Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good, Better, and Best

Abandoning the standard American diet (SAD) and embracing a low carb lifestyle is a very good thing to do. You immediately stop eating a lot of dietary toxins, you eat more real food and less processed junk, you lose weight, your blood pressure goes down, your lipid profile improves, and your blood glucose levels become normal. Plus a lot of other very healthy things happen, such as better sleep patterns, fewer problems with gall stones, reversing conditions associated with diabetes, and perhaps even improving your fertility.

However, as I learn more about the low carb lifestyle, I have discovered there are good reasons to follow the lifestyle (such as those mentioned in the previous paragraphs), better ways to live low carb, and perhaps even a best plan for healthy eating.

A better way of eating, for example, would be to abandon the SAD and eat, for example, organic, grass-fed meats instead of supermarket fare. Consume pastured eggs from free-range chickens, eat cream and butter from grass-fed cows, never use artificial sweeteners, and only eat organic vegetables.

Then there are the best plans, like those advocated by the Weston A. Price foundation, the Perfect Health Diet, or the Healthy Skeptic. In these diets, you follow the principles above for a better way of eating, plus you do other things like consume raw milk, eat a lot of organ meats such as liver, supplement with cod liver oil, meditate, reduce stress, etc.

While I agree that there is a better way to low carb, and perhaps even a best way, I have some issues with these approaches.  The major problem: the better and best methods are incredibly expensive. Grass-fed beef costs twice as much as supermarket beef and is hard to find. Also, adherents of the better and best ways sometimes take on the air of religious zealots with precisely defined dogma. Stray from this dogma at your peril, you potential food criminal!

I ran across a recent article calling out these so called low carb food Nazis and asking for a little calm on the subject. Abandoning the SAD, as in the good method I am following, provides for a lot of healthy benefits. My son and son-in-law are following the low carb lifestyle and are struggling to afford even that. What is the use of telling them to eat grass-fed beef and pastured butter? They are both seeing dramatic results doing what they can afford (they are both still undergraduates).

So, let me go on record as saying it is okay to use artificial sweeteners, buy supermarket meat and produce, and skip the liver. As you are able, incorporate what you can (you really will be more healthy on the better and best ways of low carbing) but by all means, do not abandon the low carb lifestyle if you cannot. You are already much more healthy than those eating the standard American diet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HbA1c Results

My doctor (who is somewhat concerned about my low carb diet) wanted to check my HbA1c results. This is supposedly a long term measure of blood glucose, and the lower the reading, the better. She was happy with any result of 7.0 or below, but evidence suggests that your cardiac risk increases in a straight-line fashion for readings above 5.4. The higher the reading, the greater the risk.  Some experts suggest that an HbA1c should be between 5 and 5.9, while "normal" people often have a reading between 4.6 and 5.4. Long term damage to your body from high blood glucose levels will occur when the HbA1c levels exceed 6.0.

So what was my HbA1c reading? It was a disappointing 6.1. I was hoping to be in the 5.0 to 5.9 range. Now put that "disappointing" result in context: six months ago, using insulin and drugs, it was 7.2, and in May 2010, it was as high as 9.5. I am off insulin and am only taking Metformin now, so most of the drop in the number came from dietary changes due to my low carb lifestyle. So this is great progress, in just four months. But I can still do better. I expect the HbA1c reading will change over time as I lose more weight. I still have another 50 pounds to go to reach my goal weight and as I achieve that goal, I expect my blood glucose levels to drop.

Monday, June 27, 2011

More on Salt Consumption

A new study from Europe sheds more light on the hazards of not consuming enough salt. An eight year study came up with this conclusion: "the less salt the participants ate, the more likely they would die from heart disease." That certainly goes against the advice of the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Apparently, low salt users have a 56% greater risk of heart disease than heavy salt users. So, all the fuss over excess salt consumption is just another load of CWOPO.

So we now know that a lowered salt intake is positively associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease mortality, as well as insulin resistance.

Weekly Update, Part II

It's been two weeks since my last "weekly" update, because we were traveling around Europe with a group of business students and spending most nights in a different hotel. But as I hinted at yesterday, I still lost weight, but I wanted to wait to report it until Monday, my usual day. Since I am jet lagged and unable to sleep in, I am writing this post fairly early in the morning. In the two weeks since my last update, I have dropped 4.8 pounds. Follow my progress using this chart.

I am particularly pleased by this drop, as I have spent most of the last two weeks eating out three times per day. Since we were staying in hotels instead of our usual apartment in Antwerp, we could do no cooking and relied on the hotel restaurant, stores, and other restaurants to eat. But even in a challenging environment such as this, one can make good and wise choices about what to eat.

In related news, I also lost several inches off my waist during the trip to Europe. I took a pair of pants with a 48-inch waist and one with a 46-inch waist. But even the 46-inch waist pair of pants was too big after a couple of weeks and I had to wait for my daughter to arrive  a few weeks later with another pair of jeans with a 44-inch waist. I wore those jeans the last two weeks, but by the end, they were becoming too big as well. Yesterday, I went through my closet and discovered that most of my 44-inch waist slacks and jeans were too big and that the 42-inch waist slacks and jeans, for the most part, fit better. That was a huge psychological booster. I had to go through all of my clothes to find something appropriate to wear to work today. That's a six-inch drop off my waist in a little over seven weeks.

And the best news of all: I lost this weight without being hungry and by eating lots of butter and cream, which truly adds flavor to my life. I honestly don't know how I suffered through the bland, tasteless, cardboard-like low fat diets all those years. Low carb is the way to go.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekly Update, Part I

During the seven weeks I spent in Europe, I lost a total of 15.8 pounds. Not bad, considering the trip required eating out a lot. For example, on the last, 10-day-long trip (Belgium-Luxembourg-France-Switzerland-Italy-Austria-Germany-Luxembourg-Belgium), I basically had to eat out three times a day. Breakfast every morning in the hotel, then lunch and dinner somewhere else. So like in the Fathead movie, you can still eat out a lot and lose weight, if you make wise choices.

I must say, though, that I got awfully tired of eating ham and cheese. Almost all hotels served ham and cheese as part of the breakfast buffet, and that is what I would eat most mornings. Upon occasion, there was some plain yogurt made with whole milk and I would eat that when it was available. Sometimes, we even took some stuff from the breakfast buffet for lunch, so I had ham and cheese for lunch, too, on many occasions. I am really happy to get back to good home cooking for a while now.

The quality of food varied by country, with Belgium, France, and Italy being the easiest countries in which to follow a low carb lifestyle. The breakfast at the hotel in Salzburg, Austria was pretty good, but Switzerland, Germany, and Austria were tough countries to be in from a low carb perspective. But I survived.

Tomorrow, I will post the second part of this update, with my weekly loss (which I didn't do last week, either, since we were on the road). But let me just hint that my total loss is now above 45 pounds.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tips for Starting a Low Carb Diet

Michael R. Eades, M.D. recently ran a two-part series on starting a low carb diet that is very good.  Here is part one and here is part two. Dr. Eades is co-author of the Protein Power Life Plan, which is a very good introduction to a low carb diet.

Back from Europe

I am back in the U.S. after seven weeks in Europe, so I will be back to blogging more regularly. I have learned that I can survive in Europe quite nicely, though eating out three meals per day for two weeks in a row was quite challenging. But I survived and even lost weight (I will give a weight loss update on Monday). But it will be very nice to have some good old home cooking again.

Some comments: airlines have special meals for every conceivable category under the sun (e.g., diabetic, vegan, vegetarian, Halal, Kosher, low fat, gluten free, etc.) except for low carb. So I basically fast on the airplane crossing the Atlantic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lowering Cholesterol and Heart Disease

This article reviews three recent studies about cholesterol lowering drugs and comes to this conclusion: "Cholesterol it seems is irrelevant to cardiovascular disease."

One of the studies cited even showed a slight increase in stroke risk in patients taking the cholesterol lowering drugs. Another study was stopped 18 months early due to the high numbers of heart attacks in the placebo group.

This raises an interesting question: is lowering lipids the right way to prevent heart disease? This article gives the counter intuitive advice to eat triglycerides to lower triglycerides. That has worked for me and others.

Hat tip: Dr. Michael Eades.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Travel Update

Since I last mentioned I would be traveling, we have visited Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, and now Italy. We are in San Gimignano in Tuscany and it is beautiful here. Low carbing continues unabated. Last night for dinner, we ate at a very nice restaurant with a great view of the Tuscan countryside, and the meal was as good as the view.

I chose a salad for a starter, with the oh-so-good olive oil freshly pressed from local olives, plus a real light, non-acidic balsamic vinegar. Then I ordered the house specialty, lamb cooked over a charcoal fire and it lived up to its reputation. Today, we were in Pisa and had lunch at a sidewalk cafe. I had a salad with arugula, feta cheese, bacon, olives, and eggs. It was inexpensive (six euros) and perhaps one of the best salads I have ever had. The olive oil was mild and smooth and the balsamic vinegar was celestial. I guess the Italians are going to give the French a run for their money as far as cuisine is concerned.

For breakfast, I have been eating from the meat and cheese trays they serve at breakfast. I must say, I miss my eggs, but that is a small price to pay for the other cuisine I am experiencing in Italy. I have not eaten any Italian gelato (ice cream), though my wife and daughter tell me it is superb. And since I don't drink, I have not tasted any of the Italian wines, which my students assure me is wonderful, despite the inexpensive prices.

Tomorrow: Salzburg, Austria. I will see how easily low carbing can be done there, though I suspect it will be more difficult.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Low Salt Intake and Insulin Resistance

A new study shows that a low salt diet is associated with insulin resistance. So far from being benign, cutting back on salt may actually be harmful. We have learned before that low salt intake was associated with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, and this may be the mechanism behind that finding.

So the advice to lower salt intake is just another load of CWOPO.

Low Carbing Across Europe

In general, I have found that eating out in restaurants in Europe is easier and less complicated than in the U.S. As I have mentioned before, the food is of a higher quality and less processed.

That said, it is still not all that easy. We have stayed at a couple of Etap Hotels and the breakfast they provide is almost pure carbs ("carbage," as I heard someone describe it): bread, jam, juice, milk, chocolate spread, honey. The only thing on the menu I could eat once was the butter. So I have had to skip a few meals over here. Thank goodness I have learned to fast.

My wife, who is my assistant on this study abroad trip, tells me not to give her the food I don't or won't eat. She will eat it some times, but not often. Therefore, I am forced to leave food on the plate at times, which is a big non-no here in Europe. The parents and grandparents of a whole generation of people experienced near starvation in the immediate aftermath of World War II and throwing away food is seen as gauche, boorish behavior. But I have decided my health is much more important than merely offending some local culture, so I have been throwing the excess "carbage" away.

But overall, my low carbing experience has been quite positive. I am on track to lose about 15 pounds by the time I get home, which isn't bad. Some of the students were complaining that they were gaining weight over here, which is easy to do, with all the chocolate, alcohol, and junk food they are consuming.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Low Carb Dark Belgian Chocolate

I bought some Cote d'Or dark Belgian chocolate before leaving Belgium, the kind that is 70% cocoa butter and it was very, very good. There are 10 squares to the bar, each weighing 10 grams (3 grams of carbs, 14.5 grams of fat, of which 9 grams are saturated) and I must say it was wonderful. While it is low carb, there is real sugar in the bar too, so I don't advocate eating it all that often. But as an occasional treat, it is hard to beat.

Melt some of the chocolate over a double boiler, with a bit of butter or cream, and drizzle over strawberries for a truly exceptional treat. Or make a real, French mousse au chocolat. Who says being low carb means denying yourself simple pleasures?

Next stop: Switzerland. I will have to see if the dark chocolate in Switzerland is as good as the dark chocolate in Belgium. I have my doubts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I will be traveling for the next several days and so posting will be lighter than normal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weekly Update

This week, I dropped another 2.6 pounds, bringing my total weight loss to 41 pounds. You can follow my weekly progress by viewing this chart. Another milestone is that I have been in Europe for one month now and during that time, I have dropped at least 9.2 pounds (there may be a small measurement error that could increase my weight loss by another two pounds).

More importantly, there are several non-scale victories (NSVs) worth mentioning. First, I have gone down from a 50-inch waist on my pants when I started in February to a 44-inch waist, which I just started wearing when my daughter brought me over a pair of jeans when she arrived last week. And those pants are now too large! I can pull them off without unbuttoning or unzipping them. Thank goodness for a belt.

Second, I have been walking a lot more lately and can do so without hunger. I am fully keto-adapted and so exercising does not make me hungry, as it does for people on a high carb regime. We walked for miles and miles (approximately 25,000 steps per day, according to my pedometer) while in Paris for the last few days. I got thirsty, but not hungry.

Third, we have been eating out a lot, some times all three meals per day, and by staying low carb, I am continuing to lose weight, in spite of all the eating out. This is important since, beginning tomorrow, we will be on a nine-day bus tour of Europe and will be eating out for every meal.

Fourth, my blood glucose levels are still falling. One hour after eating, they are consistently in the 100-105 range, and frequently they are in the 90-100 range. They should be below 140 one hour after eating and below 120 two hours after eating. So my one hour readings are quite good. My low carb lifestyle is effectively controlling my type II diabetes.

Finally, I am not really craving carbs anymore. When I do eat carbs, such as the blueberries I ate yesterday, they taste really, really good. And sweet. My palate is no longer in sugar shock, so I can fully taste and appreciate the natural level of sweetness in the berries I have been eating.

Life is good.

Low Carb Diet and the Treatment of Chronic Diseases

A new article in Nutrition in Clinical Practice reviews the safety and efficacy of the low carb diet as a way to treat chronic diseases such as type II diabetes and heart disease.  (Here is a link to the full text if you work somewhere, such as a university, that grants access).

The linked abstract concludes with this advice: "It is time to embrace LC [low carb] diets as a viable option in reversing diabetes mellitus, risk factors for heart disease, and the epidemic of obesity." This is a particularly important article, as it is targeted to medical practitioners. They are the ones actually treating patients with these chronic problems and some of them give bad advice, especially to those who are type II diabetics.

Hat tip: Dr. Eades.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More on Soy

I read an interesting article in Scientific American on the dangers of eating too much soy. It is good to see this information in a mainstream publication.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Living for 85 Years with Type I Diabetes

Here is a rather remarkable story about a man who turned 90 years old. He was diagnosed as a type I diabetic at the age of 5, so he has spent the past 85 years as a type I diabetic. How did he manage his health for so long?

Like Richard Bernstein (who is 77 and was diagnosed as a type I when he was 12), he manages his type I diabetes by following a low carb diet. So not only do low carb diets help with type II diabetes, they can also help type I diabetics live a longer and healthier life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Eating Meat Does Not Cause Colorectal Cancer

Vegan activists have long maintained that eating meat causes colorectal cancer. However, there was never much research to back up that claim (but that didn't stop the claim from being trumpeted throughout the media). Now a new empirical population study with a control group concludes, "Our data do not support the hypothesis that meat consumption is a risk factor for CRC [colorectal cancer]."

Remember, observational studies are good for generating hypotheses, but not for showing causality. But this particular study does not show any support for the eating-meat-causes-colorectal-cancer hypothesis.

Low Carb Food Storage

My daughter is visiting us in Belgium, and one of the first questions she asked was about low carb food storage. That was an excellent question and caused me to do a bit of research on the Internet while my students were taking an exam.

My first thought was of meat in the freezer. Food storage is not just for a natural disaster, but can also come in handy if you lose a job and still need to feed the family. A disaster might knock out the electricity for the freezer, putting the meat at risk. That is also why we have wired our home to run off a generator. You can keep meet frozen in a freezer longer by adding dry ice or by running the generator and power the freezer for a couple of hours each day. Also, the more food there is in the freezer, the longer the food will stay frozen, even in the absence of electricity. Of course, we live in Fargo, ND, where the inside of the freezer is often warmer than the outside air (-40 degrees Fahrenheit is not uncommon here). So no problem if the power goes out during the winter!

This post from the Carbinator is about food storage items for the low carb Mormon. She suggests storing coconut and palm oil; canned coconut milk (rotate frequently!); canned meats such as tuna fish, chicken, turkey, sardines, etc.; and vegetables, either canned or dehydrated.

Laura Dolson suggests the following: canned fish and meats; dried meats like beef jerky; almonds and other nuts and nut butters; and vegetables. She also suggests storing soy products, but I disagree here, as soy products are generally unhealthy.

Others on low carb forums suggest storing vitamins, pet food, dried or bottled fruits and vegetables, and pemmican. Pemmican is dried beef, fat, and perhaps berries or other items. It was used by traditional cultures in many parts of the world. Mark Sisson has a good recipe for (and explanation of) pemmican. Pemmican, though kind of tasteless, is energy dense and will store indefinitely. It can also be used to feed your dog or cat.

Any other low carb suggestions? This is a good topic to consider. Thank you, daughter-of-mine for making me think about it.

Why Low Carb Diets Reduce Hunger

The most amazing thing to me about the low carb lifestyle is that those constant hunger pangs have simply disappeared. Not only that, but I now feel full after eating, which never really happened before. I used to blame my upbringing (both my parents were obese) for damaging that switch in my body that told me I had eaten "enough."

Now I know it has to do with leptin resistance. In the briefest of terms, leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells and this hormone "tells" the brain that you are full. Most obese people secrete adequate amounts of leptin but, as in the case with insulin, they become insensitive to leptin (just like type II diabetics produce insulin, but they become insensitive to insulin). Tryglycerides are apparently a major problem in leptin resistance. When triclyceride levels increase, so does resistance to leptin. Overweight and obese people usually have quite high triglyceride levels. A low carb diet will reduce triglyceride levels quite rapidly (usually within a few days or a week or two), which then makes you more sensitive to leptin. And then you start to feel full.

This is one reason why people who eat until they are full on a low carb diet spontaneously consume fewer calories than those who eat until they are full on a low fat, high carb diet, and perhaps explains the greater success rate of shedding pounds with a low carb diet.

But there is one additional problem. While you are losing weight, you won't be hungry. However, when you have reached your goal, you will have lost most of your excess fat stores, which are largely responsible for the release of the hormone leptin. There is a three-fold solution to this problem. First, maintain the low carb lifestyle. Second, eat more slowly during meals. And third, go five to six hours between meals without eating. This allows the leptin receptors to reset themselves naturally in the absence of excess fat stores.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Low Fat Diet Harms Women with Diabetes by Raising Blood Sugars

There is no media frenzy about this study, but a new study on real women (not rats or monkeys) showed that post-menopausal women with diabetes who ate a low fat diet suffered significant harm. Read the scientific abstract, as well as a discussion of the results by Jenny Ruhl of the Diabetes Update blog. Basically, the low fat, high carbohydrate diet caused very large swings in the blood sugar readings of diabetic women.

When you cut the fat out of your diet, you have to replace it with either carbohydrates or protein. And since carbohydrates drive up blood sugar readings, this is what happens when you replace the fat in your diet with carbs. Fat has very little effect on blood sugar readings, so when you replace the carbs in your diet with fat, not only is your hunger sated, your blood sugars improve.

We already know from a study of nearly 50,000 post-menopausal women that a low fat diet offers very little protection against coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease. Now we learn that a low fat diet actually harms this same group of women if they are already diabetic.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eating Eggs and Cardiovascular Disease

A new study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease in the population they studied. I routinely eat two to three eggs per day, without fear of getting a heart attack. Eggs are whole, real food that are good for you.

We eat a lot of eggs here in Belgium and they are from free range chickens, brown shells, with darker yolks than the white-shelled eggs we are used to in America. I snapped the photo above of the eggs in my refrigerator.

Shaving, Heart Disease, and Observational Studies

Do men who shave daily have fewer heart attacks than those who only shave once every two or three days? This is the finding of at least one study. However, Michael R. Eades, M.D. uses this example to show people the difference between observational scientific studies that generate hypotheses and causal scientific studies that generate reproducible scientific facts.

The shaving study is an example of an observational study. When you dig deeper, as Eades does, you see that it is not shaving which is linked to fewer heart attacks, but the attributes of men who shave more often that lead to fewer heart attacks. So, says he, correlation is not causation. This is a great lesson to remember, the next time a scientific study du jour is released that makes some claim. If it was an observational study, it merely generated an hypothesis, which needs further testing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weight Loss Update

This week, I dropped 2.6 pounds, for a total weight loss of 38.4 pounds. Follow my progress with this chart. That means, among other things, that I have lost 6.6 pounds in the three weeks I have been to Europe. How many people can come to the continent of celestial cuisine and lose weight? I know that some of the students who have come with us have put on weight. At least, they have been lamenting about putting on weight, but have decided they will deal with it after their experience is over.

I ate a fair amount of grass fed Scottish beef last week, and continue to cook with and eat butter and cream (which, as I have mentioned before, do not increase heart disease risk). I am really not missing carbs at all, and markers of health, my blood pressure and blood glucose levels, are all quite good. And, most amazing of all, since this is not a semi-starvation diet, I am not hungry between meals on my low carb lifestyle.

Moderate Carb Reduction and Weight Loss

A moderate reduction in carbs leads to reduced total body fat, according to a recent study. I should point out that the "low carb" diet used in this study is hardly low carb at all, with 43% of calories coming from carbs. On a true low carb diet, only about 10 to 15% of calories will come from carbs. My very low carb diet is perhaps 5%. But even still, a modest reduction from 55% of consumed calories from carbs down to 43% led to deep fat loss in the subjects. Why? Because rapidly digested carbs are fattening.

Statin Drugs and Heart Disease

A study of virtually the entire population of Sweden between the ages of 40 and 79 concluded that, despite a three-fold increase in the use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol , the statin drugs had no effect on overall rates of acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).  The theory is that lowering cholesterol will lower the rate of heart disease, but, according to this massive study of almost 4 million Swedes, they had no effect. Here is the abstract, here is the full article (PDF), and here is an Internet news report about the study.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mousse au Chocolat Recipe

Hello Low Carb Conversation visitors! I have discontinued this blog but have started another, Low Carb Wisdom. Visit me there!

Mousse au chocolat is a traditional French dessert. I have seen U.S. recipes (like Alton Brown's version) that are nothing like a real French mousse. And guess what? A real French mousse au chocolat is also a fairly low carb treat. Now, this is not a low carb recipe blog, but since I am in Belgium, where I can easily buy 70% or more dark chocolate (which is lower in sugar and high in cocoa butter), I will post one anyway.

The recipe below uses 70% dark chocolate Belgian chocolate (see nutritional information) but you can also make it with 86% dark Belgian chocolate (see nutritional information).  Ghiradelli also sells dark chocolate, if you cannot easily find dark Belgian chocolate. Whatever brand of dark chocolate you use, make sure cocoa butter is listed on the label. It is found only in high quality chocolate. Note also that in authentic French mousse au chocolat, there isn't any added sugar. I have not adapted this recipe at all; it is naturally low carb!

100 grams (3.52 ounces) of dark chocolate (this recipe assumes 70% dark Belgian chocolate)
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over water that is simmering, but not boiling. Add butter to the melted chocolate. Note: good Belgian chocolate has a lower melting point than U.S. chocolate and the melted mixture should not be too hot, so it won't cook the egg yolks.

Separate the two eggs. Beat the egg yolks then mix them into the melted chocolate until it is smooth, and without lumps.

Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

Divide into three dishes and refrigerate for three or more hours. Each mousse will have about seven net grams of carbs per serving.

I usually consume fewer than 30 grams of carbs per day, so this would be about a fourth of my daily total. Therefore I would not recommend eating it very often, but it is a nice way to occasionally treat yourself to some dark chocolate, which is high in healthy cocoa butter.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"What do You Eat?"

A question I am often asked goes something like this. "If you don't eat sugar, grains, potatoes, rice, flour, fruit, etc., just exactly what do you eat?" I have answered that a couple of times (here and here), but I always find it interesting to see what others are eating.

The Paleo 2.0 crowd is a bit more focused on healthy eating than I am.  By healthy, I mean they will usually only eat grass fed beef or lamb, only drink milk or eat cream or butter from grass fed cows, and only eat pastured chicken and eggs (chickens are carnivores by nature, and like other birds, they eat bugs and worms, not grain-based chicken feed). So I do find it interesting to see what they eat.  Emily Deans, M.D., a Paleo 2.0 psychiatrist in Boston, describes what she recently fed her family. Another Paleo 2.0 physician, Kurt Harris, M.D. (a radiologist) describes what he eats. Note, these are not prescriptive diets (e.g., "You should eat this way") but simply what they eat based on what they believe.

I linked yesterday to the Paleo food plate, which is quite an accurate description not only of what Paleo folks consume, but what I eat as well.

The point of this blog is that even when you stop eating the foods mentioned above, there are a lot of things you can still eat, that are tasty, nutritious, and filling. And, healthy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Living in Diabetes Denial

I was diagnosed with type II diabetes in December, 2002, eight and a half years ago. I immediately lost some weight, but when I saw there was no immediate health problems, I slipped back into my old ways.  This probably happened some time during the summer of 2003.

Beginning in 2005, for whatever reason, I lost a lot of weight on Weight Watchers and my blood sugars went down dramatically. In fact, I stopped taking medicine. (Note, however, my lipid profiles only improved somewhat; my overall score was low, but my LDL was high, my HDL was low, and my triglycerides were quite high). Then, since Weight Watchers is what Gary Taubes called a "semi-starvation" diet, when I quit starving myself, my weight came back on and my diabetes came back with a vengeance. I followed WW religiously from November, 2005 until May 2007. Then I regressed and gained back much of the weight I lost. I just pretended I didn't have type II diabetes and ate what I wanted to eat, without concern about the effects it was having on my body. I guess you could say, I was in deep denial. By May 2008, my blood sugars were terrible again.

During June, 2010, I had an episode of reactive arthritis, which was treated with Prednisone and my blood sugar readings rocketed from the already high range (180-190) to the stratospheric (350 to 450). At this point, I had to start injecting insulin to try to counter the effects of Prednisone. I visited my physician during the fall of 2010 and she put me on a regimen of slow acting and fast acting injectable insulin. This was the beginning of my exit from denial, but I was still partially in denial.

Of course, I was hanging around the 300 to 310 weight range and felt fat, tired, and awful. I was having trouble sleeping and had no energy most of the time. Doing normal tasks, like walking, was getting harder and I started to come to the realization that I would die. I started reading about the complications of type II diabetes and it is not pretty.

In desperation, I started Weight Watchers again in January, 2011. But after four weeks of strict adherence to the program, I had only lost 0.8 pounds, not my normal WW experience. At first, I thought it was the new WW program, so I tried reverting to the old WW program.  That didn't work, either. Then I read a blog entry on that changed my life. The author, Glenn Reynolds, linked to the book, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. I downloaded it on a Saturday, February 12, and finished listening to it by the next day. I realized I was not losing weight on WW because of the insulin I was injecting. I now understood, thanks to Taubes' book, that if I wanted to have any hope of losing weight again, I had to get off insulin, and the low carb lifestyle Taubes described seemed like it would do the trick. So I started low carbing on February 14, 2011.

It did. That's why I have started this blog, to share with others who are struggling with weight or diabetes the method that has proven extraordinarily successful for me. I am no longer in diabetes denial; I am off injectable insulin and back on Metformin. I will be weaning myself from that as soon as I lose another 30 pounds or so. My blood pressure fell substantially, within a few days, and my blood sugars are now near normal. My new low carb lifestyle has very literally saved my life.

Now when I know about friends or acquaintances who are diagnosed with type II diabetes, but who are in deep denial, I want to reach out to them and tell them there is hope, that they can control the disease and lead a mostly normal life. A low carb diet is the key. Yes, it requires sacrifice, but it is worth it. But I also realize they must get past denial. The earlier it is treated, the better, before the pancreas is too compromised.

My plea: get out of denial and start dealing with your type II diabetes.

The Government's "My Plate"

The U.S. government, in its infinite wisdom, has replaced the food pyramid with "My Plate."  In other words, by forgetting about fat and focusing on carbs, the U.S. government has made it official policy to make us fat and unhealthy. The new plate even looks like a pie.

Come on, folks: it's not that hard to design an accurate food plate. Check out one such Paleo food plate. (Here is the FitBomb post about the food plate from which the graphic is taken).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eating a High Fat Diet and Staying Lean

The results of a recent study show that a low carb diet (high fat, medium protein, low carb) plus exercise helps people to lose weight quicker than a low fat diet.  Vascular health was also monitored, and there were no negative impact on vascular health reported with either diet.  The trial was short, so the authors put in a boiler plate mention that the long term effects are "yet to be determined." Other research has demonstrated the safety of the low carb diet over the longer term.

Eating Dirt

So, can eating dirt help cure depression?  I don't know, but there is an intriguing article about "germophobic helicopter parent[s]" obsessed with cleanliness and the impact that has on depression. I don't really know what to think about this article, but it was fascinating to read. Basically, it boils down to the argument that we co-evolved with certain parasites, which we have essentially eliminated from our diet by being cleaner than our evolutionary ancestors.

By the way, I loved the photo of the little girl eating a mouthful of dirt (scroll down to the end of the article to see the photo).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Fiber

I am reading the most amazing book, Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.  I've had this book for a while, but haven't had the time to read it.  It is long and scientifically dense, and it challenges just about everything I thought I knew about nutrition. He has taken aim at the lipid hypothesis, salt intake, calories in and calories out, but I was floored when I read chapter 7 in the book on fiber.

In the early 1970's, a missionary surgeon named Denis Burkitt, proposed that fiber, the indigestible carbohydrate roughage, was an absolutely necessary element to a healthy diet.  He claimed the absence of fiber in the diet was the reason behind diseases of civilization, those diseases that appeared wherever the Western diet, which was largely devoid of fiber, was consumed (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cavities, appendicitis, cancer, etc.).  Burkitt publised his fiber hypothesis in the British journal The Lancet in 1972 and, with missionary zeal (Taubes describes it as "messianic" zeal), aggressively promoted the hypothesis. The media jumped on the fiber band wagon, and the belief that fiber would prevent colon cancer and other diseases of civilization became conventional wisdom.

There's just one small problem with this hypothesis: there is no empirical evidence to back up the fiber hypothesis.  Says Taubes, "Over the last quarter-century, Burkitt's fiber hypothesis has become yet another example of Francis Bacon's dictum of "wishful science"--there has been a steady accumulation of evidence refuting the notion that a fiber-deficient diet causes colon cancer, polyps, or diverticulitis, let alone any other disease of civilization" (p. 132).  Two Harvard studies, one of 49,000 male health professionals and another of 89,000 female nurses confirmed that increasing the fiber in the diet by eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables had no beneficial effect on colon cancer, nor did it prevent heart disease, breast cancer, or other diseases of civilization.  A half dozen other, smaller studies also came to the same conclusions (see the notes for chapter 7 for references to the studies; I am traveling through Scotland as I write this and don't have the time to search online for the references). Gradually, a quarter century of studies has failed to support Burkitt's hypothesis, yet the belief that fiber is healthy remains alive.  Apparently, it is just another load of CWOPO. Taubes does concede, however, that eating fiber helps with constipation.