Archive for November, 2010

Larry McCleary MD

Review © 2010 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

Do you know how to lose weight? Do you know how to create proper brain functioning? According to Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly the answer is the same diet.

This book promotes a diet that pulls a 180-degree u-turn away from the high-carbohydrate low-protein and fat that we had been taught starting the in the 1960s. We were told that fat was bad for you, so we cut the fat only to find that people are fatter, more diabetic and unhealthier than ever.

Doctor McCleary approaches the question of proper diet from the point of view of a neurologist concerned about Alzheimer’s disease and mental function. At the same time that diabetes and other aspects of the Metabolic Syndrome (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weigh gain among others) increase with our sugary diet, so to do diseases that affect the mind like Alzheimer’s. He decided to research whether dietary changes would help the mind and then to see if these same changes would also help the waistline.

The diet that results from the research is very similar to the food plans promoted by Doctor Appleton in all of her works. We both like diets with vegetables, protein, gently cooked lipids (fats and oils) and whole fruit that limits sugar, excessive carbohydrates and many other features of our modern diet. Except for the fact that Doctor Appleton is out of her depth dealing with neurology, she could have written this book. It appears that everyone with a responsible health oriented food plan comes to the same general realization that – eat more vegetables and cook at home – is the path to health.

Dr. McClearly makes an important observation that being fat and diabetic and having cognitive problems are part of the same problem. We get fat because sugar and excessive carbohydrates are foods that induce the mind to rely on external energy sources, which are then stored as fat when there is too much in the system. We go nuts or get Alzheimer’s because the brain constantly wants glucose to function and in the high-carb diet sends out hungry signals that create more eating and diminish mental capacity.

The trick according to Dr. McCleary’s research is to eat the better diet that includes fat, protein and vegetables and fruit with lots of dietary fiber so that the body realigns itself so that more fat is burned than stored while avoiding the confusing signals that may cause us to eat too much. He uses insulin to explain the cycle of fat storage and blood sugar levels.

More sugar means more insulin to deal with the sugar, which also tells the body to store fat because high blood sugar means an external energy source is being used. Less sugar means that the body now can burn fat from internal sources to tide the person over between meals. This cycle is supposed to be balanced but stopped being so when our diet became more about carbohydrates separated from dietary fiber than protein and vegetables.

Once the explanation how the brain is affected by the foods we eat set in, Dr. McCleary provides fairly standard advice about how to lose weight that the reader may also glean from the saner programs developed for The Biggest Loser or any responsible food health book (take healthy snacks along, start small, plan for falling off the wagon, be positive and so on). And there are recipes, which seem to be a staple of food health books designed to give a few ideas how to actually go about changing the diet.

Doctor Appleton may have wished for a little more attention to allergies playing a part in health, but other than that she wholeheartedly recommends this book to anyone wanting more information about how the brain and body work together for health.


This review is also posted to http://smokinglizardbooks.wordpress.com


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Extra Crispy?

© 2010 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

The bird or ham turns brown fat dripping into the bottom of the pan. The family gathers to eat and give thanks and gifts, but how healthy are the various cooking methods anyway? Well, the answer depends on what you cook and how you cook it, because I’m sure this is the first time you heard of Advanced Glycated End Products (AGEs).

What is an AGE? AGEs were discovered by Louis Maillard in 1912. Simply put they are a class of chemical byproducts that result from the meeting of food and excessive heat. Protein and a sugar (usually glucose) combine under high heat to create the browning that we associate with cooking.[i] Or you could just eat too much sugar and maintain elevated blood sugar levels for too long. Excessive sugar helps to form AGEs in the body because the sugar has to go somewhere.

So what is so bad about AGEs? Generally, the body evolved to eat food cooked slowly over a small open flame or raw compared to flash heating, microwaving, deep-frying and barbecuing. The AGEs that form, with these cooking methods, are toxic to the body and aren’t easily metabolized out of the body. When the body deals with foods that aren’t exactly like what it expects to find the immune system is called in to smash an invader. Our immune system can only do so much becoming exhausted further dragging down the removal process. Eventually, an allergy may form that may lead to disease. Unfortunately, AGEs taste great being sugar and protein jumbled together explaining why we like toast, ribs and blackened fish so much.

AGEs aren’t to be confused with glycoproteins, even though they share the same building blocks. A glycoprotein forms when glucose and proteins bind using the normal digestive enzymes with which we all come equipped. This process presupposes gently cooked food and moderate sugar intake from whole fruits and vegetables and very little (preferably none) refined sugar. Glycoproteins are part of how the body feeds itself. AGEs are something else entirely.

Not all cooking methods are created equal. Studies have shown that boiling, steaming, or any method involving water tends to limit greatly the number of AGEs that form. Turning down the heat and extending the cooking time can also create fewer AGEs than other methods. There are two different temperature ranges to be aware of: the heat labile point around 245° F and the much lower AGEs threshold between 120° F and 180° F. The heat labile point applies to fats and proteins that change chemically without the presence of sugar and has similar health risk as the AGEs discussed here.

Recently, studies have shown that green tea helps prevent formation of AGEs and many of the diseases they cause.[ii] We should also avoid processed foods. Food manufacturers increase the number of AGEs in food intentionally, either by adding sugar or by browning food elements. They are trading on the great taste of browned or caramelized food to sell more units. You are warned.


  • Turn down the heat and extend the cooking time
  • Stop eating sugar
  • Cook with water (boil, steam and poach) as much as possible
  • Green tea may prevent AGEs
  • Avoid processed foods which are likely to have sugar or browned food elements

AGEs have become a worry now in the modern era compared to more primitive times because of several factors, including excessive sugar consumption. We have said above that our high sugar usage can induce the body to make its own AGEs regardless of how the food was cooked. We have quoted figures previously that the average American eats at least 140 pounds of sugar per year.[iii] Along with the other ways sugar hurts us (insulin resistance, etc.) these AGEs that are very nearly indestructible once created and deposited in the body also help cause many diseases.

AGEs spur the release of cytokines, which are part of the inflammatory process. Cytokines collect in the joints of people with arthritis. Another interesting fact about AGEs and inflammation is that free radical production is nearly five times greater with glycated protein compared to regular protein.[iv] We discuss these issues in more detail in our book Stopping Inflammation.

We will list below a small sample of diseases and conditions that can be helped by limiting AGEs either by changing how we cook or cutting out the sugar.

This list is not inclusive, but is just enough for all of us to be mindful that how we cook our food is at least as important as what foods we eat. You’ll notice that we’ve said gently cooked versus raw. For many people the practice of cooking is so ingrained in human culture that eating raw food that we traditionally cook might cause a gag. In some cases, cooking is necessary for economic reasons like extending the shelf life of food. For example, toasting turns stale bread into toast, which tastes the same regardless of how fresh the bread was. Striking the balance between, killing off pathogens in poorly stored raw food and overcooking has always been delicate. Eating raw can help a person be healthier, but it can be a hard choice.

[i] Bjeldanes, L. “Effects of High Temperatures on Meats.” Food and Chemical Toxicology Apr 1985:23(12).

[ii] Rasheed, Z, et al. “Green Tea Polyphenol Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Inhibits Advanced Glycation End Product-Induced Expression of Tunor Necrosis Factor-Alpha and Matrix Metalloproteinase-13 in Human Chondrocytes.” Arthritis Res Ther. May 2009;11(3):R71

[iii] USDA “Food Consumption.” http://ers.usda.gov/publications/sb965/sb965f.pdf. Projected upon 1997 consumption Page 9.

[iv] Mullarkey, CJ., et al. “Free Radical Generation by Early Gycation Products: A Mechanism for Acceleration of Arthogenesis in Diabetes.” Biochem Biophys Res Commun Dec 31, 1990;173(3):932-939.

[v] Uribarri, J., et al. “Diet-Derived Advance Glycation End Products are Major Contributors to the Body’s AGE Pool and Induce Inflammation in Healthy Subjects.” Annals NY Acad Sci. 2005:461-466.

[vi] Semba, RD., et al. “Does Accumulation of Advanced Glycation End Products Contribute to the Aging Phenotype?” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci Apr 2010;65A(9):963-975.

[vii] Birlouez-Aragon, I., et al. “A Diet Based on High-Heat-Treated Foods Promotes Risk Factors for Diabetes Mellitus and Cardiovascular Diseases.” Am J Clin Nutr May 2010;91(5):1220-1226.

[viii] Peppa, M., et al. “Glucose, Advanced Glycation End Products and Diabetes Complications: What is New and What Works.” Clin Diabetes. 2003;21:186-187.

[ix] Tabaton, M., et al. “Is Amyloid Beta-protein Glycated in Alzheimer’s Disease?” Neuroreport. 1997;8(4):907-909.

[x] Ishibashi, T., et al. “Advanced Glycation End Products in Age-related Macular Degeneration.” Arch Ophthalmol. Dec 1998;116(12):1629-1632.

[xi] Szymanska, U. and Boratynski, J. “Protein Glycation-Clinical and Chemical Aspects.” Postepy Hig Med Dosw. 1999;53(5):689-703.

[xii] MacLennan, A., “Identification of the Advanced Glycation End Product N-Epsilon-Carboxymethyllysine in the Synovial Tissue of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (ARD Online). Sept 12, 2002.

[xiii] Dominic, SC., at al. “Advanced Glycation End Products: a Nephrologist’s Perspective.” Am J Kidney Dis. 2000;35(3):365-380.



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