Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida web site interview with Binx Selby
Heart Health - Binx Selby
Theme: Health and Medical Research
BalancePoint lowers cholesterol through high-fat diet
Daily Camera staff
Posted: 10/06/2008 04:29:00 AM MDT
Updated: 08/15/2009 10:39:17 AM MDT
Managing your cholesterol with a diet, not by drugs
The Daily Times-Call
Selby, 63, has founded more than a dozen innovative companies geared to do everything from enhance personal computing to make the “perfect” cup of espresso. He established the Boulder- based nonprofit BalancePoint Institute to explore health-related solutions to problems such as unhealthy cholesterol levels.
To develop his theories on how a high-fat diet could fight unfavorable cholesterol counts, Selby started by investing two weeks in the library in January to pore over about 3,500 abstracts on the subject. A study from the late 1950s and early 1960s, dubbed the Mediterranean diet for its emphasis on olive oil, informed his thinking most. Ultimately, he designed a diet based on 60 to 70 percent lipids, primarily from olive oil and other plant sources, 20 to 25 percent carbohydrates and 10 to 15 percent proteins.
Then, for two weeks, he played the guinea pig. He drenched everything from kale salads to steamed okra with olive oil and ate only the most low-fat proteins such as fish and egg whites. Every day, he kept his dietary intake within the above percentages and cut out all grains, starchy vegetables and saturated fat — fat originating from an animal sources — to solve his cholesterol problem.
Cholesterol, a soft, fat-like substance both manufactured by the liver and supplied by diet, helps maintain health by circulating through the bloodstream to generate cell membranes and some hormones. But too much cholesterol can stick to vessel walls and clog blood flow enough to produce a heart attack or stroke.
Doctors measure cholesterol in two basic ways. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, carries cholesterol away from the arteries and is therefore dubbed “good cholesterol.” Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, clogs arteries and is considered “bad” cholesterol. Those with unhealthy cholesterol counts ultimately aim to bring good cholesterol numbers up and bad cholesterol numbers down.
Selby’s doctor balked at measuring his cholesterol counts after just 14 days. But the results seemed to back the Boulder man’s health hunches.
His “bad” cholesterol LDL levels dropped from 117 mg/dl to 75 mg/dl, and the “good” cholesterol levels rose from 83 mg/dl to 106 mg/dl. The American Heart Association recommends that people at high risk for heart disease keep LDL numbers below 100 mg/dl and HDL numbers for men at 40 mg/dl and 50 mg/dl for women.
“This has sort of been like my DaVinci code,” Selby said.
When he shared the good bill of health with his coffee klatch at 6:30 a.m. the next day, they probed him for more information about his BalancePoint Diet.
By this spring, 10 of them — five women and five men, ages 28 to 69 — decided to try the diet for two weeks and get their before and after cholesterol counts measured at Boulder Community Hospital. The two participants already taking statin drugs to improve their cholesterol continued taking that medication in conjunction with following the diet.
Like Selby, they carried around olive oil and scales to accurately weigh foods to the gram. Then, they logged their food diary information into a data base. By the end of the two-week pilot trial, all reported improved cholesterol readings, Selby said. The participant reporting the most dramatic numbers dropped 81 points in the LDLs.
On its Web site, the AHA notes that some studies show monounsaturated fats such as olive oil lowering LDL cholesterol “slightly when eaten as part of a low-saturated- fat diet.”
The dramatic results of the BalancePoint diet likely stem more from the reduction of carbohydrates, according to Dr. Dan Bessesen, chief of endocrinology at Denver Health Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado’s Health Sciences Center in Denver.
“It sounds like his own version of the Atkins diet,” he said of Selby’s trial.
Most Americans get about half of their daily calories from carbohydrates. So restricting that intake can result in weight loss and improved cholesterol numbers. But that would be true for someone who fasted for two weeks, too, Bessesen explained.
“No matter how you lower calories, the lipids will go down. That’s especially true in the short term,” he said. “It’s a reflection of (the body) being in negative energy balance.”
Though BalancePoint’s trial lacked lacked a controlled environment and peer-reviewed considerations, Selby has engaged the University of Colorado’s Health Sciences Center and the American Heart Association in “preliminary discussions,” he said.
He also hopes to write a book entitled, “The BalancePoint Diet: High Speed Cholesterol Reduction.”
“There’s not just one diet for everybody,” Bessesen said. “People have different responses to different diets. Try a diet and see if it works for you.”
However, he warned against following ultra-restrictive diets that could lead to nutritional deficiencies long term and encouraged adopting a diet more palatable for a lifetime of maintaining healthy cholesterol counts.
“At some point, you start looking at bread and pasta and rice and potatoes,” Bessesen said.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-684-5224 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eating more fat to be thin
Millions of people around the world take a statin drug, like Lipitor or Zocor, to lower their LDL ("bad") cholesterol. But for those who don't want to join the 25 million Americans taking statins, Boulder-based BalancePoint Health offers an alternative way to drastically reduce cholesterol through diet.
BalancePoint's protocol is simple, but it's not easy in our carb-crazed culture. It calls for eliminating all grains -- no bread, no pasta, no rice -- and increasing "good" fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados to account for more than 65 percent of your caloric intake.
"I don't think it's an eating program for everyone," said Ann Coppinger, of Louisville, who started on the BalancePoint program in July. "You have to be like I am, where -- I'm done. I'm only 53 and I'm taking more medications than my 80-year-old father."
Coppinger was taking statins, two blood-pressure medications and exercising regularly. She went off of the statins because they were causing leg cramps that made it difficult to walk up the stairs or lift boxes at the store she owns, Pettyjohn's Liquor and Wine. When her doctor said she needed to go back on the statins and increase her blood pressure medication, Coppinger said "enough."
"I couldn't lose weight, my cholesterol was just climbing, my blood pressure every year was going up more, and I thought, 'Something's got to give here,'" she says.
Coppinger's personal trainer had heard about BalancePoint; she checked in with her doctors, who thought it was a good idea. Since starting in July, Coppinger has had a 50-point drop in her LDL cholesterol, a 15-point increase in HDL, and she's lost 35 pounds.
Boulder entrepreneur Binx Selby came up with the concept behind BalancePoint when confronted with a health problem of his own. Selby -- who as an inventor has been involved in a number of start-up companies, from waste purification to high-tech -- put his biology background to use to find an alternative to statins. Although Selby's cholesterol numbers were fine, he cycles regularly and has a consistent meditation practice that reduces stress, his doctor was alarmed by his high score on a coronary calcium scan, which detects calcification in the walls of arteries around the heart.
"She said she'd put me on statins, but I flipped into inventor mode right then and there," Selby said.
Selby parked himself in Norlin Library at the University of Colorado and read everything he could find on the topic. His search pointed him toward the high-fat, low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet of the Greek island of Crete after he read about the low prevalence of heart disease in the Cretan population. Selby decided to go to the island.
"We started meeting some of the older people and eating some of the food -- incredible food, huge amounts of oil," Selby said, adding that they eat tons of wild greens. "We decided one of the keystone elements would be that we put people on lipid metabolism."
Selby also saw inflammation as a key factor in the puzzle. "Heart disease is inflammatory disease. Inflammation is at the root of why people get heart disease," he said. Lectin in grains and legumes causes inflammation, so he eliminated them.
The first two weeks on the new diet are the toughest, but it's enough time to adjust both physically and psychologically, said Colleen Seltz, BalancePoint's director of client services. (Seltz and her husband were early clients of BalancePoint, and she was so impressed with the results, she took a job there working with clients.)
For the first two weeks, clients eliminate grains, dairy (except yogurt) and food-based sources of cholesterol, like egg yolks and meat. Clients reduce their caloric intake to 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day -- depending on age, body-mass index and weight-loss goals -- and of those calories, 65 percent or more come from unsaturated fats -- mostly olive oil -- and 10 percent from protein. The rest is in vegetables -- a lot of veggies -- and some fruits.
By eating this way, the body's metabolic pathways switch from carb-consuming to fat-burning, which decreases LDL and increases HDL ("good") cholesterol, Seltz said.
"We're trying to shut down the insulin spike and crash that a high-carbohydrate diet keeps everyone on," Seltz said. "We're trying to get you into lipid-burning mode."
After the first two weeks, Seltz will help clients adjust their caloric intake. They can also re-introduce some meat at that point, but it's still a no-grain, high-fat diet.
Jim and Helen Knoll started BalancePoint in May, and they've both lost 25 pounds.
"I've been at the sewing machine taking in clothes that are hanging off of me now," Helen Knoll said.
Jim Knoll, 71, was on statins when he started BalancePoint, but he still dropped 23 points on his total cholesterol and 15 on his LDL after six weeks. Helen, 58, who has had high cholesterol for years but has always refused drugs, dropped her LDL count 50 points in the same time period.
The Knolls have also have experienced the anti-inflammation effects of the diet: Helen's back pain has disappeared, and Jim's knee problem, previously diagnosed as generic inflammation, is gone.
Lynn Smith, a nutritionist and life coach who runs Source Nutrition, said she likes that BalancePoint emphasizes good ingredients and lots of vegetables and wasn't surprised that people were losing weight and lowering their cholesterol on this kind of diet.
"If you're doing this kind of a diet, because your blood sugar isn't going to be going up and down all the time, you're not going to get in that craving cycle, which could theoretically help you eat less," Smith said.
But Smith said she was worried about the sustainability of a grain-free diet in our carb-obsessed culture and noted that only highly motivated people will be able to do it.
Helen Knoll said they took the diet as a prescription, and they're following it as such, which makes it easier to sustain. But it was still tough at first.
"Prior to that, I was on high protein, high carbs, low fat," Jim Knoll said. "The third day into it I'm thinking, I don't know if I want to continue with this, but it helped to do it together."
It has to be a health decision, said Coppinger, and then it's easy, because you almost immediately get gratification.
Besides, she said, if red wine is on the diet -- a glass a day is OK -- she thought she could do it.
Daily Camera staff
Posted: 09/25/2006 11:00:00 AM MDT
Updated: 08/13/2009 09:55:36 PM MDT
Media Contact: Wayne Laugesen
Use of high-rather than low-fat diet could represent major paradigm shift for treatment of coronary disease
BalancePoint Institute (www.BalancePointInstitute.org) has just completed a pilot study using a diet of 60-70 percent fats, with limited protein and selected carbohydrates. In each of the participants, LDL cholesterol was lowered in two weeks by 40-80 mg/dl, while its beneficial counterpart, HDL cholesterol, increased as much as 20mg/dl. Serum triglyceride fats also improved.
These changes in LDL levels are comparable to the strongest cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. Statins are generally not known to raise HDLs or lower triglycerides as the BalancePoint diet does.
“Rather than simply suppressing LDL production, as statin drugs do, we change the body’s metabolism,” Binx Selby, BalancePoint’s founder and director, explained. “We have managed to shift it into a lipid, or fat, metabolism mode which quickly re-balances the cholesterol components.”
“BalancePoint has been getting the kind of HDL-elevating and cholesterol-reducing results almost unheard of in the medical community, and they happen very rapidly,” reported Dr. John O’Hearne, M.D., the attending physician for the pilot study. “The BalancePoint diet is a significant breakthrough, simple and practical, and a powerful addition to the tool chest.”
Although the BalancePoint diet is a non-drug, nutritional solution using common, healthy, and readily-available foods, Selby and O’Hearne note it can also be used in conjunction with statin medications to produce even lower LDL numbers. “The diet appears to have a different mechanism than statins,” Selby said. “We have found that combining the two treatments has an additive effect.”
“Our initial results indicate that the diet may correct components of metabolic syndrome as well,” Selby added. “This counter-intuitive high-fat diet, in fact, led to weight loss in those study participants who were over-weight.” Metabolic syndrome links atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and adult-onset diabetes to obesity, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, and is rising at alarming rates throughout the United States and Europe.
Selby developed his method of using lipids to create a favorable metabolic shift because of his own cholesterol problem. “Although it’s an overly simplistic description, the problem is the buildup of stagnant LDLs, or low-density lipoproteins,” Selby explained. “I had a flashback to the metabolic pathways chart hanging on my wall for graduate work. This led to an intuitive insight about lipid metabolism and activating it to constantly eat up all the surplus lipoproteins.”
The results from experimenting on himself with his precisely designed diet confirmed Selby’s theory. He then did an extensive survey of the medical literature and found no studies using his approach. Soon, friends in his morning coffee group started lining up to join a pilot study that was conducted with Boulder Community Hospital Laboratory doing the testing.
“The results were amazing with every single participant,” Selby said. “And seeing how effective the program was, I realized that there is a real need out there. We all have friends and family who could use this information.”
Selby, as lead investigator, started the non-profit BalancePoint Institute in Boulder to facilitate and disseminate research by the Institute and collaborators in the medical field. “I’m an inventor and have made a life of solving problems and coordinating research and wisdom,” Selby said. “I like to find the best experts in the field to collaborate with.”
Dr. James Ehrlich, MD, Medical Director of Colorado Heart and Body Imaging and faculty member of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and The George Washington University Medical Center, is studying the reversal of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease using the BalancePoint diet.
“The new BalancePoint diet is extremely well conceived and represents a logical approach to improving serum lipids and cardiovascular health. Importantly, in the initial group of patients studied at our Denver center, we are seeing evidence of very favorable vascular health using sophisticated technologies that can examine arterial stiffness and myocardial physiology,” Dr. Ehrlich said.
Data collected from the pilot study has also led to ongoing focused research by the Institute on the impact of various carbohydrates and varying levels of protein on the effectiveness of the diet. The pilot study was done mainly with olive oil but the Institute is investigating the effects of other types of fat.
Selby is the inventor and founder of more than twelve companies, ranging from high to low technology pioneering in the areas of personal computing, optical storage, ultra-pure water, and technology for making the “perfect” cup of espresso. His awards include Boulder Entrepreneur of the Year and the R&D Magazine Top 100 Award for technological innovation.
Contact: Wayne Laugesen