Optimizing Your Metabolism 

Isn’t it About Time for a Fuel Change?

Metabolism is defined as: the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. As humans, our metabolisms are relatively adaptive and flexible, but only to a point. If fueled improperly for extended periods of time, trouble can arise in many forms of metabolic disease (obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc) Most of these metabolic disorders can be reversed by optimizing your metabolism. This means providing your body with the fuel that operates all of your body’s many systems properly. Sounds simple, right? Well, the crux of the problem is that most people are unaware that optimizing metabolism is as easy as changing their diet.

Metabolic diseases associated with diet are responsible for more than 60% of all deaths on this planet. Almost all of which could be prevented with education, sufficient resources, improved medical advice and most importantly, a proper diet. Unfortunately, a combination of misguided government interventions, the influence of food company lobbies and big pharma have kept our progress stuck in a holding pattern for more than four decades. Simultaneously, our country’s influence continues to lead the rest of the world down this same horrific path in pandemic proportions. Instances of obesity, diabetes, and dozens of other metabolic diseases have steadily increased in frequency over the past half century to the point of absurdity. Meanwhile the root causes of these reversible metabolic diseases are simply ignored and masked with superficial pharmalogical bandaids like statins, glucose lowering drugs and exogenous insulin. The nutritional advice dispensed by today’s medical community has been inadvertently skewed into misinformation by the influence of government subsidy programs, big pharma’s profit margins (disguised as innovation), and by the food industry’s powerful lobbies. It’s become increasingly clear that big business profits have taken a precedent over public health. Unfortunately, it has become imperative that individuals take charge of their own metabolic fate. Education and resources are unlikely to come from the “powers that be” in our lifetimes.

This is the part where I “lighten up” & share an overused & inadequate analogy to steer the reader towards understanding of my point:

If you haven’t figured it out already by the graphics associated with this article, the topic is metabolic fuel …essentially a debate comparing the efficiency of glucose from carbohydrate consumption to the efficiency of ketone bodies generated by the liver as a fuel source to drive your metabolism. After doing my research for this article (following my usual routine), I often check out articles already written on the subject, to see what approach others have taken. While undergoing this process, I discovered a notable trend. In almost every article I read, regardless of the source, the author inevitably uses a version of the same analogy to describe the chasm between these two metabolic fuel sources. Using unleaded gasoline to symbolize the glucose from carbohydrate consumption, and likewise diesel fuel to represent the ketone bodies generated by the liver. On the one hand, this analogy seems fair when you consider that most vehicles on the road today use unleaded gasoline, just as most people (now-a-days) fuel their bodies with carbohydrates. This is where the correlation ends, at least for me.

• Do motorists that use unleaded gasoline have to stop at a gas station to refuel every three to four hours regardless of whether they have been speeding down the highway, or sitting dormant in a parking lot? Of course they don’t.

• Do motorists that drive gasoline dependent vehicles feel the overwhelming need to let their cars take a nap after overfilling their gas tanks? Ridiculous, right?

Well, the other half of the analogy is equally preposterous:

• Though I’ve never owned a vehicle that uses diesel fuel, I find it highly doubtful that these drivers can power through days and days of constant use without refueling.

• AND diesel vehicles do not, on average, last any longer than their gasoline guzzling cousins. Again, a very weak analogy.

So, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with a more accurate analogy:

Back in 1999, I experienced an enormous amount of personal success utilizing the Atkins diet. After remaining in the induction phase for a year, I managed to shed 100 lbs. Because this new way of eating had been so effective for me, I decided to remain in the induction phase. As a result, I managed to keep the weight off for the following 12 years. With the advantage of hindsight, I now realize that I was likely in ketosis (utilizing ketone bodies for energy) that entire time and didn’t even know it. In 2011, I abandoned this lifestyle. A loved one had convinced me that this way of eating was unhealthy and dangerous. For the 3 years that followed, I embraced the calorie restriction / low fat version of the Standard American diet (S.A.D.). In that short amount of time, I gradually gained back 60 lbs, started observing my insulin sensitivity deteriorate (a1c score increase), developed high blood pressure, sleep apnea and acid reflux. In 2014,  my family doctor prescribed me a statin as a result of an elevated cholesterol count. This was the straw that finally woke me from my nutritionally ignorant coma.

What’s the point?

One must first understand that an individual can fuel their body with only one of these fuel sources at a time, predominately. I have spent large portions of my 50 years on this planet fueling my metabolism with each of these available fuel sources, at different times in my life. I believe that the chasm between the effectiveness of these two fuel sources are vast, to say the least. It would be like comparing an underpowered, overtaxed 9 volt battery that required replacement every couple of hours to the virtually limitless energy generated by the sun.

                       Show me the Science

Before I let my enthusiasm get away from me, perhaps we should back up a bit and discover some of the science behind this claim. Let’s start with the basics:

Body Fuel Basics:

Normal body cells metabolize food nutrients and oxygen during cellular respiration. A set of metabolic pathways in which ATP (adenosine triphosphate), our main cellular energy source is then created. Most of this energy production happens in the mitochondria, tiny cell particles which act as powerhouses, or fueling stations. There are two primary types of food-based fuel that our cells can use to produce energy:


• The first cellular fuel is glucose, commonly known as blood sugar. Glucose is a product of the starches and sugars (carbohydrates), and a portion of the protein in our diet. This fuel system is necessary, but it has a limitation.  The human body can only store about 1000-1600 calories of glucose in the form of glycogen in our muscles and liver. The amounts stored depend on how much muscle mass is your body has available. Men are often able to store more because they have more muscle mass. Since most people use up about 2000 calories a day just over the normal course of a day, you can see that if the human body depended on only sugar to fuel itself, and food weren’t available for more than a day, the body would run out of energy quickly. Not good for sustaining life in a scenario where food is not always available. Much like the 9volt battery that we previously discussed.


• The second type of cellular fuel comes from fat and fat metabolism products, called ketone bodies, that are generated by the liver. The average sized human body can store hundreds of thousands of calories in the form of fat, so it would be safe to say that this system of energy is almost unlimited, depending on how long one goes without food. (A quick reminder of the sun’s limitless energy in my earlier analogy) Eventually, it would get used up, but people have been known to fast for months and live through it. Not that I would ever recommend this, but this gentleman, Angus Barbiari, once fasted for nearly a year with no detriment to his health other than some obvious lean muscle mass loss.

When glucose levels are low, especially over time, most cells will switch to using ketone bodies for fuel. Ketones allow cells to be metabolically flexible, so to speak. Even the brain and nerve cells, which are heavily dependent on glucose, can utilize ketone bodies for fuel. This ability of normal cells to use ketones when glucose is unavailable indicates that your cellular mitochondria are healthy and functioning properly.

In addition, ketones have some unique properties which make them a cleaner fuel for your cellular use. Burning fat for fuel causes less oxidative damage to the cell, and actually makes it possible for the cell to create much more energy than it can from glucose.

Eating Healthy Dietary Fats Promotes the Burning of Body Fat

Your body can use both carbs and fat for fuel, but they are far from equals. When your body burns glucose as its primary fuel, it actually inhibits your body’s ability to access and burn body fat. With an everpresent supply of carbs, your liver shuts down the entire fat burning process, because it is unaware that it is needed.

When you eat the standard American diet, chances are you’ve radically reduced your ability to burn body fat for fuel. So, how do you  get your body into fat burning mode? Part of the equation is to eat more healthy dietary fats. The other part of the equation is to limit carbohydrates. Fat is a far preferable fuel for your body as it burns far more efficiently and cleaner than carbs.

To effectively burn body fat, you may need as much as 50 to 85 percent of your daily calories to come from healthy monosaturated and saturated fats.

So, while it may seem ironic, eating more fat (and fewer carbs) will ultimately help your body to burn more body fat. There are other methods that can help you switch your body into fat burning mode as well. One reason so many struggle with their weight (aside from eating processed foods instead of real foods) is because they rarely if ever skip meals.

As a result, their bodies have adapted to burning sugar as the primary fuel, which downregulates enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat. Intermittent fasting can change that. By abstaining from food, your liver runs out of glycogen and then, just like that, starts to use up glycogen stored in your body.

Mounting evidence suggests high-fat, low carbohydrate diets may be the key that many people have been looking for, as it solves more than one problem. Not only does it help you shed excess body fat, it does so while improving metabolism, boosting overall energy levels, lowering inflammation, promoting optimal health and maximizing longevity in a number of different ways. Here are some effective ways to optimize your fat-burning ability:

• Limit your carbs to a maximum of 20 to 30 grams per day. You can consume as many high fiber veggies as you like. These carbs, that are surrounded by fiber, are typically quite low in net carbs. You would have to eat an ungodly amount for these foods to be a detriment.

• Limit protein to a maximum of 1 gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass.

• Increase your intake of healthy fats to 70 to 85 percent of your daily calories.

As mentioned, you can kick the entire process up a notch by implementing intermittent fasting (IF), at least for a finite period of time while your body returns to a balanced state. After that, assuming you continue eating right, you’ll only need to intermittent fast on a maintenance basis. The unjustified fear of healthy dietary fat is one of the main reasons why we, as a country, are currently struggling with such high obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates.

Ketosis is a natural energy state that your body uses to provide an alternative fuel when glucose is unavailable. It happens to us all when we fast or when carbohydrate intake is lowered to a minimum. The process of creating ketones is normal, and is an optimal metabolic state designed to fuel our metabolism if we go without food for long periods of time. Eating a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in saturated and monounsaturated fat enhances this process without hunger. This process also alleviates the hunger pangs usually associated with fasting.

Here is Why Ketone Bodies are a Better Source of Cellular Fuel than Glucose: 

So how does our body make ketones out of the stored fat, you ask?  First of all, blood sugar and insulin have to be low enough to allow access to stored fat. If they are, stored fat in the form of triglyceride can be mobilized as a fuel source. A substance called hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) breaks the triglyceride compound down into one glycerol molecule, and 3 fatty acid molecules. These fatty acid molecules come in various lengths of carbon based chains. The fatty acids then flow into the bloodstream and are taken up by body tissues. Once in the cells, the fatty acids are transported into the mitochondria of the cell to be metabolized carbon by carbon in a process called beta-oxidation. As glucose levels fall and fatty acid levels in the blood rise, the liver cells ramp up beta-oxidation, which increases the amounts of a molecule called Acetyl-CoA. As the amount of Acetyl-CoA rises, it is shunted to a process called ketogenesis. Ketogenesis generates a ketone body called acetoacetate, and this ketone is then converted into the two other types of ketone bodies: beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone.  Meanwhile, the glycerol part of the fat molecule gets converted into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.

As ketones levels rise in the body, the cells of heart, brain and muscles begin to use them for fuel. Once the body is using ketones as a main fuel source, there will be some profound and positive health benefits. Ketogenic diets are very effective for correcting cellular metabolic dysfunction. The high blood sugar of diabetes gets reversed, the seizures of epilepsy can be calmed, Alzheimers and Parkinsons symptoms are alleviated, extra weight can be lost, joint pain is diminished and so on. Like I mentioned before, my high blood pressure went down, my sleep apnea went away, and I no longer have issues with acid reflux. Many experts insist that a Ketogenic diet can also alleviate digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, Celiac and Crones disease.

In other words, the ketogenic diet is not a fad. The ketogenic diet has been around longer than any of us! It happened naturally in the days before sugars and processed grains. It is in fact, the way our bodies were designed to thrive. Ketosis is a natural state, and is a potent regulator of metabolic derangement. When formulated and implemented correctly, it can be extremely effective at reversing all kinds of health problems.

Carbohydrates are NOT Essential, But Glucose is. That’s Why Your Body Can Make its Own! 

Although ketones are enormously beneficial, the body must still have some glucose, mostly for the brain and red blood cells. If a person goes without food for a long period of time, the body will break down fat and muscle to create glucose for the brain. Without some glucose, the brain will die and so will you.
This brain glucose need is the main reason that registered dietitians insist on keeping alive the myth that carbohydrates are essential nutrients (meaning we have to eat them or we will die). This is incorrect, biochemically speaking. RDs neglect to take into account that the brain can use ketones for over half of its fuel requirements once carbohydrate intake is lowered and ketone production ramps up to full production. The process of gluconeogenesis can make all the glucose the brain needs, once the body is “fat adapted,” or good at burning ketones for fuel. So although glucose is essential for the brain, eating carbohydrates to make glucose is NOT essential, especially if you are in ketosis.

Most Researchers Don’t Understand Ketogenic Diets

The thing to remember about ketosis is that it takes a few weeks for the body to become fat adapted and switch to burning ketones for fuel once carbohydrate consumption is minimized. 
Also, carbohydrate intake levels have to be lowered enough (below 60 grams per day or lower depending on an individual’s insulin resistance levels) for ketone bodies to be made at a level that the brain can use. If you only lower carbohydrate intake a little, then the ketogenic process gets short circuited, and can’t do its job of taking over as a fuel source.
Most unfavorable low carb studies which reported the “unhealthy effects” of a low carb diet were actually poorly designed, in that they weren’t long enough to account for the fat or keto-adaptation period, and they didn’t cut carbohydrate intake low enough to ramp up ketosis to the protective amounts needed by the brain.

Why Some Doctors Think that Ketosis is Dangerous:

Your doctor is likely confusing the dangerous condition of diabetic ketoacidosis with normal benign nutritional ketosis.  They are distinctly different conditions.

Nutritional ketosis is a normal human condition. For the most part, we all enter into mild state of ketosis each time we go without eating for 6-8 hours, or have recently woke from a good nights sleep. The effects of ketosis vary with the individual, but ketones in the blood stream in normal amounts are not dangerous.

The process of generating ketones (ketogenesis) is kept in check by the presence of insulin in the body. Insulin regulates the flow of fatty acids from our fat cells, and it acts in a feedback loop to regulate ketogenesis. As long as insulin is circulating within the body, in general, the flow of fatty acids and the production of ketone bodies will be limited to a range that is not dangerous.  In contrast, ketoacidosis is a condition associated with a lack of insulin.  For example, it is most likely to manifest in type 1 diabetics who don’t inject enough insulin.

Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Steve Phinney are two of the foremost experts on the topic of ketosis and Ketogenic diets. This interview is lengthy, but well worth the watch:

Please click on the reference links and learn more about optimizing your metabolism, I mean, after all …


For the latest Videos & Articles on Ketogenic Nutrition,  as well as encouragement, advise and Great Keto Recipes, everyone’s welcome in the Facebook Group: WELCOME TO KETO COUNTRY

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Posted in Fitness, Medical Science, Nutrition

Cholester-All You Need To Know

Don’t be a Statin Statistic, You CAN Reclaim Your Heart Health with Proper Nutrition 

Enough with all of this cholesterol confusion, dietary cholesterol and saturated fats DO NOT cause heart disease!

Dietary cholesterol is likely one of the most misunderstood elements of nutrition. Not so much because it actually is confusing, but more so because its been swimming in a muddied pool of misinformation for decades. Largely due to several misguided hypotheses that originated as far back as the nineteen sixties. For 4 decades now, doctors have been taught to discourage patients from eating foods that contain saturated fats and are high in dietary cholesterol, convinced of their correlation with the development of heart disease. This common medical advice has unfortunately had no discernible positive impact on heart disease rates. Up until about the mid-80s, cholesterol, and the fear of having “too high” a level was rarely discussed unless your cholesterol level was over 300. Over the years, unfortunately, cholesterol became a household word for something you must keep as low as possible, or you were at risk for heart disease. Today, dietary fat and cholesterol are typically still portrayed as the worst foods you can consume. Truth is, these nutrients are actually essential for heart health. Cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body, a necessity for building cells and producing vitamin D, stress and sex hormones. Cholesterol is so imperative to life, in fact, that your body will make its own, should it detect a deficit. About 75% of this push-button issue is driven by genetics and heredity.

Since we now know the cholesterol/Heart hypothesis to be false, this also means that the recommended therapies like the low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications (statins) to be useless, and more often than not, dangerous. The greatest tragedy in regards to this myth is the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of people are being prescribed Statins based on a total cholesterol measurement alone. Total cholesterol tells you virtually nothing about your heart disease risk. Some in the medical community believe this to be nothing short of malpractice.

Statin treatment, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug. Dr. Frank Lipman wrote this as pertaining to cholesterol:

“The medical profession is obsessed with lowering your cholesterol because of misguided theories about cholesterol and heart disease. Why would we want to lower it when the research actually shows that three-quarters of people having a first heart attack have normal cholesterol levels, and when data over 30 years from the well-known Framingham Heart Study showed that in most age groups, high cholesterol wasn’t associated with more deaths? In fact, for older people, deaths were more common with low cholesterol. The research is clear – statins are being prescribed based on an incorrect hypothesis, and they are not harmless.”                                                                                        


#1: Common Cholesterol Science is flawed:

In 1953, Dr. Ancel Keys conducted the Six Countries Study, determined to link the consumption of dietary fat to coronary heart disease. When Keys published his analysis that claimed to prove this link, he cherry-picked his data to include only information from seven countries, despite having data from 22 countries at his disposal. He excluded data from countries that did not fit with his preconceived theory. Once the data from all 22 countries was analyzed, the correlation literally disappears.

Dr. Frank Lipman continues:

“Today’s mainstream thinking on cholesterol is largely based on an influential, but flawed 1960s study which concluded that men who ate a lot of meat and dairy had high levels of cholesterol and of heart disease. This interpretation took root, giving rise to what became the prevailing wisdom of the last 40+ years: lay off saturated fats and your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk will drop. This helped set off the stampede to create low-fat/no-fat Frankenfoods in the lab and launch the multibillion-dollar cholesterol-lowering drug business in hopes of reducing heart disease risk. Did it work? No. Instead of making people healthier, we’ve wound up with an obesity and diabetes epidemic that will wind up driving up rates of heart disease – hardly the result we were hoping for.”

#2: Cholesterol is a necessity for good health

Cholesterol is found not only in your bloodstream but also in every cell in your body. It helps to produce cell membranes, the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, and bile acids that help you digest fat, the production of vitamin D, and serves as insulation for your nerve cells. Cholesterol is imperative for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and correlation with an increased risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and even suicidal behaviors.

#3: Total Cholesterol is not an Adequate Measurement for Heart Health Risk!

Your liver makes approximately 3/4’s of your total body’s cholesterol, of which there are two basic types:

* High-density lipoprotein or HDL: This is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol, which is thought to actually help prevent heart disease.

* Low-density lipoprotein or LDL: This known as the “bad” cholesterol. According to conventional thinking, LDL is the one that builds up in your arteries, forming a plaque that narrows your arteries making them less flexible (atherosclerosis). We’re a clot to forms in one of these narrowed arteries that lead to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may be the result.

As medical research science has progressed over the past 4 decades, so has our understanding of cholesterol. Unfortunately medical school protocols, curriculums and guidelines have not caught up. Most general practitioners believe in a very simplified version of how cholesterol behaves in our bodies. The FDA has even lightened its stance as evident in the recent updates to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines in 2015. Apparently size really does matter. Dr. Ron Rosedale clears up some of the confusion:

“The division into HDL and LDL is based on how the cholesterol combines with protein particles. LDL and HDL are lipoproteins — fats combined with proteins. Cholesterol is fat-soluble, and blood is mostly water. For it to be transported in your blood, cholesterol needs to be carried by a lipoprotein, which are classified by density. Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation. Thus, it would be more accurate to say that there are “good” and “bad” lipoproteins (as opposed to good and bad cholesterol).”

Heart-health expert Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride simplifies the understanding of cholesterol’s behavior even further with this analogy:

“Because [LDL] cholesterol travels from the liver to the wound in the form of LDL, our “science,” in its wisdom calls LDL “bad” cholesterol. When the wound heals and the cholesterol is removed, it travels back to the liver in the form of HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Because this cholesterol travels away from the artery back to the liver, our misguided “science” calls it “good” cholesterol. This is like calling an ambulance traveling from the hospital to the patient a “bad ambulance,” and the one traveling from the patient back to the hospital a “good ambulance.”

More recent research has uncovered that it is not necessarily the count of LDL that is culprit in artery blockage, but rather the size of the LDL particles themselves. The large buoyant LDL particles tend to be benign, while the small, dense LDL particles are actually cause for concern. Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra says that the National Lipid Association (NLA) is now lobbying for a shift of focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess the risk of heart disease in patients. But it still has not hit the mainstream, as most general practitioners still follow the outdated guidelines set forth The American Heart Association (AHA). He noted the following in his article:

“Consequently, you may have blood teeming with the less alarming large particle LDL, and still get signed up for a statin. And with the new controversial – and in my book dangerous – ‘wider net’ guidelines proposed by American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, expect that to happen a lot more. The new guidelines will make an estimated additional 15 million more adults (plus a few kids as well) ‘eligible’ to take statins in an effort to drug down their numbers, regardless of what type of LDL they have.”

#4: There are Measures in Place to Help You Dig Deeper into Your Risk Factors! (…and one of them is likely covered by your insurance)

Now that you know about particle size numbers, you CAN take control of your health and either ask your doctor for this test, or order it for yourself. It’s called an NMR LipoProfile. All major labs offer it, including LabCorp and Quest. Dr. Lipman says, if your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high based on the standard lipid profile, getting a more complete picture is of the utmost importance. Especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors. Dr. Lipman continues:

“Press your doctor to review and assess the other often overlooked but possibly more important factors that can shed a brighter light on your UNIQUE situation, namely tests which look at hs-C-reactive protein, particle sizes of the LDL cholesterol (sometimes called NMR Lipoprofile), Lipoprotein and serum fibrinogen. These measurable physical clues will help fill in a few more pieces of the puzzle, and enable you and your doctor to develop a more customized program to help manage YOUR risk, with or without cholesterol drugs. If your doc’s not interested in looking under the medical hood, then it may be time to switch to a new mechanic.”

#5: Pro-Statin Studies Are Usually Funded By Drug Companies!

Most pro-statin studies are sponsored and funded by the drug manufacturers themselves, which (surprise) will typically skew results in their favor. Conflicts of interest have had a tremendous influence on the creation of guidelines and protocols in the medical community. In fact it has become more of the norm than the exception. Here’s just one example, the revised and controversial 2013 cholesterol-treatment guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) were created by a several individuals who had enormous conflicts of interest:

* The most noted author was Dr. Neil J. Stone. Dr. Stone is a proponent of statin usage and has received honoraria for educational lectures from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kos, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Novartis, Pfizer, Reliant, and Sankyo (all drug companies). He has also served as a consultant for Abbott, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and Reliant.

* The second author is Jennifer Robinson who admitted to the New York Times in 2011 that she was given research money from seven drug companies, including some of the main sellers and manufacturers of cholesterol medications. 

* Another author, C. Noel Bairey Merz, received lecture honoraria from Pfizer, Merck, & Kos, and has consulted for Pfizer, Bayer, and EHC (Merck). She’s also received unrestricted grant money for continuing medical education from Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Novartis, Wyeth, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, as well as research grant money from Merck. She owns stock in Boston Scientific, IVAX, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, SCIPIE Insurance, ATS Medical, and Biosite.

* The list goes on and on.

#6: You Can Improve Your Heart Health Markers, But You Must First Know What They Are!

Statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs are not prudent for the majority of people. Specifically, if high cholesterol and longevity run in your family. Don’t be afraid to push back and tell your doc you’d prefer to avoid drug therapies, assuming you’re not in a critical situation. Discuss with your Doctor the possibility of trying a nutritional approach to improving your heart health markers based on all of your specific risk factors, not just your cholesterol numbers alone. In addition to the NMR Lipoprofile mentioned earlier, there are other tests that can give you a much better assessment of your heart disease risk than your total cholesterol numbers alone:

* HDL/Cholesterol ratio: Divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. That percentage should be above 24%.

* Triglyceride/HDL ratios: You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.

* Fasting insulin level: Any foods high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose. Insulin then accelerates to compensate for the rise in blood sugar. Insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat accumulation and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight. Excess fat, particularly the visceral fat around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease.

* Fasting blood sugar: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300% increased risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.

* Iron level: Iron can be very potent. Excess iron creates oxidative stress. Excess iron levels can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not above 80 ng/ml. This can sometimes be remedied by donating blood or having therapeutic phlebotomy. Either of these procedures can effectively eliminate the excess iron from your blood.

*Coronary Calcium Scan (CAC): Undoubtedly the most conclusive test for detecting Coronary Artery Disease. A coronary calcium scan is a test that looks for specks of calcium in the walls of the coronary (heart) arteries. These specks of calcium are called calcifications. Calcifications in the coronary arteries are an early sign of coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina. If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. This is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries. CHD also can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias. Two machines can show calcium in the coronary arteries—electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) and multidetector computed tomography (MDCT). Both use x rays to create detailed pictures of your heart and circulatory system. A coronary calcium scan is a fairly simple test and provides a definitive measure of the locations and existence of problematic areas. Unfortunately, this test is rarely used and not covered by health insurance despite the fact that the alternative treatment (Stenting) is much more invasive, not to mention, nearly 100 times more expensive. This issue has become so controversial that a documentary was released last year detailing the problem entitled “The Widowmaker” here is a short movie trailer:

#7: You Can Easily Improve Your Heart Health With Proper Nutrition!

You can improve your heart health by improving your diet. Unfortunately, many doctors would rather write a quick script for a Statin than spend the time explaining nutritional therapies. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your heart health:

1. Eliminate processed foods which are loaded with refined sugar and carbs, processed fructose, and trans fat. All of these foods increase the risk of heart disease. Try to implement unprocessed or minimally processed foods, ideally organic and/or locally grown into your daily diet.

2. As often as possible, avoid meats and other animal products such as dairy and eggs sourced from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Instead, opt for grass-fed, pastured varieties, raised according to organic standards. Mostly for the purpose of increasing the levels of healthy saturated fats in your diet.

3. Eliminate no-fat and low-fat foods, and increase consumption of healthy fats. Half of the population suffers with insulin resistance and would benefit from consuming 50-85 percent of their daily calories from healthy saturated fats, such as avocados, grass-fed butter, pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts, and grass-fed meats. No- or low-fat foods are usually processed foods that are high in sugar, which raises your small, dense LDL particles.

4. Balancing your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is also key for heart health, as these fatty acids help build the cells in your arteries that make the prostacyclin that keeps your blood flowing smoothly. Omega-3 deficiency can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 100,000 premature deaths each year.

5. Ask your doctor of the appropriate ratios of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, supplement when necessary, but most of these nutrients are abundant in a whole food, fresh vegetable rich diet anyway.

6. Optimize your vitamin D level. Some experts believe that optimizing your vitamin D level through regular sun exposure, as opposed to taking an oral supplement, may be key to optimizing your heart health. If you do opt for a supplement, you will also increase your need for vitamin K2.

7. Optimize your gut health. Regularly eating fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, will help reseed your gut with beneficial bacteria that may play an important role in preventing heart disease and countless other health issues.

8. Eliminate smoking & alcohol consumption.

9. Exercising regularly is actually one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease. In 2013, Harvard and Stanford researchers reviewed 305 randomized controlled trials, concluding there are “no detectable differences” between physical activity and medications for heart disease. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio regimens, has been proven to be especially effective.

10. Pay attention to your oral health. There is evidence linking the state of your oral health several heart health issues.

11. Consider retraining your metabolism to get its energy from fat instead of glucose by following the perameters of a low-carb/high fat (LCHF) diet, sometimes referred to as Banting, Paleo, NSNG, Keto (Ketogenic) or Atkins. All of these are similar and will improve your heart health and optimize your metabolism.

Avoiding statins might be one of the healthiest decisions you ever make. The side effects of these drugs are numerous, while the benefits are debatable. There is but one group of individuals who actually benefit from a cholesterol-lowering or Statin medication. These people have Genetic Familial Hypercholesterolemia. This is a condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol, and is most often resistant to lowering with lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise. 

The purpose of this article was to provide a brief overview of the misconceptions surrounding dietary cholesterol as well as the unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatments that have become epidemic in our country. To thoroughly understand this topic, one must jump down a virtual research rabbit hole 100 miles deep! I have included a video that provides insights into this topic in much greater detail: Ivor Cummins takes a problem solving Engineer’s approach to understanding your lipid panels and reclaiming your heart health. The video is about 30 minutes in length and well worth the watch. If you’ve recently received a diagnosis, or have a loved one that has, this information could, quite literally, change your life. 

References: Dr. Frank LipmanDr. Stephen SinatraDr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Dr. Ron Rosedale, Ivor Cummins   

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By Any Other Name, It’s Still The Same

Will the FDA’s new Nutrition Facts Label lead to a whole new wave of trickery by the food companies?

On May 20, 2016 the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. Among some other minor changes, the FDA is requiring food manufacturers to identify all “added sugars” in food products. Previously, these added sugars were lumped in with the “Total Carbohydrates” section of the label, and only naturally occurring sugars were identified. “Total Sugars,” in the past, have included added sugars, but this new label will expose those added sugars on an additional section of the label. Manufacturers will need to implement this new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply. Here’s a glimpse at the new label changes:

The FDA recommends that Americans consume less than 12.5 teaspoons of added sugars per day. The average American consumes 60% more sugar than that allowance. Many health organizations believe that the daily limit of added sugar intake should be as little as 6 teaspoons per day. Though these new regulations are still based on a macro-nutrient ratio that is completely out of whack, they are at the very least, a step in the right direction. I would imagine it’s difficult to squabble over the US daily allowance for added sugars with a government organization that still thinks Kellogg’s frosted flakes are healthier than an avocado.

There are many reasons that processed food companies started utilizing “added sugars” in the production of their products. Due to an alarming rise in incidents of fatal heart attacks and heart disease in the late 70s, the US government implemented the dietary guidelines for America that mandated a reduction in dietary fats. This change was based on research that had not been proven, and was concocted by unqualified legislators instead of Nutritional Scientists. The food companies then had to reformulate their recipes to accommodate these new guidelines. The reduction and/or removal of dietary fat required that they be replaced by one of, or a combination of the two remaining macronutrients. Since many sources of fat were also rich with protein, the addition of carbohydrates was the only logical choice to fill that void. Sugar, being the Queen Mother of all carbohydrates, also happened to be delicious. The food companies discovered that the addition of sugars would not only improve taste, texture and palatability, but also improve shelf life. Scientific studies have indicated that “added sugars” also enhances addict-ability, which would obviously improve profitability. All of this to the unfortunate detriment of the public health. Sugars are undisputedly the main contributor to the obesity/diabetes epidemic that has plagued our country for the last three decades. This video illustrates the situation in a brief, yet entertaining way:

Processed food companies have become notorious for taking liberties with the truth in an effort to hide the existence of these added sugars from the consumer. Some of the language used on food labels would be more appropriate in the urban dictionary than on a list of ingredients. Their attempts at hiding “added sugars” on food labels have been nothing short of comical. As far as I can tell, there are nearly 300 different words being used to describe sugar on food labels in the US (a liberal estimation). Listed below are some of the most common:

Agave, Agave nectar, Anhydrous, Caramel, Carbitol, Corn sweetener, Crystalline fructose, Barley malt, Dextran, Dextrose, Diastatic malt, Diglycerides, Disaccharides, Diastase, Erythritol, Ethyl maltol, Florida crystals, Fructooligosaccharides, Fructose, Fructose crystals, Galactose, Glucitol, Glucoamine, Glucose, Glucose solids, Hexitol, Honey, Inversol, Isomalt, Lactose, Malt, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Mannitol, Muscovado, Nectar, Panocha, Pentose, Sorbitol, Sorghum, Sucanat, Sucanet, Sucrose, Treacle, Xylitol, Xylose, Zylose.

Cane juice, Cane juice solids, Dehydrated cane juice, Evaporated cane juice, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Fruit juice crystals, Fruit juice solids, {enter fruit name here} juice.

Barbados sugar, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Cane sugar, Coconut sugar, Confectioner’s sugar, Castor sugar, Date sugar, Demerara sugar, Evaporated sugar cane, Free Flowing Brown Sugars, Golden sugar, Granulated Sugar, Grape sugar, Glazing sugar, Icing sugar, Invert sugar, Malt sugar, Maple sugar, Organic raw sugar, Powdered Sugar, Raw sugar, Table sugar, Turbinado sugar, White sugar, Yellow sugar

Buttered syrup, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Carob syrup, Evaporated cane syrup, Golden syrup, Glucose syrup, High Frustose Corn Syrup, King’s syrup, Malt syrup, Maple syrup, Molasses, Raisin syrup, Refiner’s syrup, Rice syrup, Sorghum syrup.

Will the FDA’s new Nutrition label lead to a whole new wave of trickery by the food companies? …oh, you betcha!

Now that the FDA has issued a moratorium on “added sugars” with their required inclusion on product labels, the food companies are going to have to get even more clever when attempting to hide their existence from the general public. Since the FDA’s announcement in 2014, many (most) food companies have been lobbying feverishly to squash these new regulations, but to no avail. Now they have no other recourse than to squabble over the minutia. One sugar lobby has already confronted the FDA with the claim that the teaspoon is a misleading unit of measurement. While another claims that grams are confusing. Let there be no doubt, the food companies will be doing everything within their power to blur the lines as to what “added sugars” actually are.

What’s next?

Sugar accounts for a small fraction of U.S. farm output, but the industry contributes more to congressional campaign coffers than any other commodity producer. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, between 2007 and 2015 growers donated more than $22 million. They have money, and they are not afraid to spend it. The sugar lobby’s power and influence should not be underestimated. They will most certainly be wielding cash to discover/create loopholes that we haven’t even thought of yet. “There is likely to be litigation over what is and isn’t added sugar,” said Stephen Gardner, an attorney at the Dallas-based Stanley Law Group and former director of litigation at CSPI. A case will likely be made that sugar additives that are naturally occurring in nature, or that contain a slight modicum of minerals should not be counted amongst added sugars.  Professor Jeremy Kees, a nutrition label expert from Villanova University School of Business, who has consulted for both the FDA and the food industry, said that he believes that the label change will have a relatively small impact on consumers, “I think front of pack labeling has more potential to have a bigger impact on consumers.”

Blurring the lines with buzz words

All natural, All natural ingredients, Natural, Organic, Pure, Raw, Unrefined, Wholesome, DOES NOT mean “healthy“. You’re going to be seeing this terminology used at nauseum. These words will likely be used liberally on front label packaging containing “natural” sweeteners. The sugar lobby will argue that sweeteners that come from fruit and other natural sources should not be counted as added sugars. The problem is, the sugar that comes from fruit and most other natural sources is just NOT healthier, NOT different in any substantive way from the sugar that comes from sugarcane. This misunderstanding is exactly how food producers will exploit this rule. They will add apple juice or agave to everything that kids eat, and then their product will technically have no “added sugars,” even when they actually have loads of added sugars. Food companies would like nothing more than to trick you into believing that their product is somehow wholesome, or “good for you” just because it’s sweetened naturally.

The term organic is regulated currently by the USDA, for the production of meats, poultry and eggs only. The FDA has no regulation for the use of the term organic and neither organization has implemented hard fast rules for the use of the word natural.

” … but it’s all natural!” You say …

Oh yeah, well so is cyanide.

How bout a nice little poison ivy salad with some cow dung mushrooms, black mold croutons and a crude oil dressing? Perhaps you could wash it down with a lovely poison oak tea? …

…why not, it’s natural?!! Did you know that 97% of the vegetation that grows on the planet is not fit for human consumption, and it’s all natural. Here’s a breakdown of some of the natural sweeteners that the health food community often claim are healthy:

Agave (nectar or syrup) – A very popular sweetener in the natural health community. This sweetener is often considered a healthy alternative to sugar because it’s low on the glycemic index. The harmful effects of sugar have little to do with the glycemic scale, and everything to do with the fact that Agave is very high in fructose content. Repetitive fructose consumption can lead to insulin resistance which will chronically elevate blood sugar and insulin levels. Sugar is nearly 50% fructose, while Agave contains 70-90% fructose, far worse than sugar gram for gram.

Raw Organic Cane Sugar – Many so called “health products” are sweetened with raw, organic sugar. Organically grown sugar has the same chemical composition as “regular” sugar. The fact that it “raw” or how it’s processed means nothing, our bodies metabolizes it in exactly the same way.

Evaporated Cane Juice – This one always makes me laugh. Do food companies really think that describing the way the Cane Sugar is processed is going to make it sound healthier? This one is just deception plain and simple. Evaporated cane juice IS sugar.

Brown Sugar – Molasses forms as a by-product of the sugar refining process and is often added back in small amounts giving the sugar a brown color. Molasses is about 50% sugar and contains a small amount of minerals. Brown sugar is regular sugar diluted with a slightly less unhealthy, less concentrated sugar. The tiny amount of minerals hardly make up for it’s contribution towards insulin resistance.

Coconut Sugar – Derived from the circulating fluid of the coconut plant.The processing method is very natural… it simply involves extracting the fluid, then allowing the water to evaporate. Coconut sugar contains a small amount of fiber and a few nutrients, also has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. However, the glycemic index is just shy of irrelevant when it comes to the harmful effects of sugar. What really matters is whether this product is high in fructose or not. Coconut sugar is actually very high in fructose. It contains a small amount of free fructose, but 75-80% of it is sucrose, which is half fructose. That’s about 35-45% total fructose. Due to its slightly smaller amount of fructose than sugar, and the tiny amounts of fiber and nutrients, you could say that coconut sugar is less unhealthy than regular sugar, gram for gram. However… being “less unhealthy” than sugar does NOT make it healthy.

Honey – Contains some nutrients which includes antioxidants and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. However, it is 80% sugar, by weight. Several studies have compared honey to plain sugar and noted that honey has slightly less harmful effects on metabolism. This is yet another example of a sweetener that is slightly “less unhealthy” than sugar. While a better choice than high fructose corn syrup, it is not recommended if your goal is weight loss.

The Bottom Line: Your body metabolizes the fructose in all of these natural sugars the SAME way as it does with regular sugar. Your liver doesn’t know the difference!

I know what you might be thinking …is this the part in the article where he reminds us that we can satisfy our sweet-tooth with fiber rich fruits and berries? Is this just a full on assault on all things sweet? Must we live our days tasting only saltiness, sourness and bitterness if we want to eat healthy? Have we been presented with a problem that has no solution? Does the food industry even have healthy options for added sugar? What’s with all the questions?

I think both Doctors and Dietitians would agree that a healthy diet would exclude eating processed foods that are subject to added sugars in the first place. The foods products that are designed and formulated to target children are most egregious offenders in this battle against added sugars. Sugar IS an addictive substance and that’s not just an opinion, that’s a fact. 1 out of every 3 children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight. These children have a 70% chance of becoming obese adults.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS: The food companies DO have healthy (or at least “not unhealthy”) options in regards to the added sugars they use in their products!

Here is a short list of some of the most common “not unhealthy” sweeteners:

Stevia – A very popular low-calorie sweetener that currently holds a 13% share of the artificial sweetener market in spite of the fact that it is not artificial. It is extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. This plant has been grown for sweetness and medicinal purposes for centuries in South America. There are several sources of sweetness found in Stevia leaves, the main ones are Stevioside and Rebaudioside A. Both are many hundred times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram, with virtually no calories. There have been several studies conducted with humans revealing Stevia to have health benefits. When blood pressure is high, Stevia can lower it by 6-14%. However, it has no effect on blood pressure that is normal, or only mildly elevated. Stevia has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. There have also been studies in rats showing that Stevia can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol, and reduce plaque build up in the arteries. Stevia also has the greatest consumer availability than most of the other safe sugar replacements.

Erythritol – is low-calorie sweetener. It’s a sugar alcohol that is found naturally in certain fruits It contains 0.24 calories per gram, that’s about 6% of the calories that sugar has, with 70% of the sweetness. Erythritol doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin levels and has no effect on biomarkers like cholesterol or triglycerides. It is absorbed into the body from the intestine, but is excreted from the kidneys unchanged. Studies show that erythritol is very safe. However, same as with other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive issues if you consume too much at a time. Erythritol tastes very much like sugar, although it can have a mild aftertaste.

Xylitol – is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar. It contains 2.4 calories per gram, or about 60% of the caloric value of sugar. Xylitol has some benefits for dental health, reducing the risk of cavities and dental decay. It has also been attributed to improved bone density, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Xylitol doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels. However, as with other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive side effects if consumed in high doses. Xylitol is toxic to dogs, but completely safe for humans.

Yacon Syrup – is harvested from the Yacon plant, which is native to the Andes in South America. This sweetener has recently become popular as a weight loss supplement because one study found that it caused significant weight loss in overweight women. It is high in fructooligosaccharides content, which functions as a soluble fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your intestines. Yacon syrup can help reverse constipation.

Monk fruit (luo han guo) – is a fruit native to China and northern Thailand. It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat obesity and diabetes. Luo han guo is a cousin of the cucumber, and contains mongrosides. Studies are underway to discover whether there is truth to the claim that these monogrosides inhibit tumor growth. Luo han quo has antioxidant properties, and may help manage diabetes. Because these antioxidants have inhibitory effects on blood sugar levels, they may also defend against heart disease. Teas made from luo han guo have been known to relieve throat inflammation or cough, cool heat stroke, help with elimination in the elderly, and aide in the relief of digestive distress.

The Bottom of the Bottom Line:

The Food Industry DOES in fact have healthy/not unhealthy options in regards to the use of added sweeteners to improve the palatability of their processed foods. The real question is – Will they utilize their considerable resources ($) to litigate in an effort to maintain the status quo? Will they direct their money towards developing and improving upon the use, production and implementation of healthier options? Though the most likely scenario is a combination of both (skewed heavily on the side of litigation) my hope is that the FDA will stand strong and not allow politics to influence the ingredients included in products targeting our country’s children.

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The Only Fats To Fear

The battle against Trans Fats in the Standard American Diet. 

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those articles where we collectively dive down a rabbit hole of technical jargon that requires a chemistry degree in order to understand what trans fats are. I’ll make this short and sweet.

There are basically 2 kinds of trans fats:

1.) Natural trans fats – They have been part of the human diet ever since we began eating meat and dairy products from grass fed animals (cattle, sheep and goats.) These are often referred to as ruminant trans fats, they are completely natural (they are formed when bacteria in the animal’s stomach digest grass.) These trans fats are typically 2-5% of the fat in dairy products, and 3-9% of the fat in beef and lamb. These trans fats are generally considered safe. Evidence of ruminant trans-fats is mixed, with experimental evidence suggesting that vaccenic acid is harmful while CLA is not and may be beneficial. In fact, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has long been consumed as a dietary supplement to reduced risk of heart disease. (Learn more about CLA here)

2.) Industrial trans fats, or hydrogenated fats – These fats are the result of pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils, thus changing the chemical structure of the oil. This changes it’s chemical structure from a liquid into a solid. This process involves high pressures, hydrogen gases, and a metal catalyst. After hydrogenation, the vegetable oils has a much longer shelf life and is solid at room temperature. The consistency becomes similar to saturated fats, however it differs from saturated fats in several very dangerous ways. At high temperatures this vegetable oil’s molecular structure becomes unstable and highly toxic. These hydrogenated, and partially hydrogenated oils have proven to increase the production of dense LDL lipoproteins, decrease production of HDL cholesterol and thus increase the risk factors for coronary heart disease. Several studies have linked trans fats to cancer. It has also been proven that these industrial trans fats have a causational relationship with inflammation which is a precursor for not only heart disease but also metabolic syndrome, diabetes and arthritis.

Almost one year ago, the FDA implemented a three year phase out program to rid the American diet of trans fats by June of 2018. “It’s about time,” says Dr. Fred Kummerow who was instrumental in discovering the correlation between trans fats and heart disease way back in 1957! Since then, heart disease has become the # 1 killer of men and women in the United States. Dr. Kummerow, who will be 102 years of age this October, has made this battle his life’s work. My hope is that he gets a chance to see this process through to completion.

Meanwhile, in that other trans community, AKA the food industry, the pushback on the trans fat ban is a very real thing. Due to the overwhelming evidence of the dangers of trans fats, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone opposed that didn’t have a political or financial motivation. Oh yes, they are out there, and are jumping and diving through loopholes. The most common being that the FDA does not require the listing of trans fats on food labels if it has less than .5 grams per serving. Though many players in the food industry are claiming proactivity and reinvention, most are teetering on the threshold of honesty by adjusting portion sizes on food labels to accommodate a less than .5 gram trans fat inclusion. This even gives them the opportunity to boast “no trans fats” on the label, which is more often than not just a bold faced lie.

Before you start doling out kudos to the FDA for finally doing something about trans fats, one must be mindful of several things:

  • First, the FDA is and always has been a very political organization.
  • The FDA regulates both foods and drugs.
  • The FDA has had budget increases that were funded by both the food and drug industries.
  • Enough said, I’m sure you can do the math.

*It is also important to note that the FDA continues to limit and demonize healthy saturated fats, which have been proven by science to be heart healthy. This creates an even larger obstacle for the food companies in their efforts to comply with the new regulations. In short, they refuse to admit that they were wrong in spite of the obvious obesity epidemic that is currently in its 4th decade. Ridiculous. (But I digress)

With all of this in mind, you’ll likely not be too surprised to learn that this trans fat ban is not really an across the board ban at all. There are already procedures in place for food companies to petition the FDA for approval of their products that contain more than .5 grams of trans fats. Are you thoroughly disgusted yet?

In short, in spite of these new trans fat restrictions, it is imperative that we, as consumers, educate ourselves as to where these rancid trans fats are hidden. As implementation of these new regulations progress, food companies and restaurants will be struggling with the transition. They don’t want to completely let go of their precious trans fats for several reasons. As toxic as they are, hydrogenated, and partially hydrogenated oils are cheap, last longer in the fryer which allows for multiple uses, they also improve the texture of some foods for improved palatability and extend the shelf life of many foods. The food companies will not be giving up without a fight.

Don’t just assume that because your favorite wing house doesn’t bread their wings that they are right in line with your NSNG, low-carb, Ketogenic, or Paleo diet plans. They could be fried up in toxic vegetable oil. Don’t be afraid to ask your server how your meal is prepared. I used to be timid about asking questions, those days are long gone.

If you already eat a healthy diet of whole foods, you likely avoid prepackaged and processed foods already. In case you don’t, here are some products that may have industrial trans fats:

Avoid cooking with processed vegetable oils, margarines, hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, interestified fats – sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, canola, soybean, grapeseed and corn oil are all damaging to your health.

Notice that the most stable oils are those with the largest percentage of saturated fat, while the most unstable are those with the largest percentage of polyunsaturated fat.

Replace these harmful vegetable oils and trans-fats with flavorful grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard, red palm oil, goose fat, duck fat, oils with limited polyunsaturated fats (macadamia, avocado, olive oil, and healthy animal fats with cancer fighting components like CLA from grass fed beef tallow.)

Removing trans fats from the American diet can save up to 7000 lives and 20,000 heart attacks per year. Though it’s not the issue that will solve all of our countries dietary problems, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Get involved, share this information with people you care about. Remember, the food you eat can either be medicine or poison. Let’s help others make the healthy choices.

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Don’t Be A Rebel Without A Carb

Mother Nature’s Antidote for Carbohydrates 

“Carbs are the single most important thing you can eat for health and weight loss.”              – Dr. Mark Hyman

“A controlled carbohydrate lifestyle really prevents risk factors for heart disease.”                   – Dr. Robert Atkins

“Wait just a damn minute! Carbs are bad for me! They are the macronutrient most responsible for elevating blood glucose and insulin levels …and insulin is a hormone that regulates fat storage, I can do that kind of math myself. Why in the hell would I want to eat something that will make me fat?  I’m going to just eliminate them all together!”

This is the attitude many people take when they discover that the carbs they are eating are responsible for fueling their weight gain. Often, without any further investigation, many folks will label all carbohydrates as “bad” and then set out to completely eliminate them from their daily menus. They go on the assumption that “if less is better, than NONE is best!”  Our bodies are much more complicated than that, unfortunately it’s not that simple. It is imperative that we recognize the flaw in this logic and not fall into a state of “Carbo-phobia.” After all, the last time we (as a country) collectively demonized an entire food group (Saturated Fat), it led us to an obesity epidemic 4 decades strong. One that we are still fighting our way out of. In an effort to learn from our mistakes, perhaps we should seek a more in-depth understanding of the carbohydrate before we throw them out with the bath water.

Carbohydrate is not a four letter word. All plant foods are carbohydrates. They contain phytochemical nutrients that have numerous, powerful anti-cancer effects. Carbohydrates provide for the healthy construction of cells, not only in the brain, but in the entire body. Fortunately for all of you carb-counters out there, your body does not require many. It is not actually the carbs themselves that our bodies crave, but the phytonutrients surrounding them that are beneficial to our cells. Eliminating carbs entirely would not only be a cumbersome undertaking, but also a disastrous one.

Carbohydrates in and of themselves are fattening, in that they start a chain of hormonal reaction that lead to the storage of fat. They cause a surge in blood glucose levels which cause the over stimulation of insulin (the hormone most responsible for fat storage.) Surprisingly, what most people fail to realize is that the carbohydrate’s toxicity lies in the way they are processed by our bodies, as well as by how they are processed (or over-processed) in preparation for our consumption.

Did you know that there is a healthy way to metabolize carbohydrates? This is not a process that was invented by a doctor, a procedure contrived by a research scientist, or something cooked up by some diet guru. What I’m talking about is a process that was created by none other than Mother Nature herself. That’s right, Mother Nature has provided us with the antidote for Carbs! This substance of which I am referring is fiber.

Fiber is the “Anti-Carb.” Fiber’s coexistence with the carbohydrates in green-leafy, cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and some whole non- hybridized fruits, come just shy of completely negating the adverse effects that a carbohydrate alone would have on your blood glucose levels. Thus, keeping the over secretion of insulin in check and lowering the net carb effect. The existence of fiber in these foods also contributes to the satiety of your meals. Fiber is instrumental in improving gut flora and helps with both digestion and elimination. These carbohydrates that coexist with fiber are often referred to as “slow” carbs.

The carbohydrates that can be detrimental to your health are the “fast” carbs, often referred to as refined carbohydrates. These refined carbs are easily digestible and found in processed foods, sugary treats, grains like breads, flour, cereals, rice, pasta, starchy hybridized potatoes, corn and several other root vegetables. Though some of these foods contain a modicum of fiber, most of them are completely unbalanced and a detriment to your efforts at weight loss or weight maintenance. Refined carbohydrates do indeed spike your blood glucose levels, increase insulin production and fat storage. In fact, their repeated daily consumption over months and years, can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity.

Another reason that carbohydrates are often demonized is because of their associative relationship with the causation of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Patients diagnosed with these diseases often transition to low carb diets (as they should), but without being properly educated on how insulin works in the body. They often look at carbs as the bad guy and stop eating their veggies. You’d be surprised by how many people do not realize that you can actually achieve dietary ketosis while simultaneously eating meals that have plenty of vegetables, berries and nuts. You can eat up to 50 grams of these fiber rich carbs and still remain in dietary ketosis. Trust me, I have the almond breath and the keto-sticks to prove it. You can fill each meals plate with 50% vegetables and still be eating as little as 20-30 grams of these healthy carbohydrates per day. There is no need to fear these carbs!

It’s so important that we learn to differentiate between the good and bad carbohydrates. A good glycemic index chart can serve as an adequate* guide to help discern between the carbohydrates are good and those which are counterproductive. I find this link from the University of Sydney to be most useful. 

*A glycemic index provides a measure of how certain foods affect your blood glucose level. Though insulin levels operate independently of blood glucose, they mirror each other more often than not. (But that’s a topic for another day)

As another side note, it is important that I mention the protective factors of vinegar. Just as the presence of fiber can lessen insulin production, vinegar can also exert a protective effect on the serum insulin response. The existence of vinegar in your diet can reduce the glycemic effect of higher glycemic foods by as much as 20% to 40% in some cases.

In this Information Age there’s really no excuse not to take charge of your fitness. Please be beware, there is a bevy of misinformation on the Internet. We must all make an effort to check the reliability and accuracy of online sources. In case you are wondering, the content of this article was inspired by information provided from “The Obesity Code” by Dr. Jason Fung and “Eat Fat, Get Thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman. Both published earlier this year (2016)

While Carbohydrate is not a four letter word, “REFINED Carbohydrate” is the real culprit, worthy of your scrutiny. You need not fear the few carbs that accompany a healthy amount of fiber in low glycemic vegetables and fruits. Adding good slow carbs to your diet will add variety and an endless wealth of benefit. There’s really no reason to be a rebel without a carb. 

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To Snack or Not to Snack, That is the Question

Debunking the Meal Frequently Myth

If you are over the age of 40, then you likely have a clear memory of hearing this advice growing up: “Cut down on in between meals snacks”

Well, somehow, over the past few decades that advice has changed to: “You should eat every couple hours, to keep your body working, it speeds up your metabolism.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that those two pieces of advice are polar opposites. This is a perfect example of what is known as “bro-science.” You know, the kind of advise you might overhear from some random dude at the gym, or from one of your boss’s friends at a dinner party. Unfortunately, in our country, this advise has made its way into the mainstream and is actually doled out by doctors and health professionals for the purpose of “speeding up your metabolism.”  They have even gone as far as to advise eating 6 meals per day, spreading them out to about every 2 hours.

The food industry has had no problem helping you to comply with this misguided mantra, as they have created an entire new genre of highly processed food items that are “snack sized” and ready, waiting for you as an impulse buy at every checkout counter in every grocery/convenient store in the free world.

Over the past few decades the influx of snack sized products have been positively dizzying. So called low-fat “protein bars”(which inevitably are loaded with sugar), nuts processed in partially hydrogenated oils, 100 calorie chips, cookies, candy bars, diet sodas and energy drinks have completely infiltrated our society. And we’ve been convinced that we are somehow doing our metabolisms a favor by supplementing our daily eating schedules with these high glycemic foods. How many of these convenient snack items in this picture are actually healthy choices? Well, with exception to water, the answer would be none. Though it is true that whenever we eat, our metabolisms do accelerate slightly, it’s not to any significant degree, not any more so than one would achieve by eating the standard “3 squares”over the course of a day, on average. Certainly not significantly enough to justify constantly being in feeding-mode.

So, at this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “So what?!  If it makes no difference, then, no harm, no foul, right?” Well, unfortunately, as it is with most things having to do with our bodies, it’s not that simple. Our bodies are complex hormonal mechanisms that are constantly reacting to what we eat. And even more importantly, NOT reacting when we don’t eat! Understand that eating heightens the glucose level in your blood, triggering the release of insulin. Insulin is the main trigger for fat storage. The insulin does its job and returns to a basal level after some time has passed. If you are constantly eating, and thus constantly spiking your glycogen levels, your body never gets a chance to return your insulin to its basal level. Over time, this constant daily influx of insulin can cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance over time can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. You need to allow for some insulin downtime! Also, the quality of your diet tends to suffer substantially when you supplement your meals with snacks. Foods designed for a long shelf life are highly processed and tend to be very high in refined carbohydrates. You need to give your body a chance to get its energy from your fat. Don’t worry, you’re not going to starve, I’ll assure you. Did you know that a man once survived a 385 day fast? I’m sure you can make it till dinner time.

There is some good news:

If you find that you are always hungry inbetween meals, perhaps you should examine what you’re eating for meals. Did you know that eating meals that are high in healthy fats will satiate your appetite and thus satisfy you for far longer than that of a meal filled with carbohydrates? That sugar crash feeling that we’ve all experienced is a very real thing. Both proteins and fat initiate the release of natural satiety hormones (peptide YY, Cholecystokinin), these are the hormones that tell your brain that you are full. The consumption of carbohydrates (sugars) do NOT activate this hormonal system and often leads to overeating. If you were to eat three meals a day that include a moderate amount of healthy fats and protein, you’ll likely find that eating inbetween meal snacks will become unnecessary.

Here are some graphics that I borrowed from Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Codepublished just this year (2016). These graphs illustrate an example of insulin release over the course of an average day:

 3 meals no snacks (adequate insulin downtime)

3 meals w/ snacks (minimal insulin downtime)

Insulin is, in fact, the main hormone that regulates fat storage. So, wouldn’t you want to minimize its activity? It only makes sense that this first scenario would be more effective for weight loss.

Imagine if you were to only eat foods that were low on the glycemic scale and your insulin was rarely spiked to a significant degree, even during regular meals? Why that sounds a little bit like a recipe for healthy living! That would be a diet of healthy fats, proteins and only the carbohydrates that come from fiber rich vegetables and fruits. And guess what the side-effect would be? Yep, weight loss.

Perhaps we should collectively consider embracing some of the good ideas of our past, especially the ones that are based on truth and actually have a track-record of being effective. I mean, seriously, did we really think that eating more food, more often would be an effective strategy for weight-loss? It doesn’t even make sense.

If you’re an older person, as I am, you may be able to remember back to the day, prior to the late 1970s, before our country was amidst this current obesity epidemic, when families ate 3 square meals a day as a general rule. You were constantly being hounded to finish all your vegetables. And God forbid, if you were caught eating before meal time, your grandmother would say: “Quit snacking, you’ll ruin your supper!”  Well, she may not have been an expert at “kick the can” or dodge ball like you were, but in this particular instance, you’re grandmother was right.

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What’s Wrong With Weight Watchers? 

Why Weight Watchers Won’t Work for Sustainable Weight-loss:

“If at first you don’t succeed, buy, buy again!”

This is the deceptive, but admittedly brilliant, business model of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and most of the other mainstream “Standard American Diet” diet companies. If you really stop and think about it, they have implemented a rather clever strategy. Follow me here:

The most successful businesses devise a plan to not only attract new customers but more importantly, retain and cater to repeat customers. Keeping this in mind, let’s review the vicious cycle of the traditional American processed food diet plan:

Anyone that has ever been on a calorie restriction diet is familiar with the yo-yo pattern that it creates. You reduce the amount of calories you eat, take some proper weight loss supplements while simultaneously trying to increase your exercise. Sounds like a solid plan right? And you actually loose a little weight (temporarily). But then your body’s metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of fuel. Your energy level then drops, your hunger increases and your weight loss plateaus causing you to become frustrated. Then you return to your previous eating habits. Inevitably you gain the weight back (often a few lbs. more) and blame yourself for the failure instead of blaming the plan you were on.“If at first you don’t succeed, buy buy again” and the vicious cycle of success followed by failure repeats. Is this sounding familiar?

What a perfect business model to assure repeat customers! You provide a product that doesn’t work, and instead of the customer blaming you for it, they blame themselves! “I didn’t try hard enough, I gave up too easy”, they tell themselves. So they give it another go, over and over again. All the while it wasn’t even their fault that they couldn’t keep the weight off, it’s actually part of the plan. Genius!

“So you’re telling me that Weight Watchers knows that their plan doesn’t work?”

Of course they do! Let’s look at the evidence:

– The “calorie restriction” model of weight loss does not work for sustainable long-term weight-loss. It is based on the age old “calories in vs. calories out” philosophy whose effectiveness has been disproven time and time again in study after study. This isn’t just my opinion. This oversimplified theory was proven ineffective long before the inception of Weight Watchers. One would think that a weight-loss company that has the largest market-share in the world would also have the resources to stay on top of the latest science in weight-loss. Weight Watchers International is well aware that an actually effective weight-loss plan would be impossible to produce in a pre-packaged food format. And besides, if it actually worked, they would never get repeat customers.

– The Weight Watchers (SmartOnes) brand foods are manufactured by the Fortune 500 company Heinz/Kraft Foods, who are instrumental contributors to the current obesity epidemic that our country is currently in the midst of. Their frequent use of high fructose corn syrup and trans-fat producing hydrogenated oils are rivaled by only the worst of offenders.

– Weight Watchers, and their pre-packaged processed-food competitors like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem all still cling to the outdated and disproven “low-fat” philosophy that started in the 70s as a result of bad science. This same philosophy that is responsible for the obesity epidemic we find ourselves in. Don’t just take my word for it, follow this link and discover the near 2 dozen studies that have been conducted in the past decade or so that prove it’s ineffectiveness.

– Still not convinced? Well, let’s take a closer look at some samples of their actual product.

Here’s a random pick from the Weight Watchers menu, “Fire grilled chicken and vegetables”, they would have to go out of your way and make quite an effort to screw up the macronutrients of chicken and vegetables. Well, that’s exactly what they do: 

47 carbs and 8 sugars in chicken and vegetables. What kind of voodoo it this? Notice the pie chart, the macronutrient ratio reflects the exact opposite of what would actually be effective for weight-loss. And on top of that, this minuscule portion size is surely a recipe for hunger. I won’t even broach the fact that trans fats aren’t even listed, but that’s another topic for another day.

This is merely a random sample, but feel free to follow the links at the bottom of this web page to discover other examples of their offerings. You can see for yourself that this random sample that I chose is fairly consistent with their entire menu.

Weight Watchers and the like are merely portion control proprietors of pre-packaged foods that not only parody the macronutrients of the standard American diet, but also have failure worked right into their business model. Successful business is all about repeat customers, and Weight Watchers gets that in spades because their product simply does not work! As Oprah Winfrey encourages everyone to enjoy bread everyday, ask yourself what their motives are. Is it really weight-loss? Or is it simply profit?

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Everything in Moderation: The Balanced Diet Myth

Why eat a “balanced diet” when half your food is making you fat and sick?

“Leaving out an entire food group is bad for you. You really should be eating a balanced diet!”

A brief history of that lie:  

Back in 1977, Senator George McGovern set in motion the official dietary guidelines for the United States based on flawed research studies conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys. From this, the misguided and unsubstantiated “food pyramid” was born, and it stuck. In spite of the fact that hundreds of studies have been conducted since disproving it’s validity, this misinformation is still taught in schools today and regarded by most as fact. As a result, over the course of the past three decades, this junk science has lead our country into the midst of an obesity epidemic.  The Lie:

This unjustifiably revered “food pyramid” instructs the American people to eat between 6 and 11 servings of carbohydrates per day in the form of bread, cereal, rice, potatoes & pasta. Meanwhile also suggesting that we eat saturated fats only sparingly. Touting this to be what is known as a “balanced diet”.

 The Facts:

1. Refined carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, rice, potatoes & pasta are metabolized in the liver as glucose (sugar)

2. Insulin is the hormone that regulates fat storage.

3. The macronutrient most responsible for elevating insulin levels are sugars and refined carbohydrates.

4. Habitual and re-current patterns of elevated insulin levels over time can lead to insulin resistance and thus cause metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

5. Sugars and refined carbohydrates provide your body with no useful nutrients that can’t be received from healthier food sources.

So …

Have you already done the math for yourself?  Insulin is the hormone that stimulates fat storage, carbohydrates and sugars are the main stimulant of insulin production. So I ask you, why would you want to eat a “balanced diet” when one side of the scale is filled with foods that not only make you fat, but also make you sick?

The Truth:

I know what you’re thinking! But Tim, we need carbohydrates for cellular fuel. True. But not refined carbohydrates. The carbs we need are the ones surrounded by healthy fibers in vegetables. Besides, the nutrients we get from saturated & monounsaturated fats can provide our bodies with a much more efficient fuel.

So, if you must use a pyramid to understand a healthy diet, flip that damn thing on its end! Leave sugar right where it is …but eat refined carbohydrates such as bread, cereals, rice, potatoes & pasta only sparingly (if ever). Your true “balance” will come from daily meals filled with healthy green vegetables and the good fats and proteins from beef, fish & fowl and healthy oils.

Some might consider (myself included) this to be a “balanced” daily diet:
Balanced” just the way I like it!

*The contents of this blog post can be substantiated by reputable sources the likes of which are too numerous to mention. But here is the short list: “Always Hungry?” By Dr. David Ludwig, “Eat fat, get thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman, “The Obesity Code” by Dr. Jason Fung just to name a few (all of which have been published within the past year)

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