What is the number one cause of disease? What is the cure?

Diabesity is the leading cause of most chronic disease in the 21st century. Diabesity describes the continuum of metabolic abnormalities that ranges all the way from obesity to full blown diabetes. It includes mild blood-sugar elevation and insulin resistance. Those with diabesity are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.

Before a person becomes a diabetic, they go through a stage called insulin resistance. This means that their cells require more insulin than usual to force sugar into the cells. They have elevated resting blood sugars (greater than 100mg/dL. This problem is caused by many different lifestyle factors including physical inactivity, eating too many calories, high sugar and high starch snacks and meals, and a lack of dietary fiber. People in the insulin resistance stage complain of constantly being hungry, craving sweets, having trouble losing weight and enlarging bellies.

While there are some predisposing genes, diabesity and type 2 diabetes are almost entirely caused by lifestyle factors. Nutrition is the most important modifiable lifestyle factor. When your diet is full of empty calories and an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars such as liquid calories including sodas, juices, sports drinks or vitamin waters and refined or starchy carbohydrates including bread, pasta, rice and pastries, your cells slowly become numb to the effects of insulin. Your body thus needs more and more insulin to balance your blood-sugar levels. This leads to insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and eventually full-blown diabetes.

Elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance are the most important factors leading to rapid and premature aging and all its resultant diseases. Increased levels of insulin, the fat-storage hormone, tell your body to lose muscle and gain weight around the belly. High insulin levels also drive inflammation and oxidative stress. These lead to many health issues including increased weight in the mid-section, inability to lose weight, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL (good cholesterol), low libido, erectile dysfunction, infertility, joint aches and pain, hair growth in women, poor sleep, increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. These conditions are all directly caused and worsened by elevated levels of insulin and inflammation.

Since insulin resistance and diabesity are a direct result of poor diet and lifestyle, the condition is reversible in the majority of cases. Most people just need to eliminate the things that are sending their body out of balance and include what’s needed to help the body rebalance itself. For most, the interventions required are extremely simple and extraordinarily effective. Simply, eliminate sugar and processed carbohydrates. Instead, eat whole real foods. These are foods without labels. Meals should include protein, healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Regular physical activity is also important. Incorporate regular aerobic activities into your days. This means going for regular walks, swimming, playing tennis, or any other aerobic activity you enjoy.

You are responsible for taking back your health. No single change will completely allow you to take back your health. It is the hundreds of little choices you make every day that will transform your overall health and make a difference. Start making changes today and take back your health.

How many carbs should I eat a day to lose weight?

Reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet is one of the best ways to lose weight. By reducing the carbohydrates in your diet, especially simple carbs, you will lower your insulin levels. Insulin is the storage (get fat) hormone. Lowering insulin levels keeps your body from storing excess sugar as fat. Furthermore, lowering your insulin levels allows fat to be released from your fat cells to be used as energy. Reduced-carb lifestyles also have benefits that go beyond just weight loss. They naturally lower blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides. They raise HDL (the good cholesterol) and improve the pattern of LDL (the bad cholesterol) from type B to type A.

There is no clear definition of exactly what constitutes a low or reduced carb lifestyle. Furthermore, what is low for one person may not be low for another. An individual’s optimal carb intake depends on multiple variables such as age, gender, body composition, activity levels, and current metabolic health. People who are physically active and have more muscle mass can tolerate a lot more carbs than people who are sedentary. Metabolic health is also a very important factor. When people become insulin resistant, obese, or type II diabetic, the rules change. People who fall into this category can’t tolerate the same amount of carbs as those who are healthy. They become “carbohydrate intolerant”. If you are overweight with belly fat, chances are you are carbohydrate intolerant.

For most people, I would recommend starting in the range of 50-100 grams of carbohydrates a day. This range is great if you want to lose weight effortlessly while allowing for a bit of carbs in the diet. It is also a great maintenance range for people who are carb sensitive. This level corresponds to eating lots of vegetables, 2-3 pieces of fruit per day, and minimal if any starchy carbohydrates.

For some though, the 50-100 gram range may not be enough to see benefit. Those who are significantly carbohydrate intolerant, pre-diabetic, insulin resistant, diabetic, or significantly obese may need a lower range to see benefit. If the 50-100 gram range is not working, try the 25-50 gram range. At this level, you can eat plenty of low-carb vegetables, some berries, and minimal carbs from other foods. This range can be difficult for some people to maintain.

Remember, everyone is different. You will need to experiment to see what level works best for you. You may need to start out at a fairly low level, but subsequently you may be able to increase your daily intake as you lose weight and become more carbohydrate sensitive. If you want to try out a reduced carb lifestyle, I recommend initially tracking your food intake for a few weeks to get a feel for the amount of carbs you are eating.

Very important: if you are a diabetic or on diabetes medication, you will need to discuss your diet changes with your primary care physician or endocrinologist first. This is critical. You will need to monitor your blood sugars closely, and most likely reduce your diabetes medication. Your blood sugars will drop fairly quickly and you do not want to become hypoglycemic. Do not try without your personal physician’s guidance.

If you are trying to become healthier and lose weight, give this dietary lifestyle a try. Most people’s metabolisms are just not able to handle the amount of carbohydrates they are ingesting on a daily basis. Lowering your daily carbohydrate intake will make you healthier, naturally, subsequently reducing the need for medications.

Use the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load as natural ways to improve your health.

Obesity is a significant problem in our society. Losing weight and maintaining weight loss is incredibly difficult for most people. A major cause of weight gain in many people is elevated insulin levels. As described in prior articles, insulin is the “get fat and stay fat hormone”. If your insulin levels are high you will gain weight, which tends to be deposited in your belly. This is the dangerous fat, which leads to many diseases. Furthermore, high insulin levels lock in the fat already in your fat cells making weight loss extremely difficult, even with exercise. The glycemic index and glycemic loads are tools you can use to help you decide which foods to eat to help lower your insulin levels. Lower insulin levels will lead to weight loss and help to maintain weight.

 
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes our blood sugar levels to rise and how persistent the blood sugar remains elevated. The glycemic index (GI) ranks food on a scale from 0 to 100. Foods with a high GI are quickly digested and absorbed, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. This leads to a large and persistent increase in insulin secretion. Insulin is the storage hormone that leads to weight gain and prevents weight loss. The foods that rank high on the GI scale tend to be high in processed carbohydrates and sugars. Pretzels, for example, have a GI of 83 and a baked potato without the skin has a GI of 98.
On the other hand, foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed at a slower rate and, subsequently, cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels. This causes low or minimal increase in insulin levels. Low insulin levels lead to weight loss. Low GI foods are typically rich in fiber, protein and/or fat. Examples of these include apples with a glycemic index of 28, unsweetened Greek-style yogurt at 11, and peanuts at 7. Keep in mind that a low GI doesn’t necessarily mean that a food is high in nutrients or healthy. You still need to choose healthy foods high in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Following a low GI diet can make it easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, since these foods keep us feeling fuller, longer. Low-GI diets have also been shown to improve insulin resistance, and lower glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

 
One criticism of the glycemic index is that since the scale was created on a standard amount of carbohydrate per food (50 grams), it does not give people information about the amount of food they are actually eating. A common example is carrots. Carrots have a high glycemic index, but to get 50 grams of carbohydrate from carrots, you have to eat 4 cups of chopped carrot. Most people cannot eat this amount of carrots at one sitting. For this reason, the concept of Glycemic load was created, which takes serving size into account. Glycemic load (GL) is a formula that corrects for potentially misleading GI by combining portion size and GI into one number. The carbohydrate content of the actual serving is multiplied by the food’s GI, then that number is divided by 100. So for a cup of beets, the GL would be: 13 times 64 = 832 divided by 100 = a GL of 8.3. As a frame of reference, a GL higher than 20 is considered high, between 11 and 19 is considered moderate, and 10 or less is considered low.

 
If you are trying to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, lower your blood sugar, or lower you triglycerides naturally try to eliminate high glycemic foods from your diet. Many people are “carbohydrate intolerant”, that is their bodies cannot tolerate the large amount of simple carbs they are ingesting on a daily basis. A lower GI diet which eliminates many processed carbs from the diet is a good natural way to improve your health.

 
Click on these links to tables listing foods and their glycemic index/load:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Harvard Medical School

 

Are you carbohydrate intolerant?

Many people know they are intolerant to lactose. They will get sick if they consume milk products. Others are intolerant to gluten. They will get sick if they consume wheat products. But how would you know if you are intolerant to carbohydrates? Here are several clues:

  1. Abdominal fat: if you are packing extra pounds around your belly this is a good sign that you may be intolerant to carbohydrates.
  1. Elevated blood sugar: if your resting blood sugars are running high, you are most likely intolerant to carbohydrates.
  1. Elevated hemoglobin A1c: this goes along with number 2. An elevated hemoglobin A1c on your blood panel signifies your blood sugar has been running high over the preceding 3 months. This is a good indicator that you are intolerant to carbohydrates.
  1. Elevated triglycerides: elevated triglycerides on a blood panel can be due to carbohydrate intolerance.
  1. Low HDL cholesterol: this is your good cholesterol. Low HDL can be due to consuming too many carbohydrates and carbohydrate intolerance
  1. Elevated BMI/Obesity: if you are overweight this may be due to carbohydrate intolerance
  1. Hypertension: if your blood pressure is running high, this can be a sign of carbohydrate intolerance
  1. Metabolic syndrome: if your doctor tells you that you have this syndrome, you most likely are carbohydrate intolerant
  1. Prediabetes: this goes along with number 8, and suggests you are intolerant to carbohydrates.
  2. Diabetes mellitus: if you have been diagnosed with this disease, you are most likely intolerant to carbohydrates

So do you have any of these markers? If you do, the treatment may be to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, especially the simple carbohydrates. It means you are eating too much sugar, bread, pasta, rice, and flour in your diet. Just as reducing milk products will help those who are lactose intolerant, cutting back on carbohydrates will help those intolerant to carbohydrates. In fact, reducing carbohydrates in your diet is a great natural way to help cure all ten of the “symptoms” above.

Inflammation – Are you on fire?

You have certainly experienced acute inflammation that occurs when an injured body part turns red, hot, and swollen. Inflammation is a natural defense against infections, irritations, toxins, and foreign molecules. It is your body’s first line of defense against infection and injury. This process normally shuts down when the injury starts to heal. However, trouble can arise when the inflammation process gets stuck “on” and doesn’t know when to stop. This can happen when your immune system is out of balance.

Instead of protecting your body, chronic inflammation attacks healthy cells, blood vessels, and tissues. Chronic inflammation has been dubbed a “silent killer”. There are increasing amounts of research that suggest inflammation may be more important than cholesterol at elevating the risk of heart disease and stroke. Inflammation is also thought to increase the risk of other diseases such as cancer, auto-immune diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. If inflammation is so important, what is it? Inflammation is quite simply your body’s natural defense to a foreign invader such as bacteria, toxins, or viruses. The inflammatory process is perfect in how it protects the body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process, chronic inflammation will occur. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial. The goal is to prevent chronic inflammation.

How do you know if your inflammation level is high? A simple blood test known as C-reactive protein (CRP) can measure your inflammation level. The CRP test gives you a number. Less than 1 is considered good (low risk) and greater than 3 is considered bad (high risk). Your goal over the long term is to have a level less than 1.

What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour, white rice and all the products made from them) and omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and safflower (which are found in many processed foods) are the biggest culprits in our diet. Several times a day, every day, these foods we consume create small injuries in your body compounding into more injuries, causing the body to respond continuously and appropriately with inflammation. Processed foods are manufactured with omega-6 oils to create a longer shelf life. While omega-6s are essential (they are part of every cell membrane controlling what goes in and out of the cell) they must be in the correct balance with omega-3s. If the balance shifts by consuming excessive omega-6s, the cell membrane produces chemicals that directly cause inflammation. Today’s mainstream American diet has produced an extreme imbalance of these two fats. The ratio of imbalance ranges from 15:1 to as high as 30:1 in favor of omega-6. In today’s food environment, a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio would be optimal and healthy. To make matters worse, the excess weight many Americans are carrying from eating these foods creates overloaded fat cells that pour out large quantities of pro-inflammatory chemicals that add to the injury caused by having high blood sugar. The process turns into a vicious cycle over time that leads to heart disease, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no escaping the fact that the more we consume prepared and processed foods, the more we trip the inflammation switch little by little each day. The human body cannot process, nor was it designed to consume, foods packed with simple carbohydrates and sugars and then soaked in omega-6 oils.

There is but one answer to quieting inflammation, and that is returning to foods closer to their natural state. We need to eat more whole foods. Avoid processed foods. Eat a large variety of colorful fruits and vegetables which are loaded with anti-oxidants. Choose carbohydrates that are complex including beans and seeds. Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber. Cut down on or eliminate inflammation causing omega-6 fats like corn, soybean, and safflower oils and the processed foods that are made from them. Instead, use olive oil. (You need to read labels!) By eliminating inflammatory foods and adding essential nutrients from fresh unprocessed food, you will reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body from consuming the standard American diet.

Fruit juice – as bad as soda?

Do you drink a glass of orange juice every morning with your breakfast? Does apple juice quench your thirst during the day? Those of you who would avoid soda or candy consumption are essentially consuming the same thing when you pour a glass of orange juice. After years of being touted as a health food, even by the government’s dietary recommendations, fruit juice has now become the latest and most surprising target in the nation’s obesity epidemic. It has been assumed that we should always drink orange juice because it is healthy and contains vitamin C. Unfortunately, that is a serious misconception. Juice of any kind is not particularly healthy, and contains as much sugar as a can of soda, which is the last thing you need if you are struggling with obesity or diabetes. Remember, consuming sugar leads to elevated insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels lead to increased fat deposition in your midsection. Furthermore, high insulin levels lock your fat cells, making it very difficult to lose weight. Even 100 percent juice does not match the level of nutrition in whole fruit because it’s higher in calories and sugars and lacks the fiber to satisfy appetite. So while eating an apple or orange is filling, drinking juice offers calories without satiety. It is always healthier to eat whole foods versus processed foods. Many health experts feel that drinking juice is just as bad as drinking soda. Unfortunately, most people think it is healthy. According to a beverage comparison by Harvard University, 12 ounces of Fanta orange soda and Minute Maid 100 percent orange juice each contain 165 calories. So if you are trying to lose weight or working on lowering your blood sugars stay away from juice. I can hear many of you thinking, well if I cannot drink juice, what can I drink? (By the way, diet soda is also unhealthy – another subject for another article!) The number one drink you should be consuming is water. Most people do not nearly drink enough water every day. It has no sugar and no calories. Add a slice of lemon, lime or orange to your water for flavoring. Carbonated water is another good choice. There are also naturally sweetened waters available, which have little sugar or calories. Unsweetened iced tea is another good option. Not only does it not have any sugar, it is loaded with many healthy anti-oxidants including polyphenols. Iced coffee without added sugar is another good option. So, in conclusion, avoid the juice and improve your health.

Do you have a sweet tooth? A new study suggests it may be killing you!

A new study released suggests that your sweet tooth may be killing you. A study of more than 40,000 people published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four times increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. This study showed that your risk of heart attacks doubles if sugar makes up 20 percent of your calories. Just one 20-ounce soda daily increases your risk of a heart attack by about 30 percent.

For years, we’ve been taught that sugar is harmless except as a source of empty calories. They are not empty calories. As it turns out, sugar calories are deadly calories. Sugar causes heart attacks, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia. Unlike the natural sugars existing in fruits and some vegetables, added sugars are introduced to foods during their processing and preparation. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda are the leading source of added sugar consumption in the U.S., followed by grain-based desserts, like cookies and cake.

High levels of sugar consumption lead to elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and dangerous small LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also triggers the inflammation we now know is at the root of heart disease. Lowering overall sugar intake is a great natural way to lower your inflammation levels. Remember, simple carbohydrates such as flour, most breads, pastas, and white rice are quickly turned into sugar by our bodies and are just as dangerous as eating regular sugar.

It is time to cut down on your sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption to improve your health. A healthy diet includes lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates – carbohydrates with a large amount of fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the intestine. (See previous articles)  This diet or lifestyle is the best way to eat to keep your insulin levels low, to lose weight, and to help prevent heart disease.