By Dr. Mercola
I’ve been warning you of the dangers of soda since I started this site over 16 years ago, and the list of reasons to avoid this beverage just keeps getting longer. Americans in particular get most of their daily calories from sugar, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in soda and other sweetened beverages.
Half of the US population over the age of two consumes sugary drinks on a daily basis,1 and this figure does not even include 100% fruit juices, flavored milk or sweetened teas, all of which are sugary too, which means the figure is actually even higher.
Many people mistakenly believe that as long as you are drinking fruit juice, it's healthy even though it's sweet, but this is a dangerous misconception that is fueling the rising rates of weight gain, obesity, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes in the United States and other developed nations.
It’s important to realize sugary drinks, soda and even fresh squeezed fruit juice, contain fructose, which has been identified as one of the primary culprits in the meteoric rise of obesity and related health problems—in large part due to its ability to turn on your “fat switch.”
So-called “enhanced” water products are another source of hidden fructose, and/or artificial sweeteners, which can be even worse for your health than sugar. I recommend drinking plenty of pure water as your primary beverage of choice instead.
Sugary Drinks Linked to 180,000 Deaths Annually
Preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions suggests sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths and 6,000 cancer deaths.
Among the 35 largest countries in the world, Mexico had the highest death rates associated with sugary beverage consumption. There, the average consumption of sugary beverages was 24 ounces per day.
Bangladesh had the lowest death rates. The US ranked third, with an estimated 25,000 annual deaths2 from sweetened drinks.3 (Many might have expected the US to come in first place, but remember that American processed foods contain far more sugars than other nations, so Americans also consume a lot of “hidden” sugar in products other than beverages.)
Interestingly, and quite disturbingly, the death rates associated with sweetened beverages were highest in those under the age of 45. According to the featured article:4
“[W]hile the connection between excess sugar and chronic disease is well-known, the latest research is the first to quantify deaths correlated with sugared drinks worldwide.
...To reach their conclusion, the scientists analyzed data from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study and recorded how much sugar-sweetened beverages people drank, dividing up the data by age and sex. Then, they figured out how the various amount corresponded to obesity rates.
Lastly, they calculated how much obesity affected diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers and determined the mortality rates from these diseases, ending up with the number of deaths that could be attributed to consuming sugary beverages by age and sex.”
Co-author Dr. Gitanjali Singh told Time Magazine:
“Our findings should push policy makers world-wide to make effective policies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages, such as taxation, mass-media campaigns, and reducing availability of these drinks... Individuals should drink fewer sugary beverages and encourage their family and friends to do the same.”
As you may recall, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently tried to ban the sale of sugary beverages over 16 ounces in restaurants, food carts and theaters, but the day before the ban was scheduled to go into effect, a Supreme Court judge overturned it.5 Bloomberg has stated he intends to appeal the decision.
Personally, I believe the most appropriate strategy is to educate people on the facts about sugar consumption, and encourage personal responsibility. Taxation and eliminating sweet drinks from schools and other venues may have a beneficial effect, but to really put a dent in the problem, you need to be properly informed about the consequences of your choices. Voting with your pocketbook and avoiding purchasing these products will cause them to disappear from the marketplace as companies will not produce items that don’t sell.
Scientific Statement from American Heart Association about Sugar Consumption and Heart Disease Risk
In 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a scientific statement6 about sugar intake and heart health, pointing out that there is evidence for a relationship between the two. According to the abstract:
“High intakes of dietary sugars in the setting of a worldwide pandemic of obesity and cardiovascular disease have heightened concerns about the adverse effects of excessive consumption of sugars.
In 2001 to 2004, the usual intake of added sugars for Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day (355 calories per day). Between 1970 and 2005, average annual availability of sugars/added sugars increased by 19%, which added 76 calories to Americans’ average daily energy intake. Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Excessive consumption of sugars has been linked with several metabolic abnormalities and adverse health conditions, as well as shortfalls of essential nutrients...
[T]he American Heart Association recommends reductions in the intake of added sugars. A prudent upper limit of intake is half of the discretionary calorie allowance, which for most American women is no more than 100 calories per day and for most American men is no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars.”
How Much Sugar Do You Eat or Drink Each Day?
Let’s start with soda. One hundred calories isn’t much. Just one 12-ounce regular soda contains about 140 calories; the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Similarly, one eight-ounceglass of orange juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar, and at least 50 percent of that sugar is fructose. Drinking just one eight-ounce glass of orange juice will wallop your system with about 25 grams of fructose, which is more than you should have the entire day...
Fructose has been identified as one of the primary culprits in the meteoric rise of obesity and related health problems, and while the majority of the problem is caused by the large quantities of high fructose corn syrup added to so many processed foods and sweetened beverages, naturally-occurring fructose in large amounts of fruit juice is also a problem. Fructose is also a likely culprit behind the millions of U.S. children struggling with non-alcoholic liver disease, which is caused by a build-up of fat within liver cells. Fructose is very hard on your liver, in much the same way as drinking alcohol.
Around 100 years ago the average American consumed a mere 15 grams of fructose a day, primarily in the form of whole fruit. One hundred years later, one-fourth of Americans are consuming more than 135 grams per day (that's over a quarter of a pound!), largely in the form of soda and other sweetened beverages.
Fructose at 15 grams a day is unlikely to do much harm (unless you suffer from high uric acid levels). However, at nearly 10 times that amount it becomes a MAJOR cause of obesity and nearly all chronic degenerative diseases. As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, for most people it would actually be wise to limit your fruit fructose to 15 grams or less, as it is virtually guaranteed that you will consume “hidden” sources of fructose from most beverages and just about any processed food you might eat.
Did You Know?
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Don’t Fall for the Latest 'Designer Water' Fad...
As a general rule, I advise using water as your primary form of beverage. Many simply do not drink enough water these days. But don’t be fooled by slick marketing. There are a number of “designer water” products available, and none of them can really beat plain, pure water. For example, on April 1, Coca-Cola released its latest enhanced water product called “Fruitwater,” described as “a great tasting, naturally flavored zero calorie sparking water beverage.”7 Despite its name, the product does NOT contain any juice. Rather it’s sweetened with sucralose and “natural fruit flavors.” Sucralose (Splenda) is an artificial sweetener that, like aspartame, is associated with a host of side effects, including:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Seizures, dizziness and migraines
- Blurred vision
- Allergic reactions
- Blood sugar increases and weight gain
Artificially Sweetened Water is a Recipe for Poor Health
Different artificial sweeteners have been found to wreak havoc in a number of different ways. Aspartame, for example, has a long list of studies indicating its harmful effects, ranging from brain damage to pre-term delivery. Sucralose has been found to be particularly damaging to your intestines. A study8 published in 2008 found that sucralose:
- Reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50 percent
- Increases the pH level in your intestines, and
- Affects a glycoprotein in your body that can have crucial health effects, particularly if you're on certain medications like chemotherapy, or treatments for AIDS and certain heart conditions
In response to this study, James Turner, chairman of the national consumer education group Citizens for Health, issued the following statement:9
"The report makes it clear that the artificial sweetener Splenda and its key component sucralose pose a threat to the people who consume the product. Hundreds of consumers have complained to us about side effects from using Splenda and this study ... confirms that the chemicals in the little yellow package should carry a big red warning label."
That was nearly five years ago, yet many are still in the dark about these health risks. Having healthy gut flora is absolutely vital for your optimal health, so clearly, any product that can destroy up to half of your healthy intestinal bacteria can pose a critical risk to your health! Many are already deficient in healthy bacteria due to consuming too many highly processed foods. This is why I recommend eating fermented vegetables every day, or at the very least taking a high quality probiotic.
Believe me, if you continuously destroy up to 50 percent of your gut flora by regularly consuming sucralose, then poor health is virtually guaranteed. So please, do not make “Fruitwater” a staple drink thinking you’re doing something beneficial for your health... Remember, pure water IS a zero calorie drink. You cannot find a beverage that contains fewer calories. If you think about it, why on earth would you choose artificially sweetened water over regular mineral water? If you want some flavor, just squeeze a little bit of fresh lemon or lime into mineral water as they have virtually no fructose in them.
Unfortunately, most public health agencies and nutritionists in the United States still recommend these toxic artificial sweeteners as acceptable and even preferred alternatives to sugar, which is at best confusing and at worst seriously damaging the health of those who listen to this well-intentioned but foolish advice. Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that artificial sweeteners can stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain. In fact, diet sodas may actually double your risk of obesity. So much for being an ally in the battle against the bulge...
The Case Against ALL Bottled Waters...
While we’re on the subject of commercially available water products, let me remind you that bottled water in general is a bad idea. Not only are you paying about 1,900 percent more for the same or similar water you get straight from your tap, water stored in plastic bottles have other health risks as well. The plastic often used to make water bottles contains a variety of health-harming chemicals that can easily leach out and contaminate the water, such as:
- Cancer-causing PFOAs
- PBDEs (flame retardant chemicals), which have been linked to reproductive problems and altered thyroid levels
- The reproductive toxins, phthalates
- BPA, which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen
If you leave your water bottle in a hot car, or reuse it, your exposure is magnified because heat and stress increase the amount of chemicals that leach out of the plastic. So the container your water comes in needs to receive just as much attention as the water itself, and plastic is simply not a wise choice from a health perspective … not to mention the extreme amounts of toxic waste produced!
What’s the Healthiest Beverage You Can Drink?
Sweetened beverages, whether it’s sweetened with sugar, HFCS, naturally-occurring fructose, or artificial sweeteners, are among the worst culprits in the fight against obesity and related health problems, including diabetes, heart- and liver disease, just to name a few. Remember that sweetened beverages also include flavored milk products, bottled teas, and “enhanced” water products. Ditching ALL of these types of beverages can go a long way toward reducing your risk for chronic health problems and weight gain. So what should you drink?
Your best, most cost effective choice is to drink filtered tap water. The caveat though is to make sure you filter your tap water. I've written a large number of articles on the hazards of tap water, from fluoride to dangerous chemicals and drugs, to toxic disinfection byproducts and heavy metals, so having a good filtration system in place is more of a necessity than a luxury in most areas. Remember, nothing beats pure water when it comes to serving your body’s needs. If you really feel the urge for a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lime or lemon juice.
Another option to consider is to bottle your own water from a gravity-fed spring. There's a great website called FindaSpring.com where you can find natural springs in your area. This is a great way to get back to nature and teach your children about health and the sources of clean water. The best part is that most of these spring water sources are free! Just remember to bring either clear polyethylene or glass containers to collect the water so no unsafe chemicals can contaminate your water on the way home. If you choose to use glass bottles, be sure to wrap them in towels to keep them from breaking in the car.
The Beverage that is Even WORSE than High Fructose Corn Syrup Soda
Is This Popular Sports Drink as Damaging as Coca-Cola?
By Dr. Mercola
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. This fatal and progressive condition destroys brain cells, resulting in memory loss and severe thinking and behavioral problems (aggression, delusions, and hallucinations) that interfere with daily life and activities.
The cause is conventionally believed to be a mystery. While we know that certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes, are definitively connected to the foods you eat, Alzheimer's is generally thought to strike without warning or reason.
That is, until recently.
A growing body of research suggests there may be a powerful connection between the foods you eat and your risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes. Some have even re-named Alzheimer's as "type 3 diabetes."
Top Dietary Factor Now Implicated in Skyrocketing Dementia Rates
Faulty insulin (and leptin), signaling caused by a high non-fiber carb diet is an underlying cause of insulin resistance, which, of course, typically leads to type 2 diabetes. However, while insulin is usually associated with its role in keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range, it also plays a role in brain signaling.
In a 2012 animal study,1 researchers were able to induce dementia by disrupting the proper signaling of insulin in the brain.
All in all, it seems clear that your diet plays a tremendous part in Alzheimer’s, and the low-fat craze may have wrought more havoc than anyone could ever have imagined. It was the absolute worst recommendation possible, limiting the nutrient you, and your brain, need the most in your diet.
The disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans — including one in eight people aged 65 and over — living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, this is expected to jump to 16 million, and in the next 20 years it is projected that Alzheimer's will affect one in four Americans. If that comes to pass, it would then be more prevalent than obesity and diabetes is today!
How Carbohydrates Can Activate Disease Processes
Dr. Ron Rosedale, a prominent expert in the low-carb, high-quality fat approach to improving your health, was possibly the first person to advocate both a low-carb and moderate protein (and therefore high fat) diet. Most low-carb advocates were very accepting of, if not promoting, high protein, and protein was, and still is, often recommended as a replacement for the carbs.
However, a high-fat, low-carb diet is very different than a high-protein, low-carb diet and this is a major source of confusion by both the public and researchers when doing studies and publishing conclusions as if all low-carb diets are the same.
You cannot live without protein, as it’s a main component of your body, including muscles, bones, and many hormones. We also know that protein was instrumental in advancing our intelligence. However, most people today are indulging in hormone laced, antiobiotic loaded meats conveniently available at fast food restaurants and processed meats in grocery stores.
How Much Protein is 'Enough?'
Dr. Rosedale believes the average amount of protein recommended for most adults is about one gram of protein per kilogram of LEAN body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. (As an example, if your body fat mass is 20 percent, your lean mass is 80 percent of your total body weight.
If your total weight is 200 pounds, you would divide 160 by 2.2 to convert pounds to kilograms and come up with 72.7 grams of protein. If you are doing vigorous exercises or are pregnant you can add up to another 25 percent or another 18 grams in this illustration to increase your total to 90 grams per day.)
This is something that makes sense to me and something I seek to apply personally, but this is partly because I foolishly had my amalgam fillings removed 20 years ago by a non-biologically trained dentist that caused serious kidney damage, so I can’t tolerate high levels of protein anyway. However, it seems obvious to me that most people consume too much low-quality protein and carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat.
So it would make sense that the majority of your diet should be comprised of good fats, followed by good proteins like whey protein concentrate from grass-fed cows, and organic grass-fed beef, pastured organic eggs and chicken, and fish like wild caught salmon.
Your healthiest option is to ensure your carbs come primarily from fresh, organic vegetables, high-quality protein, and eat primary a high fat diet. Depending on the type of carbs (high fiber or not), most people need anywhere between 50-75 percent fat in their diet and sometimes even higher for optimal health.
Another Brain-Boosting Alternative: Intermittent Fasting
Recent research has also shown that intermittent fasting triggers a variety of health-promoting hormonal and metabolic changes similar to those of constant calorie restriction — including reduced age-related brain shrinkage. According to Professor Mark Mattson,2 head of neuroscience at the U.S. National Institute on Ageing:
“Suddenly dropping your food intake dramatically — cutting it by at least half for a day or so — triggers protective processes in the brain.”
He likens the effects to those from exercise, stating intermittent fasting could help protect your brain against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Constant calorie restriction typically includes restriction of protein, and as discussed above, some of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction may actually be due to the reduction in protein. Likewise, intermittent fasting, where meals are either restricted to a small window of time each day, or calories are restricted on specific days of the week, will also typically lead to a reduction in the amount of protein you consume.
Again, going back to the featured study, the animals were only given a protein-restricted diet every other week for four months — essentially, they were on an intermittent fasting-type diet. So we’re not promoting going vegan here. Just cutting your protein back to what your body really needs, and no more. The science on this is relatively new and there are many different protocols but I personally have evolved to the point where I do it on most days. I will make exceptions a few times a month.
Alzheimer's Might be 'Brain Diabetes'
No discussion of brain health can be complete without emphasizing the need to dramatically cut down on the sugars in your diet. It's becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of sugar and insulin and eventually shuts down its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, and eventually causing permanent brain damage.
You may already know I have become passionate about warning of the dangers of fructose. There is NO question in my mind that consuming more than 25 grams of fructose regularly will dramatically increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Consistently consuming too much fructose will inevitably wreak havoc on your body's ability to regulate proper insulin levels.
Additionally, fructose has other modes of neurotoxicity, including causing damage to the circulatory system upon which the health of your nervous system depends, as well as profoundly changing your brain's craving mechanism, often resulting in excessive hunger and subsequent consumption of additional empty carbohydrate-based calories. In one study3 from UCLA, researchers found that rats fed a fructose-rich and omega-3 fat deficient diet (similar to what is consumed by many Americans) developed both insulin resistance and impaired brain function in just six weeks.
More Tips for Avoiding Alzheimer's Disease
The beauty of following my newly revised Nutrition Plan is that it helps treat and prevent all chronic degenerative diseases, from the common ones like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's to the ones you have never heard of or can't even pronounce. It is divided into three helpful sections, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced to help you start at the right level.
The plan is the first step in addressing Alzheimer's disease. In spite of how common memory loss is among Westerners, it is NOT a "normal" part of aging. While even mild "senior moments" may be caused by the same brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, these cognitive changes are by no means inevitable! People who experience very little decline in their cognitive function up until their deaths have been found (post-mortem) to be free of brain lesions, showing that it's entirely possible to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place… and one of the best ways to do this is by leading a healthy lifestyle.
- Limit fructose. Most people will benefit from keeping their total fructose consumed below 25 grams per day.
- Only use moderate amounts of protein. The featured studies provide compelling evidence that in most cases you will want to limit your protein to the levels discussed in the article. Most people consume 200-300 percent more protein than their body can use and the altered metabolism and metabolic breakdown products can be pernicious to human health.
- Improve your magnesium levels. There is some exciting preliminary research strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood brain barrier, but a new one, magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the future for treating this condition.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed.4 Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.
- Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3. This is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However other sugars (sucrose is 50 percent fructose by weight), grains and lack of exercise are also important factors.
- Vitamin B12. According to a small Finnish study recently published in the journal Neurology,5 people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin) the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by 2 percent. Very high doses of B vitamins have also been found to treat Alzheimer's disease and reduce memory loss.
- Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, such as the one described in my nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day.
- High-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding regular consumption of most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
- Coconut Oil may offer profound benefits in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. One of the primary fuels your brain uses is glucose, which is converted into energy. When your brain becomes insulin resistant, atrophy due to starvation can occur. However, ketone bodies, or ketoacids can also feed your brain, perhaps better, and prevent brain atrophy. It may even restore and renew neuron and nerve function in your brain after damage has set in. In fact, ketones appear to be the preferred source of brain food in patients affected by diabetes or Alzheimer's.
Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil.
- Astaxanthin is a natural pigment with unique properties and many clinical benefits, including some of the most potent antioxidant activity currently known. As a fat-soluble nutrient, astaxanthin readily crosses your blood-brain barrier. One study6 found it may help prevent neurodegeneration associated with oxidative stress, as well as make a potent natural "brain food."
- Eat plenty of blueberries. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanidin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.
- Gingko biloba: Many scientific studies have found that Ginkgo biloba has positive effects for dementia. Gingko, which is derived from a tree native to Asia, has long been used medicinally in China and other countries. Sixteen years ago, in one of the first issues of my newsletter, I posted the results of a 1997 study from JAMA that showed clear evidence that Ginkgo improves cognitive performance and social functioning for those suffering from dementia. Research since then has been equally promising. One study in 2006 found Gingko as effective as the dementia drug Aricept (donepezil) for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer's type dementia. A 2010 meta-analysis found Gingko biloba to be effective for a variety of types of dementia.
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can help stabilize cognitive functions among Alzheimer's patients and may slow the progression of the disease.
- Avoid and remove mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity, however you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
- Avoid aluminum, such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.
- Exercise regularly. It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,7 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in their brains8 and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's. I would strongly recommend reviewing the Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations.
- Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
- Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
- Avoid anticholinergic and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.
By Dr. Mercola
I believe many of our country's chronic health problems would simply disappear if greater attention was paid to the root problem — the food you eat.
Americans’ reliance on processed foods is a major factor that drives the rampant disease increases in the US, such as diabetes. According to a new report from the American Diabetes Association,1 an estimated 22.3 million people were living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in 2012, up from 17.5 million in 2007.
But why do Americans buy so much processed food and junky snacks? Well, first of all, junk foods are heavily promoted by the US government via agricultural subsidies for crops like corn and soy.
Add to that misleading yet highly effective marketing, and — the focus of this article — the addictive nature of junk food, which is a science in and of itself.
In order to protect your health, I advise spending 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods. Most Americans currently do the opposite, and this will undoubtedly have an effect on your health, especially in the long term.
The Food Industry's Role in America's Health Crisis
In the featured New York Times article,2 investigative reporter Michael Moss writes about the extraordinary science behind taste and junk food addiction, and how multinational food companies struggle to maintain their “stomach shares” in the face of mounting evidence that their foods are driving the health crisis.
In it, he mentions a 1999 meeting between 11 CEO’s in charge of America’s largest food companies, including Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Mars. He writes:
“James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury... was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. ‘We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue... [T]here was a lot of pressure on food companies.’
...[Behnke] was engaged in conversation with a group of food-science experts who were painting an increasingly grim picture of the public’s ability to cope with the industry’s formulations — from the body’s fragile controls on overeating to the hidden power of some processed foods to make people feel hungrier still. It was time, he and a handful of others felt, to warn the C.E.O.’s that their companies may have gone too far in creating and marketing products that posed the greatest health concerns.”
The Parallels Between Cigarettes and Junk Food
On that day in 1999, Michael Mudd, vice president of Kraft, did “the unthinkable” during his speech — he drew a connection between processed foods and cigarettes. We no longer condone cigarette ads for teens, having clearly established the health hazards associated with smoking, despite decades-long denials from the industry.
Yet we now blindly accept the same kind of misleading tactics being applied to junk food, even though the health ramifications rival, if not surpass, those of smoking. Mudd presented a plan to address the obesity problem, which would help defuse the criticism building against the food industry.
In my view, the criticism was, and still is, justifiable. As just one example, General Mills created Yoplait that same year (1999), which “transformed traditional unsweetened breakfast yogurt into a veritable dessert,” to use Moss’ own words. In fact, Yoplait yoghurt contained 100 percent more sugar per serving than the company’s Lucky Charms cereal! Yet everyone recognized yoghurt as a wholesome food, and sales of Yoplait soared.
Mudd proposed employing scientists “to gain a deeper understanding of what was driving Americans to overeat.” Once they knew that, products could then be reformulated; salt, sugar and fat use could be reined in, and advertising could be repositioned. The 1999 meeting didn’t go well. It effectively ended when Stephen Sanger, head of General Mills, allegedly stated he would not jeopardize the sanctity of the recipes that had made his products so successful in order to appease the critics.
Fast-forward a decade and we now have novel biotech flavor companies like Senomyx, which specializes in helping companies do what Mudd proposed — finding new flavors to reduce sugar and salt content in processed foods.
These “flavor enhancers” are created using secret, patented processes, and they do not need to be listed on the food label. The lack of labeling requirements is particularly troublesome and will most likely become an issue in the future. As of now, they simply fall under the generic category of artificial and/or natural flavors. What this means is that the product will appear to be much “healthier” than it might otherwise be, were a flavor enhancer not used. The question is, are chemical flavor enhancers safe? Or are food companies simply exchanging one harmful substance for another? That remains to be seen.
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
The Flavorists. Morley Safer reports on the multibillion dollar flavor industry, whose scientists create natural and artificial flavorings that make your mouth water and keep you coming back for more. For transcript, see CBSNews.com
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
Canadian and American obesity statistics are now neck-to-neck, with about one-quarter to one third of adults in the obese category. A staggering two-thirds of Americans are overweight. This in turn drives skyrocketing diabetes rates. According to the latest report from the American Diabetes Association,3 an estimated 22.3 million people were living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in 2012, up from 17.5 million in 2007. Last year 246,000 deaths were attributed to diabetes. The UK also recently released updated statistics, showing a record three million Britons are now diagnosed with diabetes,4 which equates to 4.6 percent of the British population. Another 850,000 Britons are believed to have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
The total cost of diagnosed diabetes in the US last year was $245 billion, a whopping 41 percent increase from the $174 billion spent in 2007.5 Obesity also drives rising rates of heart disease, kidney failure, gout, and blindness, just to name a few associated health problems, all of which contribute to soaring health care costs.
So who or what is to blame? As it turns out, poor will power is NOT the heart of the matter.
According to Moss’ four-year long investigation, interviewing more than 300 people in or formerly employed by the processed-food industry, there’s a conscious effort on behalf of food manufacturers to get you hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive to make. I recommend reading the featured article in its entirety, as it offers a series of case studies that shed light on the extraordinary science and marketing tactics that make junk food so hard to resist.
Finding Your Bliss Point
Moss’ work also resulted in the book Salt Sugar Fat, in which he dissects the $1 trillion processed food industry. Sugar, salt and fat are the top three substances making processed foods so addictive. In a Time Magazine interview6 discussing his book, Moss says:
“One of the things that really surprised me was how concerted and targeted the effort is by food companies to hit the magical formulation. Take sugar for example. The optimum amount of sugar in a product became known as the 'bliss point.' Food inventors and scientists spend a huge amount of time formulating the perfect amount of sugar that will send us over the moon, and send products flying off the shelves. It is the process they've engineered that struck me as really stunning.
When it came to fat, it was the amazing role of what the industry calls the 'mouth feel.' That's the warm, gooey taste of cheese, or the bite into a crisp fried chicken that you get. It rushes right to the same pleasure centers of the brain that sugar does...
When it comes to salt, what was really staggering to me is that the industry itself is totally hooked on salt. It is this miracle ingredient that solves all of their problems. There is the flavor burst to the salt itself, but it also serves as a preservative so foods can stay on the shelves for months. It also masks a lot of the off-notes in flavors that are inherent to processed foods.”
One of the guiding principles for the processed food industry is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” Moss describes this as “the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm your brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more.” The greatest successes, whether beverages or foods, owe their “craveability” to complex formulas that pique your taste buds just enough, without overwhelming them, thereby overriding your brain’s inclination to say “enough.”
“Vanishing calorie density” is another term used to describe foods that melt in your mouth, which has the effect of making your brain think it doesn’t contain any calories. End result — you keep eating. Cheetos is one such example. In all, potato chips are among the most addictive junk foods on the market, containing all three bliss-inducing ingredients: sugar (from the potato), salt and fat. One 2011 study cited by Moss determined that the top contributors to Americans weight gain included red meat, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, potatoes, and topping the list: potato chips.
“The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself — all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food,” Moss writes.
Sugar — One of the Most Addictive Substances Known
While food companies abhor the word “addiction” in reference to their products, scientists have discovered that sugar, in particular, is just that. In fact, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Research7 published in 2007 showed that 94 percent of rats who were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar. Even rats who were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine.
The researchers speculate that the sweet receptors (two protein receptors located on the tongue), which evolved in ancestral times when the diet was very low in sugar, have not adapted to modern times’ high-sugar consumption. Therefore, the abnormally high stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets generates excessive reward signals in your brain, which have the potential to override normal self-control mechanisms, and thus lead to addiction.
Even more interesting, their research found that there’s also a cross-tolerance and a cross-dependence between sugars and addictive drugs. As an example, animals with a long history of sugar consumption actually became tolerant (desensitized) to the analgesic effects of morphine. Today, prescription pain killers have surpassed illegal drugs as the preferred “high,” and pharmaceutical drug overdoses now rank second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the US. Unfortunately, since it’s all legal, no one is really cracking down on this growing drug problem that is wrecking lives each day. According to Moss:8
“[T]he food industry defends itself by saying true narcotic addiction has certain technical thresholds that you just don't find in food addiction. It's true, but in some ways getting unhooked on foods is harder than getting unhooked on narcotics, because you can't go cold turkey. You can't just stop eating.”
It’s important to realize that added sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is not confined to junky snack foods. For example, most of Prego’s spaghetti sauces have one common feature, and that is sugar — it’s the second largest ingredient, right after tomatoes. A half-cup of Prego Traditional contains the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar.
Two Moms Take on Kraft
In related news, two moms have taken on Kraft. They started an online petition, calling for the food giant to remove two artificial food ingredients, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, from its Macaroni and Cheese. These artificial dyes have been linked to hyperactivity in children, and are banned for use in the UK. More than 220,000 signatures have been collected so far. Kraft’s response?
“... in the US, we only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration.”
If you, like so many others, aren’t impressed by this response, feel free to sign the petition, available on Change.org.
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
Troubled Meats Get a Makeover
Another food many don’t automatically view as health-harming is processed meats. Moss includes the case story of Bob Drane, vice president of Oscar Meyer, who in 1985 was tasked with figuring out how to contemporize their processed meat offerings. Interviews with harried mothers revealed that the most important issue for them was time, which resulted in the development of a convenient prepackaged lunch containing the company’s pre-sliced bologna and ham, better known as Lunchables. A later line of the lunch trays, called Maxed Out, contained, two-thirds of the maximum recommended sodium allowance for kids, and a staggering 13 teaspoons of sugar.
The Atlantic9 recently reported that “consuming processed meat went along with other unhealthful lifestyle choices, such as eating few fruits and vegetables, being more likely to smoke and, for men, consuming large quantities of alcohol.”
The new study, which reconfirms results from previous studies, found processed meat consumption was strongly associated with premature death.10 According to the researchers, reducing daily processed meat consumption to less than 20 grams a day could reduce mortality rates across Europe by three percent annually. This includes bacon, sausage of all kinds, sandwich meats (cold cuts), and any other processed “meat product.”
In 2011, the World Cancer Research Fund came to the sobering conclusion that no one should eat processed meats, ever, due to its cancer-causing potential. Hot dogs, bacon, salami and other processed meats may also increase your risk of diabetes by 50 percent, and lower your lung function and increase your risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A 2007 analysis by WCRF found that eating just one sausage a day can significantly raise your risk of bowel cancer. Specifically, 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily -- about one sausage or three pieces of bacon -- raises the likelihood of the cancer by 20 percent. Other studies have also found that processed meats increase your risk of:
What Do Processed Food Company Executives Eat?
Another interesting tidbit offered up by Moss is the eating habits of the food scientists and processed food company executives themselves, whom he met while researching his book. Just like many of our American Presidents, they apparently know more about maintaining their own health than they want you to know about.
Last year, I wrote about political supporters of genetically engineered (GE) foods insisting on all organic fare for themselves and their families while promoting unlabeled GE foods for everyone else. This includes President Obama, who vowed to label GMO’s if elected, but then spent the first four years appointing one Monsanto shill after another into key federal positions that wield near-absolute power over agricultural issues, and never took affirmative action on the labeling issue, even during the height of the California Prop 37 campaign. In the same vein, Moss discovered that many of the food executives and scientists he met avoid their own foods for a variety of health reasons:
“It was everything from a former top scientist at Kraft saying he used to maintain his weight by jogging, and then he blew out his knee and couldn't exercise, his solution was to avoid sugar and all caloric drinks, including all the Kool-Aid and sugary drinks that Kraft makes,” Moss says.
“It ranged from him to the former top scientist at Frito Lay. I spent days at his house going over documents relating to his efforts at Frito Lay to push the company to cut back on salt. He served me plain, cooked oatmeal and raw asparagus for lunch. We toured his kitchen, and he did not have one single processed food product in his cupboards or refrigerator.
...One reason they don't eat their own products, is that they know better. They know about the addictive properties of sugar, salt and fat. As insiders, they know too much. I think a lot of them have come to feel badly...”
As Moss says, it’s not that these companies have the demise of your health as a defined business goal. But they do want you to buy their product, and the more the better. Taste is a major, if not overriding factor here, and processed food without generous amounts of sugar, salt and unhealthy fats (like trans fat) would simply be too unpalatable to most. So while some companies, such as Kraft, have tried to alter their formulas to make them “healthier,” the fact remains that processed food is inferior to the real thing no matter how you finagle it. You simply cannot compete with the nutrition found in whole, unprocessed foods.
“Ultimately, they ran into the problem that the whole industry faces, which is the huge pressure from Wall Street and the investment community to increase profits,” Moss says.
How to Eat Real Food on a Budget
This concerted effort by the industry is further enhanced by stimulating your metabolism to burn carbs as its primary fuel. As long as you are in primary carb-burning mode you will strongly crave these types of foods. But once you start decreasing your carbs and protein and replace them with high quality fats, and start to engage in intermittent fasting, your cravings for these junk foods, no matter how cleverly enhanced, will dramatically diminish, if not vanish altogether.
In order to protect your health, I believe you should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods (unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite). This requires three strategies, especially if you're working with a tight budget:
- Become resourceful: This is an area where your grandmother can be a wealth of information, as how to use up every morsel of food and stretch out a good meal was common knowledge to generations past. What I mean is getting back to the basics of cooking -- using the bones from a roast chicken to make stock for a pot of soup, extending a Sunday roast to use for weekday dinners, learning how to make hearty stews from inexpensive cuts of meat, using up leftovers and so on.
- Plan your meals: This is essential, as you will need to be prepared for mealtimes in advance to be successful for if you fail to plan, by default you are planning to fail. Ideally this will involve scouting out your local farmer's markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell, and planning your meals accordingly, but you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales. You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you're short on time in the evenings.
- Avoid food waste: According to a study published in the journal PloS One,11 Americans waste an estimated 1,400 calories of food per person, each and every day. The two steps above will help you to mitigate food waste in your home, You may also have seen my article from earlier this year titled 14 Ways to Save Money on Groceries. Among those tips are suggestions for keeping your groceries fresher, longer, and I suggest reviewing those tips now.
When choosing real foods to feed your family, remember that some of the healthiest foods are incredibly affordable, even under $1 a serving, such as:
- Raw organic milk
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Two cage-free organic eggs
- Avocado, berries and broccoli
- Fermented foods you make at home
How Ultra-Processed Foods are Killing Us
How To Wean Yourself Off Processed Foods in 7 Steps
By Dr. Mercola
Hypertension is dangerous if uncontrolled, increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke. But using drugs to lower your blood pressure may shorten your lifespan instead of extending it, according to the results of a University of Florida study.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,1 suggests that when it comes to blood pressure medication, less is more.
This is another example of using drugs to “Band Aid” a health problem without addressing the underlying cause. There is a major difference between achieving a healthy blood pressure number by eating well, exercising and managing stress, versus “forcing” your body to produce that number with a drug.
Drugs promised to be safe have, on many occasions, done more harm than good, yet blood pressure medications join sleeping pills and painkillers as some of the most popular drugs in America.
Be Careful—Blood Pressure Drugs May Backfire On You
The featured study was performed on individuals age 50 and up who had been diagnosed with both type 2 diabetes and CAD (coronary artery disease). The standard hypertension guidelines for diabetics suggest maintaining a systolic blood pressure under 130 mm Hg, but there is little data for the growing number of diabetics who also have CAD. This study aimed at filling that informational gap.
Each person in the study received one or more blood pressure medications (a combination of calcium antagonist, beta-blocker, ACE inhibitor, and diuretic) in whatever combination required to achieve a systolic blood pressure less than 130 mm Hg.
Researchers discovered that tighter control of blood pressure in these patients was NOT associated with better outcomes! The uncontrolled group fared worst, which wasn’t surprising. But the group whose systolic blood pressure was held between 130 and 140 actually showed a slightly lower risk of death than the group whose systolic was maintained at the recommended level—under 130 mm Hg. The authors write:2
“In this observational study, we have shown for the first time, to our knowledge, that decreasing systolic BP to lower than 130 mm Hg in patients with diabetes and CAD was not associated with further reduction in morbidity beyond that associated with systolic BP lower than 140 mm Hg, and, in fact, was associated with an increase in risk of all-cause mortality. Moreover, the increased mortality risk persisted over the long term.”
Tight Control Group 12.7 percent risk for death Usual Control Group 12.6 percent risk for death Uncontrolled Group 19.8 percent risk for death
Is It 'Pharmageddon'?
This isn’t the first time pharmaceutical drugs have backfired. In fact, prescription drugs now kill more people than illegal drugs. Death by prescription drugs is a 21st-century epidemic, now killing even more Americans than motor vehicle accidents.
Drug fatalities more than doubled for teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, and more than tripled among people age 50 to 69. It’s estimated there are 450,000 preventable adverse events related to medications in the U.S. every year, accounting for a substantial proportion of emergency room visits.
In a June 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, almost a quarter of a million deaths resulted from in-hospital medication errors between the 1976 and 2006, based on a review of 62 million death certificates.
This doesn’t include the people who died after taking drugs exactly as prescribed! And when you add in deaths from hospital-acquired infections, unnecessary medical procedures, and adverse surgical outcomes, conventional medicine should top the list of the leading causes of death in the United States.
The Little-Known Connection Between Carbohydrates and Your Blood Pressure
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
The good news is, the vast majority of you don’t need prescription drugs to normalize your blood pressure. In most cases, hypertension can be reversed with a few basic adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
Are you on a high grain, low fat regimen? If so, I have bad news for you. This nutritional regimen is a prescription for many to develop hypertension. For years I’ve been advocating avoiding wheat, and this advice is finally making its way into the mainstream. The LA Times just featured an article discussing how wheat (and low-fat diets) contribute to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, joint pain and many other chronic health problems. Cardiologist William Davis is quoted as saying:3
“Eat more fat. Eat as little grain as possible. Grains don’t really belong in the human experience.”
This is not new information. Scientific research published way back in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant also had high blood pressure. Insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet, especially if accompanied by inadequate exercise.
So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, because these two problems often go hand in hand. As your insulin level increases, so does your blood pressure.
Along with excessive carbohydrates, most people are consuming inadequate dietary fats, in terms of both quality and quantity. Contrary to what you’ve been told, glucose is not the preferred fuel of human metabolism—fat is. And fat doesn’t make you fat—excess carbohydrates make you fat. I believe that most people would benefit by consuming around 50 to 70 percent of their diet as beneficial fats. Sources of healthy fats include
Olives and Olive oil (for cold dishes) Coconuts, and coconut oil (for all types of cooking and baking) Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw nuts, such as, almonds or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados Pasture finished meats Palm oil (make sure it’s the eco-friendly variety!)4 Unheated organic nut oils
My Prescription for Achieving Healthy Blood Pressure WITHOUT Drugs
- Replace most of your carbs with non-starchy vegetables and replace the lost calories with healthy fats as mentioned above
- Normalize your omega 6:3 ratio. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential for your health. Most Americans, however, are getting too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 in their diets. Consuming omega-3 fats is one of the best ways to re-sensitize your insulin receptors if you suffer from insulin resistance. Omega-3 fats are also important for strong cell membranes and good arterial elasticity. The best sources of omega-3 fats are fish and animal products. Unfortunately, most fresh fish today contains dangerously high levels of mercury. Your best bet is to find a safe source of fish, or if this proves too difficult, supplement with a high quality krill oil.
- Eliminate caffeine. The connection between caffeine consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can exacerbate your condition.
- Consume fermented foods. Disturbances in gut flora appear to be a significant factor in the development of heart disease, as well as in many other chronic health problems. The best way to optimize your gut flora is by including some naturally fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, cheese and natto. Fermented foods (especially gouda and edam cheeses) are an important source of vitamin K2, which plays a crucial role in protecting your heart and brain.
- Optimize your vitamin D level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to metabolic syndrome, as well as to high blood pressure. Vitamin D is a negative inhibitor of your body's renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which regulates blood pressure. If you're vitamin D deficient, it can cause inappropriate activation of your RAS, which may lead to hypertension. Ideally, you'll want to get your vitamin D by safely exposing your skin to the sun, or using a safe tanning bed. If those are not possible, then consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Make exercise a priority. A comprehensive exercise regimen such as my Peak Fitness program is very important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Your routine should incorporate high-intensity burst-type exercises and weight training one to three times a week, as these have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercises at reducing your risk of dying from a heart attack.
- Get Grounded. Lack of grounding, due to widespread use of rubber or plastic-souled shoes, is likely contributing to chronic inflammation today. When you walk on the earth barefoot there is a massive transfer of beneficial electrons rom the Earth into your body. Experiments show that walking barefoot outside improves blood viscosity and blood flow, which help regulate blood pressure. So, do yourself a favor and put your bare feet upon the sand or dewy grass to harness the healing power of the Earth.
- Manage your stress. It’s a well-known fact that stress elevates blood pressure, so controlling stress is an essential element of good heart health. My preferred stress-busting tool is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which is easy to learn and easy to use. However, you might find other methods like yoga, meditation, or prayer, equally effective.
High blood pressure is reaching epidemic proportions in the Western world. Hypertension is best addressed using a natural approach, as opposed to a cocktail of prescription drugs that may actually backfire on you. One study showed that tighter control of blood pressure using pharmaceutical drugs is NOT associated with better outcomes and in fact may shorten your lifespan. Lifestyle changes, with particular emphasis on normalizing your insulin levels, will put you on the safest and most reliable path toward optimal health.
By Dr. Mercola
It has taken decades, but medical professionals are finally starting to give diet and exercise for the prevention and reversal of type 2 diabetes some well-deserved attention.
"... the new study can give people with the disease hope that through lifestyle changes, they could end up getting off medication and likely lowering their risk of diabetes-related complications," Reuters Health reports.1
The research,2 also featured by MedPage Today,3 demonstrates that diet and physical activity are the answer diabetics have been searching for, which is exactly what I've been teaching since I started this web site, 16 years ago.
It's worth noting that I do not at all agree with some of the dietary recommendations given to the participants in this study. For example, I believe including healthy saturated fats and avoiding processed liquid meal replacements would be a wise move.
I also believe following the dietary recommendations laid out in my free Nutrition Plan can provide far better results than those achieved in this study.
The researchers randomly assigned diabetic participants, who were also overweight or obese, to an intensive program of diet and exercise, in which they were urged to cut calories down to 1,200-1,800 calories per day and engage in nearly three hours of physical exercise per week.
After one year, 11.5 percent of the program participants no longer needed medication to keep their blood sugar levels below the diabetes threshold. Only two percent of the non-intervention group experienced any significant improvement in their condition.
Those who'd had been diagnosed with diabetes more recently saw greater blood sugar improvements on the program. Ditto for those who lost the most amount of weight and/or made the greatest progress in raising their fitness level. The lifestyle intervention group also managed to sustain their remission better over the following three years.
The Only Way to Avoid and/or Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Amazingly, one in four Americans has some form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. If this is not a clear sign that conventional health recommendations are flawed, I don't know what is. I too have personal experience with this disease. I developed it myself for a short while, when I tried to implement an Eat Right for Your Type program in the late 90s.
Additionally, most of my paternal relatives (my dad included), have, or have died from, diabetes. My personal experience with diabetes and subsequent review of the literature made it very clear to me that virtually every case of type 2 diabetes is reversible...
And the cure for type 2 diabetes has nothing to do with giving insulin or taking drugs to control your blood sugar. In fact, giving insulin to someone with type 2 diabetes is one of the worst things that can be done.
The truth of the matter is that type 2 diabetes is a fully preventable condition that arises from faulty leptin signaling and insulin resistance, both of which are directly diet- and exercise-related. It is NOT a disease of blood sugar.
Once you understand that, the remedy becomes clear: To reverse the disease, you need to recover your body's insulin and leptin sensitivities. The ONLY way to accomplish this is through proper diet and exercise, as detailed in my free Nutrition Plan. Bariatric surgery, which is being increasingly recommended as a diabetes treatment, will NOT do the trick, and there is NO drug that can correct leptin signaling and insulin resistance... Adhering to the following guidelines can help you do at least three things that are essential for successfully treating diabetes: recover your insulin/leptin sensitivity; normalize your weight; and normalize your blood pressure:
- Severely limit or eliminate sugar and grains in your diet, especially fructose which is far more detrimental than any other type of sugar. Following my Nutrition Plan will help you do this without too much fuss.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is an absolutely essential factor, and without it, you're unlikely to get this devastating disease under control. It is one of the fastest and most powerful ways to lower your insulin and leptin resistance. If you're unsure of how to get started, I recommend reviewing my Peak Fitness program for tips and guidelines.
- Avoid trans fats.
- Get plenty of omega-3 fats from a high quality, animal-based source, such as krill oil.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Recent studies have revealed that getting enough vitamin D can have a powerful effect on normalizing your blood pressure and that low vitamin D levels may increase your risk of heart disease.
- Optimize your gut flora. Your gut is a living ecosystem, full of both good bacteria and bad. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than lean people. The more good bacteria you have, the stronger your immune system will be and the better your body will function overall. Fortunately, optimizing your gut flora is relatively easy. You can reseed your body with good bacteria by eating fermented foods (such as fermented vegetables, natto, raw organic cheese, or raw milk kefir) or by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- Address any underlying emotional issues and/or stress. Non-invasive tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique can be helpful and effective.
- Get enough high-quality sleep every night.
- Monitor your fasting insulin level. This is every bit as important as your fasting blood sugar. You'll want your fasting insulin level to be between 2 and 4. The higher your level, the worse your insulin sensitivity is.
Diet and Healthy Aging
In related news, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine4 reviewed the conflicting research on calorie restriction and mortality.
"Two long-term studies of the effect of calorie restriction in rhesus monkeys conflict: one concludes that restriction does not affect mortality, and the other concludes that it does. Differences in dietary composition and extent of restriction may explain the discrepant results," Linda Partridge, PhD, writes.
Yes, as always, the devil is in the details, and this is particularly true when it comes to diet. A calorie is not "just a calorie," for example. There's every reason to believe that the key to improved health and longevity lies not in calorie restriction per se, but in restricting certain kinds of calories—calories from sugars, to be specific. And possibly also those from poor quality proteins.
Dr. Ron Rosedale has been passionate about diabetes and aging for over 30 years and he is constantly reviewing the literature in this area. He is one of my primary mentors on this topic. He is convinced, as most other experts are, that calorie restriction does indeed provide life extension. But it is likely not because there are decreased total calories. He believes the key is to limit the carbs and excessive protein. The fat calories are "essentially free' and do not impair insulin or leptin signaling, or the mTOR pathways, which can contribute to decreased longevity.
Dr. Partridge points out two primary differences between the two studies that may account for the conflicting results:
- The control groups in the two studies were not fed in the identical manner. In the first study, which did find calorie restriction reduced chronic disease and mortality, the control group had no restrictions on their food intake. Rather they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. In the second study, which did not find a correlation between calorie restriction and reduced mortality, the control group received a fixed amount of food, which was lower than the ad libitum intake. This was done in order to prevent obesity.
"Work with laboratory animals has shown that the benefits of caloric restriction are quantitative, with stronger reductions in food intake producing a greater extension in life span, provided that malnutrition is avoided," Partridge writes. "The controls in the most recent study received a diet that was somewhat calorie restricted, and indeed they were lighter in weight than controls in the earlier study. Thus, they may have had some benefits of caloric restriction, limiting the power to detect any additional benefits from the substantively restricted diet comprising the intervention."
- The nutritional composition of the diets also differed between the two studies. Proportions of carbohydrate, fat, and protein were similar, but in the first study (which did find a correlation between calorie restriction and mortality), sucrose made up nearly 30 percent of the animals' diet. In the second, which did not find such a correlation, the diet contained only four percent sucrose.
This should come as no surprise to any of you who have read any of my articles about the health hazards of sugar. The sugar molecule is one of the most ravaging, and eating a high-sugar diet is the most efficient way to accelerate the aging processes in your body. So clearly, a diet low in sugar will significantly help reduce mortality. When both the study group and the controls are fed a fixed low-sugar diet, their outcomes can be expected to be fairly comparable...
Dr. Partridge also mentions that studies have shown the composition of the protein in your diet can have a substantial effect on your health. According to Partridge:
"Studies of animal models, including rodents, have shown that reduced intake of particular nutrients, especially specific amino acids, rather than reduced calorie intake underlies the health improvements brought about by reduced food intake. This observation underscores the importance of dietary restriction over caloric restriction: the effects on health of reducing overall food intake will often depend on the composition of the diet that is fed to the controls."
I believe this is an important point to remember, as most people simply eat far too much protein of poor quality; thinking it's all the same. This simply isn't true, as the nutritional content of meats and other animal products, such as eggs, are dependent upon how the animal was raised and fed. There are major nutritional differences between protein sources raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's) and those raised according to organic standards, such as grass-fed beef and pastured chickens and their eggs.
Obesity Bigger Health Crisis than Hunger
Understanding what makes for a healthy diet and lifestyle has never been more important. Shockingly, obesity has now become a greater global health crisis than hunger! Obesity is also the leading cause of disabilities around the world, according to the latest Global Burden of Disease study, published in The Lancet.5 As reported by CNN Health:6
"The report revealed that every country, with the exception of those in sub-Saharan Africa, faces alarming obesity rates -- an increase of 82 percent globally in the past two decades. Middle Eastern countries are more obese than ever, seeing a 100% increase since 1990. 'The so-called 'Western lifestyle' is being adapted all around the world, and the impacts are all the same,' [co-author Ali] Mokdad said.
... for the first time, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart disease top the list of leading causes of years spent sick or injured. 'All these problems are tied to obesity,' Mokdad said. 'We're even seeing a large percentage of people suffering back pain now. If we could lower the obesity rates, we'd see the numbers of noncommunicable diseases and pain decrease as well.'
People are living longer than projected in 1990 -- on average, 10.7 more years for men, and 12.6 more years for women. But for many of them, the quality of life during those years is not good. On average, people are plagued by illness or pain during the last 14 years of life..."
Yes, modern medicine may be able to keep sick people alive longer, but it fails miserably when it comes to providing a high quality of life. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases are also threatening to bankrupt nations across the globe. Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization has referred to noncommunicable diseases "a slow-motion disaster" that may eventually become financially unsustainable. According to a 2011 report7 by the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health, noncommunicable diseases is expected to cost more than $30 trillion over the next two decades alone!
Clearly, something needs to change. Part of the problem is that so many of the recommendations issued by conventional medicine are seriously flawed, having been thoroughly corrupted by conflicts of interest. The notion that you cannot trust your doctor's advice on diet and exercise is disconcerting for most people, but the fact is that many doctors are clueless when it comes to nutrition and fitness. There's no shortage of physicians that will OK aspartame for weight control and diabetics, or tell you to avoid saturated fats and stick to a low-fat diet, for example. The list goes on. The failure of such recommendations to produce good health can clearly be seen among the general population that believes such myths.
I've spent the better part of the last two decades researching and trying to pin down the necessary ingredients of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The end result can be found in my comprehensive Nutrition Plan, which is available free of charge.
There's still cause for hope however. According to a national study8 featured in The New York Times,9 there's been a modest decline in obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from poor families, which is a good sign, however small it might be. As reported by the NYT:
"The study was based on data from 30 states and the District of Columbia and covered the years from 1998 to 2010. The share of children who were obese declined to 14.9 percent in 2010, down from 15.2 percent in 2003, after rising between 1998 and 2003. Extreme obesity also declined, dropping to 2.07 percent in 2010 from 2.22 percent in 2003... It is unclear what drove the decline, but Dr. Blanck offered hypotheses.
Breastfeeding, which often leads to healthier weight gain for young children, has increased since 2000. The percentage of 6-month-olds still being breast-fed increased to 47.7 percent among children born in 2009, up from 34.2 percent among children born in 2000. Breastfeeding of infants from low-income families has risen over the years. In 1980, only 28 percent of infants from those families had ever been breast-fed, compared with 66 percent in 2011. ... the amount of money spent on food marketing to children declined by nearly 20 percent from 2006 to 2009, with the biggest drop in television advertising."
How to Stop Wasting Food
Fresh whole food is an essential part of a healthy diet, but buying and storing fresh foods does require a bit more planning and know-how, compared to stocking up on processed foods with extended expiration dates. A recent article in CNN Health10 explored the many ways you can reduce your food waste, which can cost the average American household anywhere from $500 to $2,000 a year. Below are two of my favorite tips. For the rest, which includes what to do with bread, fresh fruits (and especially bananas), please see the original article.11
- Seasonal vegetables
Use it now: As with fruit, the flavors of most vegetables marry well. Cut whatever you have into bite-size pieces, sauté a diced onion in a soup pot, and add the veggies (starting with the firmest, since they take longest to cook). Cover with vegetable broth and simmer until tender. Purée or eat chunky.
Save it for later: Make your own frozen veggies. Prepare them as you'd cook them, except stop when they're halfway done. You can steam or boil green beans, corn, broccoli, and chard, then quickly rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, and drain and pack in freezer-safe bags. Or pickle your veggies.
Use it now: Fresh herbs are flavor powerhouses, so it can be tricky to improvise without a recipe. A few combos that work deliciously: Try thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf with chicken; add rosemary, parsley, and sage to pork. Toss mint, dill, and cilantro in your salads or green veggie dishes.
Save it for later: To preserve tender herbs (dill, cilantro, parsley), make a sauce or paste (think pesto) with olive or vegetable oil. Purée the cleaned leaves in a food processor with the oil and a little salt. Cilantro oil, for example, can later be mixed with coconut milk, chilies, lime, and soy sauce to make a Thai sauce for fish or chicken. Herb pastes keep up to one week in the refrigerator (drizzle oil over the top to prevent browning) and up to six months in the freezer.
Hardy herbs, like rosemary and sage, meanwhile, are easy to dry. Clean a bunch, grasp the stems, tie with string, then suspend, leaves down, in a dry room. When herbs crumble, transfer to a jar and store in a cool, dry place. Or submerge herbs in a bottle of white-wine vinegar. The flavor will spruce up your salads for months.
To this I would add the following recommendations:
- FoodSaver Vacuuming System: One of my all-time favorite tricks, which works for most produce, is to create a "vacuum pack" to help protect it from oxygen and airborne microbes that will accelerate its decay. Leave the produce in the bag it came in from the grocery store, place it against your chest and use your arm to squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Once the air is removed you can seal it with a twist tie and thus minimize exposure to oxygen.
This simple technique can easily double or triple the normal shelf life of your vegetables by keeping air away from them. I typically store my food in quart or pint glass Ball jars. The FoodSaver brand also has a wide-mouth jar sealer attachment, which is ideal for sealing your leftovers, fermented veggies, sauces and other liquids stored in a wide-mouth jar, and can keep your food fresh up to five times longer. I regularly use it for extending the life of my vegetable juice and making my juicing more efficient so I don't have to juice every day.
- Ferment your own vegetables using all the left-overs, before they go bad. Fermenting your own veggies is a really inexpensive way to make sure you're getting beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in your diet, and it's much easier than you might think!
To learn more, please refer to this previous article, How to Easily and Inexpensively Ferment Your Own Vegetables, which includes an informative interview with Caroline Barringer, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), and an expert in the preparation of the foods prescribed in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional Program.
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