By Dr. Mercola
If you're sleep deprived for a night or two (or more), you expect to feel groggy and irritable.
But losing sleep impacts your body on a far deeper level, too, increasing your risk of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes.
New research has shed some light onto why sleep deprivation may be so damaging to your health, as it linked lack of sleep to serious impairments in the way your body responds to the hormone insulin.
Lack of Sleep Impairs Your Body's Insulin Sensitivity
Impaired insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, occurs when your body cannot use insulin properly, allowing your blood sugar levels to get too high. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes as well as a risk factor in many other chronic diseases.
In fact, controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. The increase in insulin-related diseases we're now seeing is largely due to lack of exercise combined with the excessive consumption of fructose and carbohydrate consumption in the average American diet … but it also appears that lack of sleep is likely playing a part in the equation too.
According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine,1 after four nights of sleep deprivation (sleep time was only 4.5 hours per night), study participants' insulin sensitivity was 16 percent lower, while their fat cells' insulin sensitivity was 30 percent lower, and rivaled levels seen in those with diabetes or obesity. The study's senior author, Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, told CNN:2
"This is the equivalent of metabolically aging someone 10 to 20 years just from four nights of partial sleep restriction. Fat cells need sleep, and when they don't get enough sleep, they become metabolically groggy."
Not Enough Sleep Has Serious Consequences To Your Metabolism
When you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. In one 2010 study,3 researchers found that people who slept only four hours for two consecutive nights experienced:
- 18 percent reduction in leptin
- 28 percent increase in ghrelin
This combination leads to an increase in appetite. Additionally, sleep deprivation tends to lead to food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods. Researchers have suggested that these sugar cravings stem from the fact that your brain is fueled by glucose (blood sugar); therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, and your brain is unable to properly respond to insulin (which drives glucose into brain cells) your brain becomes desperate for carbohydrates to keep going. If you're chronically sleep deprived, consistently giving in to these sugar cravings will virtually guarantee that you'll gain weight.
As mentioned, getting too little sleep also dramatically decreases the sensitivity of your insulin receptors, which will raise your insulin levels. This too is a surefire way to gain weight, as the insulin will seriously impair your body's ability to burn and digest fat. It also increases your risk of diabetes. In short, sleep deprivation puts your body in a pre-diabetic state, which can lead to increased weight and decreased health.
Can't Sleep? Here are 10 Reasons Why…
If you're staying up late to watch your favorite TV program or intentionally pulling an all-nighter to cram for a test, you know why your sleep is lacking. But far more often, Americans have trouble sleeping and they don't know why. According to the National Sleep Foundation, few Americans get sufficient amounts of sleep. Only four in 10 respondents said they got a good night's sleep every night, or almost every night, of the week,4 and a separate poll found 43 percent of Americans reported "rarely or never" getting a good night's sleep on weekdays.5
There are many factors that can influence your sleep. For my complete recommendations and guidelines that can help you improve your sleep, please see my article 33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep. Following are 10 often-overlooked factors that might be interfering with your sleep:
- Too Much Light in Your Room
Even the tiniest bit of light in the room, including those emitted by electronic devices, can disrupt your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin, thereby disrupting your sleep cycle.
So close your bedroom door, install black-out drapes, use a sleep mask, get rid of night-lights, and refrain from turning on any light during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. If you have to use a light you can use a red flashlight, as that wavelength of light has a minimal impact on melatonin production..
- Exercising Too Close to Bedtime
Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime (generally not within the three hours before) or it may keep you awake.
- Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
- Your Bedroom is Too Warm
Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep.
Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body's natural temperature drop.
- Caffeine is Keeping You Awake
Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, which means some will still be in your system even 10 hours later, and 12.5% 20 hours later (see the problem?). Plus, in some people caffeine is not metabolized efficiently, leaving you feeling its effects even longer after consumption. So, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine as well (for example, diet pills).
- You're Watching the Clock
The more you watch the clock when you wake up in the middle of the night, the more stressed and anxious you will become, and the more you may actually "train" yourself to start awakening at the same time each night. The solution is simple: Remove the clock from your view so you actually have to sit up or change positions to see the clock.
- Watching TV to Help You Fall Asleep
The artificial glow from your TV can serve as a stimulus for keeping you awake and, possibly, eating, when you should really be asleep. Further, computer and TV screens (and most light bulbs) emit blue light, to which your eyes are particularly sensitive simply because it's the type of light most common outdoors during daytime hours. As a result, it can disrupt your melatonin production and further interfere with your sleep.
- Worrying in the Middle of the Night
If stress keeps you up at night, try keeping a "worry journal" next to your bedside so you can jot down your thoughts there and clear them from your head. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can also help balance your body's bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to your insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and improvement is remarkably rapid.
- Do Not Eat Three Hours Before Bed
Although you might struggle with this initially, it is ideal to avoid eating any foods three hours before bed, as this will optimize your blood sugar, insulin and leptin levels and contribute to overall good health.
The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant, which can keep you awake much as though you just drank a cup of coffee.
How Much Sleep is "Enough"?
There is no perfect answer to this question because the answer depends on a large number of highly individual factors. The general consensus seems to be that most people need somewhere between six and eight hours of sleep each night. You are seriously fooling yourself if you are sleeping less than six hours a night and saying you don't need much sleep to be healthy.
There's compelling research indicating that sleeping less than six hours may increase your insulin resistance and risk of diabetes. And less than five hours of sleep at night may double your risk of being diagnosed with angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Interestingly enough, the same appears to be true when you sleep more than nine hours per night.
The question of the ideal amount of sleep is a topic Dr. Rubin Naiman -- a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and the leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams -- has addressed on numerous occasions throughout his career as a sleep expert (as well as in the video above), and he agrees: people want a number, but this 'number' must be as individual as the person asking for it.
"I think asking 'how many of hours of sleep should I get?' is like asking, 'Doctor, how many calories should I eat?'" he says. "Of course the answer to that depends on who that person is. It's so individual. It also depends on the quality of those calories. Again, a lot of people are knocking themselves out night after night after night with sleeping pills. They may be getting seven to eight hours, but is it sleep? It looks like sleep. It might feel like sleep, but you know what, it's not really sleep. That's part of the question too—the quality of it."
Again, for a comprehensive sleep guide for quality sleep, please see my article 33 Secret's to a Good Night's Sleep.
This Common Sleeping Mistake Can Double Your Risk of a Heart Attack
Unplug! Too Much Light at Night May Lead to Depression
By Dr. Mercola
Even though the low-fat craze has ended and more people are embracing healthy fats in their diet, there's still a sizable group that has not heard the news yet ?
Eating fat will not make you fat as quickly as eating carbs will.
This, in a nutshell, is what you need to recognize if you're struggling with your weight, as limiting non-vegetable carbs is crucial to weight loss.
If you're having trouble getting your mind around this, a wonderful infographic created by Column Five for Massive Health, based on Why We Get Fat by science writer Gary Taubes, explains exactly why eating fat doesn't make you fat -- but eating carbs can kill you ?
Carbs are Killing You and Making You Fat!
Today, I believe it's safe to say that most people eat far too many carbs and not enough healthy fats with about 50% of the average American's diet consumed as carbs.
Severely limiting grain carbs and sugars, while simultaneously increasing your fat consumption can be the U-turn you've been looking for if you are currently overweight and/or your health is suffering.
The infographic above does a great job of simplifying an otherwise complex concept, specifically the role of dietary carbs in increasing insulin levels and weight gain/obesity. I highly recommend reviewing it now ?
As explained, overconsumption of carbs is the primary driving factor for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, the conventional medical wisdom has unwisely been extolling the virtues of carbohydrates for years, even placing them as the "foundation" of the highly flawed food pyramid.
If you are seeking to lose weight and optimize your health, foods like bread, rice and pasta should comprise very low percentages of your diet. Virtually anyone who bought into these high-carb, low-fat dietary recommendations has likely struggled with their weight and health, wondering what they're doing wrong.
The problem is that overeating carbohydrates can prevent a higher percentage of fats from being used for energy, and lead to an increase in fat production and storage. It also raises your insulin levels, which in short order can cause insulin resistance, followed by diabetes. Insulin resistance is also at the heart of virtually every chronic disease known to modern man.
Your Body Stores Excess Carbs as Fat
Your body has a limited capacity to store excess carbohydrates. This is one of the reasons why elevated blood sugar follows their overconsumption. One of the ways your body avoids dangerously elevated blood sugar is through converting those excess carbohydrates into excess body fat primarily in your belly. The way it works is that any carbohydrates not immediately used by your body are stored in the form of glycogen (a long string of glucose molecules linked together). Your body has two storage sites for glycogen: your liver and your muscles. Once the glycogen levels are filled in both your liver and muscles, excess carbohydrates are converted into fat and stored in your adipose, that is, fatty, tissue.
So, although carbohydrates are "fat-free," this is misleading because excess carbohydrates end up as excess fat. Puffed rice, in fact, is capable of making your blood sweeter than white sugar, due to the fact that it is higher on the glycemic index ? all the more reason why refined grains are "hidden sugar," and sugar is in many ways "hidden fat."
But that's not the worst of it. Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates will also generate a rapid rise in blood glucose. To adjust for this rapid rise, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream, which then lowers your levels of blood glucose. The problem is that insulin is essentially a storage hormone, evolved to put aside excess carbohydrate calories in the form of fat in case of future famine. So the insulin that's stimulated by excess carbohydrates aggressively promotes the accumulation of body fat!
In other words, when you eat too much sugar, bread, pasta, and any other grain products, you're essentially sending a hormonal message, via insulin, to your body that says "store more fat." This is actually a highly beneficial response in certain scenarios such as when calories are very scarce. This provides a major survival advantage -- but for nearly everyone reading this, having insufficient calories is not an issue, so this protective mechanism actually sabotages your health.
Additionally, increased insulin levels also:
- Make it virtually impossible for you to use your own stored body fat for energy.
- Suppress two important hormones: glucagon and growth hormone. Glucagon promotes the burning of fat and sugar. Growth hormone is used for muscle development and building new muscle mass.
- Increases hunger: As blood sugar increases following a carbohydrate meal, insulin rises with the eventual result of lower blood sugar. This results in hunger, often only a couple of hours (or less) after the meal, in a vicious endocrine rollercoaster that takes us from meal to compulsive meal without ever feeling satisfied.
So, all in all, the excess carbohydrates in your diet can not only make you fat, they can make sure you stay fat. Cravings, usually for sweets, are frequently part of this cycle, leading you to resort to snacking, often on more carbohydrates. Not eating can make you feel ravenous shaky, moody and ready to "crash." If the problem is chronic, you never get rid of that extra stored fat, and your energy and overall health is adversely affected.
Realistically, How Many Carbs Can You Eat and Still be Healthy?
Dr. Ron Rosedale, the physician who first educated me about the importance of insulin, has used low-carb diets to treat his patients with obesity, diabetes and chronic diseases for over two decades. He argues that there is no such thing as a "safe" non-fiber starch (such as rice or potatoes).
He believes consuming starches, especially potatoes and rice, will disrupt both your blood sugar and insulin levels -- the question is only a matter of to what degree? My guess is that from a biochemical perspective he is probably right, and if you need to lose weight, there is no question that limiting your sugar and starch intake is crucial. However, if living longer is not your primary objective and you are seeking to optimize fertility or athletic performance, then this most likely is not your best choice.
That said, I realize that giving up virtually all non-veggie carbs can be a challenge ? so how many can you realistically eat and still be healthy?
According to Paul Jaminet, PhD. in his book Perfect Health Diet, a 20 percent carb diet is healthy for nearly everyone. He also believes that 50-70 percent of your diet should be healthy fat (healthy fats include not only monounsaturated fats like olive oil but also saturated fats, like those found in raw dairy products and grass-fed meat).
I keep very careful track of my diet with one of the best diet apps on the iPad (in my opinion) called Calorie Counter and Fitness Tracker. My guess is most people are not keeping such detailed records of what they eat. I typically have about 60% of my diet as healthy fat and about 25% of my total calories as carbohydrate. This amount is in line with Perfect Health Diet recommendations, but in my diet, most of the non-fiber carbohydrates are from veggies and about one cup of rice a day to help fill my glycogen stores that get depleted from my intense exercise regimen.
If you are already healthy, are seeking to maximize your longevity and take it to the next level, and are willing to experiment then give Dr. Rosedale's suggestions a try by eliminating nearly all non-fiber carbs. This will be very challenging to implement in the beginning, but as your body grows accustomed and satiated from these extremely nutrient-dense low-carb foods, it should get much easier and will provide you outstanding health results that will be a continual source of encouragement.
A Word about Fructose (a Common Sugar in Soda, Fruit Juice and More) ?
You will want to be very careful about the amount of fructose you consume as part of your carb intake, as it is by far the worst type of sugar there is in terms of both your health and your weight.
Fructose metabolism is quite different from glucose (dextrose) metabolism in that it places the entire burden on your liver, and this accounts for many of its devastating health effects. Furthermore, people consume fructose in enormous quantities these days, which has made the negative effects that much more profound. Without getting into the very complex biochemistry of carbohydrate metabolism, it is important to have a general understanding of how your body handles these sugars.
Below is a summary of the main differences between glucose and fructose metabolism, which explains why I keep repeating that fructose is by far the worst type of sugar there is:
- After eating fructose, virtually all of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent.
- Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is "burned up" immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat.
- The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose simply does not do this.
- When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Consuming fructose is essentially consuming fat!
- The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and can cause gout.
- Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and causes resistance to leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and by interfering with your brain's ability to use leptin, results in overeating.
If you want to shed excess pounds, maintain a healthy weight long-term, and RADICALLY reduce (and in many cases virtually eliminate) your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, then get serious about restricting your consumption of fructose to no more than 25 grams per day, with a maximum of 15 grams a day from fresh fruit. If you're already overweight, or have any of these diseases or are at high risk of any of them, then you're probably better off cutting that down to 10-15 grams per day -- fruit included.
If you believe you are an exception to this rule then you can measure your uric acid level. If it is below 5 when you are eating loads of fruit then you are metabolically ok with it, as elevated uric acid levels are a strong indication of fructose toxicity.
It's Time to Let Go of Your Fear of Fat
When you cut carbs, you need to replace those calories with healthy fats. Both are sources of energy, but healthy fats are far more ideal than carbs. However, not just any kind of fat will do. The Atkins Diet is one popular example of a low-carb, high-fat diet that has helped many shed unwanted pounds. Unfortunately, Dr. Atkins didn't pay much attention to the QUALITY of the fats, so while his recommendations worked in the short-term, many who tried it ended up experiencing long-term problems.
Many do not realize this, but frequent hunger may be a major clue that you're not eating correctly. Not only is it an indication that you're consuming the wrong types of food, but it's also a sign that you're likely consuming them in lopsided ratios for your individual biochemistry.
Fat is far more satiating than carbs, so if you have cut down on carbs and feel ravenous, thinking you "can't do without the carbs," remember this is a sign that you haven't replaced them with sufficient amounts of fat. So go ahead and add a bit more healthy fats from the list below:
|Olives and Olive oil||Coconuts and coconut oil||Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk|
|Raw nuts, such as, almonds or pecans||Organic pastured egg yolks||Avocados|
|Grass-fed meats||Palm oil||Unheated organic nut oils|
Another healthful fat you want to be mindful of is animal-based omega-3. Deficiency in this essential fat can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year. As mentioned, emerging evidence actually suggests your diet should be at least half healthy fat, and possibly as high as 70 percent.
My personal diet is about 60-70 percent healthy fat, and both Drs. Jaminet and Rosedale agree that the ideal diet includes somewhere between 50-70 percent fat. It's important to understand that your body requires saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources (such as meat, dairy, certain oils, and tropical plants like coconut) for optimal functioning, and if you neglect this important food group in favor of sugar, grains and other starchy carbs, your health and weight are almost guaranteed to suffer.
Known as the "Deadliest Nutrient" - but There's No Meaningful Evidence
This Makes You Flabby - and Virtually Forces You to Overeat
By Dr. Mercola
Many people over the age of, say, 50 would like to turn back the hands of time and not only feel younger but look younger as well.
But very few people appreciate the fact that making dietary changes -- specifically in relation to sugar and grain consumption ? is likely the closest formula for a "fountain of youth" that's currently known.
The journal Age recently featured an intriguing study on this very topic; it found that higher glucose levels are associated with a higher perceived age, which was assessed using facial photographs.
In other words, the higher your glucose levels, the older you'll tend to look, which makes perfect sense since the manner in which your body handles glucose is intimately connected to skin aging.
While many people are diligent (if not entirely neurotic) about having their cholesterol levels tested, many overlook the importance of fasting insulin levels.
This commonly overlooked and much more important measurement can clue you in to whether you're consuming a harmful amount of glucose, whether your body is capable of handling it, and by implication, the degree to which accelerating aging may be going on in your body.
Why it's Important to Know Your Insulin Level
Insulin is absolutely essential to staying alive, but the sad fact is that most of you reading this right now have unsafe levels of it accumulating in your bloodstream, and it is pushing you toward accelerated aging and the development of chronic degenerative illnesses, which sadly have become a right of passage in most Westernized societies.
Most adults have about one gallon of blood in their bodies and are quite surprised to learn that in that gallon, there is only one teaspoon of sugar! In other words, your body is designed to have just one teaspoon of sugar in your blood at all times -- if that. If your blood sugar level were to rise to one tablespoon of sugar you would run the risk of going into a hyperglycemic coma and even dying.
Your body works very hard to prevent this from happening by producing insulin to keep your blood sugar at the appropriate level. Any meal or snack high in grain and sugar carbohydrates typically generates a rapid rise in blood glucose. To compensate for this your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream, which lowers your blood sugar to keep you from dying. Insulin, however, is also very efficient at lowering blood sugar by turning it into fat ? so the more you secrete, the fatter you become.
Unfortunately, If you consume a diet consistently high in sugar and grains, your blood glucose levels will be correspondingly high and over time your body becomes "desensitized" to insulin and requires more and more of it to get the job done. Eventually, you become insulin resistant, and then full-blown diabetic.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or are overweight, it is quite likely that you are eating too many grains and sugars, as this is the most common cause of abnormal insulin levels. Fructose has been shown to be especially harmful, due to the way it disrupts the lock-and-key fit between insulin and its cellular receptor sites. Dozens of animal and human studies prove that fructose is a powerful endocrine disruptor, capable of rapidly inducing insulin resistance when consumed in, what by today's standards, is a relatively small amount (15 grams or more a day).
To find out your insulin levels, ask your physician for a fasting blood insulin test. It's one of the least expensive tests, yet it is one of the most empowering ones available to help you take back control of your health. A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5, but ideally you'll want to be below 3.
You can also use a simple glucose test to check your fasting glucose, however it's possible to have low fasting glucose yet have significantly elevated insulin levels.
If this is the case, you're essentially pre-diabetic and need to take steps to improve your insulin sensitivity, and the most potent way is to reduce or eliminate sugar, particularly fructose, from your diet. Generally speaking, however, a fasting glucose under 100 mg/dl suggests that you're not insulin resistant, while a level between 100-125 suggests you're either mildly insulin resistant or have impaired glucose tolerance (sometimes referred to as pre-diabetes).
Can Eliminating Sugar from Your Diet Lengthen Your Lifespan?
Most of you probably know that your body does need, and uses, glucose for energy. Without it you wouldn't survive. But while glucose is certainly not toxic in and of itself, foods that raise and keep raised your blood sugar levels essentially are "toxic" in that they set in motion a cascade of detrimental health effects, especially when consumed in excess or over a long period of time.
Soda, candy, pasta, bread, pastries and fruit juice are examples of foods that quickly break down into glucose once consumed, generating a spike in your blood glucose levels and a corresponding release of insulin. It is becoming very clear that your longevity is intimately tied to this cycle, and by modifying your diet to restrict sugars and grains, you can slow down the rate at which your biological clock is ticking ? and perhaps even turn back the dials a bit.
For instance, a study, published last year examined the effects of food on typical biological signs of advancing age. Typical signs of aging include elevated levels of glucose, insulin and triglycerides.
In this study, the participants were given a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet with an adequate amount of protein. This diet improved all of the measured factors related to the aging process, decreasing:
- Insulin by 48 percent
- Fasting glucose by 40 percent
- Triglyceride by nearly 8 percent
- Serum leptin by 8 percent on average
It's highly unfortunate that so few physicians have embraced this knowledge, because a firm appreciation of insulin's role in human health and disease is one of THE most important factors that can make or break your health! And again, the test to determine your levels is relatively inexpensive and widely available, while the steps for optimizing them, which I'll detail below, are also very straightforward.
Eating Carbs Turns Off Longevity Genes
Research by Professor Cynthia Kenyon found that carbohydrates directly affect two key genes in your body that govern longevity and youthfulness. I've previously written about how your diet can over-ride genetic predispositions to disease, and this research further strengthens those claims, as the two key genes in question can be turned on or off as a consequence of eating carbohydrates.
Professor Kenyon worked with Caenorhabditis elegans roundworms, but her findings have been successfully repeated in other labs around the world using other animals, including rats, mice, and to some extent, monkeys. Humans also have these genes, indicating these results should apply to us as well.
One of the most interesting details of her findings is that not only did the roundworms live up to SIX TIMES longer than normal, but they kept their health and youthful vigor until the end. Previous research has shown that you can extend your lifespan by reducing your caloric intake, and I've written about this technique in the past. The problem is that most people do not understand how to properly cut calories, because in order to remain healthy, you have to cut out calories from a specific source -- namely, sugar and grain carbohydrates!
Most of us eat far too many potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta. Of course we want to avoid all sugar and processed foods, but there is emerging evidence that most grains and legumes can contribute to health problems because:
However, Dr. Paul Jaminet provides a powerful argument that many, if not most people may benefit from a certain threshold of glucose carbohydrates that are necessary for optimal health.
- They will quickly be converted into glucose, which will raise your blood glucose
- As your blood glucose rises, your insulin- and leptin levels rise in response. While this mechanism is designed to optimize short-term survival, it's not healthy for a long, post-reproductive lifespan. The immediate effects of spiking your insulin levels are now well known and include vasoconstriction, inhibited fat burning, and reduced production of glycerol substrates to make glucose, just to name a few
- Repeated elevations of insulin and leptin eventually lead to insulin- and leptin resistance, which are hallmarks of poor health and accelerated aging
What's the Best Diet for Looking (and Feeling) Younger?
To put it simply, when you "starve" your body of sugars and starchy carbs, your body starts to acclimatize itself to burn fatty acids and ketone bodies. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy?a beneficial process that appears to promote longevity.
On the other hand, consuming sugars and grains will raise your blood sugar, and the higher the blood sugar rise, the more damage is done. In this new study, researchers found that perceived age increased nearly half a year per 1 mmol/L increase in glucose level in non-diabetic people.
So, is there such a thing as a "fountain of youth"? I believe there is, in the symbolic sense, and its three cornerstones are:
- Avoid sugar/fructose and replace them with healthy fats
- Avoid grains
- Exercise regularly and effectively
These three cornerstones have one important factor in common, and that is helping you improve your insulin sensitivity -- the key to longevity and a youthful appearance.
The Best Foods that Fill You Up and Boost Your Metabolism and Shed Pounds
Calorie Restriction NOT Key to Increasing Life, Lowering Insulin Level Is
By Dr. Mercola
Vitamin K is frequently called the "forgotten vitamin" for a good reason -- it's often not fully appreciated, considering its immense value to your health.
One of these oft-overlooked benefits is in relation to your insulin sensitivity, which has implications for a slew of potentially life-threatening chronic diseases.
Vitamin K Enhances Insulin Sensitivity
Research shows that vitamin K can help to regulate your glucose metabolism by converting to a substance called carboxylated osteocalcin in your body, which affects insulin sensitivity.
A recent study found for the first time that vitamin K2 supplementation increased insulin sensitivity in healthy young men, and the effect seemed to be related to increased carboxylated osteocalcin levels, rather than to another factor such as modulation of inflammation.
According to the study in Diabetes Care:
"Although our study could not provide the underlying mechanism, we speculate that [carboxylated osteocalcin] or vitamin K could modulate adipokines or inflammatory pathways other than the IL-6 pathways.
Alternatively, [carboxylated osteocalcin] can directly regulate glucose disposal at skeletal muscle or adipose tissues."
Past research has also shown that vitamin K slowed the development of insulin resistance in elderly men, adding to the growing evidence that vitamin K has a potentially beneficial role in insulin metabolism.
This is an incredibly important benefit, as enhanced insulin sensitivity means that it is easier for your body to take up sugar from your bloodstream.
Impaired insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, occurs when your body cannot use insulin properly, allowing your blood sugar levels to get too high. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes as well as a risk factor in many other chronic diseases.
In fact, controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. The increase in insulin-related diseases we're now seeing is largely due to lack of exercise combined with the excessive consumption of fructose and carbohydrates in the average American diet, which means healthy sources of vitamin K are often lacking!
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin K to Get These Important Benefits?
According to Dr. Cees Vermeer, one of the world's top researchers into vitamin K, nearly everyone is deficient in it -- just like most people are deficient in vitamin D. Most of you get just enough vitamin K from your diet to maintain adequate blood clotting, but NOT enough to offer protection against the following health problems -- and the list continues to grow:
|Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins||Brain health problems, including dementia (the specifics of which are under study)|
|Prostate cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and leukemia||Infectious diseases such as pneumonia|
For a comprehensive exploration of all the research and functions of vitamin K, refer to this article on the Weston Price website, but before you head out to buy a supplement or increase your dietary intake, it's important to understand the differences between the two forms, as they can impact its potential benefit.
What are the Different Types of Vitamin K?
Vitamin K exists in two basic forms, K1 and K2:
- Vitamin K1: Found in green vegetables, K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. (This is the kind of K that infants need to help prevent a serious bleeding disorder.)
- Vitamin K2: Bacteria produce this type of vitamin K. It is present in high quantities in your gut, but unfortunately is not absorbed from there and passes out in your stool. K2 goes straight to vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver.
There are several different forms of vitamin K2: MK4, MK7, MK8, and MK9. The form of vitamin K that has the most relevance for health benefits is MK7, a newer and longer acting form with more practical applications. MK7 is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product called natto. You could actually get loads of MK7 from consuming natto, as it is relatively inexpensive and available in most Asian food markets.
Few people, however, tolerate its smell and slimy texture, so most people who find natto unpalatable prefer to take a supplement. Most vitamin K2 supplements are in the form MK7. You can also get MK7 by eating fermented cheeses.
Do You Take Oral Vitamin D? Why Vitamin K2 is Especially Important for You
There are very compelling reasons to make a concerted effort to get ALL your vitamin D requirements from exposure to sunshine, or by using a safe tanning bed (one with electronic ballasts rather than magnetic ballasts, to avoid unnecessary exposure to EMF fields).
As a quick summary, when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements, which is unsulfated. The water soluble form can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated form needs LDL (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. The suspicion is that the oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D likely will not provide the same benefits as the vitamin D created in your skin from sun exposure, because it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate.
For more details, please refer to my recent interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff.
As a last resort, if neither sun exposure nor safe tanning beds are feasible options, then you may resort to taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement. Getting back to vitamin K, there is evidence that the safety of vitamin D is dependent on vitamin K, and that vitamin D toxicity (although very rare with the D3 form) is actually mitigated by vitamin K2 deficiency. So if you take oral vitamin D, ideally you should take vitamin K2 as well.
There is also a synergistic effect between vitamins D and K, as these two agents work together to increase MGP, or Matrix GLA Protein, which is the protein responsible for protecting your blood vessels from calcification. In healthy arteries, MGP congregates around the elastic fibers of your tunica media (arterial lining), guarding them against calcium crystal formation.
Vitamin K Keeps Calcium Where You Need It, Not Where You Don't
There is new evidence that it is vitamin K (specifically, vitamin K2) that directs calcium to your skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where you don't want it -- i.e., your organs, joint spaces, and arteries. A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term "hardening of the arteries."
Vitamin K2 activates a protein hormone called osteocalcin, produced by osteoblasts, which is needed to bind calcium into the matrix of your bone. Osteocalcin also appears to help prevent calcium from depositing into your arteries. So while increasing calcium is good for your bones, it is not so good for your arteries, which can become calcified. Vitamin K protects your blood vessels from calcifying when in the presence of high calcium levels.
Optimizing Your Vitamin K Intake
Vitamin K measurements in blood plasma can be done accurately, but the results are really not helpful because they mainly reflect "what you ate yesterday," according to Dr. Vermeer. Because there are no good laboratory assessments, he and his team have developed and patented a very promising laboratory test to assess vitamin K levels indirectly by measuring circulating MGP.
They are hoping to have this test available to the public in the next several years for a reasonable price, and several labs are already interested. Additionally, they are working on developing a home test that would be available at your neighborhood drug store.
At this time, however, there is really no commercial test that would give you meaningful information. But since nearly 100 percent of people don't get sufficient amounts of vitamin K from their diet to reap its full health benefits, you can assume you need to bump up your vitamin K levels.
Ideally, optimize your vitamin K through a combination of dietary sources (leafy green vegetables, fermented foods like natto, raw milk cheeses, etc.) and a K2 supplement, if needed. Although the exact dosing (for oral supplementation) is yet to be determined, Dr. Vermeer recommends up to 185 mcg daily for adults. You must use caution on the higher doses if you take anticoagulants, but if you are generally healthy and not on these types of medications, I suggest 150-300 mcg daily.
The Cancer-Preventing Vitamin Your Doctor Is Likely Completely Clueless About
You Need Vitamin K to Prevent Arterial Plaque & Heart Disease
By Dr. Mercola
There are many reasons why breastfeeding is a superior option to formula feeding for babies, however, a new study provides one of the most compelling to date.
Infant formulas are typically processed under high heat, and this leads to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGES).
AGES are sugar molecules that attach to and damage proteins in your body.
Not only do they build up in your body over time, leading to oxidation and speeding up the aging process, but they also lead to inflammation, which in turn is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
AGES Double in Infants Switched From Breast milk to Formula
If you're a breastfeeding mom who needs encouragement to continue nursing for one year or beyond, consider this fact: when infants were switched from breast milk to commercial formula within the first year of life, their levels of AGEs doubled to levels found in people with diabetes.
Many of the infants also had elevated insulin levels, which may be directly attributable to the AGEs in the infant formula.
While a woman's blood level of AGEs does impact her newborn's levels (the researchers found newborns' blood levels of AGEs were nearly as high as that of their mother's, which is yet another why pregnant women should cut back on their processed food intake), her breast milk is still a superior source of nutrition. Infant formulas processed with high heat may have 100 times more AGEs than breast milk.
As a result, formula-fed babies are being exposed to unacceptably high levels of these toxins, putting their health at risk -- completely unbeknownst to most parents!
Why Exposing Your Baby to High Levels of AGEs Could be Tragic ?
Glycation is a process in which the sugar in food bonds with proteins and forms so-called 'advanced glycation end products', or AGEs. It's a fitting acronym because ? along with oxidation ? it's one of the major molecular mechanisms whereby damage accrues in your body, which leads to disease, aging, and premature death.
When sugar is glycated, it contributes to inflammation, which activates your immune system defensively. Macrophages are scavenger cells that are part of your immune defense system, and as such they have special receptors for AGEs, aptly called RAGEs (think: raging inflammation). These RAGEs bind to the AGEs and get rid of them.
Unfortunately, this process can leave its fair share of battle scars. Inside your arteries, for example, the scar tissue created from this process is called plaque. This also explains why there's such a strong connection between diabetes and heart disease, and why infants exposed to high levels of AGEs in infant formula may have had elevated insulin levels.
To avoid AGEs in your diet, you need to pay attention to avoiding foods cooked at high heat, including processed and pasteurized foods like infant formula.
In July 2011, the first study in humans showing that AGEs promote insulin resistance and diabetes was published. People with diabetes who ate an AGE-restricted diet (this included foods that were poached or stewed instead of cooked at high heat, such as grilling, frying or broiling) had a 35 percent decrease in insulin levels, to give you an idea of just how great an impact appropriate dietary changes can have on your, or your child's, health.
Many Infant Formulas are Loaded With Sugar
Tragically, many infant formulas are more than 50 percent sugar -- 43 percent being corn syrup solids, which means they're also high in fructose. Metabolically, consuming fructose is very similar to alcohol on a chronic basis, so there appears to be a surprising similarity between giving your infant a can of soda, or a bottle of most conventional infant formulas.
I've written numerous articles about the dangers of consuming fructose, including its ability to trigger glycation, disturb your metabolism, elevate blood pressure and triglycerides, cause weight gain, heart disease and liver damage, and even deplete your body of vitamins and minerals.
There is no way that a baby should be consuming any corn syrup whatsoever, and the fact that infant formulas are able to be marketed as nutritious for babies when they're loaded with corn syrup is incredibly deceptive. If you currently have infant formula in your home, check the label for corn syrup or corn syrup solids, and in the interest of your baby, throw the can away if you find it.
Infant Formula is Also Inferior to Breast milk Because of What it Does NOT Contain ?
Nearly all commercial infant formulas contain substances your infant is better off avoiding, like corn syrup and AGEs, but it also is lacking in other key components that breast milk naturally provides. Chief among these are probiotics, friendly bacteria that help your body to thrive. In Greek, the term pro means "for life," and the large amount of careful research surrounding these healthful microorganisms suggests that they are an integral part of your, and your child's, well-being.
Breast milk is a natural source of probiotics, so babies who are breastfed receive an ideal source of your first immune-building good bacteria, and as a result also tend to have intestinal microflora in which beneficial bifidobacteria predominate over potentially harmful bacteria.
Some infant formulas do contain added probiotics, but they are going to be inferior to those that are found naturally in breast milk. Others contain none at all. Ideally, you should be sure you are getting probiotics while you're pregnant, from eating traditionally fermented foods like kefir, natto and sauerkraut, which are rich in probiotics, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement, and then continue these probiotic-rich foods in your infant's diet.
Make Sure You Baby is Also Getting This ?
The omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an essential structural component of your brain and retina, is found naturally in breast milk and is missing entirely from many infant formulas. DHA is essential to your child's development and if your child is deficient in it, their nervous and immune system may never fully develop, leading to a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning and immune system disorders.
DHA makes up 15 percent to 20 percent of the cerebral cortex and 30 percent to 60 percent of the retina so it is absolutely necessary for normal development of the fetus and baby.
Because a fetus depends on mother's DHA sources, the constant drain on a mother's DHA reserves can easily lead to a deficiency and some researchers believe that preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure) and postpartum depression could be linked to a DHA deficiency -- just one more reason why it's so important to maintain your levels during pregnancy.
After your child is born, it's essential that he or she continues to receive DHA either from breast milk or a high-quality animal-based supplement. In the past, the ideal way to receive these fats was from seafood. However in the last 50 years industrial pollution with chemicals and heavy metals has changed all that. In fact, babies exposed in the womb to higher levels of mercury, due to their mom's fish-rich diet, scored lower on skills tests when they became infants and toddlers. To put it simply, the beneficial effects of the omega-3s were cancelled out by the mercury.
The best alternative to seafood is an animal-based omega-3 fat supplement, of which krill oil and fish oil are the two major players. But there is reason to believe that krill oil actually offers superior benefits.
Fish oil is certainly more widely known, and this is related to the fact that the bulk of the published studies are done with fish oil and not krill oil. That is changing, but it will take many decades before krill oil catches up to fish oil in terms of popularity. That said, it just doesn't make sense that you and your family have to wait decades to get the benefits of krill oil, as it is, in my opinion, the preferred choice. You can read more about why that is here.
I believe all pregnant and breastfeeding women would be wise to supplement with a high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil, and if your baby is formula-fed, you can give krill oil to them directly. Consult your holistic pediatrician for proper dosage.
Do You Need Help With Breastfeeding?
Unfortunately, the United States is not the most breastfeeding-friendly culture, so surrounding yourself with women who have experience in this area can be a great help. Whether you want to prepare beforehand, or find you're having trouble breastfeeding once your baby is born, Le Leche League is a terrific resource to consider.
Keep in mind that while there are certain medical conditions that can prevent a woman from breastfeeding, the majority of women are able to produce adequate supplies of milk and breastfeed successfully. Often, those who believe they cannot may be misinformed, and believe they don't have enough milk; this is a common misperception. However, in the vast majority of circumstances, all women have enough milk to breastfeed.
The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will produce. Mom needs to drink plenty of water and seek optimal nutrition while nursing, and the beginning weeks and months are critical in the process.
If you find you are unable to breastfeed, the next best alternative is donated breast milk from a healthy, trusted donor, which has been screened for hepatitis C and HIV. If that is not available, another option is to make a healthy homemade infant formula. There may be others, but here is one recipe for homemade formula created by the Weston Price Foundation, which I believe is sound.
As an aside, definitely avoid all soy infant formula, as it is loaded with toxic elements like high doses of manganese and aluminum, not to mention the hormone-disrupting potential of the soy itself.
Which Infant Formulas Contain Hidden Toxic Chemicals?
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