Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gout and Molybdenum

One of the challenges of living on the Big Island of Hawaii was I often had gout attacks when emissions from the active volcano (volcanic smog or VOG) got really bad. I attributed my gout attacks during heavy VOG to two main factors. First, the VOG is always the worst when the trade winds stop.  When the trade winds stop it gets really hot in Hawaii. When it is really hot it increases my chances of getting dehydrated which concentrates uric acid and makes an attack more likely. Second, VOG is mostly sulfuric acid which is highly acidic and acidity in my body increases my chances of getting a gout attack.

As I continue to research nutrition, I came across another possible explanation as to why my gout attacks were more frequent during heavy VOG events. According to Dr. Jermey E. Kaslow, gout can be caused by very low levels of molybdenum or very high levels of molybdenum. 

Molybdenum is a micro nutrient that is necessary for the breakdown of  ammonia and uric acid. It also is a key element in dozens of enzymes that remove toxins from the liver and the body. One of molybdenum’s critical functions is the breakdown of sulfur-based amino acids.

Shortages of molybdenum are really rare and only occurs in a few places where there is a very low amount in the soil. Since we get a lot of our nutrition locally, I wondered how much molybdenum there is in Hawaii’s soil. Apparently molybdenum is very deficient in Hawaii’s soil, so much so that some crops are hard to grow. 

Even more interesting is that although there is plenty of molybdenum in Hawaii’s volcanic rocks, it is absent in the soil. It is possible that the sulfuric acid in the VOGgy rain washes the molybdenum out of the soil.

One of the best sources of molybdenum is peas which is one of the foods I have found most helpful during an attack. So with my fingers crossed, I am taking very small doses of the micro nutrient molybdenum to see if I am deficient and will have any beneficial results from taking it. It has been over 18 months now since my last gout attack, so I am curious to see if this supplement will keep my luck going.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Downside of Low Interest Rates

Ever since the US downturn in 2008, interest rates have been dropping both for savers and for borrowers. The upside is those with debts, who were able to refinance, enjoyed a greatly reduced cost of borrowing. Low interest rates made buying a home much cheaper and easier to qualify for.  Monthly payments are almost 50% less at a 3.5% interest rate than at a 7.5% interest rate. The reduced cost of buying a home has helped keep housing prices high in Hawaii, reduced foreclosures rates, and added to local governments’ funds with higher property taxes from higher real estate valuations.

If the US economy continues to improve and interest rates return to previous rates of 8% or more, what will the downside be of this past decade of ultralow interest rates be?

The most obvious downside is that house buying will be much more expensive. A monthly payment on a 30 year, $600,000 mortgage will go from $2308 at the current 3.5% interest rate to $4195 at a 7.5% interest rate.  A $2308 payment at a 7.5% interest rate would only buy a $329,714 home, a mere 55% of what the same payment buys at 3.5%. If the return to higher interest rates drops the home selling prices and ultimately the property values as you would expect, then these lower values will reduce income to local governments from  lower real estate taxes. It seems likely that foreclosure rates will also increase along with more people having underwater mortgages.

A similar calculation can be run on how stocks prices could be affected with increased interest rates. With low interest rates, stocks are far more attractive to people wanting to earn money on their savings. Most saving banks are paying only 0 .25% interest which makes stocks that pay 1% dividends look very attractive. Risky stocks that pay a higher dividend (2% to 4%) are attractive to people who may not normally be willing to take the risk. When savings banks return to paying 7% or more in interest, it will have a very negative effect on most stocks; normal savers and investors  will be able to get better returns without the risk. Companies have benefited by being able to borrow at lower interest rates and they have improved their returns as a result. When interest rates go up, stock prices could drop up to 50%.

As we study how rising interest rates may affect the prices of real estate and stocks, we can see why the Federal Reserve (which controls interest rates in the US) is so reluctant to raise them. The interest rates offered by banks are normally higher than the Federal Fund rates for mortgages and lower for savings. If they raise the interest rates too soon or too much, the results could be a sharp drop in real estate and the stock market causing a downturn in the US economy.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hawaii Nutrients

As we were researching for our last book, "Your Ideal Hawaii Health: Why People in Hawaii are so Healthy and Happy",  we discovered that the health and happiness was due to people getting nutrients in Hawaii that are missing on the mainland. People living in Hawaii get vitamin D from the tropical sunshine, iodine from the ocean, and omega 3 oils in local fish and grass fed beef. Each of these nutrients are so important that doctors have written entire books about how they can be a miracle cure for people that are severely deficient in any one of them. As we read stories of amazing recoveries from taking a few supplements, we were curious if taking additional supplements of these nutrients would have an even greater positive effect on us?

We found iodine the most appealing to try after reading about people who reported that their tumors disappeared and kids with autism had sudden improvements after taking iodine supplements. It was hard to believe that a simple inexpensive supplement could have such a big impact. After convincing ourselves that it was safe for us to try, we started taking iodine supplements in the form of Lugol's Solution (5 drops of 2%) in the morning. We were impressed at how much energy iodine suddenly gave us and we no longer need coffee to get us going. It has been over two years now and we still take iodine every day.

Over the last two years we have found Facebook groups on iodine and we followed one of them closely. It seems like most people are excited at first and then find for one reason or another that the supplement did not do what they were expecting.  Generally people on Facebook groups trying iodine seem to have some severe illness and when they are not cured overnight they are very disappointed. For us, our low energy was cured within a few weeks, so we are very happy about that.

Our success with iodine supplements has inspired us to try other supplements and continue researching key nutrients missing in our diet. We will post what we discover in our continuing adventure in improving our Hawaii life with better nutrition.