You know the story of the sinking of the Titanic, but you may not know how many missteps occurred leading up to the disaster. Had any of those mistakes not happened, the loss of life that occurred would have been minimal or the disaster would have been averted. Some mistakes occurred before the ship was even launched.

In the early 1900’s, shipping was the main transportation between continents, and competition was fierce. The Titanic was built to be the fastest passenger liner of its time in an attempt to beat its rivals. In the rush to build the ship, low grade iron rivets were used to hold the steel plates of the bow and stern together. The lifeboat supply loaded onto the ship was completely insufficient to cover the normal quantity of passengers. At the last minute a crew change caused the only crew member to have access to the binoculars, which were vital in spotting icebergs at a distance, to be left behind. But the most famous pre-launch mistake was the myth that the ship was “unsinkable”, and this led to a number of later poor decisions.

During its voyage, the Titanic received a number of ice field warnings over the radio, but the senior radio operator failed to relay the most specific warning to the captain. When the iceberg was sighted, the first officer commanded a reversal of the propellers, but the ship’s design did not include a reversal operation of the central propeller — this meant that the ship’s ability to turn was lessened by the reverse course order. Once the iceberg was hit, the captain, under orders from the ship’s owning company, kept moving forward, apparently believing the “unsinkable” myth. The crew shut the watertight bulkhead doors, which made the flooding of the ship uneven and pulled the bow down faster. Passengers opened portholes to see what was happening, and when ordered to abandon ship, many left those portholes open, allowing water to pour into the ship even faster.

It took many factors to result in the final demise of the Titanic. The ship’s course was steered by more than the rudder — the foundation for the disaster was laid in small but fatal steps. It is an important lesson for all of us that what we do now prepares our future, and that the health steps we take each moment are important.

What can sink us
Our course in life is built over time. Like a ship, our course does not usually shift instantly, but takes time to change. We all want a long, healthy life, but do we take the steps needed to make that happen, or do we make ourselves vulnerable to an iceberg event as we age? We are far from unsinkable, but we often forget that the typical diet most of us consume is making us more vulnerable with each meal. We aren’t spotting the biggest dangers in our course — these are the mainstays of the Standard American Diet.

We know that insulin is called upon heavily when we eat sugar to prevent the blood sugar from rising too high. Since overly high blood sugar is extremely damaging to the whole body, insulin, a fast-acting hormone, quickly drives the glucose into the cells and causes the liver to store the excess in the form of glycogen. Keeping insulin levels high for extended periods leads to weight gain and eventual resistance to that insulin by the cells themselves, which then becomes diabetes. Even pre-diabetes ages the body and shortens life. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), researchers from the School of Medicine of the University of California reviewed the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption on a population of 5,309 US adults and found that this soda consumption was associated with shorter telomeres, which is a key factor in aging.

There is another dietary “iceberg” danger besides sugar. Excess protein, especially animal-based protein, can also speed aging. Another hormone, called “insulin-like growth factor” (IGF-1) advances aging at elevated levels, and protein promotes rising IGF-1 levels. IGF-1 is structurally similar to insulin, and it can even bind to insulin cell receptors, although less easily. Its purpose is to cause cell division, which is why it is a “growth factor.” An extreme example of low IGF-1 function is called “Larson syndrome”, which severely stunts growth, and studies of people with Larson syndrome show extremely low rates of cancer. Growth is necessary for a child to develop into an adult, but promoting more can encourage cancer to grow, and at the very least promotes aging. In research published in Cell Metabolism from the Davis School of Gerontology and the Longevity Institute of the University of California, study participants in the age range of 50-65 were found to have a 75% increase in overall mortality and a four times increase in cancer over the 18 year study period for those reporting a high animal protein intake.

In combination
“IIS” is a biochemistry abbreviation that refers to the combination of insulin and IGF-1 signaling in the body. Reduction of IIS signaling generally increases longevity in animal and human studies. The IIS pathway is universal across life: animals and humans experience the same process, and thus we can study short lifespan simple animals to see the longevity effects of reduced IIS. In one such study published in Aging and Disease, researchers at the Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands induced a doubling of lifespan by diminishing the IIS pathway in simple animals.

Genetics are meant to respond to the environment. Genetic codes are pliable, containing cellular instructions for most any environmental condition. Cells are designed to constantly try to optimize their current environment. Genes encode proteins which act out the genetic instructions. Slight alterations of the proteins produced can have dramatic effects, and since gene segments can be activated or deactivated to respond to the environment, different amino acid combinations that make up proteins are produced at different times. In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers found that a single amino acid shift in the tightly regulated “phosphate and tension homolog” (PTEN) tumor suppressor protein, in combination with lowered IIS pathway activity, significantly enhanced longevity.

In times of plenty, cells actively take advantage of the easy sugar and protein supply to grow, but growth isn’t of primary concern to an adult body. Restricting these supplies somewhat makes the cells work harder at efficiency and recycling, and this leads to longer life and resilience. We are seeing, as we examine the IIS pathway, a direct link between sugar/protein management and longevity.

As you take health-promoting steps, you build a foundation which makes you better able to handle the demands of life on your body. If you take easy and comfortable steps, you build in vulnerability to disease and accelerated aging, and you may not be able to handle the icebergs you encounter. Today, will you take positive, more energy required steps, or easy “feel good” steps?


Dr. Nemec’s Review

Genes control cell function, but the environment you put the gene in controls the gene. If you put the gene in the higher sugar, higher glycemic index environment of the standard American diet and lifestyle, then you are placing the gene in an environment that produces inflammation and potential dangerous growth. IGF-1 is a growth hormone and you need it to maintain cell reproduction, otherwise you would age prematurely. BUT just a little bit too much stimulates excessive growth and for anyone who is in their mid-twenties and older you are done growing and you want to shift into maintenance and repair mode. This is anti-aging. So if you eat the same food at 40 that you did when you were 20 you are asking for trouble. We have been treating patients for over 35 years at Total Health Institute and it amazes me that people think they can keep eating and drinking the pleasures of their teens and twenties for the rest of their life. This is not realistic nor health promoting. After the age of 35 your body is breaking down and aging so your goal with your diet and lifestyle should be one that supports less growth and more repair. Remember that most cancer is related to diet, lifestyle and stress programs that you acquired at earlier times in your life but you can change your perceptions, and instead of seeking pleasure from your food as you did when you were 20, why not seek pleasure in life, health, vitality and a clear sharp mind? You do not get this eating pizza, drinking a beer or wine and sitting on the couch watching TV. You must prepare for each stage of your life, and if you are 25 or older you are now preparing for longevity, not comfort. To keep your muscles strong you must work them and make an anti-inflammatory environment of proper foods, proper sleep, proper water consumption and knowing that to reduce the natural factors of aging and disease formation. You are going to have to go into some pain of pushing comfort out of the way in the quest for a higher purpose: a healthy mind and body when you are 80, 90 and beyond. If you do not plan on healthy longevity you are planning on disease and a shorter life and health span. The choice is up to you. You can choose disease or health. You can choose either shorter or longer life. You can choose by making the environment that supports what you chose. The environment you make will define your life and longevity.

Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:

  1. Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
  2. Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
  3. Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
  4. Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.