Stephen Holt’s Global Crusade to End Diabetes Now
“A new human subspecies Homo sapiens pancia prominente, which translates roughly into the potbelly human, has been discovered,” Dr. Stephen Holt says, only half joking. “This mutant human strain appears to have evolved in response to a diet of highly processed foods, absence of optimal nutrition, lack of exercise, and chemical toxins,” he adds.
Are you developing into Homo sapiens pancia prominente?
If so, Stephen Holt, MD is your man. Holt is among the most important figures today in modern medicine and health. That is because it is quest to help this mutant human subspecies to regain its optimal shape and form. But instead of prescribing medical drugs, this highly acclaimed physician, university professor and advisor to the federal government, has a natural prescription for health.
Coming from a hardcore medical background, we can easily argue that Holt is the most experienced medical doctor today to say that natural medicine is your best hope for combating our most pressing global health challenges. He has virtually singlehandedly taken on the global diabetes and obesity challenges with his program of natural prescriptions. Why? “I consider diabetes and obesity two of the most critical global health problems today.” Says Holt, “Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and even some forms of arthritis. All of these diseases have a common cause: Syndrome X.”
Syndrome X is the variable combination of obesity, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension linked by underlying resistance to insulin, often associated with excess insulin secretion. Retrospective National Health Nutritional Survey data from 1988 to 1994 implied that 47 million Americans had Syndrome X. Current prevalence of this syndrome may now be about one in four of the adult population—70 million Americans.
How Do You Know if You Have Syndrome X?
In essence, anyone who has three or more of the following five criteria can be considered to have Syndrome X:
1. Abdominal obesity: waistline greater than 102 centimeters in men and 88 cm in women.
2. High blood triglycerides: greater than 150 milligrams per deciliter
3. Low high density lipoproteins (HDLs, the good cholesterol): less than 40 mg/d in men and less than 50 mg/d in women.
4. High blood pressure: greater than 130/85 mm Hg.
5. High fasting blood glucose: greater than 110mg/dl
Indeed, the most important breakthrough in advancing health and longevity has been the recognition that Syndrome X or what has also come to be known as metabolic disorder (what Dr. Holt calls Syndrome X, Y and Z because it leads to so many health problems) is a component of many, if not all, of the chronic diseases today—and, more belatedly, another important breakthrough that Dr. Holt is championing is that mainstream medicine has no drug to reverse this condition; we can only win this war by taking advantage of nature’s powerful healing phytochemicals, plus good health habits.
Take diabetes, which is strongly linked with metabolic syndrome. Diabetes is projected to affect, from the current level of 150 million persons, to 220 million by 2010 and to 300 million people worldwide by 2025. “Right now, one quarter of Americans, however, already suffers from pre-diabetes,” says Holt. “And one-third of our children are obese as well, which sets them up for diabetes.”
“The unprecedented growth in its prevalence can only be slowed down by devising strategies to prevent the progression of pre-diabetic state to overt disease,” he says.
First, we have to attack insulin resistance, he says. Insulin is the hormone that ferries blood sugar into the cells. Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and of course obesity are all linked with this condition. “Insulin resistance is the earliest stage of the disease and is potentially preventable and reversible, although mainline therapies presently have no drug to reverse this condition,” he adds.
What about heart disease, the preeminent killer of our times? “Isn’t it interesting and terribly alarming,” says Dr. Holt, “that while one of the first consequences of Syndrome X is liver disease here we are prescribing to these same patients the statin drugs, which themselves are strongly linked to liver disease.”
Don’t misunderstand Stephen Holt. Formally trained in pharmacology and gastroenterology, he doesn’t by any means discount the appropriate use of allopathic medicine; in fact, he notes there are situations and conditions for which drug therapy is absolutely preferred, especially in the emergency room—but for most of us today who are trying to maintain or improve our health and dealing with issues involving insulin resistance, blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and cancer—natural remedies are incredibly important for virtually everybody.
Today, Dr. Holt is on a mission to bring scientific credibility to the natural products industry and to nurture traditional medicine globally as president of the World Organization of Natural Medicine. He says natural prescriptions for health are far more effective for dealing with this global health challenge. To this end, he is a tireless traveler (accumulating tens of thousands of frequent flyer miles); indeed, when we caught up with Dr. Holt here in the US, he had just returned from Singapore where he was an anti-aging conference keynote speaker educating his fellow doctors and health professionals about the global obesity and diabetes challenges, natural prescriptions, and facets of staying healthy for longer and longer duration.
He has developed more than 50 biopharmaceutical and nutritional products to help people with diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight problems and other metabolic syndrome issues maintain their health. The cumulative sales of his formulations are among industry leaders in their categories. You very likely are using some of his basic formulas or the ingredients he has introduced into the natural health field right now.
“I’m trying to make this a serious industry,” he said. “I’m out here trying to produce evidence-based natural medicine and often what I am competing with is people out there who are claiming self cures. I believe very strongly in the future of this industry but it doesn’t rest with outrageous and preposterous claims about product efficacy that don’t exist. I see health food stores as a public health initiative not as a wayward dumping ground where you sell ephedra to teenagers or offer 24-hour weight loss cures or drug-masking agents. Because I am a medical doctor dedicated to pioneering nutritional supplements and intend to stay with science and all of the products we produce are based on science, I’m one of the biggest friends this industry has.”
Dr. Holt first started writing about Syndrome X when he published a pivotal paper in 1979 in Lancet that determined the role of gel fibers on blood glucose levels. His team was the first to discuss the glycemic index, which didn’t become a popular term, he says, until six years later. Since then he has authored or coauthored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles that deal largely with the influence of natural and traditional remedies on human health on many different topics ranging from bone loss to menopause.
In 2005, Dr. Holt undertook an informal assessment of the prevalence of Syndrome X among health food store owners attending several trade shows. “It was a simple matter to detect that about 40 percent of all store owners that I met had overt signs or symptoms of metabolic Syndrome X,” he says. “With this prevalence of Syndrome X and recognition that approximately 80 percent of all dietary supplement purchases are for problems associated with Syndrome X, there is justification for my concern about the lack of appreciation for the importance of this disorder.”
Managing Syndrome X
Effective prevention and treatment of Syndrome X involves a multifaceted approach to impact all cardinal components of the disorder. “Current allopathic (conventional) treatments for Syndrome X have been too focused on individual components of this disorder. In many cases, cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure lowering medication and several other medications should form a ‘back-up plan’ for management. In contrast, natural approaches with lifestyle modification and nutritional and nutraceutical interventions may provide versatile and powerful, first-line management options. I stress that pharmaceutical treatments have a specific role when established risks or diseases within Syndrome X are present, but there are compelling arguments that several categories of drugs (e.g., cholesterol-lowering medications) are over-prescribed and not used consistently in a cost effective manner.”
Among the non-allopathic steps to addressing metabolic Syndrome X are:
• Lifestyle changes, with specific avoidance of substance abuse, including smoking cessation, reduced caffeine and simple sugar intake.
• Behavior modification, including changing eating patterns and amounts, and extinguishing adverse lifestyle choices.
• Exercise matched to the level of aerobic fitness (with medical or professional training advice).
• Diet, reduced in simple sugars, salt and saturated fat with controlled protein intake and more liberal healthy fats, e.g., fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids).
Dr. Holt’s Natural Prescription
Dr. Holt’s comprehensive level of knowledge and commitment is reflected in the nutritional formulas he has formulated to help people who have pre-diabetes and related conditions.
There are also many important nutritional factors for Syndrome X, including oat beta-glucan, antioxidants from berries, alpha lipoic acid, chromium picolinate with biotin, vanadium, anti-homocysteine vitamins and more. For example, many types of soluble fiber may benefit individuals with Syndrome X by their effects on appetite, weight control and blood cholesterol. Evolution of research into soluble components of dietary fiber has led to the discovery of fractions of oat soluble fiber (beta-glucans) that have been shown to effectively lower blood cholesterol, reduce post-prandial blood glucose, induce satiety and result in appetite suppression.
You can also examine the components of metabolic Syndrome X and the different nutritional compounds that exert positive effects. In insulin resistance, patented beta-glucan fractions of oat soluble fiber may lower blood glucose levels after sugar intake, while chromium and omega-3 fatty acids may assist insulin function. Oat beta-glucan may also reduce blood cholesterol levels and variably increase “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, addressing the issue of abnormal blood lipids; further, antioxidants and chromium may exert favorable effects on blood cholesterol.
Hoodia gordonii may help in obesity by suppressing appetite without cardiovascular stimulation. Other aids in treating obesity are oat beta-glucan to make people feel full before meals, and use of starch blockers (such as the patented phaseolamin-based Phase 2™) to inhibit sugar absorption. Finally, antioxidants may help address oxidative stress, while folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 may reduce blood homocysteine levels.
Another area to examine is the relationship of the glycemic index to combating Syndrome X. A major component of the glycemic index is related to altered rates of sugar absorption, determined to a significant degree by altered rates of transfer of glucose to its site of maximal absorption in the small bowel (a function of how rapidly the stomach empties its contents). Part of this concerns the “balancing” effects of soluble fiber on blood glucose.
Lifestyle changes and nutritional interventions with condition-specific dietary supplements may have more to offer the prevention and treatment of Syndrome X than existing management strategies. Weight loss initiatives must include comprehensive approaches to treat all disorders within metabolic Syndrome X.
Dr. Holt’s formal training as a pharmacologist and gastroenterologist paid off in the early 1990s when he developed one of the most popular fish oil capsules that is sold in the world market. Using his skills in clinical pharmacology, he applied enteric coating to gel capsules containing fish oil. This revolutionary technology has now been widely applied and copied by many other dietary supplement manufacturers. But with training in gastroenterology, Dr. Holt developed this technology to improve the amount of active omega 3 fatty acids that can be absorbed from a fish oil capsule. Dr. Holt’s technology provided other advantages by decreasing gastrointestinal upset from fish oil and preventing bad breath and fishy burps that are often experienced of fish oil liquids or standard capsules, even if deodorized fish oils are used.
[ “I cannot overemphasize the importance of correcting the widespread deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in Western diets,” says Dr. Holt. “Fish oil has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity. Correcting the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, as close to 1-to-1 as possible, is extremely important. High potency, enteric-coated fish oils are to be preferred for enhanced compliance and bioactivity because therapeutic dosages of fish oil are measured in gram amounts.”
[Decreasing calorie intake is a major initiative in the United States, making appetite suppression with the South African herbal succulent Hoodia gordonii a very attractive option. Only authentic Hoodia gordonii imported from South Africa that is known to contain biologically active steroidal glycosides can be recommended as a dietary supplement, says Dr. Holt.
Message of Hope
“I’m a truth teller,” Dr. Holt says. “I will tell you the truth about allopathic medicine and the truth about natural products.”
“You don’t need to fall prey to diabetes,” he says. “Medical historians describe physicians who claim that diabetes mellitus is curable as quacks. Well, let the duck quack because pre-diabetes and early diabetes are reversible.”
And with Dr. Holt’s natural prescriptions, we might just see the last vestiges of that mutant human subspecies— Homo sapiens pancia prominente—in our own time.