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© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D. & G.N. Jacobs

 Longtime readers may have noticed that I have consistently said to exercise, pray, meditate, write, listen to music, or even hug the kids and pet the dog before eating. Naturally, I wasn’t just making this advice up as I went along. My source is a giant of medicine Walter B. Cannon, head of the Physiology Department at Harvard for many years. The shortest word for this field is psychoneuroimmunology, which is barely descriptive.

Cannon observed that our state of being and bodies are inextricably linked. Our mouths water, when, like Homer Simpson, we smell – doonuuts! – or even healthier foods like my son’s special wine and soy sauce marinade for lamb. The nice smell causes saliva and starts the digestive process. The aroma sparks a positive association and we feel good just being nearby.

All aspects of digestion can be affected by a positive or negative state of mind. Stress out emotionally or even physically by forgetting to drink water and watch the saliva disappear. The muscle contractions called peristalsis that drive the food from the mouth to the intestines can stop or slow down. Enzymes can decrease while stomach acid increases. Nutrients may become toxic in the presence of toxic emotions, because of improper digestion.

Cannon observed that stress is a highly individualized factor completely dependent on how we choose to perceive things. Some people freak out practically running around with their heads cut off and others breathe deeply and take baby steps dealing with their problems. I’ll give you one guess which type of person typically seems healthier digesting well. Stress happens, but distress doesn’t have to.

The stress reaction is part of the Fight or Flight we all need to help us deal with that tiger that just moved into the tall grass. Stored energy is opened up and our ability to eat new food shuts down. But, we will feel the same tightness in our gut if we try to eat while feeling depressed about the day in the office. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between the tiger and a profound need to cry or shout.

Laughter has even helped people get over diseases like cancer in a small part because the patient is now fully digesting their food after relieving stress. Most problems can be handled by laughing, journaling, meditating and/or praying. A small few need professional assistance. I make no statements about prayer other than to say the body enters the same state as meditation getting the same benefits whether God is listening or not.

It makes sense that people not eat while in distress. A depressed person, say, will get no nutritional benefit from their food causing a cycle downward into more depression and anger. Remember that everything works better when you’re happy. Push away from that plate and get your head and heart on straight before eating. Don’t worry eat happy!

Suggested Reading:

Cannon, W. B. THE WISDOM OF THE BODY (New York: Norton, 1932)

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© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

From their book Killer Colas © 2011 Nancy Appleton & G.N. Jacobs

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1)    Sugar-sweetened drinks can cause pancreatic cancer.[i]

2)    Soft drink consumption may lead to hyperactivity and other mental problems.[ii]

3)    Sugar-sweetened drinks can lead to obesity, heart disease and other aspects of the metabolic syndrome.[iii]

4)    Cola consumption has been linked to osteoporosis in women.[iv]

5)    Soft drinks have been linked to liver disease.[v]

6)    Many types of soft drinks have been linked to headaches.[vi]

7)    Many types of soft drinks have been linked to asthma.[vii]

8)    Energy drinks with similar ingredients to soft drinks may cause epilepsy.[viii]

9)    Soft drinks can cause development of kidney stones.[ix]

10)  Soft drinks can lead to low potassium levels (Hypokalema).[x]


[i] Larsson, SC, et al. “Consumption of Sugar and Sugar-Sweetened Foods and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in a Prospective Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84(5):1171-1176.

More citations in Killer Colas

[ii] Lars, L, et al. “Consumption of Soft Drinks and Hyperactivity, Mental Distress, and Conduct Problems among Adolescents in Oslo, Norway.” Am J Public Health 2006;;96(10):1815-1820.

[iii] Bocarslly, ME, et al. “High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Characteristics of Obesity in Rats: increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2010;97(1):101-106.

More citations in Killer Colas

[iv] Tucker, KL, et al. “Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2006; 84(4):936-942.

[v] Abid, A, et al. “Soft drink consumption is associated with fatty liver disease independent of metabolic syndrome.” J Hepatol 2009;51(5):918-924.

[vi] Koehler, S, and Glaros, A. “The effect of Aspartame on migraine headache.” Headache: the journal of head and face pain. 2006;28(1):10-14.

More citations in Killer Colas

[vii] Tarlo, SL, et al. “Asthma and anaphylactoid reactions to food additives.” Canadian Family Physician 1993;39:1119-1123.

More citations in Killer Colas

[viii] Lyadurai, SJ, et al. “New onset seizures in adults: possible association with consumption of popular energy drinks.” Epilepsy 2007;10(3):504-508.

[ix] Kirdpon, W, et al. “Soft drink consumption and urinary stone.” J Clin Epidem 1992;45:911-916.

More citations in Killer Colas

[x] Packer, CD, et al. “Chronic hypokalema due to excessive cola consumption: a case report.” Cases J 2008;1(1);32.

More citations in Killer Colas

Is it Really Aging?

© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

“What a drag it is getting old!” – Rolling Stones, Mother’s Little Helper.

I’m sure that most of you that know me probably find it odd that I’m quoting a very loud rock band for my pithy statement about the myths we believe when it comes to aging. After enjoying the Beatles, I chose to miss the rest of the British Invasion. My staff tells me the line comes from a song about Valium abuse among housewives during the 1960s. I like the irony that drug abuse is one way to wear our bodies out faster, causing us to fear getting older driving us to even more pills to block out our pain, a vicious cycle.

But what do we believe about aging that causes such fear?

  1. Fasting blood glucose will increase.
  2. Blood pressure, both diastolic and systolic, will increase.
  3. Bad cholesterol (LDL) will increase at the expense of good cholesterol (HDL).
  4. Osteoporosis will set in leading to brittle bones causing dread of falls.
  5. Our strength decreases.
  6. We will be fatter and less lean.
  7. Our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) decreases.
  8. We will be colder.
  9. Degenerative diseases become inevitable.

Pretty much, I don’t believe any of the above statements. Aging as we know it is a process created by our own bad habits, because we…

  1. Stop eating properly.
  2. Stop exercising and keeping the body aligned.
  3. Let the stress that is inevitable, become distress that sabotages our health.
  4. Let various harmful environmental factors stay in our environment.

I will point you at any of my books which each deal with various signs of bad health and provides the most recent citations for further reading. I discuss blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, osteoporosis, fat retention, metabolic rate, temperature regulation and degenerative diseases in various contexts in Lick the Sugar Habit, Healthy Bones and Suicide by Sugar. Let’s discuss the four solutions.

Eating properly means preferring whole foods to processed foods, cutting back on sugar and the food allergens to which we react. It also means gently cooking the food and eating the proper portions so that our bodies aren’t overworked trying to deal with lots of food. I put the same three food plans in all of my books, because they keep working for people.

Food Plan Three takes many of the foods to which we react out of our mouths. It is a highly restrictive food plan emphasizing vegetables, protein, water and whole grains not loaded with gluten. I recommend it as the sharp transition between unhealthy eating and healthy eating. Then as the person heals the less restrictive Food Plans Two and One may become more appropriate depending on symptoms.

One of the interesting things I found in looking over the source material for this article was how much exercise helps with our aging concerns. Usually, I give equal time to Diet, Exercise, Emotional Health and our Environment that they all work together to make us healthy (or not). This will always be true, but in the specific case of aging well exercise is very important.

For instance, older people who exercise with weight training in addition to their cardiovascular workout resist increases in the fasting blood glucose rate. Some of the insulin made by the body is stored in the muscles. A lack of exercise as we age means these muscles may become body fat and become resistant to insulin resulting in higher fasting blood glucose levels.

And for bone loss, exercise, including weight training, is very important as well. NASA and their Corps of Astronauts have known about weightlessness and bone loss for quite some time. Our bones are designed to hold us up for our lifespan more or less at the bottom of Earth’s gravity well. We’ve all seen the pictures of astronauts in orbit strapped into special bikes to pound out their roadwork. The idea is that the bones will also respond to the strains place on them by overactive muscles working as compensation for no gravity and minimize the bone loss.

However, in the specific case of astronauts at least through the early Shuttle era there were dietary concerns as well, specifically Tang. This was (is?) a powdered drink that replaced orange juice on space flights. It has been a while since I’ve seen the labeling on a bottle of Tang, but sugar, like with many processed foods, was listed at the top. I’ve never seen a study authored by NASA that asked this question: does bone de-mineralization increase for astronauts who drink Tang compared to those who don’t? I hope it’s because no one asked the question instead of someone asking the question and then classifying the answer.

I love repeating this example for those who think we must get weaker as we age. A Tufts University study from some decades ago took 12 older men and put them on resistance training for 12 weeks. Most experienced at least a doubling of the weight they could lift and experienced up to 15-percent increase in muscle mass. Research also seems to show that our metabolism, cholesterol and thermal regulators respond to exercise, as well.

I don’t want to give short shrift to the other factors that help us age healthily. If we are not in a good emotional or intellectual state, we don’t use the foods we eat as well. I have always differentiated between stress and distress: the difference being that stress can happen to you, but distress is what happens when you don’t deal with stress. A family has a big fight and then sits down to eat, bad move. The members are all still angry at each other and this affects their bodies and the digestion of the food.

Another way to define stress compared to distress comes from my earliest research where I took blood samples, dunked peoples’ hands in cold water and then took another blood sample. Key indicators would always be out of whack after the dunking, but presumably because neither my research assistants nor I were berating my subjects for any reason all of them quickly got over the shock. I have always said to deal with stress before eating. That the person, who prays, meditates, writes in his or her journal or even exercises before eating will remain healthy.

Lastly, I must touch on the Environment as the last factor that determines if we will age or if we will be healthy. I used to have fearsome pollen allergies and dreaded going out to play tennis some days. Once I stopped abusing sugar, these allergies cleared up and/or became minor. This allowed me to enjoy being outdoors and reap the benefits of several sets of tennis that included stress reduction, muscle building and all of the other things talked about here.

Since what a 20-year-old should do to remain healthy are the same things that a 60-year-old should do to fight the bad effects of a poor health regimen, we come full circle back to Diet, Exercise, Stress and the Environment. And then I realized that I am talking about Health as an imperfect synonym for Youth, because none of this will keep your hair from turning gray. I use hair color for that.

 

© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

In the past year or so, my staff and I have fielded pretty much the same question from various endurance athletes at least five times – if I’m supposed to give up sugar how am I supposed to deal with my energy needs during training and racing?

Well, the answers to this question are imperfect at best, because sugar has completely infiltrated sports.

To recap our general nutritional position, EAT WHOLE FOODS as much as possible while engaging in as much CONSISTENT EXERCISE as possible. Athletes do at least half of this equation correctly: consistent exercise. But then after all the wind sprints, stadium steps, miles underfoot, miles under-wheel, four-a-days and/or intense sparring, many athletes will drag healthy bodies through a sweet sewer of sugary training food and sports drinks.

Each athlete that asked us about how to train or race got the same choices:

  1. Stop training and competing.
  2. Make peace with Gatorade, Powerade and/or that chewy bar.
  3. Find the best possible alternative healthy training food manufacturer.
  4. Load up on traditional snacks used by hikers, walkers and non-competitive bikers (water, trail mix, whole fruit, etc).
  5. Make your own training food by becoming intimate with your food processor.

QUITTING – Actually, this first choice is just a mean joke, because I completely understand competing and the value of getting out of the house. I even still have a few of my tennis trophies, so move it along and pretend I never said the word quit.

MAKE PEACE – I’m not stupid. The horrible foods and liquids pushed upon athletes by the large companies have become such a part of our athletic culture because of a combination of factors each tough to beat by themselves, but nearly impossible taken together.

Peer pressure rules. I may be the Original Anti-Sugar Lady since the Stone Age (1980 or so) and was appalled at the amount of sugar in a typical bottle of Gatorade (14 grams per 8oz. serving of the original green flavor) since learning about sugar in the years leading up to my first book Lick the Sugar Habit, but when my son played football and came home with a requirement that each player bring two bottles of the orange flavor for the next game I went to the store and contributed to the team.

In professional sports where Gatorade or whichever sports drink maker paid the most money for the exclusive promotional deal, I have no illusions that the health conscious catcher or running back or some other player whose function I barely understand wouldn’t get worked over by his teammates for not sharing from the Gatorade tank.

Sugar makes its way into these products mostly to cover up foul tasting minerals. The typical sports drink comes with tons of sodium and potassium for purposes of replacing electrolytes sweated out during hard workouts, which can affect nerve function. Naturally, sodium and potassium taste like salt and sugar covers the taste. The sports drink promotion machine justifies the sugar after the fact as providing extra energy.

Now why am I positing make peace as a potential viable solution to the conundrum of training food and drink?

I hate saying this – but once you factor out the changes to body chemistry for which I have spent 30 years on the warpath about, these products do their jobs quite well in the short term. Quick hits of energy and vital minerals help the athlete power his or her way through the race or game. These products are also highly portable a virtue that also helps explains why processed sports food is a billion dollar business that sustains itself with massive ad campaigns and exclusive relationships with various teams.

Portable products are very important in races because weight is an issue. A competitive cyclist going up the hill in the tenth stage of the Tour de France can’t carry the whole foods I will suggest in later sections on his bike, or in a backpack. An apple may weigh ten times as much as the tube of applesauce so graciously provided by the sport food manufacturer for much the same caloric intake. The apple may have more dietary fiber, which is why whole fruit can have tons of fructose and still be part of a healthy diet, but the weight differential when seconds count makes eating healthy in such competitive environments a hard call.

Now, I must say that for many sports there are workarounds that could allow the athlete to eat healthy and still crush all comers. In the case of the Tour de France (mentioned because one of our original questioners competes with the Garmin GPS bike team), there are entire support staffs of people in cars who drive up to their athletes, hand over the sports drink or chewy bar and help replace flat tires or broken wheels. A team that manages to get out from under a sponsorship contract with a food producer that uses more sugar than their competitors could use the support staff to pass over a baggie of trail mix (nuts, fruit, crackers – a fuel source created by hikers who may go the same distance, but have the time to enjoy the view) instead of a sugar-bomb disguised as an energy bar. But, money talks in all highly competitive sports.

One thing I can attest to is the power of exercise to delay the many health effects of too much sugar in the diet. As I wrote in every one of my books that needed an introduction, I juxtaposed lots of sugar, wheat and dairy that I didn’t know would harm me with enough hours of tennis to actually keep that chocolate from my hips most of the time. It is this power that allows me to present make peace as one possible solution to the athlete who needs to get through a marathon, an Ironman or even a long round of golf in the deep desert.

My competitive years came before the invention of Gatorade after which I became just a good recreational tennis player. So when I say that exercise delays the onset of the diseases that I and many other researchers have linked to our modern diet, I don’t mean that eating and drink these products should ever go beyond the athlete’s prime years. My experiences with the sugar, onion rings and other sludge that I worked off with some hard tennis told me (once I understood sugar) that the crap always catches up to you.

By the time I was forty or so, I still played quite a bit of tennis, but suffered allergies that sometimes kept me off the court. I freaked out anytime pollen got anywhere near me and don’t get me started on hibiscus flowers. I had nearly regular bouts of pneumonia and I was sometimes crabbier than I needed to be with my kids. So despite my regimen, I wasn’t healthy. Ending sugar helped put me in a place where nothing worked against my tennis, hiking and, for many years, stair climbing for keeping me healthy. The competitive cyclist mentioned above emailed us reporting decreased competitiveness – slower stage times and an all-around crummy feeling after a few years of being at the top of the game. We suggested to this man that he’d run out the string on his body’s ability to make peace with his training diet.

Making peace can only work with two provisos that MUST be applied. First, the athlete who uses such sugar-filled training food and drinks absolutely SHOULDN’T EAT SUGAR from other sources during a training cycle and should limit sugar during a down cycle. Part of my problem was that I may have used a few sports drinks in my later unhealthy years, but that I also ate sweets, cakes and above all else, chocolate at the same time. I overloaded my body and paid for it every time I banished my sick children to their rooms for fear that their colds would become pneumonia. If I had to choose now, I would omit the training food and drink and stick with the more pleasurable chocolate, but I will leave that decision up to you.

Secondly, an athlete who goes this route will need to go into a sugar-free life as soon as they retire from the sport. When we are young and still able to go out and play regardless of the consequences, we won’t need much health and nutritional advice. But, at some point the body needs to be well taken care of so we can still go outside and play. So, perhaps you’ve figured out with the options I present here that make peace is perhaps the worst choice?

FIND A HEALTHIER SUPPLIER – While I would prefer that the serious athlete bring apple slices, nuts (at least for the person who isn’t allergic), beans or some other mostly whole food to the game along with water and salt tablets, I realize that not every athlete can break the deals that may fund their sport. The next best thing is to search around for a manufacturer who does the best they can at limiting sugar, preservatives and other chemicals from their products.

I support whole foods rendered in a blender (see section below) as necessary, because some people just have trouble with solid food. In Suicide by Sugar, I took such meal replacement drinks like Ensure to task saying that the best solution for getting people who can’t eat their nutrition was to run a healthy meal through the blender. The nutrients and dietary fiber may be chopped up for consumption through a straw, but are still present. Not so with many processed foods, so finding a company that tries to have better food is a rare find.

We have a relationship with one such company – Hammer Nutrition – that promised on their website that their food was derived from whole foods that had been rendered in a food processor to make the pastes that come in those tubes or those drink bottles. They also promised that they don’t add extra sugar. In the interest of full disclosure, they publish our articles and sell our current book Suicide by Sugar and my staff and I suggest them to any athletes who ask about their training food problem.

Presumably, the Me-Too attitude in our business environment suggests that soon other training food companies will start selling healthier products. There may be some out now, so if Hammer Nutrition doesn’t work for you other companies are just a Google search away.

TRADITIONAL HIKING SNACKS – For many generations, hikers and other people who exercised for long periods without trying to win the race have packed along snacks that are mostly whole foods without succumbing to the bad things promised by the commercials. People who bring trail mix (usually a baggie with nuts, raisins, crackers and, regrettably, sometimes a small amount of M&Ms) usually manage to cover their energy needs as they climb or walk to the lake to fish. Others bring meat jerky (salted meat), which helps with the need for both salt and protein possibly eliminating the need for Gatorade’s three-stage system for before, during and after the game.

As I have said, there can be a portability issue for athletes who do actually have to win the race. Hikers, walkers and soldiers marching to the objective usually bring a large pack with them because the point of the journey is not to get there fast, but to get there at all. However, many sports do have support structures built in that ease the problem. Football teams keep their hydration gear on the sidelines. Bike teams, marathoners and tri-athletes all have staff who drive up and hand over the supplies. It is the same level of difficulty to hand over a can of trail mix, as it is to hand over Gatorade. Please consider this option.

MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD – Frankly, now that I think about it an athlete that stays up late into the night to run beans, peanuts, apple slices and other fruit through a blender seems like a horrible waste of time. True, the athlete in question will know what went into his or her food, but one of the points of modern life is that we specialize. The athlete competes, the writer writes and so on.

The athlete needs to train and trust in his support staff. But, there will always be a few that need to control everything, so knock yourself out. Whole foods do everything promised by the processed foods and have done so for thousands of years, before we even heard of Gatorade, Powerbar or even those nasty K-ration bars made by Hershey for World War Two. But, you still need someone in the kitchen making the healthy food for you.

My life up to this point says that whole foods and exercise are always better for people than the alternative. But, athletes have special concerns that make the transition to a sugar-free life somewhat difficult. I have attempted to provide choices that can help the athlete be healthy as well as champions. And just so you know, I will have more to say about Gatorade and other sport drinks in my upcoming book Killer Colas, due agonizingly soon from Square One.

 

© 2009 Alain Braux

Review © 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

How does one change their diet from the overcooked, sugar and free radical filled modern American diet to a healthier food plan? To tell the truth, there are many ways to achieve optimal health through an improved diet, but all of them require food that people will actually eat. One such way to eat your way to better health would be to read and apply the recipes in How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food by Chef Alain Braux.

Braux, a real-life French chef transplanted to Texas, answered a question about how to use French cooking techniques to eat properly starting a journey back to the foods of his native southern France, a variation of the Mediterranean Diet. This diet consists of more fish, vegetables and gently cooked meats in sauces made from wholesome ingredients. Whether you call it the Mediterranean Diet, the Atkins Diet or even my own Food Plan Three, we favor this kind of eating.

Sugar and the other diet red flags cause raised cholesterol mostly in the form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and lowering high-density lipoproteins (HDL).  Whole food diets like the Mediterranean Diet fight cholesterol because the original human diet had ten times the fiber, more whole foods and next to no sugar. Cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes have followed.

Of the nearly hundred pages devoted to recipes, most follow precepts with which we agree: more organic fruits, vegetables and locally derived grass-fed meat. Frankly, the recipes seem so delicious that we regret not having enough time before going to press to try any of the dishes. In our defense, neither one of us has the Dutch oven required for a good percentage of the meals. Still, if we were any better at cooking ourselves this is the cookbook we would write.

Of course, despite many interesting uses for fish, venison, other meats and just about every vegetable available in France or Texas, Braux is still a French-trained chef likely to run home to Mama with an amazing pastry. Pastries and some kind of sweetener always go hand in hand as the sugar, honey or high fructose corn syrup feeds the yeast that makes bread rise. For people who are moderately healthy there can be a little bit of indulgence, but other people just can’t have any sugar at all. At least the plan allows for that treats are just that, rare things that spice up life.

Another quibble that we have with Chef Braux’s program is his assumption that a few of the sweeteners listed in his book are better for people in moderation. We have already commented on agave as a sugar substitute, which Chef Braux has used in some of his desert recipes. Our position is that agave is primarily fructose and isn’t quite as healthy as advertised.

As a book, How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food presents the information in a fairly clear manner using both the French and English terms for each dish. We did find some typos indicative of a self-published book written by a non-native speaker. But, the program is golden and actually has a chance of keeping people eating well.

Chef Braux speaks with great authority as he applied these recipes to his own diagnosis of high cholesterol. He is glad to report that his blood test shows a return to good health all without resorting to statins or other medical interventions.

We can’t recommend this book highly enough. Please follow the links below to learn more about Chef Braux and his healthy recipes.

http://www.alainbraux.com

http://www.amazon.com/Lower-Your-Cholesterol-French-Gourmet/dp/1448676975/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251767446&sr=1-1

 

 

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.

http://www.amazon.com/Feed-Your-Brain-Lose-Belly/dp/0615339506/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291079271&sr=8-1

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

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.

WHAT TO DO TO AVOID AGES

  • 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.