevity have always been hot topics of discussion throughout the history of mankind. Ideally, these discussions would progress forward in straight lines but this is rarely ever the case. Just take a look at those dumbass fat-jiggling machines of our recent past or the fact that it took 7,100 published studies before the medical community finally conceded, “Mmm… yea, I guess there’s a causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer.”
The continued advancement of health studies is critically important because we have deemed it our privileged right to live as long as humanly possible. Moreover, we have demonstrated a strong contempt for death, particularly when death calls too soon.
Premature death, that bastard of a thing, is defined as an unplanned death occurring before the individual has reached the average expected age of his or her representative population.
Every nation has its own life expectancies which can range anywhere from 50 in Chad up to 84 in Japan. Whatever the case, if we investigate the leading cause of premature death in the world today we find cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including such things as heart attack and stroke, are far and away the largest threats to human health and well being.
Cardiovascular diseases kill more people in the United States every year than war, terrorism, global warming, religion and gun violence combined even if we were to homogenize the data by accounting for the total number of years lost. In a country so predisposed to hysteria, you would think the panic over CVD would be much more substantial considering worldwide deaths are quickly approaching 20 million per annum.
To help us better understand the world’s number one killer, we can refer to an expanding field of research called metabolomics. Within this realm of microbiological study, scientists examine the small-molecular metabolites found in our blood, urine, saliva, tissues, and breath.
Metabolites are produced from the trillions of bacteria cells in our guts breaking down the kilograms of food and drink we consume everyday. Computers and modern analytical instruments help process the more than 25,000 compounds with detail and precision. From these biomarkers, comprehensive analyses can be made between those people with severe coronary artery disease and those with angiographically, healthy arteries.
We all know a shit diet can lead to poor health and early death, but which component of a shit diet is the most harmful?
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic published a study in 2013 after they had followed 4,000 patients over a 3-year period who were undergoing elective coronary angiography. Their metabolomic results identified a single compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) as the most common denominator among patients who had experienced major adverse cardiovascular events. This metabolite, TMAO, was the primary instigator for increasing death, myocardial infarction, and stroke regardless of more traditional CVD markers, such as cholesterol and blood pressure.
Their results have since been replicated numerous times but there’s only room for a short list here.
A random sampling of 1,280 Canadian subjects in 2015 also found the TMAO metabolite and CVD correlation. People had up to 9-times the risk for heart problems for those with elevated TMAO levels than those without.
The Kidney International journal published a paper in 2016 pertaining to 2,500 patients with chronic kidney disease. Their results showed a strong relationship between those with higher baseline levels of TMAO and cardiovascular risk.
In 2017, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study which conducted a meta-analysis review of 16 previous papers containing nearly 20,000 individuals. And they too found higher TMAO levels, as well as its precursors, were associated with increased risks for adverse cardiac events and all-cause mortality.
The obvious question is Where the eff does TMAO come from?
Well, our liver oxidizes trimethylamine (TMA) into TMAO. TMA happens to be a byproduct of our gut’s bacteria digesting Choline and Carnitine. Excess carnitine and choline enter our bodies through dietary intake in the form of energy drinks, meat, fish, liver, poultry, dairy, and of course, eggs.
The World’s Hardest Gut Problem
The surging evidence from metabolite research floods our awareness with an obvious problem that requires immediate attention. The more TMAO in a person’s bloodstream, the more likely they will die from the world’s most common form of premature death. So all we should have to do is figure out how to reduce TMAO in our blood. Ready? Let’s think this through.
Choline and carnitine-rich foods like meat, dairy, and eggs are converted to trimethylamine (TMA) by our gut flora, which can then be turned into TMAO in our liver, increasing TMAO in our blood and increasing our risk for cardiovascular disease and early death.
If our gut flora turns meat, dairy, and eggs into TMA, maybe the trick is to destroy our gut bacteria with whiskey-glass shots of antibiotics every other week. This would completely decimate our gut bacteria and prevent the byproduct, TMA, from being created. Err… but wait! Wouldn’t antibiotics also kill off all the good bacteria in our guts and facilitate antibiotic-resistant strains too? Maybe antibiotics are not such a great idea. Hmm…
Okay. So how about probiotic supplements? Maybe if we ingest enough good bacteria they would somehow crowd out the bad bacteria? Well, it seems researchers tried that too. In patients suffering from metabolic syndrome, adding more “good bacteria” to their diets didn’t appear to have any impact on reducing the bad. Aw shucks!
Well, if getting rid of bad bacteria isn’t possible, how about we administer a new strain of bacteria that can syphon off the TMA before it gets turned into TMAO? And as luck would have it, there is a specific type of bacteria residing in the digestive system of cows and sheep which turns TMA into methane. A cow fecal transplant could be the cure for our tummy woes! Uh… actually, I don’t want to have to take shots of cow shit and I’m pretty sure no one else does either. Damn, this is all confusing!
As long as Americans are confused about nutrition, we will continue to be fat and sick. We need to have an understanding that the way we eat will affect our health more than virtually anything else.
I need to rub my temples for a moment and rethink this again. Diets full of meat, dairy, and eggs are abundant in carnitine and choline, which get converted by gut flora into TMA, which get turned into TMAO by the liver…!
Maybe the solution is we cut down on our liver function! I mean, isn’t this the pharmaceutical industry’s ploy to reduce high cholesterol? The same companies synthesizing cholesterol-lowering drugs could just as well manufacture a new drug to inhibit our liver enzymes from creating TMAO. Another weekly pill would be a sure ticket to reducing CVD risk but the side affect here is that by blocking TMAO, you build up TMA. High levels of TMA in our body cause blood, sweat, saliva, and vaginal secretions to smell like rotten, dead fish. The same thing happens to patients suffering from trymenthylaminuria. I guess that’s not an attractive answer either unless we take more and more pills to fix the compounding side affects of more and more drugs.
If only there were some way to lower our risk for cardiovascular disease. There’s got to be a straightforward answer to reducing TMAO levels in our bloodstream, an answer so elementary, so common sense that we’ve simply overlooked it in pursuit of more sophisticated band-aids. I’d hate to think decades more work and another 7,000 research papers are needed before that blatant epiphany strikes.