Key areas of focus included cardiovascular health, nutrition, musculoskeletal/sports medicine, fertility, gut health, autoimmune disease, integrative nursing and spiritual wellness.
Personalized Lifestyle Medicine
Keynote speaker Jeffrey Bland, PhD, FACN, FACB, CNS, and president of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute, kicked off the conference with a session titled “Is Menopause a Disease? The Estrogen and Androgen Conundrum,” in which he discussed healthy aging.
According to Dr. Bland, personalized medicine is an emerging approach to treatment where “the individual’s health metrics from the point-of-view of diagnostics are used to develop lifestyle medicine-oriented therapeutic strategies for improving individual health outcomes in managing chronic disease.”
Genes vs. Environment
With this approach in mind, Dr. Bland explained how a patient’s genes and environment contribute to their long-term health and wellness, especially as they age. When discussing whether menopause is a disease state, Dr. Bland stated, “The short answer is obviously no, but then why is menopause associated with increased cardiovascular, diabetes, breast cancer and autoimmune disease incidence?”
According to Dr. Bland, one’s genetic background does contribute to health outcomes during menopause, but the personalized lifestyle medicine approach aims to treat the patient’s environment, which can equally contribute to long-term health results. Stressing that genetic background does not necessarily determine a patient’s medical fate, he suggested that improvements to lifestyle, diet, physical fitness and habitat can all help stave off disease as the body ages.
With genetic testing now available through companies like 23andMe, and knowledge of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation link to breast cancer, significant emphasis has recently been put on the genetic component of health. Bringing more attention to inherited illness is the so-called “Angelina Effect,” which refers to actress Angelina Jolie’s 2013 preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA1 mutation. Her elective surgery has been a hot topic and issue of concern among healthcare professionals. Many physicians worry that without the proper medical knowledge to interpret “over-the-counter” genetic testing, people could take dramatic health measures that may be unnecessary.
Citing the work of Mary-Claire King, PhD, published in the journal Science, Dr. Bland suggested that even with a genetic tendency toward a particular illness, addressing the environmental factors affecting a patient’s health might often be a more tempered approach toward staving off disease. As an example, in Dr. King’s study, “Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risks Due to Inherited Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2,” she stated, “The lifetime risk of breast cancer among female mutation carriers is presently 82%. Risks appear to be increasing with time. Before 1940 it was 24%.” The study concluded, “Physical exercise and lack of obesity in adolescence were associated with significantly delayed breast cancer onset.”
With more moderate improvements to overall health having such a significant impact on medical outcomes—even among those with a genetic predisposition toward a particular disease—those within the personalized medicine community see such findings as proof that improved overall health can positively influence genetic expression.
Supported with Science
Dr. Bland pointed to several additional studies indicating supplementation of key nutrients could impact hormonal imbalances that often lead to chronic disease during menopause.
A study published in Nutrition Research (1989) found corn oil promoted breast cancer in female mice, while omega-3 fatty acids resulted in a significant reduction in breast cancer.
Another trial in Gynecologic Oncology (2000) found that indole-3 carbinol intervention in women at risk for cervical cancer had a statistically significant regression of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Indole-3 carbinol is found in high levels in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collard greens and kale. Similar studies (“Can Indole-3-Carbinol-Induced Changes in Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia Be Extrapolated to Other Food Components.” Journal of Nutrition, 2006) found other food components, including isoflavones, may improve the outcome for women with cervical neoplasia.
In the examination of inflammatory disease such as collagen-induced arthritis, it was found that mice supplemented with Rho iso-alpha acids (RIAA) derived from hops for two weeks had noted improvement to existing joint damage. Researchers in the trial concluded that RIAA may have potential as an anti-inflammatory therapeutic (Journal of Inflammation, 2009).
With emerging science supporting nutritional supplementation in the treatment of a variety of health issues associated with menopause, it’s clear that personalized medicine has a lot to offer those suffering with health issues associated with this phase in life.
For more details on the conference, or for a full list of speakers, visit www.ihsymposium.com/annual-conference.