By Dr. Mercola
If you're interested in protecting your brain health and preventing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, the research is pouring in in support of a key dietary strategy… namely, avoiding sugar and carbohydrates, including gluten.
Last year, I interviewed Dr. David Perlmutter—probably the leading natural medicine neurologist in the US, from my perspective—whose New York Times best-selling book, Grain Brain, has brought this issue to the forefront of medicine.
He recently expanded on this topic in an interview in Alternative and Complementary Therapies,1 where he cites even more research showing a high-carb diet may be detrimental to your brain.
Higher Blood Sugar Levels Are Bad for Your Brain
According to recent research published in Neurology, chronically higher blood sugar levels have a profoundly negative influence on cognition, which the researchers believe is "possibly mediated by structural changes in learning-relevant brain areas."2
One of the most important aspects of the study, however, was that these negative effects occurred even in people without type 2 diabetes, which suggests even if you're "healthy," keeping your blood sugar levels lower than what is typically considered "normal" is probably still best for your brain health. The researchers noted:
"…strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population."
This isn't entirely surprising, as separate research has found that impaired insulin response was associated with a 30 percent higher risk of Alzheimer's disease,3 and overall dementia and cognitive risks were associated with high fasting serum insulin, insulin resistance, impaired insulin secretion, and glucose intolerance.
However, the new study and another published last year4 suggest higher blood sugar levels may be detrimental to your brain even if you don't have any of the former conditions.
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 insulin and eventually shuts down its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, and eventually causing permanent brain damage.
High-Carb Diet May Increase Your Dementia Risk by 89 Percent
In one of the most striking studies on carbohydrates and your brain, researchers revealed that those who consumed higher amounts of carbs in their diets had an 89 percent increased risk of dementia. As for those whose diets were highest in fat… their risks decreased by 44 percent.5 Dr. Perlmutter says:6
"We live with this notion that a calorie is a calorie, but at least in terms of brain health, and I believe for the rest of the body as well, there are very big differences between our sources of calories in terms of the impact on our health.
Carbohydrate calories, which elevate blood glucose, are dramatically more detrimental to human physiology, and specifically to human health, than are calories derived from healthful sources of fat.
The diet that I recommend—high in fat and low in carbohydrates—has simply been what we have eaten for a million years, so it has a bit of a track record. The notion that this is a revolutionary new diet has to be put into context. In reality, the diet that people are now consuming.
This is dreadfully high in carbohydrates and low in fat, as our governmental institutions are recommending, is the biggest challenge to human physiology that we have ever experienced, and this is very, very worrisome."
One of the reasons why a high-carbohydrate diet is so damaging is due to fructose. You may already know I am passionate about warning of the dangers of refined fructose.
There is NO question in my mind that regularly consuming more than 25 grams of fructose per day will dramatically increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Consuming too much fructose will inevitably wreak havoc on your body's ability to regulate proper insulin levels.
Research also shows that rats fed fructose syrup showed significant impairment in their cognitive abilities—they struggled to remember their way out of the maze. They were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity.
Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier.7 There is another component of a high-carb diet that may be equally as damaging, however.
Gluten Sensitivity May Also Harm Your Brain
Dr. Perlmutter stresses that gluten sensitivity is involved in most chronic disease, including those affecting your brain, because of how gluten affects your immune system. Unfortunately, many people, physicians included, still believe that if you don't have celiac disease or digestive symptoms, gluten is fair game and you can eat as much of it as you like.
Full-blown celiac disease, which is an extreme form of immune-mediated gluten sensitivity primarily affecting the small intestine, affects an estimated 1.8 percent of people in Western cultures. But non-celiac gluten sensitivity may actually affect as much as 30 to 40 percent of all people, and according to Dr. Alessio Fasano at Massachusetts General Hospital, virtually all of us are affected to some degree.
This is because we all create something called zonulin in the intestine in response to gluten. These difficult to digest proteins known as prolamines, found in wheat, barley, and rye, make your gut more permeable, which allows undigested proteins to get into your bloodstream that would otherwise have been excluded. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity.
According to Dr. Perlmutter, much of our current disease burden stems from the fact that we are contaminating our immune systems with proteins to which the human immune system has never, in the history of humankind, been previously exposed to. I believe another major factor is the development of genetically engineered (GE) grains, which are now pervasive in most processed foods sold in the US.
These GE crops create proteins never before encountered in any natural grain or food, so GE grains deliver a double whammy against your immune system. Food allergies clearly appear to be one of the most noticeable side effects of a GE-grain diet. Dr. Perlmutter explains the role of gluten in brain health:8
"In terms of gluten consumption, we have come a long way from our understanding that celiac disease exists, and we now recognize that, according to top researchers, non-celiac gluten sensitivity also exists, which may affect 30% of humanity. Marios Hadjivassiliou [MD, department of neurology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, United Kingdom] has said, so poetically, that gluten sensitivity may at times be a pure neurologic disease that is basically extraintestinal, and that we do not need to have intestinal issues to define gluten sensitivity. In fact, we are now seeing literature that points the finger clearly at gluten sensitivity as a culprit in a variety of neurologic problems, including depression, cognitive dysfunction, seizures, and even headaches."
Your Brain Needs Healthful Fats
High-carb diets have yet another downfall and that is there tendency to be low in beneficial fats – a ratio that has been supported by "official" dietary guidelines that vilified fats for decades. According to Dr. Perlmutter, our current dietary fat phobia "has absolutely been the cornerstone of our most common degenerative diseases of the day, including Alzheimer's." Why? Because when you cut dietary fat and keep protein about the same, you're going to fill in the gaps with health-harming carbohydrate foods, predominantly grains.
Beneficial health-promoting fats that your body—and your brain in particular—needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil, and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado, for example. Dr. Ron Rosedale first mentored me in the importance of insulin resistance and a moderate protein (and therefore high fat) and low-carb 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. 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.) In short, most people consume too much low-quality protein and carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat. The key is to eat high-quality natural fats, and a lot of them. Dr. Perlmutter expands:
"…the quality of the fat that we consume is absolutely fundamental. When we're saying high-fat diet, we're not talking about prepared foods on the Twinkie aisle at the grocery store that contain modified trans fats; hydrogenated fats that are clearly coffin nails. They're a great risk for brain disorders, heart disorders, diabetes, etc. We're talking about these beautiful, natural fats that we have been consuming for more than two million years."
Tipping the Scales Toward a Healthier Brain
Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. 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.
It's one of the most feared diseases because there is currently no cure… but there are steps you can take toward prevention. Your brain is not "programmed" to shrink and fail as a matter of course as you age. We now know that every activity in which you engage—be it exercise, the foods you eat, the supplements you take, your personal relationships, your emotional state, your sleep patterns—all of these factors dramatically influence your genetic expression from moment to moment. And this, in turn, influences your overall health and risk of disease, including in your brain.
Lifestyle strategies that promote neurogenesis and regrowth of brain cells include the following. All of these strategies target a specific gene pathway called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity as demonstrated on MRI scans. So if you're looking for the most straightforward way to lower your risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's, this is the plan to follow. As you'll notice, a great deal of the plan involves modifying your diet to lower unhealthful carbs and increase healthful fats:
- Reduce (non-vegetable) carbohydrate consumption, including sugars and grains.
- Increase healthy fat consumption.
- Increase your omega-3 fat intake and reduce consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (think processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. I prefer krill oil to fish oil here, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which appears to be particularly beneficial for brain health. As explained by Dr. Perlmutter, astaxanthin is very "focused" on reducing free radical-mediated damage to fat, and your brain is 60-70 percent fat. Personally, I believe there is very compelling evidence to supplement with 12 mg of astaxanthin to prevent Alzheimer's.
- Exercise. Physical activity produces biochemical changes that strengthen and renew not only your body but also your brain—particularly areas associated with memory and learning.
- Reduce overall calorie consumption, including intermittent fasting.
How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease—A Neurologist Speaks Out
Eating Loads of Carbs May Cause You to Lose Your Mind
By Dr. Mercola
You’re probably well-familiarized with my controversial stance on fructose. Compelling evidence shows that fructose is, by far, more harmful to your health than other sugars—especially when it’s removed from whole fruits and highly processed and genetically modified, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in most processed foods.
I’ve also, as a general rule, warned you of eating too much fruit, as many fruits can be quite high in fructose.
This has caused some confusion and consternation among many readers, as fruit has long been promoted as an important part of a healthy diet. That said, there are considerations to take into account when it comes to fruit consumption—some of which are dependent on your individual and specific circumstances.
I will seek to clarify some of these points here. I believe there’s more than compelling evidence supporting the concept that high-fructose diets are a primary factor that is responsible for most chronic disease; insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity in those who eat a highly processed food diet..
I’ve long urged those struggling with these health issues, or who have hypertension, heart disease or cancer, to pay extra-careful attention to the fructose content of whole fruit in addition to other sources of fructose. Now, recent research indicates that some fruits may in fact be protective against type 2 diabetes.
Can You Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes with Your Fruit Choices?
According to a new analysis of three cohort studies, published in the British Medical Journal,1 whole fruits—particularly blueberries, grapes, prunes and apples—may in fact reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Conversely, consumption of fruit juices was associated with greater risk. According to senior author Qi Sun, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health:2
"While fruits are recommended as a measure for diabetes prevention, previous studies have found mixed results for total fruit consumption. Our findings provide novel evidence suggesting that certain fruits may be especially beneficial for lowering diabetes risk."
The researchers analyzed the dietary records of nearly 190,000 people who had participated in three studies from 1984 to 2008. None of the participants were diagnosed with diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at the outset of the studies.
They found that those who ate blueberries, grapes and apples at least twice a week were up to 23 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared to those who ate these fruits once a month or less.
I find this quite surprising as, grapes and apples are particularly high in fructose (as you can see in the chart below). It’s unclear why the authors observed this benefit here but it’s likely that the phytonutrients found in the apples and grapes are more than compensate for any potential fructose toxicity.
Antioxidants and other phytonutrients combat inflammation, which is a hallmark of diabetes and most other chronic disease. Similarly, blueberries, which are much lower in fructose, have in other studies also been found to be of benefit for diabetics primarily due to their high antioxidant content.
One antioxidant in particular, called quercetin, could potentially help explain some of the results. Apples for example, while high in fructose, contains this flavonoid, which actually blocks some of the fructose metabolism according to expert Dr. Richard Johnson. If you haven't done so yet, I recommend viewing my "What Are Apples Good For?" information page for a listing of even more benefits of apples.
Red grapes, plums and many different berries, including blueberries. also contain quercetin. I have scheduled an interview with Dr. Johnson, in which we’ll delve into this at greater depth. So keep your eye out for that interview, which should be out before year end, if you want to learn more.
Don’t Be Fooled By Fruit Juices and Smoothies
In comparison, the featured study found that those who drank one or more servings of fruit juice each day had a 21 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes compared to the others. This is a really important point, and I’ve often highlighted the potential harm of drinking fruit juices.
You’re simply getting FAR too much fructose, not to mention the rarely mentioned methanol toxicity in any preserved juice. Furthermore, while whole fruits do contain fructose, they’re also rich in fiber, antioxidants, and a vast array of health-promoting phytochemicals.
Fruit juices, especially not pasteurized, commercially-available fruit juices have virtually none of these phytonutrients. The fiber in the whole fruits also plays a large in protecting you from a rapid and exaggerated rise in blood sugar. The fiber slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream.
This also applies to fruit smoothies, which are often touted as a convenient strategy to boost your fruit and veggie intake. Unfortunately, they too contain excessive amounts of fructose, and perhaps even added sugars on top of that. As reported by the Guardian:3
“In the UK, Coca-Cola owns Innocent Smoothies while PepsiCo has Tropicana. Launching Tropicana smoothies in 2008, Pepsi's sales pitch was that the drink would help the nation to reach its five a day fruit and vegetable target.
"Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to boost daily fruit intake as each 250ml portion contains the equivalent of two fruit portions," it said at the time.
However, Popkin [professor at the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina] says the five a day advice needs to change. Drink vegetable juice, he says, but not fruit juice. "Think of eating one orange or two and getting filled," he said. "Now think of drinking a smoothie with six oranges and two hours later it does not affect how much you eat.
The entire literature shows that we feel full from drinking beverages like smoothies but it does not affect our overall food intake, whereas eating an orange does. So pulped-up smoothies do nothing good for us but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving."
Revisiting Fruit Consumption
I recently interviewed Dr. Brian Clement of the Hippocrates Institute, where they teach raw veganism. Interestingly enough, they also strongly advise most people avoid eating fruits. One of the primary reasons for their stand against fruits is because of the hybridization of fruits, which has made them up to 50 times sweeter than their ancient ancestors. Many fruits have been selectively and purposely bred for increased sweetness, which has also resulted in reduced phytochemical content. This hybridization and subsequent deterioration of healthful nutrition in whole foods was highlighted in a New York Times4 article published earlier this summer.
The dramatically increased fructose content of otherwise natural and “wholesome” fruits is the primary problem with high fruit consumption, and this is why I’m leery of very high-fruit diets.
Many of the most beneficial phytonutrients found in fruits actually have a bitter, sour or astringent taste, but to satisfy the palate, farmers have, throughout time, opted to selectively breed the sweetest varieties. Today, the “candification” of food is being taken to a whole new level, and if you’re stuck on the idea that all fruit is good for you, you may end up in a real metabolic pickle... For example, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times,5 one fruit breeder has created a type of grape called the Cotton Candy grape, which is absolutely bound to be just as problematic as any other junk food!
“Bite into one of these green globes and the taste triggers the unmistakable sensation of eating a puffy, pink ball of spun sugar,” the article states. “By marrying select traits across thousands of nameless trial grapes, Cain and other breeders have developed patented varieties that pack enough sugar they may as well be Skittles on the vine. That's no accident. "We're competing against candy bars and cookies," said Cain, 62, a former scientist at the US Department of Agriculture who now heads research at privately owned International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield.”
In light of these issues, let me restate my recommendations on fruit and fructose consumption as simply as possible:
- If you’re insulin- or leptin resistant (are overweight, diabetic, hypertensive, or have high cholesterol), which includes about 80 percent of Americans, then it would be advisable for you to limit your fruit intake. As a general rule, I recommend limiting your fructose intake to a maximum of 15 grams of fructose per day from ALL sources, including whole fruit.
- If you are not insulin/leptin resistant, (are normal weight without diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol) and regularly engage in strenuous physical activity or manual labor, then higher fructose intake is unlikely to cause any health problems. In this case, you can probably eat more fruit without giving it much thought.
- However if you are in category two above you might benefit from a further refinement. Fruit will still increase your blood sugar and many experts believe this will increase your protein glycosylation. So my approach is to consume the fruit typically after a workout as your body will use the sugar as fuel rather than raise your blood sugar.
- Additionally ,if you’re an endurance athlete, you can probably get away with eating fairly large amounts of fruits, since your body will use most of the glucose during exercise, so it won’t be stored as fat. (That said, I still believe athletes would be well-advised to consider becoming fat adapted rather than relying on quick sugars. This is outside the scope of this article, however, so for more information, please see this previous article).
- If you’re still unsure of just how stringent you need to be, get your uric acid levels checked, and use that as a guide. I’ll review this in more detail in the section below.
Using Your Uric Acid Level as a Marker for Fructose Toxicity
I’ve previously interviewed Dr. Richard Johnson about his research into the health dangers of fructose, specifically how fructose causes high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, revealed in his excellent book, The Sugar Fix. He’s also the chief of the division of kidney disease and hypertension at the University of Colorado.
Dr. Johnson’s research suggests that your uric acid levels can be effectively used as a marker for fructose toxicity; meaning, an indicator of just how significant of an impact fructose has on your individual body and health. As such, it can help you gauge just how careful you need to be in your food selections.
According to the latest research in this area, the safest range of uric acid is between 3 and 5.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), and there appears to be a steady relationship between uric acid levels and blood pressure and cardiovascular risk, even down to the range of 3 to 4 mg/dl. What this means is that if you have a level of 4 mg/dl for men and 3.5 mg/dl for women, you probably are at a very low risk for fructose toxicity and can be more liberal with the fructose limits given above. The higher your uric acid though, the more you need to limit, or even avoid, fructose until your uric acid level normalizes.
Using this biochemical marker, I came to realize that I am particularly sensitive to fructose, and that it’s best for me, personally, to keep my fructose consumption as low as possible. This is most likely due to genetics and would explain why most of my paternal relatives have, or have died from, diabetes. That side of the family is probably particularly sensitive to fructose. Dr. Johnson has developed a program to help people optimize their uric acid levels, and the key step in this program is complete elimination of fructose, until your levels are within the ideal range of 3-5.5 mg/dl.
Helpful Fructose Chart for Common Fruits
Again, most people will need to limit your fructose to 25 grams of fructose per day from all sources, or less, while endurance athletes could have more. The chart below is excerpted from Dr. Johnson’s book, The Sugar Fix, which contains more details on the fructose content of common foods. His latest book, The Fat Switch, also gives further details on HOW fructose impacts your body, contributing to excess weight and chronic health problems.
What About Fruit Juices?
One of the profound highlights revealed in the featured study was the dramatic difference in health outcome between eating whole fruits versus drinking fruit juice. It’s important to realize that fruit juice typically contains very high concentrations of fructose, which will cause your insulin to spike and may counter the benefits of the antioxidants.
Previous studies have already clearly demonstrated that drinking large amounts of fruit juice dramatically increases your risk of obesity. Children are at particular risk here, since so many children are given juice whenever they’re thirsty instead of plain water. For example, research has revealed that 3- and 4-year-olds who carry extra weight and drink just one to two sweet drinks a day double their risk of becoming seriously overweight just one year later.
Furthermore, when buying commercial fruit juice, you need to check the label, as the majority of fruit juices contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors in addition to concentrated fruit juice. That said, even freshly squeezed fruit juice can contain about eight full teaspoons of fructose per eight-ounce glass! So, as a general rule, it’s wise for most to severely restrict your consumption of fruit juice, especially if your uric acid is above the ideals recommended. Also, if you suffer from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or cancer, you’d be best off avoiding fruit juices altogether until you’ve normalized your uric acid and insulin levels.
Within Certain Limits, Fruit is OK for Most People
Going back to the issue of genetic variability, it seems that some people may be able to process fructose more efficiently, and the key to assess this susceptibility to fructose damage lies in evaluating your uric acid levels. I believe this is an ideal way for most people to personalize the recommendations on fructose intake.
Aside from that, I believe most will benefit from restricting their fructose to 25 grams a day; and as little as 15 grams a day if you’re diabetic or have chronic health issues. This includes fructose from whole fruits. So I’m not advocating fruit avoidance for everyone; I’m simply placing fruit in the category of a fructose-rich food that needs to be included when you’re calculating your fructose intake.
If you choose low-fructose fruits, such as blueberries, you can eat more of it than if you choose a fruit high in fructose. Other low-fructose fruits include fresh apricots, lemons, limes, passion fruit, plums and raspberries. Also remember that avocado is actually a fruit too. It’s very low in fructose, and high in healthful fat, making it an excellent choice. Endurance athletes and others who engage in strenuous activities and who are neither overweight nor have chronic health issues probably do not need to concern themselves too much with their fruit consumption however.
Surprising Health Hazards Associated with All-Fruit Diet
Fructose Watch: The 9 Healthiest Fruits You Can Eat
Total Video Length: 56:40
By Dr. Mercola
In the documentary Fast Food Baby, you can follow three families on a quest to change the way their children eat.
Each case is unique – a young single mom who doesn’t want to cook, a healthy-eating couple who gives in to their toddler’s junk-food demands, and a family of five resorting to carry-out over home-cooked meals far too often.
But in the end, the results are the same: kids consuming far too much sugar, unhealthy fats and additives from a poor diet that’s already manifesting into health problems ranging from anemia and tooth decay to hyperactivity, all before the age of 5.
What Happens When Kids Eat a Fast-Food Diet?
Nutrients from quality foods are critical in helping your child reach his or her fullest potential. Unfortunately, many kids are not getting the nutrients they need, including in the US where:1
- Nearly 40% of children's diets come from added sugars and unhealthy fats
- Only 21% of youth age 6-19 eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day
This is a veritable recipe for disease, and is a primary reason why many of today's kids are arguably less healthy now than most all previous generations. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even liver disease -- these are diseases that once appeared only in middle-age and beyond, but are now impacting children.
Mental health is also at stake. One study from British researchers revealed that kids who ate a predominantly processed food diet at age 3 had lower IQ scores at age 8.5.2 For each measured increase in processed foods, participants had a 1.67-point decrease in IQ.
Along with the potential for lowered IQ, a junk-food diet can also set the stage for asthma, eczema, and a variety of allergies, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases.
In fact, most of the leading diseases plaguing the US are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The National Institutes of Health even states that four of the six leading causes of death in the US are linked to unhealthy diets.
Nutritional deficiencies in your child's first years of life can even lead to deficits in brain function that put them at risk of behavioral problems -- from hyperactivity to aggression -- that can last into the teenage years and beyond. This is why the importance of proper nutrition simply cannot be overstated.
Your Child's Taste Preferences Are Largely Formed by the Age of 3
The best time to shape your kids' eating habits is while they're still young, as kids learn very quickly to prefer certain tastes and textures. When parents fed their preschool-aged children junk foods high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, it had a lasting impact on their taste preferences in one study.3 All of the children tested showed preferences for junk foods, and all (even those who were just 3 years old!) were also able to recognize some soda, fast-food and junk-food brands.
The researchers concluded what you probably already suspect: kids who were exposed to junk food, soda and fast food, via advertising and also because their parents fed them these foods, learned to recognize and prefer these foods over healthier choices. This doesn’t mean there’s no hope for older children raised on junk-food; they, too, can learn to love healthy foods, but it is easier if they instead learn to love such foods right from the start.
Is Your Child Drinking Soda?
Per capita soft drink consumption has increased nearly 500 percent over the past five decades,4 and children, unfortunately, are a major reason for this staggering increase. Kids are introduced to soda at very young ages and consumption only increases as they get older. An estimated 56 percent of 8-year-olds drink soda daily, and once the teenage years come, some kids drink at least three cans of soda each day.5 In the documentary, some of the children featured were drinking 6 glasses of soda a day, and they were well under the age of 5!
Regular soda is, of course, a significant source of sugar (mostly in the form of fructose), with each can containing about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Consumption of sugar-sweetened soda and other beverages has been linked to the rising obesity epidemic, along with other health issues, among kids. And diet sodas are not an acceptable alternative. Diet sodas are actually worse for your health than regular soda, due to the artificial sweeteners they contain, and have been linked to weight gain, obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke, addiction, and other health issues. There’s really no reason for children of any age to be drinking soda, but toddlers and young children, especially, should not be wasting valuable calories on this health-damaging beverage.
Tackling the Reasons Why You're Eating Unhealthy Is the First Step
The documentary is intriguing because it follows three different families, detailing the reasons why their diets have gone downhill. The top reasons mentioned, which are probably similar for many families, include:
- Too busy or lack of motivation to cook
- Not believing the junk food is harming their children
- Battling with a picky eater and believing it’s better for your child to eat something, even if it’s unhealthy
- Trying to keep mealtime too strict for kids, such that they’re not free to explore and taste new foods
- Parents eating junk foods and teaching this behavior to their kids
Experts were utilized in each circumstance to help the families overcome their unique obstacles, and this is what you’ll need to do in your own home as well. If you feel you’re too busy to cook, for instance, you’ll need to re-examine your priorities so nutritional meals can be made to be a part of your daily life. If motivation is the problem, you may need to consult with a health care practitioner who can tell you what health problems are in store for your kids if their diets don’t change...
Exposing Your Children to Healthy Foods Is So Important
As prominent celebrity British chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver explains in the video above, our food culture has changed so drastically over the last 30 years, a majority of young children of today do not even know what fresh, whole food is. This is a major setback, as the more different flavors a child is exposed to early on generally the easier time they will have developing a taste for a variety of healthy foods. This actually starts with breastfeeding, as the milk will take on the flavors of whatever the mother eats.
Then, it’s important to keep offering healthy foods to your child, even if they refuse them or seem to not like them. It can take 10-15 food exposures before a child becomes familiar with and likes a certain food, so persistence is important. Food is a part of crucial lifestyle choices first learned at home, so you need to educate yourself about proper nutrition and the dangers of junk food and processed foods in order to change the food culture of your entire family. To give your child the best start in life, and help instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime, you must lead by example.
If you're not sure where to start, I recommend reading my nutrition plan first. This will provide you with the foundation you need to start making healthy food choices for your family.
Are Your Kids Hooked on Junk Food? Taking Action Now Could Save Their Health
Most parents go to great lengths to keep their children safe. You hold their hand when they walk across the street, teach them to stay away from a hot stove and tell them not to talk to strangers. Yet, the majority of parents feed their children potentially harmful food without a thought for the later consequences. It's not the occasional treat here and there that I'm referring to, either. It's the fact that most toddlers recognize the sign of the "golden arches" long before they are speaking in full sentences.
Why? Because they are often raised on French fries, fast-food hamburgers and orange soda, or if "raised" is a bit of a stretch, are taught that French fries, chicken fingers and soda is an acceptable meal (worse yet, they may come to think of it as a reward).
If you and your kids are absolutely hooked on fast food and other processed foods, you're going to need some help and most likely some support from friends and family if you want to kick the junk-food lifestyle. As mentioned, my nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feed your family right, and I encourage you to read through it now. You can find even more help in the book I wrote on the subject, Generation XL: Raising Healthy, Intelligent Kids in a High-Tech, Junk-Food World.
How Parents Can Ruin their Children's Health
Stop Junk Food Marketing to Kids
By Dr. Mercola
Olive oil, a dietary staple in Mediterranean regions, is now a healthy favorite oil in the US, valued not only for its flavor but also its health benefits.
Rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil may help lower your risk of heart disease and may even benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, helping to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
As with most foods, however, not all olive oil is created equal. There’s a wide variation between high-quality and low-quality oils, and even among the best varieties, rancidity is a major problem.
4 Signs of Defective Olive Oil
When you spend the money on a quality bottle of olive oil, you want to know that you’re getting what you pay for. However, there are many factors that influence quality, from how long the olives sat before processing to how long you’ve left the oil sit out on your counter.
Olive oil is highly perishable, but is generally said to be ‘good’ for two years from the date it was bottled (this will usually be the ‘Best By’ date). However, a better indicator of freshness is to go by its harvest date, which will tell you when the oil was actually made. Only select oils that have this information on the bottle.
So the first step is finding an oil that was harvested as recently as possible. From there, many other factors, including storage temperature, exposure to air and light, the level of antioxidants and chlorophyll content in the oil, will also influence how resistant it is to going rancid.
All olive oil will get rancid eventually, but if you're like most people, you're probably leaving your bottle of olive oil right on the counter, opening and closing it multiple times a week (or even a day). Every time the oil is exposed to air and/or light, it undergoes oxidiation and will get rancid quicker.
Extra-virgin olive oil, in particular, also contains chlorophyll that accelerates decomposition and makes the oil go rancid even faster than semi-refined olive oils, according to oil expert Dr. Rudi Moerck. So how can you tell if your olive oil is rancid?
- It smells like crayons or putty
- It tastes like rancid nuts
- It has a greasy mouthfeel
“The sad truth is that most people in the US… are accustomed to the flavor of rancid olive oil.”
‘Fusty’ oil occurs when olives sit too long (even just a few days) before they’re milled, leading to fermentation in the absence of oxygen. Fusty flavors are incredibly common in olive oil, so many simply think it’s normal. However, your olive oil should not have a fermented smell to it, reminiscent of sweaty socks or swampy vegetation.
“A good way to taste an example of the fusty defect involves table olives,” The Olive Oil Times reported. “Look through a batch of Kalamata-style olives and see if you can find any that are not purple or maroon-black and firm, but instead are brown and mushy. Eat one. THAT is the flavor of fusty.”
If your olive oil tastes dusty or musty, it’s probably because it was made from moldy olives, another occasional olive oil defect.
Wine or Vinegar Flavor
If your olive oil tastes like it has undertones of wine and vinegar (or even nail polish), it’s probably because the olives underwent fermentation with oxygen, leading to this sharp, undesirable flavor.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is One of the Most Commonly Adulterated Foods
The four defects above are examples of what commonly occurs due to poor processing methods or handling. However, olive oil is also a common target of food fraud, in which it is deliberately adulterated at your expense, according to the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention's (USP) Food Fraud Database. Even “extra virgin” olive oil is often diluted with other less expensive oils, including hazelnut, soybean, corn, sunflower, palm, sesame, grape seed and walnut. But these other oils will not be listed on the label, nor will most people be able to discern that their olive oil is not pure.
If you live in an area where olive oil is made, buying from a local producer is the ideal solution as it allows you to know exactly what’s in your oil. If not, try an independent olive oil shop that can tell you about the growers, or at least seek out a brand name that you trust to produce quality oil from your local supermarket.
If at all possible, taste the oil before you buy it. While this won’t necessarily be a guarantee of quality (especially if you’re not skilled at picking out all the potentially subtle taste differences), it can help you to pick out the freshest-tasting oil possible (and if you open a bottle at home and find that it tastes rancid or ‘bad,’ return it to the store for a refund).
The Fridge Test: Not a Good Measure of Olive Oil Quality
Earlier this year, The Dr. Oz Show featured a segment on the olive oil ‘fridge test,’ which suggested that you can tell your extra virgin olive oil is pure if it solidifies in the fridge. The US Davis Olive Center decided to test the theory out and found that this is actually a very unreliable way to detect olive oil purity.
In fact, the Olive Center researchers refrigerated seven samples of oil and found that none of them congealed after 60 hours in the fridge. While some had areas that had hardened, due to the varying levels of saturated fats in the oil, none solidified completely. So you can save yourself the effort and avoid using this test.
“All olive oils contain a small amount of saturated fatty acids that solidify at refrigerator temperatures,” said Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “The amount of solidification is equal to the amount of saturated fatty acids in the oil, which depends mostly on the varieties of olives used to make the oil and to a lesser extent where the olives were grown. Solidification does not indicate freshness, purity, flavor, extra virgin grade, or any other quality parameter.”
Are You Cooking With Olive Oil? Stop!
Olive oil is an ideal oil when it’s used cold, such as drizzled over a salad or on top of homemade hummus. However, it's important to realize olive oil is NOT good for cooking. Due to its chemical structure and a large amount of monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid, cooking makes extra virgin olive oil very susceptible to oxidative damage.
Consuming oxidized, rancid oil is not going to benefit your health, so when you need an oil to cook with, coconut oil is the ideal choice, because it is one of the only commonly used vegetable fats stable enough to resist heat-induced damage. Remember, olive oil is excellent when used for cold dishes, but cooking with it is virtually guaranteed to damage this highly heat-sensitive oil.
Tips for Keeping Your Olive Oil Fresh
Once you’ve chosen a bottle of olive oil (being careful to choose a trusted brand and check dates on the bottle), what you do with it once you get it home can make a difference in its shelf life. To best protect the oil, Dr. Moerck recommends treating it with the same care as you would sensitive omega-3 oils:
- Keep in a cool, dark place -- dark is key because light will most definitely oxidize the fats in olive oil
- Purchase smaller bottles rather than larger to ensure freshness
- Immediately replace the cap after each pour
To further help protect extra virgin olive oil from oxidation, Dr. Moerck suggests putting one drop of astaxanthin into the bottle. You can purchase astaxanthin, which is an extremely potent antioxidant, in soft gel capsules. Just prick it with a pin and squeeze the capsule into the oil. The beautiful thing about using astaxanthin instead of another antioxidant, such as vitamin E, is that it is naturally red, whereas vitamin E is colorless, so you can tell the oil still has astaxanthin in it by its color. As the olive oil starts to pale in color, you know it's time to throw it away.
Generally speaking, olive oil is best consumed within a year of harvest, although most will last for up to two years from harvest when unopened and kept in a cool dark place. Oils that have a more bitter, peppery flavor have a higher polyphenol content, and these oils will generally keep better than oils made from ripe olives, which have a softer flavor. The latter should be used within six months to a year at most.
This is yet another reason to purchase olive oil in small bottles, rather than large, as it is easier to use up in a shorter period. If you purchase a large amount of olive oil you may be tempted to keep it even though it has gone rancid.
By Dr. Mercola
Do you believe that drinking diet soda will allow you to “have your cake and eat it too” while still controlling your weight?
If so, you may be surprised to learn that research has repeatedly shown that artificially sweetened no- or low-calorie drinks and other “diet” foods actually tend to stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain.
Most recently, a report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism1 highlights the fact that diet soda drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for regular soda, such as excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.2, 3
The authors—who were “shocked” at the results—looked at studies published in the past five years that examine the relationship between diet soda consumption and health outcomes:
“This paper discusses these findings and considers the hypothesis that consuming sweet-tasting but noncaloric or reduced-calorie food and beverages interferes with learned responses that normally contribute to glucose and energy homeostasis.
Because of this interference, frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements,” they wrote.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses the report in the CNN video above, explaining that artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it’s going to receive sugar, but when the sugar doesn’t arrive, your body signals that it needs more, which results in carb cravings. Most people give in to such signals and end up overeating on other foods and snacks.
Artificial Sweeteners Actually INCREASE Weight Gain
This connection between sweet taste alone and increased hunger can be found in the medical literature going back at least two decades. These two studies, for example, dating back to the late 80s and early 90s, both showed this link between artificial sweeteners and increased hunger:
- Physiology & Behavior, 19884 – In this study, they determined that intense (no- or low-calorie) sweeteners can produce significant changes in appetite. Of the three sweeteners tested, aspartame produced the most pronounced effects.
- Physiology & Behavior 19905 – Here, they again evaluated whether or not the mere taste of “sweet” increases hunger, by having human subjects chew gum for 15 minutes containing various levels of aspartame (0.05%, 0.3%, 0.5%, or 1.0%).
Interestingly, although those who chewed artificially sweetened gum reported increased hunger compared to the control group who were given nothing or unsweetened gum base to chew, the increase did not directly correlate with the aspartame concentration in the gum.
Women experienced the greatest increase in hunger after chewing gum containing 0.3 percent aspartame (the second lowest concentration amount), while men were the hungriest after chewing on gum containing 0.5 percent aspartame. The authors stated:
"The highest aspartame concentrations had a time-dependent, biphasic effect on appetite, producing a transient decrease followed by a sustained increase in hunger ratings. Thus, the concentration of the sweetener, the sex of the subject, and the time after chewing, were all important determinants of whether 'sweetness' increased hunger."
Why Doesn’t the FTC Sue Diet Makers for Fraudulent Advertising?
In a study6 of artificial sweeteners performed on college students, there was no evidence that artificial sweetener use was associated with a decrease in their overall sugar intake either. These results indicate that eating artificial sweeteners simply perpetuates a craving for sweets, and overall sugar consumption is not reduced—leading to further problems controlling your weight.
In 2005, data gathered from the 25-year long San Antonio Heart Study7 also showed that drinking diet soft drinks increased the likelihood of serious weight gain – far more so than regular soda.8 According to Sharon Fowler, M.P.H:
“On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”
This finding supports a 2004 study9 at Purdue University, which found that rats fed artificially sweetened liquids ate more high-calorie food than rats fed high-caloric sweetened liquids. The researchers believe the experience of drinking artificially sweetened liquids disrupted the animals' natural ability to compensate for the calories in the food. A more recent review, published in June 2010 in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine,10 delves into the neurobiology of sugar cravings and summarizes the epidemiological and experimental evidence concerning the effect of artificial sweeteners on weight. The author states:
“Several large scale prospective cohort studies found positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain. …Preload experiments generally have found that sweet taste, whether delivered by sugar or artificial sweeteners, enhanced human appetite. Aspartame-sweetened water, but not aspartame capsule, increased subjective appetite rating in normal weight adult males…
Unlike glucose or sucrose, which decreased the energy intake at the test meal, artificial sweetener preloads either had no effect or increased subsequent energy intake. Those findings suggest that the calorie contained in natural sweeteners may trigger a response to keep the overall energy consumption constant. ...Increasing evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners do not activate the food reward pathways in the same fashion as natural sweeteners…
Natural and artificial sweeteners also activate the gustatory branch differently. …Lastly, artificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence. …Unsweetening the world’s diet may be the key to reversing the obesity epidemic.”
That last statement is probably the most accurate conclusion there is. Americans in particular are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end leads to excess weight gain whether that flavor comes loaded with calories or not. In the end, the research tells us that artificial sweeteners are nothing more than a pipe dream when it comes to being a dieter’s aid, because contrary to what the marketing campaigns claim, low- or no-calorie artificial sweeteners are more likely to help you pack on the pounds than shed them.
What Dr. Gupta Failed to Tell You About the Dangers of Aspartame
This hypothesis was also demonstrated in a 2012 study published in the journal Appetite,11 which showed that saccharin and aspartame both cause greater weight gain than sugar. Rats were fed plain yogurt sweetened with either aspartame, saccharin, or sugar, plus their regular rat chow, for 12 weeks.
“Results showed that addition of either saccharin or aspartame to yogurt resulted in increased weight gain compared to addition of sucrose, however total caloric intake was similar among groups,” the researchers write.12
The reason for the similar calorie consumption between the groups was due to increased chow consumption by the rats given artificially sweetened yoghurt. This type of compensation has been found in previous studies13 as well, indicating that when your body gets a hit of sweet taste without the calories to go with it, it adversely affects your appetite control mechanisms, causing increased food cravings. That’s all good and well, and mounting research appears to support this “metabolic derangement” hypothesis.
However, Dr. Gupta falls short when it comes to the overall health hazards of artificial sweeteners—completely dismissing the inherent toxicity of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. He even claims that there’s “no evidence of a link” between aspartame and cancer, stating that aspartame has been on the market since the 60’s and no such link has been shown in the 40 years since. I guess it’s really a matter of looking at the available evidence.
Not only have studies showing a cancer link been published in recent years, but during our 40-year long “war on cancer,” cancer rates have in fact increased despite scientific advances in treatment, and now surpass heart disease as the number one killer of Americans under the age of 85.14 The reason for this is still under debate, as no particular industry wants to take responsibility for their contribution to toxic overload in the population at large...In my view however, I believe it is irresponsibly negligent to flatly ignore the potential impact of artificial sweeteners on our skyrocketing disease rates. Telling people to consume a toxic agent “in moderation” is just not good advice in my opinion.
As for the potential cancer link, one lifetime feeding study published in 201015 found that aspartame induced cancers of the liver and lung in male mice. It was also carcinogenic in male and female rats. Another study of great importance was published just last year. It’s the most comprehensive and longest human study— spanning 22 years — that has ever looked at aspartame toxicity. The study evaluated the effect between aspartame intake and cancer, and they found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and leukemia.
Recent research has also demonstrated that aspartame worsens insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar, which is quite the blow for diabetics who obediently follow the recommendation to switch to diet sodas to manage their condition. The researchers used a dosage of aspartame that approximates the ADI for aspartame in the US (approx. 50 mg/kg body weight), and not only was aspartame found to decrease insulin sensitivity compared to controls, it also wrought havoc on brain function.
CSPI Downgrades Splenda Safety Rating from 'Safe' to 'Caution'
In related news, the watchdog group The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently downgraded its safety rating16, 17 of sucralose (Splenda) from "safe" to "caution," meaning it "may pose a risk and needs to be better tested."
“In what might be the greatest cause for concern, in 2012 an independent Italian laboratory announced (but has not yet published) a study that found that sucralose caused leukemia in mice that were exposed from before birth. That was the same lab that several years earlier published studies indicating that aspartame caused cancers in rats and mice,” CSPI writes.
Unfortunately, CSPI also proves to be seriously confused on this issue by recommending that you opt for diet soda over regular soda because “[r]egular soda poses the greater and demonstrable risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout, tooth decay, and other health problems." As discussed above, this is incorrect, as studies are in fact showing that diet soda is equal to or worse than regular soda when it comes to promoting weight gain and chronic disease.
Why 'FDA Approved' Tells You Virtually Nothing About a Product’s Safety...
As discussed by Dr. Janet Hull,18 many tend to excuse the negative health effects of aspartame simply because it has received the stamp of approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“[T]his may not be something the American consumer can actually depend upon anymore,” she writes, because “[t]he FDA rules and regulations for the approval of food additives... it has some serious flaws.”
In her article, Dr. Hull talks about Beth Hubrich, president of the Calorie Control Council, and how FDA's requirement that the industry do its own research actually puts the industry in the hot seat of proving the flaws of their own products. Clearly, this is a strong disincentive to finding anything wrong, since any company applying for approval wants their product to reach the market. In a nutshell, the FDA trusts corporations to be completely honest and above board about their own research findings—with billions of dollars of profits hanging in the balance! How likely do you think it is that such a system will actually ensure that each product released to market is in fact safe? This is the classic example of the fox guarding the hen house.
“Basically, all the FDA is responsible for is reviewing the summaries of research conducted by the company applying for approval, typically from scientific studies the applicant has pay-rolled. Then, the company presents their reasons why their product should be allowed in the public food supply based on their research. At the very least, the research reports are controversial, and rarely reviewed by independent researchers not related to the industry,” she writes.
Beth Hubrich, a spokeswoman for the industry group Calorie Control Council, has spent years disputing the results from independent researchers that find fault with artificial sweeteners. This despite the fact that an independent researcher has far less incentive to come to any particular conclusion—good or bad... As I’ve discussed in a previous article, the Calorie Control Council is an association that represents manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie, sugar-free and reduced sugar foods and beverages, and has strong ties to the Kellen Company, which is instrumental in creating and managing industry front groups specifically created to mislead you about the product in question, protect industry profits, and influence regulatory agencies. This makes virtually any position of the Calorie Control Council questionable at best when it comes to public safety.
Are You Addicted to Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger enhanced activity within your brain's pleasure centers, yet at the same time provide less actual satisfaction. This separation of the taste of sweetness from caloric content means that when you consume artificial sweeteners, your brain actually craves more of it because your body receives no satisfaction on a cellular level by the sugar imposter. This can actually contribute to not only overeating and weight gain, but also an addiction to artificial sweeteners, along with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke—even if your weight is normal.
In order to break free, be sure you address the emotional component of your food cravings using a tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome food cravings and helps you reach dietary success. If diet soda is the culprit for you, be sure to check out Turbo Tapping, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time.
If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make some changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion. If you’re searching for a safer sweetener option, you could use stevia or Lo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.
Last but not least, if you experience side effects from aspartame or any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report — just go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your reaction.
Toxicology Expert Explains Why Aspartame is so Dangerous to Your Health