Saturday, April 30, 2011

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a good oil for low carbers.  I spend a good deal of time working in Europe and I have discovered that the olive oil in France, Belgium, and Italy is far superior than anything I have tasted in the U.S.  I have also learned that olive oil can taste different depending on the type of olive grown and the region in which it was grown.  In Europe, there is a science about olive oil that simply eludes most Americans.  Certain types of olive oil go best with certain foods, such as salads or seafood.  In the U.S., you can purchase true European olive oil from Oliviers & Co.  We love this lemon infused olive oil on salmon.  It is expensive, but adds a very good taste to fish in particular.  You can buy the good stuff in the U.S. at a supermarket if it says "first cold press" on the label (I have even seen bottles with the label "first cold pressed" or "first cold pressing" even in Wal-Mart, though it is very pricey).

There are several designations for olive oil, and I will try to summarize them below.

The best olive oil is cold pressed (at no more than 82 degrees Fahrenheit).  The olive and the pit are ground up into a paste, which is then pressed to produce the oil.  This is what is known in Europe as "extra virgin olive oil," and is very tasty.  Since the United States is not a member of the International Olive Oil Council, the label "Extra Virgin" is meaningless in the U.S. and the olive oil you purchase here may contain mixtures of any of the types of oils listed below.  For the really good olive oil, make sure is says something like, "First cold pressing" on the label.

"Virgin oil" uses slightly more ripened olives and is a bit more acidic than extra virgin.

A by-product of olive oil is the mass of olive pulp and stones, called "pomace."  The pomace can be industrially processed using heat and chemicals to extract even more oil, but it is not as tasty as the oil from the first cold pressing.  "Olive pomace oil"  is rather bland and is often used for baking or deep frying.

"Olive oil" is a mixture of virgin oil and pomace oil.  It is only slightly more tasty than the pomace oil.

What we consume in the U.S. is usually not fit to lubricate my roller skates, but the first cold pressed olive oil is very, very tasty.  If you haven't tried the good stuff, and are turned off by olive oil, you should try some from the first cold pressing.  Drizzle the good stuff on a salad, along with a good balsamic vinegar, and you have a very delightful taste sensation.

Stopping Food Cravings

According to this article, if you restrict certain types of foods, you will eventually stop craving them.  That means that if, on a low carb diet, you restrict carbs, you will stop craving them at some point.  I can see that happening in my life.  Eleven weeks into a low carb diet, I have no desire to eat bread, pasta, oatmeal, cookies, chips, etc.  I am still a bit bothered by sweets, probably because I have not entirely cut out diet soda (but I am working on that).

The article also mentioned that low carb dieters were less bothered by hunger than low-fat, high carb dieters, but we already knew that.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Great Diabetes Blog

I found another blog by Jenny Ruhl, the woman who does the Blood Sugar 101 site and the book, Blood Sugar 101, which I recently reviewed.  It is the Diabetes Update blog.  She surveys and reads the latest in diabetes research from the pertinent medical journals and reports on her findings.  I found some interesting things on her site.  For example, those who drink diet sodas have an increased risk of stroke.  Some speculate it is the phosphoric acids in brown colored soft drinks that is the culprit (alas, my two vices are diet A&W and caffeine free Diet Coke).  I am drinking a lot less diet soda nowadays, but I am still drinking it.  I guess I'd better switch to Sprite Zero until I can kick the habit completely.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interesting Food Trends

An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looks at food trends from 1909 to 2007 (abstract, full text).  Table 1 in the full text version has a lot of very interesting statistics.  Butter consumption has drastically declined, but consumption of seed oils has increased substantially (read this page about why seed oils are not good for us and this page about why butter and cream are good for us). Meat consumption has gone up, but beef consumption levels remained constant.  The increase in the last few decades is from chicken (probably skinless chicken breasts).  People are eating a lot more ice cream and sweeteners (sugars, high fructose corn syrup), especially in sugared soft drinks.

Though the author is a vegan activist promoting a low fat, animal free diet (see the last statement in the full text version of the article, just before the reference section), this tells me a lot of our obesity/diabetes problems could be reversed by eating like we did one hundred or more years ago.

Grass Fed Beef

I stumbled upon this article about athletes eating more grass fed beef, and it caused me to reflect on the debate over grass-fed vs. feedlot fed beef.

For me, the biggest con of grass fed beef is the price.  In my local market, to buy half of a grass fed steer (approximately 210 pounds), it would cost me $6.29 per pound, or $1,320.  A half of a feedlot steer would cost me $2.79 per pound, or $586.  So, is the price difference worth it?  Read on.

Benefits of 100% grass fed beef (all of this comes from "stuff" I found on the Internet; I have very little personal experience with grass fed meat).
·         Cows are ruminants, meaning they have four stomachs to efficiently process the cellulose in grass.  Cows are not evolved to eat large quantities of grain and grain can cause cows to become sick, requiring them to get antibiotic injections.  All of this stuff winds up on your plate when you eat grain fed beef.
·         Just exactly what do they feed feedlot cattle?  It’s not just grains, but a lot of other stuff, including food processing by-products (e.g., sugar beet waste, molasses, animal by-products, potatoes, cottonseed meal, etc.) and antibiotics.  Grass fed cattle eat none of the above.  They eat grass.
·         Grass fed cows live better lives.  They are not put in CAFOs (“confined animal feeding operations”) but freely wander over pasture land, returning essential nutrients to the soil through their urine and manure.  They do not get the diseases common to feedlots, nor the sickness that comes from feeding them grain (grains mess up the pH balance in the rumens and their livers last just long enough for slaughter).
·         Grass fed beef is more nutritious for you.  It has higher concentrations of vitamins, and more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon.  Also, it has a lot less of the fat producing omega 6 fatty acids.  There are no artificial antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids or other chemicals added to the meat. 
·         You can sock it to your vegetarian nemesis.  When she/he tells you it takes 16 pounds of grains to grow one pound of meat, you give them the raspberry. (This “16 pounds of grain” fantasy is false, by the way). No grain is used in the production of your grass fed beef, and raising grass fed cattle is actually quite environmentally friendly and sustainable, which is something your vegetarian friends usually think about.

It must be 100% grass fed, not “grass finished” (after initial grain feeding) or organic (which may simply mean it was fed organicly grown grains).

So why is it so expensive?  It takes longer to “finish” the animal.  Feedlot cattle are ready for slaughter in 12-13 months, but grass fed cattle take 18 to 24 months.  As with humans, grain is fattening and it is used to quickly fatten up cattle.  Also, most grass fed cattle are raised on small farms without access to the economies of scale that come from large, feedlot operations.

So is it worth it?  Probably.  Can I afford it?  Ah, that is a different question entirely.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What I Eat

Over the past two weeks, several people have asked what I eat on a daily basis.  Here is a basic summary from the past two or three days.

Breakfast:  Bacon and cheese omelet (made with two eggs) cooked in butter.
Lunch:  Chicken thigh on a bed of lettuce with full fat ranch dressing (homemade); hard boiled egg.
Snack:  One cheese stick, about a dozen pepperoni rounds, one ounce of almonds
Dinner:  One pork chop, cabbage with bacon (cooked in bacon grease), three large strawberries, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.

Breakfast:  Sausage and cheese omelet (made with two eggs), cooked in butter
Lunch:  Chicken breast with skin on it, salad with creamy ranch dressing, hard boiled egg
Dinner:  Ham steak, cabbage with bacon (same as previous night), strawberries and cream
Snack:  Cheese stick, beef stick

Breakfast:  Bacon and cheese omelet (made with two eggs) cooked in butter
Lunch:  Steak and salad with olive oil and vinegar at a restaurant

I haven't had a snack so for today, nor have I had dinner yet.  Note that almost every day I eat an omelet for breakfast, though a time or two I have had steak and eggs.  I usually take leftovers for lunch (chicken, meat loaf, etc.).  When there are no leftovers, I eat two cans of tuna fish (preferably packed in oil) mixed with real mayonnaise, cheese, and onions for a salad, plus a hard boiled egg.  For dinner we have tried a number of things, but it boils down to meat and one or two vegetables (non-starchy, leafy, colorful vegetables).  If I have a salad, it almost always has cheese, egg, and bacon on it.  We have made a quiche with an almond crust once and a cheesy cream of cauliflower soup.  I usually eat berries with cream for a dessert of sorts in the evening.

I avoid all cereal grains, potatoes, rice, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, most fruit, milk, or anything with a lot of carbs in it.  I usually consume fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day (the USDA recommended amount is over 300 grams of carbs, but then they also recommend a low fat diet).

I don't count calories and usually eat until I am full.  Fat is really filling.  I hope this helps.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Low Carb Diets and Your Brain

Some interesting research on low carb diets and your brain.

Low carb diets can curb epileptic fits in children.  Seizures dropped by 62% in children who were fed a very low carb diet.

A diet high in calories and protein can help people with traumatic brain injuries by reducing inflammation.

This article discusses who ketogenic (low carb) diets can help reduce mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

Emily Deans, M.D., a psychiatrist, has a series of articles on diet and autism.  Her blog is on evolutionary psychiatry and she believes that a lot of today's mental illnesses have roots in the modern foods we eat.  She advocates a Paleo style diet.

And finally, in a psychological marketing article appearing in the Journal of Marketing Research, we have this gem.  A "low fat" label on food can make people eat more and feel less guilty--and get obese.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Great Blog on the Science Behind Low Carbing

I recently stumbled across a great blog on the science behind the low carb lifestyle.  It is called Low Carb For You and it is written by a Ph.D. in medical biochemistry.  If you are interested in the science behind the low carb lifestyle, I would highly recommend this blog.  I have added it to my list of blogs so you can always find a link from this site.

Weekly Update

Another week, another weight loss.  I dropped 1.6 pounds this past week, for a total of 26.6 pounds in 10 weeks.  That's an average of 2.66 pounds.  Follow my weight loss progress online.

In other updates, my blood pressure has stabilized at a normal level and my blood glucose levels continue to fall. They are well under the levels of my physician and well below the healthy levels set at the Blood Sugar 101 web site., which is well below the levels set by my physician.  One hour after eating, they should be below 140 and two hours after eating, they should be below 120.  My blood glucose levels are almost always below 120 one hour after eating and often below 100 two hours after eating.  I am not quite at the normal levels of a non-diabetic, since my fasting blood sugar is still to high (it was 112 this morning; it should be in the 85 to 90 range), but it is going down.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thought for the Day

Happy Easter everyone.

In a previous posting, I commented on how the low carb diet had curbed my hunger cravings.  Isn't it interesting how, when I was putting on fat, I was always hungry?  Yet now that I am burning fat, I am not hungry between meals and have lost those intrusive thoughts of food.  An interesting contradiction.  I had heard people make a distinction between "hunger" and "appetite."  Hunger was the physiological state when our bodies needed food and appetite was the psychological state when our bodies wanted food.

Actually, that kind of thinking was wrong.  We were hungry because we were starving at the cellular level, since much of what we consumed was stored as fat instead of burned as energy.  This made the distinction between hunger and appetite meaningless.  It was just hunger.  What low carbing has done for me is restore feelings of satiety.  This is a new and novel experience that I am savoring.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Higher Protein Diet Best for Maintaining Weight Loss

So you've lost a lot of weight.  How do you keep it off?  According to this study in the New England Journal of Medicine, a diet higher in protein and lower in the glycemic index was significantly better at maintaining weight loss than a low protein, high carb diet.  Those who lost weight and tried to maintain the weight loss with a low carb, high glycemic (high carb) gained back the most weight.

Is it any surprise that low fat, high carb diets like I used to follow have a terrible success rate of people trying to maintain weight loss?  When I think of all the money I spent on Weight Watchers, I could cry.

On Binging, Diabetes Reversal, and Energy

Have you ever noticed that when you have binged in the past, it was never on meat?  Who binges on meat?  It doesn't happen.  It was all on products made of refined carbs--flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  What I have noticed is that by eliminating most carbs from my diet, not only am I losing weight and feeling better, I have stopped binging, probably because I am more filled up by fat and protein.

Also, the reversal of my type II diabetes continues to astound me.  My blood sugars are really and truly normalizing.  Despite eliminating injectable insulin, my readings are rapidly declining and approaching the normal range for non-diabetics.  I have started some resistance training and that is helping as well.  I am very encouraged.

Oh, and did I mention that I feel great?  Lots of energy now.  I literally have energy to burn, thanks to burning the fat I eat and the excess fat I have been storing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Complete List

For anyone interested, here is the complete list of food related articles appearing in the Journal of Consumer Research, a marketing journal (from 2005 to the present).  I don't know why they are suddenly interested in food and nutrition, but they are.  JCR is a marketing journal!  These links all go to press releases.  Unless you use a computer at a university that subscribes to JCR, you cannot view the actual articles.  They are fascinating.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Low Carb Diet May Reverse Kidney Failure in People with Diabetes

Every day there seems to be another significant study about the low carb diet.  Today we learn that a low carbohydrate diet may reverse kidney failure in people with diabetes.  Read the news release on the topic or read the actual study, if you are able to trudge through academicese.  Hat tip:  Michael R. Eades, M.D.

Anecdotally, Richard Bernstein made the same point in his book, Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution in 1997.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Research Update

In addition to the usual results showing low carb dieters losing more weight, achieving better blood glucose levels, and losing more inches than low fat, high carb dieters, this new study also demonstrated that low carb dieters had better memory performance.  Ketone levels were significantly and positively correlated with memory performance, but low fat, high carb dieters don't achieve ketosis, so they are out of luck.  This is important, because low carb diets are very good for type II diabetics.  Type II diabetics are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, which is sometimes called "type III diabetes."  "Type III" diabetes would certainly affect your memory performance.

Another study showed that in adults afflicted with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (about 1/3 of the adult population in the U.S.) lost significantly more liver fat after two weeks on a low carb diet than on a low fat, high carb diet.  Weight loss after two weeks was about the same on both regimes, but loss of liver fat was the key goal of the study, and the low carb diet proved better.

More interesting food articles from the marketing journal, The Journal of Consumer Research.  I find it fascinating that the academic marketing discipline is so focused on eating.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Weekly Update

I lost 0.8 pounds this week, for a total loss of 25 pounds since I started.  Follow my weight loss progress with this chart.

Even more importantly, my blood sugars have been stabilizing at much lower levels.  My fasting blood sugar is going down (it was 106 this morning; 85 would be normal for a non-diabetic), and blood sugars two hours after a meal have been falling dramatically, and some times they are in the 90s (120 or under two hours after a meal is the standard for non-diabetics).  I experimented with a small dose of injectable insulin for the past week, but have stopped doing that.  Insulin interferes with weight loss and I think that is the reason my weight loss is not that large this week.  Under any event, I wasn't seeing any noticeable difference when using such a small dose.

Yesterday, I called my physician and changed my medication from Janumet to Metformin Extended Release.  Janumet, after insurance, cost me $65 for a one month supply.  The Metformin ER cost less than $14 for a 90 day supply.

So this is good news for me.  Stopping the injectable insulin saves me $70 per month and changing from Janumet to Metformin ER saves me another $60 per month.  That's a lot of money.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Health Benefits of Following a Low Carb Lifestyle

After honestly following the low carb lifestyle for three months, you should expect the following to occur when you have blood work analyzed on your next visit to the physician, especially if you are a type II diabetic.  I have seen this information in a wide variety of sources, including Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, an article by Michael R. Eades, M.D., and many other sources.

Weight loss.  If you are consuming 30 or so grams of carbs or less, you should show a substantial weight loss.

HgbA1c.  Your blood glucose profile should show substantial improvement over your previous reading, since carbohydrates drive blood glucose levels.  Eliminate the carbs, improve your blood glucose profile.

Total Cholesterol.  This will probably drop, but not by a great deal.  But this doesn’t tell the whole story.  Read on.

HDL Cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol”).  This reading should go way up.  This is a major benefit from eating all of those foods laden with saturated fats.

Triglycerides.  This number should go way down.  This is good for two reasons.  First, lower triglycerides correlate with greater insulin sensitivity, meaning your pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard.  Second, it correlates with larger LDL-cholesterol size (see below).

LDL Cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol).  This reading may go up, into the worse range, and may cause your physician, if she or he is not up on the latest information, to express some concerns.  They might even want to put you on drugs to bring this number in line.  Don’t let her/him do this to you!  Small, dense LDL cholesterol particles are associated with increased risk for heart disease, but the larger, fluffy LDL cholesterol particles may actually protect you from heart disease.  LDL particle size is typically not measured in a lipid profile, but as triglyceride levels go down, LDL particle size goes up.  So if you have dramatically better triglyceride levels, you probably have the larger, fluffy, protective LDL particles in your blood.  On the other hand, if you have high triglyceride levels and low HDL levels, you are at much greater risk of heart disease from small, dense LDL cholesterol particles.

Triglyceride/HDL Ratio.  The lower this ratio is the better.  The low carb diet works dramatically better than the low fat, high carb diet at reducing this ratio.

Blood Pressure. You should see a significant lowering in your blood pressure.  Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings should go down.

Overall, you should experience a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

And just so you know that I am not making this stuff up, Gary Taubes has just posted his most recent lipid profile online (April 18, 2011), along with his daily menu (eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, hamburger, butter, and a pound of steak for dinner).  Note that I wrote all previous paragraphs of this post before I discovered Taubes’ lipid profile online.  

Low Carb Diets and Gall Stones

At work, my assistant recently had problems with gall stones, and it reminded me of my experience with them.  A few years ago, after losing a lot of weight following Weight Watchers (low fat, high carb), I had a medical exam by a urologist and he told me I had a nice set of gall stones.  He further went on to say that most people who lose weight get gall stones, but that if the stones stayed in the gall bladder, I wouldn't have to worry about them.  Based on what he said, I didn't think any more about it until recently.

Fast forward to my low carb lifestyle.  After learning about my assistant's problems with gall stones, I started doing some research and found this article on low carb diets and gall stones by the remarkable Michael R. Eades, M.D.  The basic issue:  low fat diets can cause gall stones.  Low carb diets prevent them.  Why?

According to Dr. Eades, if one eats a lot of fatty meals (e.g., a typical low carb meal), the bile secreted in the gall bladder routinely empties itself and stays free of gall stones.  If one does not eat a lot of fatty meals (e.g., the typical low fat, high carb meal), the cholesterol component of the bile supersaturates and condenses to form gall stones.  If they stay in the gall bladder, no problem, but if they are excreted, they may cause various forms of blockage.  I guess that means that following a low fat, high carb diet like Weight Watchers could have caused my gall stones to develop, whereas they probably wouldn't develop by following the low carb lifestyle.

Read the article linked above for all the gory details, as Dr. Eades does a much better job than I do of explaining it.  But it boils down to this:  The traditional "Healthy" low fat, high carb diet may also cause you to develop gall stones.  A low carb diet helps prevent gall stones, in addition all sorts of benefits (e.g., weight loss, improved blood glucose control, improved lipid profiles, lower blood pressure), especially for type II diabetics.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Interesting Research Studies

A new study in the journal Obesity shows that those on a low carb diet were less bothered by hunger than those following a high carb, low fat diet.   This effect was particularly true for men.  I can attest that this is true, as I was always starving on Weight Watchers but not on my low carb diet.

There are several food studies from the Journal of Consumer Research (JCR), a marketing journal.  But interesting nonetheless.

This study shows that thinking about dying causes you to eat more (this link opens up a Microsoft Word document with a press release from the journal).  If I had to contemplate staying on Weight Watchers for my whole life, I would think about dying, too.

Another JCR study shows that the more "healthy" options on a menu or in a vending machine, the more likely someone is to choose something unhealthy.  I guess the "healthy" choices are so unappealing it causes people, in near desperation, to choose the unhealthy options.  To quote Fox Moulder, "The air in my mouth tastes better than that" (in reference to a diet ice cream bar Scully was eating).

Yet another JCR study shows that if you put junk food, such as M&Ms, in a 100 calorie pack, people will think it is diet food. (this link opens up an MS Word document with a press release from the journal).  A second JCR study shows that if you put junk food in 100 calorie packs, dieters will consume a lot more of them (this link opens up an MS Word document with a press release from the journal).  Stupid dieters.

There are many more JCR food studies.  I will report on more later.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Paleo or Primal Nutrition

Paleo or primal nutrition means eating the way our evolutionary ancestors ate, prior to the agricultural revolution.  Or, as I like to say, the way a caveman would eat (and exercise).  This means a lot of protein and fat and not too many carbs, so it is similar to low carb diets, but different, too.  Some Paleo diets focus on eliminating the "Neolithic Agents of Disease," or NADs.  NADs are found in grains, sugars, and processed oils.  Further, if we shouldn't eat grains, then we shouldn't eat animals who have eaten grains, either.  They advocate eating only pasture (grass) fed animals.  Grass fed beef, for example, is substantially more expensive than corn fed beef.  They also advocate eating "pastured eggs," or eggs from free range chickens.

But it is more than that, too.  Rather than try to explain, I will link to two great sites and a video that explains Paleo or primal eating.

The Archevore site is a great place to start.  By Kurt Harris, M.D., who also has some really interesting articles at the Psychology Today web site.

Mark's Daily Apple is a great site with a lot of information by the guy who wrote the book, Primal Blueprint.  Here is his Primal Blueprint 101 page.

Finally, this video actually explains the whole Paleo eating philosophy quite well.  That is, if you like blue grass music.

For the record, I am following a low carb diet, not a Paleo or Primal diet, but there is a lot to learn at these web sites, information I have found very useful.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interesting Marketing Articles

I am a marketing professor (yes, a dreaded Ph.D.) and, surprisingly, there are a lot of food related studies appearing in the Journal of Consumer Research, a major marketing journal, that are relevant to the theme of this blog.

In one study, dieters are more cranky than non-dieters (because, in my opinion, they are starving on a high carb, low fat diet).  The study appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research; here is an online report summarizing the findings.  If you use a computer on a university campus, you will likely be able to access the original article.  If not, read the summary.  I'd be cranky, too, on a low-fat, high carb diet.

Do names matter?  Another study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that when a food is labeled by a name perceived to be unhealthy (e.g., pasta), dieters perceive the item to be more unhealthy than non-dieters.  But when the same food is identified by a healthy name (e.g., salad), dieters and non-dieters alike make no product evaluations.

Yet another study in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that junk food is impulsively purchased, and the shoppers who pay by credit card are much more likely to purchase junk food than shoppers who pay with cash.  One thousand households were observed over a six month period and the researchers concluded that credit card purchases are relatively painless, whereas separating with cold hard cash is not.  Of course, the nannies in the study now want us all to pay for junk food with cash.  Why not just avoid it?

For whatever reason, there are a large number of food studies in JCR.  I will report on more later.

The Weight Loss Sweet Spot

So, assuming you are NOT a type II diabetic, what is the optimal number of grams of carbs to consume to burn fat, or to maintain weight?

The Mark's Daily Apple web site has a very interesting graphic, called the Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve. (The author of this web site, Mark Sisson, is also the author of the book The Primal Blueprint, which extols the virtues of a Paleo diet like our caveman ancestors used to eat.  It is not necessarily the same thing as a low carb diet, though it is very similar.  I will do a post on Paleo diets one of these days).

In this carbohydrate curve, optimal fat burning happens when you are in ketosis or when you engage in intermittent fasting, which means you consume 0 to 50 grams of carbs per day.  The "Weight Loss Sweet Spot" is 50 to 100 grams of carbs per day.  Effortless weight maintenance is 100 to 150 grams of carbs per day, and anything over 150 grams will contribute to weight gain.

Again, this is NOT for type II diabetics.  When I finally lose my weight, I will have to see how carbohydrates affect my blood sugar before adding them back, but I do think this is a useful rubric for weight loss and weight maintenance down the road.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Caveman Exercise

So what kind of exercise should I be doing?  People advocating the low carb lifestyle offer several suggestions, none of which involves cardio in the traditional sense..

According to Dr. Bernstein, exercise is the second most important thing I can be doing to achieve normal blood sugars.  But not cardiovascular exercise, at least in the traditional meaning of that phrase.  He recommends progressively more difficult weight training as the best option to build up lean muscle mass.  He says walking is okay, but minimal, and should be supplemented with weights.  That Nice Girl I Married and I usually walk together every morning, and have done so for years.  In good weather, we walk outside with our pooch (but during the winter, he gets the treadmill).  Bernstein suggests a way to supplement walking is to carry a three pound weight in each hand and do curls and swings while walking.  I guess she will have to hold the dog leash from now on.  This is a sensible suggestion that would fit into my current activities quite nicely.

The Drs. Eades and a fitness guru named Frederick Hahn suggest doing an intense, 30-minute weight lifting regime, once per week, where you lift to the point of exhaustion.  They’ve even written a book about it.  Their web site is one big promotion for the book, but it at least sounds interesting.  Check out the book reviews on before deciding whether or not to buy the book.  For the most part, they look quite positive.

Another school of thought is caveman exercise.  What did our hunter/gather forebears do to stay fit?  Mark Sisson, author of Primal Blueprint, has a nice little graphic and explanation about his philosophy of exercise.  He suggests walking frequently, at a slow pace; lift heavy things upon occasion; and give an all-out, sprint-like effort once every seven to 10 days.  See the video below for one explanation of caveman exercise.

More Interesting Articles

First off, Gary Taubes has a new article on the link between sugar (either refined or high fructose corn syrup) and obesity, diabetes, and, gulp, cancer.  It is titled, "Is Sugar Toxic?"  I know his next book is on the effects of sugar in the diet and this is a taste of his upcoming work.

Second, can an active (non-sedentary) person get heart disease from eating a diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, and very little meat?  I don't know, but an article on Egyptian mummies with heart disease certainly raises the question.

In an obesity study on rats, a diet high in fat is compared with a diet similar to the high carb, junk food laden American diet.  The junk food diet leads the rats to develop metabolic syndrome, whereas the high fat diet does not.  True, these are rats, not humans, but the results are very interesting nonetheless.

A comprehensive review of "heart healthy diets" (low fat, high carb, and including psychological counseling) over the last several decades concludes that they "had little or no impact on the risk of coronary heart disease mortality or morbidity."  The research was performed by the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit group that independently reviews medical research in a non-biased way.  They do not accept monies from pharmaceutical companies or other entities with vested interests in the outcomes of research.  They also review and rate research conducted by other researchers, and they are big proponents of evidence based medicine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Intermittent Fasting

My daughter who is visiting with us this extended weekend commented on my post in which I mentioned intermittent fasting.  She basically told me, "That's the way I eat."  I've observed her during this visit and she is correct.  She goes long hours between meals.  She ate dinner last night (we finished about 7:00 p.m.) and didn't eat again until about 2:00 p.m. today, some 19 hours later.  She has also been a big fan of bacon and cheese, and she is naturally slender.

My experience fasting this past Sunday was very instructive.  It was not the tortured ordeal I remember fasting to be and I was quite enthusiastic after the experience.  Apparently, ketosis is a great way to experience fasting.  Thank you low carb diet!  For the record, I plan on fasting once a month as my religion prescribes, plus perhaps an occasional fast when someone is in need.  But I am now looking forward to it.  I also realized that I can probably skip a meal now and then without problem.  For example, when I am traveling and there isn't really anything I can eat in the morning at the hotel. This will be the case in Paris this summer.

Here are some other interesting articles and blog posts about intermittent fasting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekly Update

Wow, I lost 3.6 pounds this past week, for a new total loss of 24.2 pounds in eight weeks, or about three pounds per week on average.  Follow my complete weight loss by viewing this chart.

Based on some things I read over the weekend, I am also changing how I am treating my diabetes.  While I still hope to eventually normalize my blood sugars with diet and exercise alone, I have also started using a low dose of basal insulin again, to keep my fasting blood sugar reading down.  I had purchased quite a bit of the insulin, before I gave it up a few weeks ago, but now I will at least use some of it.  But instead of the 26 units a day I had been injecting, I am now doing 3 to 5 units.  And it is working.  My fasting blood sugars have come down quite a bit. Though since the insulin pens have 300 units and I will barely be using half of that before they expire, I will be throwing about half of the insulin away each month (once you start using it, you have to use it all or throw it away within 28 days).

And as soon as I am finished with the Janumet I am taking, I will contact my physician and switch to Metformin RX, an extended release version of Metformin.  According to what I learned, Janumet is a combination of Januvia and Metformin, but the Januvia portion has some unpleasant side effects.  Plus, Metformin RX will cost about $4 per month, whereas Janumet costs about $5 per pill, if you don't have insurance.  Even with insurance, it is about $65 for 60 pills.  Moral of the story: don't just pop pills your doctor prescribes, do some research.

I also noticed that fasting yesterday had a quite positive affect on my blood sugar readings.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Joy of Fasting

Last month, I fasted one meal on fast Sunday, and it was remarkably easy.  Today, I did two meals.  After dinner last night, I started the fast and never looked back.  It was remarkably easy, without by body sending me distress signals all day long.  I could feel I was hungry, but it wasn't painful, the way it used to be.  To recap, when I was gorging on carbs, most of the fuel was turned into fat and not used for energy, which is why heavy people eat a lot, and often.  Since they eat carbs, they have to graze all day long like herbivores.  They are literally starving at the cellular level.  When you fast and are already starving at the cellular level, it becomes very unpleasant.

Restoring my ability to fast is another unexpected plus of the low carb diet.  I was able to feel the Spirit much more intensely today and, combined with the visit of my oldest daughter, made today a very enjoyable Sunday.

Book Recommendations

That Nice Girl I Married and our daughter who is visiting from Utah took off for the weekend with a bunch of women in our ward, so I had a lot of time to read, and read I did.  I read two books on diabetes that I can now highly recommend.

The first is Blood Sugar 101 by Jenny Ruhl.  Jenny Ruhl also has a web site by the same name, but I found the book much more accessible.  She advocates the low carb diet and gives specific blood sugar guidelines to strive for.  Her book lists all of the possible drugs to treat type II diabetes, and the strengths and drawbacks of each drug.  Perhaps the most useful part of the book was the section on physicians.  She deftly describes physician attitudes towards diabetes and suggests that if your physician doesn't live up to a list of criteria, it's time to get a new doctor.  She made me realize that my doctor, an internist, is out of date and out of touch with type II diabetes.  I need a new doctor.  She also mentioned how a type II diabetic who actively manages and controls the disease needs a letter signed by your doctor about your treatment plan, in case you are ever hospitalized, as they will put you on the insane high carb, low fat diet that is the exact opposite of what you need.  Plus take away your diabetes management tools (blood glucose meter, drugs, insulin) while you are in the hospital and, Because They Know Better, treat you the way they always treat diabetes.  Which is to say, very poorly.

The second book I read was Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars.  A very interesting, if somewhat dogmatic book about the management of type I or type II diabetes.  Unlike other books, this one strives to get you to normal blood sugar levels, the type that non-diabetics routinely achieve.  This means HgA1C levels in the 4.2 to 5.0 range.  His solutions work, though he did come across as a bit insistent and dogmatic ("use this chart and these abbreviations in this way....") but I learned a tremendous amount about managing the disease, the drugs used to treat it, insulin therapy, exercise, and diet.  He, too, recommends a low carb diet for the management of both types of diabetes.  His recommendations boil down using a blood glucose meter aggressively and following as many of the following four steps as it takes to achieve normal blood sugars:

1.  Follow a low carb diet (and lose weight).  For some, this may be enough to normalize blood sugars.
2.  Get plenty of anaerobic exercise, mostly resistance training (weight lifting).
3.  If the first two aren't enough to manage type II diabetes, use drugs
4.  If the first three aren't enough, use a consistent, low dose of insulin

The book has tremendous details for each of the steps mentioned above.

After reading the two books, I was left with one big question: why didn't any of the physicians I have used over the past ten years know this information?  I have consistently been given the wrong information about treating type II diabetes.  How can a non-M.D. like Jenny Ruhl, who also writes bodice ripper romance novels (under the pen name Jenny Brown), know so much more about managing the disease than any doctor I have used?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Diabetes Update

I am sure my physician will be more than pleased on my next visit.  My blood sugars are down, I am not using injectable insulin anymore, my lipid profile is improving, and I am losing weight.

That said, pleasing my current physician is not my goal, as she is following standard medical guidelines that will still leave me with diabetic complications if I use her goals and ranges.

I am reading a really interesting book called Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars.  I will review it more properly when I have finished, but he is a big advocate of achieving normal blood sugar levels for everyone, including type I diabetics.  He advocates a low carb diet and a combination of weight loss, exercise, medication, and insulin to achieve normal blood sugars.  Some people can achieve normal levels by weight loss alone; some by weight loss and exercise; some by weight loss, exercise, and oral medications; and some by weight loss, exercise, oral medications, and/or insulin.  By his definition of "normal" (that is, blood sugar levels of non-diabetics), I have a bit of work to do, but I am willing to put forth the effort.

When I lost 115 pounds on Weight Watchers, I was able to get off medications completely.  I am hoping that is still the case, but we will see.  As it is now, I can see a dramatic effect on blood glucose levels by hardly eating any carbs and by exercising.

Real Vs. Manufactured Food

So what is healthier for you, Canola oil or butter?  I vote for butter.  Just look at how the two are made:  churn the cream vs. vast amounts of industrial processing (including chemical solvents, industrial steaming, de-waxing, bleaching, and deodorizing).  Thank goodness for TV shows like How It's Made.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sweden and the Low Carb High Fat Diet

A new poll has come out proclaiming that nearly one in four Swedes are following a low carb, high fat diet.  At the same time this is happening, the Danish are heavily taxing saturated fats.  So hooray for Sweden and bah humbug for Denmark.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Depressant Drug for the Annoyingly Cheerful

Hilarious video about the new "Depressant Drug for the Annoyingly Cheerful."  What caught my attention, however, was the scientist whose dietary prescription could achieve the same, depressed attitude, without drugs: put them on a diet of high fructose corn syrup and white bread.  I beat Dr. Eades to this clip.

More Interesting Research Articles

Leptin is the hormone that is released in your body to tell you that you are full, and don't need to eat anymore.  However, in obese people, leptin can be be overridden by the pleasure center in the brain, and this condition is called leptin resistance.  Most obese people have high levels of leptin in their systems, but this is overridden by the pleasure center in the brain, and they don't feel full.  Now a study in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that a high fat, high sugar diet directly leads to leptin resistance.  The authors even use the word "cause" to describe this relationship.  Further, when a high fat, no sugar diet is introduced, within three days, leptin resistance was reversed.  They identify high fructose corn syrup as a major contributor to leptin resistance.

Another study found that routine, periodic fasting is good for your heart and your health.  Conducted by Intermountain Health Care and funded by the "Deseret Foundation," you know there are Mormons at the heart of this study, scientifically legitimizing the monthly fast.  Still, I find it interesting.  Since being diagnosed as a diabetic in 2002, I have had an extremely hard time with the monthly fast, giving it up altogether some time around 2003.  I felt shaky, weak, and generally awful during the fast.  I chalked this feeling up to being diabetic, but looking back on it now, I realize it was because I was "starving" at the cellular level, since most of my carbohydrate intake was being stored as fat and not used as fuel. Adding fasting on top of cellular starvation was extremely unpleasant.  Last month, however, I decided to try to fast again, and it was surprisingly easy, especially compared to how lousy fasting made me feel until I switched to a low carb regime.  Fast Sunday is again this coming Sunday and I am actively looking forward to the opportunity to fast again.

The paleo nutrition web sites are all about something they call "intermittent fasting," since this is what our hunter/gatherer ancestors had to do on a regular basis, when they couldn't kill food.  Some suggest they didn't eat all that regularly, and when they killed something, they gorged on it, but may have eaten two days out of three, and perhaps only once or twice a day on the days they did eat.  Hence, the interest in intermittent fasting.

All of these insights in this post today come from the remarkable Michael R. Eades, M.D., whose blog and twitter page are amazing sources of information.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gorillas Losing Weight, Getting Healthy

Wow, even gorillas become more healthy and lose weight when they stop eating wheat and sugar.  They lost about 65 pounds over a year and their heart health improves.  Hat tip:  Michael R. Eades, M.D.

Weekly Update

Another week, another weight loss.  Smaller this week than I would have thought, but last week's weigh in was on Tuesday, not Monday, due to business travel to Europe.  I dropped 1.4 pounds, for a seven week total of almost 21 pounds (20.6, according to my scales).  There was a slight jet lag effect from last week, as the greater than expected drop last week rebounded a bit, as I suspected it would.  Follow my progress online.

My blood sugars are continuing to do well, except for the fasting blood sugar, which is still a bit high (around 130).  I have decided I need to find a new doctor, one who knows about diabetes and who can help me manage it with a low carb diet.  If such a creature exists where I live.  Sigh.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Resources for Starting a Low Carb Diet

Thinking of embracing the low carb lifestyle?  Here are some resources to consider before beginning your journey.

Getting Started:  10 Tips for Success by Dana Carpender
Getting Started by George Stella
Getting Started on Paleo Nutrition by Kurt Harris, M.D.
Low Carb for Beginners by Lora Ruffner
The 30-Day Low Carb Diet Solution by Michael R. Eades, M.D. and Mary Dan Eades M.D.
A Low Carb Food Pyramid by Laura Dolson
Get a good Low Carb cookbook.  I have 1001 Low Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender.  There are a lot of low carb cookbooks out there; find one and use it.

And, of course, the Bible of the low carb lifestyle, for the why behind the low carb lifestyle, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.  A longer, more academically dense version of Why We Get Fat by Taubes is Good Calories, Bad Calories.  If you like reading academic journals and scientific explanations, this is the book for you.  But Why We Get Fat gives you most of the same information, without the footnotes and the academic speak.

Low Carb Living to Help Overcome Type II Diabetes

File this under the label, "Information I wish I knew when I was first diagnosed as diabetic."  Low carb living is an excellent way to deal with the onset of type II diabetes, often without resorting to drugs.

A recent study compared a low carb diet with a more traditional, low fat, high carb, low glycemic index diet and concluded the following.  "Dietary modification let to improvements in glycemic control and medication reduction/elimination in motivated volunteers with type 2 diabetes.  The diet lower in carbohydrate led to greater improvements in glycemic control, more frequent medication reduction/elimination than the low glycemic index diet.  Lifestyle modification using low carbohydrate interventions is effective for improving and reversing type 2 diabetes."  Low carb subjects in this study lost significantly more weight and significantly lowered their HBA1C readings more  than those on the low glycemic index diet.  "Significantly" as it is used here is a statistical term, and if you are really curious, you can read all the gory details in the article linked above.

Interested in reading something less dense about low carbohydrate diets and type II diabetes?  This article recommends two books by medical doctors written for the lay person that spell out how to reverse diabetes by following a low carb lifestyle.  Caveat: I haven't read either book (yet), but I trust the source of the recommendation.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A New Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Diabetics and label readers, beware.  After all of the bad press that HFCS has received lately, the Corn Refiner's Association has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug administration to change the name from HFCS to "corn sugar."  Don't be fooled!  It hasn't happened yet, but if it is changed, I will let everyone know.

So what is wrong with HFCS?  In addition to being a highly processed industrial product that is nothing but empty calories that leaves you feeling hungry after you eat, there is some concern that it is a major cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Blood Sugar 101

Of all the sites on the web about type II diabetes, the Blood Sugar 101 site is by far the best and most helpful.  It tells you a lot of things about blood sugars, how to control them, and what to eat to get them low.  It is all really common sense and I cannot believe that my physician and "diabetes educator" didn't tell me this information.  Actually, I am finding my physician and diabetes educator to be less than useless in helping me manage my diabetes.

While the entire site is very good, two pages in particular were helpful.  First, the Healthy Blood Sugars page gave me a lot of information about where my sugar levels should be, backed with empirical data.  And the "Lower Your Blood Sugar" flyer was priceless.  I printed it out and hung it up at work.  If diabetes is an issue for you, I would highly recommend this site.

There is a sister site, by the same author, on low carb dieting that is also quite good.  Funnily enough, the author writes bodice ripping romance novels.  I haven't read any of those, nor will I, but her blood sugar and low carb information is quite good.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I Did It

I did it.  I bought a deer rifle (a Savage .308, in case you wanted to know).  I have all summer to practice shooting, then in the fall, I will be going hunting with some ward members who will show me the ropes.  I am pretty excited about this and hope I am successful.  Though since I live in a sparsely populated state, almost everyone who goes hunting gets at least one deer.  Now I can join in with my other brothers who have been hunting for decades, while at the same time celebrating my inner carnivore.  And, as an added bonus, by the time I go hunting in October or November, I will have lost most of my excess weight, so the experience will be even better.

Note: my deer rifle is the second gun in my house.  That Nice Girl I Married bought a Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun last summer and we have both had fun shooting it.

The Big Lie

Yesterday, I was attending an exporting conference (I live in a grain producing state) and learned a startling fact. In Sweden, consumers prefer more natural products, thus they prefer products like butter over margarine.  But in Denmark, they are criminalizing saturated fats.  Well, not really criminalizing, but they are heavily taxing saturated fats to get people to eat "more healthy" food.  The fools.

Read this article on The Big Lie about saturated fats by Michael Eades, M.D.  He also wrote this great article on the pitiful state of medical ignorance when it comes to health and nutrition.  It is a doozy, and if you have ever gone to the physician with a case of high blood pressure, high blood sugars, or high cholesterol, you will relate.