In a recent study, it was shown that just one soda per day significantly increases to risk of heart disease!
In a recent study, it was shown that just one soda per day significantly increases to risk of heart disease!
Filed under Diet, Public Health
We’ve all heard about it, right? Many people have experienced it and the frustrations that go with it. When you’re trying to lose weight there’s nothing more aggravating than not actually losing weight. The scenario can go one of two ways:
There are many reasons a person my actually stop losing weight, but if you follow the steps below it will help you avoid this pesky problem and keep you on your path to a leaner, healthier body.
Yes, eat more. Many times people begin to experience a plateau because they’ve gone months without actually eating enough. At first, this caloric deficit causes the body to burn extra energy (fat) resulting in weight loss. Over time, however, the body’s metabolism slows down to meet the amount of energy one is consuming. We must remember that the human body is designed as a survival machine. If it believes it is not getting enough food, it will slow down the metabolism to meet the energy supply coming in. When this happens, weight loss stops.
For the person that begins a diet program but simply cannot lose a single pound, eating more might be essential. If someone is having trouble losing any weight, it may be because they have been under eating for many years and their metabolism has slowed to a crawl. Trying to lose weight by cutting calories will only compound the problem. Focus on eating healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables and DO NOT SKIP MEALS. Eat every three hours and your calories will go up and weight loss will resume/begin.
Our bodies get used to things. Thank goodness they do or even simple tasks like walking might prove very difficult! But this also means that our bodies get used to our exercise routines and become very efficient at them. The benefit you received initially from your workout program is no longer as high. It’s the classic story of diminishing returns. As you continue to do the same exercise routine, your body finds a way to use less and less energy to do it. This means you get less and less benefit.
An ideal exercise program includes resistance training (i.e. weights) and cardiovascular work. There are ways to incorporate both very easily, but it must be changed on a monthly basis. The change is essential for continuing to make progress.
Didn’t I just tell you to change? Yes, I did. But you must also be consistent with several things. Your diet must be consistent. You must consistently change your workout program and you must remember that weight loss is most permanent when it is done over a long period of time. If you’re overweight, you did not get there in 6 weeks. Similarly, you’re likely not going to reach your goals in 6 weeks.
Consistency in the early stages of a diet are perhaps even more vital. There is little room for error early in a diet plan. This does not mean you have to be perfect. No one is perfect. You should try and be as consistent as possible, however. In the first phase of a new lifestyle your metabolism is resistant to change. It likes the old way of doing things. It may take weeks (or months!) for it to adapt to the new demands you are placing on it. Frequent indiscretions in diet or lack of exercise will prolong the process of shifting your metabolism. And guess what you’re going to do as soon as your metabolism adapts? Change your exercise program!!
The process is actually very simple, but because there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding diet and exercise many people tend to get confused, frustrated and eventually give up. If you can remember the above steps and keep them in your head at all times, weight loss should be a relatively easy process.
Filed under Diet
Finally, we’re back with another blog! After a busy July and almost a month without a computer with some major hard drive issues, I am happy to be back writing about health and happiness!
I recently read an article written by Dr. Dean Ornish. He is an integrative medical doctor that preaches lifestyle changes to solve some of health care’s biggest issues. Although he and I disagree on the correct diet, we whole-heartedly agree that our medical system can be fixed with a new approach to how we live our lives.
I’d like to highlight one thing that he mentioned regarding heart disease and coronary angioplasty and coronary bypass procedures. The procedures are performed when patients have blockages in the coronary artery system. This system is what provides blood and oxygen to the heart muscle itself. Obviously, this is an important job!
In his article Dr. Ornish states that “In 2006, according to the American Heart Association, 1.3 million coronary angioplasty procedures were performed at an average cost of $48,399 each, or more than $60 billion; and 448,000 coronary bypass operations were performed at a cost of $99,743 each, or more than $44 billion.”
He goes on to say that in the vast majority of cases the above listed procedures do not prolong life. Yes, that’s right. You read that correctly. These procedures cost Americans over $100 billion per year and are very risky to say the least yet their benefit is suspect. That doesn’t make sense does it?
Most of these procedures could be avoided if people would change their lifestyle and adopt one that incorporated a healthy diet and exercise.
Make no mistake about it – in the vast majority of cases angioplasty and bypass surgery are choices. You may choose to experience the joy of these surgeries by eating a poor diet, not exercising and smoking. Should you make that choice just know that the likelihood that you may need one of these two surgeries one day is high.
Or you may make the choice to live a healthy lifestyle by eating a low glycemic diet, exercising and staying away from cigarettes. This lifestyle has side effects so beware! Side effects include abundant energy, lower rates of depression, lower rates of cancer and an overall vitality not achieved by most!
Filed under Diet, Public Health
Finally a large-scale study has concluded what I have been telling patients for years! What you eat is more important than how much of it you eat. A calorie is not a calorie!
If you ask many classically trained dietitians about maintaining a healthy weight they will regurgitate the same old rhetoric they always have – “as long as you don’t eat more calories than you expend you won’t gain weight,” and “there are no bad foods, just bad amounts of food.”
The above statements have never made sense to me. I remember taking ‘advanced biology’ in high school. (There was nothing really ‘advanced’ about it. It was just the second of two courses, the first being ‘basic’ biology.) In this class I remember learning about physiology and how the body responded differently to different types of food. Some foods caused the release of insulin while others caused little or no release of this hormone. The job of this hormone? It basically tells the body to store fat. From that information I concluded that what you ate had to make a difference in your weight.
As I progressed through my eduction in college (as a biology major) and then on to chiropractic school where I truly received advanced training, my view did not change – the quality of food that I ate had to make a difference on maintaining my weight. It could not possibly be as simple as calorie-in/calorie-out.
Yet when you read information online or from other mainstream media outlets you will hear just the opposite. “Eat whatever you want, just be sure it’s in moderation.” Or “It doesn’t matter what kind of food you eat as long as it’s low calorie.”
A new study of just over 120,000 people finally has come up with a conclusion that makes more sense. Hopefully the American Dietetic Association will take notice. Individually there are some very good dietitians out there, but the American Dietetic Association is making people sicker and sicker with their stance on many aspects of health in my opinion.
The researchers analyzed data on three separate studies over a 20-year period, tracking the long-term effects of different foods and lifestyle changes on more than 120,000 men and women. Adults in the study gained an average of 3.35 pounds every four years, for a total average weight gain of almost 17 pounds.
Regular consumption of potato chips, French fries and sugared beverages were most to blame for slow and steady weight gain. However, people who ate yogurt, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains either lost weight or gained the least.
Now, I will be the first person to tell you that weight is not the be-all, end-all of health markers. It’s a good one, but there are plenty of thin people in this world who are very unhealthy. Also, I generally do not recommend grains be a big part of anyone’s diet. In small amounts they are ok, but they contribute to inflammation which can be problematic for many reasons.
The other foods in this study – yogurt, fruits, vegetables and nuts – are free foods! Eat them as much as you want. I routinely encourage people to eat these foods as much as possible.
Interestingly, nuts are a high calorie food yet they performed very well in helping people lose or maintain their weight. If it truly was about calorie-in/calorie-out then nuts should have performed poorly. It just goes to show you it isn’t about the calories that we’re putting in, it’s about the quality of those calories.
As much as I’d like to say it’s only about the quality of our food that matters, I cannot. The amount matters to a certain extent. If you are regularly consuming 7,000 calories per day you will gain weight. That type of excess cannot be combated with ‘good’ foods. However, to get that kind of extra calorie one would have to consume huge amounts of the ‘bad’ foods like fast food, doughnuts, etc. Those clearly are not quality foods in the first place.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital is the author of the study that appears in the New England Journal of Medicine. He says the calorie-in/calorie-out theory is incorrect “because different foods have a different effect on the body. ‘You can’t just say a calorie is a calorie. It doesn’t address your feelings of fullness, your blood glucose levels, your blood insulin levels and the other biological responses in your body.”
I could not agree more and this has been my point to other ‘experts’ on nutrition when we debate the calorie-in/calorie-out theory.
Let me pose this scenario to you –
Two people are going to embark on an experiment. They are going to eat identical calorie diets for the next year. One person is going to eat 2,000 calories per day in potato chips and the other is going to eat 2,000 calories per day in chicken and vegetables. Who will be healthier and have the most optimal weight at the end of our experiment? Intuitively we would say the person eating the chicken and vegetables would be and I believe this is correct.
There have been many short-term studies that have concluded healthy diets only need to focus on calorie content. The quality of the food was not important for maintaining weight. Finally a study has looked long-term and concluded that the quality of your food is important. Make sure your choices are good choices. If you focus on the quality of your food you will maintain your weight more effectively than counting those calories.
Filed under Diet, Public Health
New genes have been discovered that seem to be linked to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). AD currently affects over 5 million Americans and that number is expected to increase substantially by the year 2029.
This year the first baby boomers will reach their 65th birthdays. By 2029, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old. Ninety-five percent of all AD is in people 65 and older.
The discovery of new genes linked to AD is a step in the right direction. Every bit of information that help scientists unlock the mystery of why this occurs puts us closer to being able to effectively treat AD.
Let’s pretend that we know every gene that is involved in the production of AD. Let’s also pretend a test that exists to specifically detect all of these genes in you. Would you want to find out? What would you do if you had all of the genes linked to AD?
The truth of it is, there is nothing you could do to change your genes. Your genes are your genes. They are there and you can’t remove them. What you can do, however, is change how they are expressed. Just because a person has a specific gene does not mean it has to be expressed. The expression of many of our genes is closely related to our environment. Diet, exercise, smoking, pollution and stress are just a few things that can negatively or positively affect the expression of our genes.
So back to my first question. What would you do if you had all the genes linked to AD? You can’t change your genes, but you can change your risk factors.
There are many known risk factor that increase the risk of AD, independent of your genetic potential. The number one risk is aging. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about that. We are all going to get older which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is much better than the alternative!
Known risk factors for AD that are controllable are as follows:
You will notice that these risk factors significantly overlap with one another. You will also notice that when you control one risk factor you will impact another. If you can control these risk factors in your life you will significantly reduce your risk of developing AD regardless of your genetic potential.
Cardiovascular health is perhaps the most important. Cardiovascular disease causes a chronic, low grade reduction in blood delivery to the brain. This is known as hypoperfusion. This hypoperfusion is responsible for protein synthesis defects that later result in the classic AD neurodegenerative lesions.
To keep your cardiovascular system as healthy as possible make sure you eat an anti-inflammatory diet and exercise. Fish oil is also something you should consider. Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease mortality better than any other substance known.
Reduction of high blood pressure is also very important. When blood pressure is too high it fuels a kind of scarring linked to later development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Controlling your blood pressure is actually very simple. You must maintain a healthy weight first and foremost. This, of course, means diet and exercise. Increasing waistlines mean more tissue and blood vessels for your heart to push blood through. This puts a strain on the heart and increases the resistance the heart must push against.
Keeping a healthy cholesterol profile is essential. However, the traditional tests from your doctor are probably not enough to tell whether you are at risk or not. Traditional tests examine total cholesterol, HDL (“good”), LDL (“bad”) and triglycerides. These are of some value, but they don’t tell the whole story. What you must find out is the particle size. In a nut shell, large and buoyant molecules of cholesterol are not as problematic as small and dense particles. Your traditional test does not distinguish between the two. Your traditional test might look very good, but a more advanced test may show that you are still very much at risk. See my blog entry from last summer for more detailed information.
Diabetes is also extremely important to control. Some references are referring to Alzheimer’s as Type III diabetes because of the biochemical similarities. Even being borderline diabetic raises the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia by 70%! Diabetes’ hallmark is high blood sugar. This high blood sugar leads to a phenomenon called advanced glycation end products or AGEs. AGEs adversely affect the structure and function of proteins. In combination with oxidative stress brain function is easily affected. Advanced glycation end products have been found to be much more prevalent in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients than in healthy controls. This process begins early on in the course of Alzheimer’s and there is also evidence that AGEs assist in the formation of plaques seen in AD. Diet and exercise are the best ways to prevent diabetes and reduce your risk of AD.
While the study for a purely genetic link to AD will continue, a cure is likely many years away if one can even be found. What we can control, however, are our lifestyle choices that activate our genes. If we choose poorly, we are much more likely to activate unfavorable genes that cause disease. If we choose wisely, we are more likely to activate genes that are favorable and reduce our risk of further disease. The choice is yours. Make the right one.
Filed under Brain Health
Agave nectar syrup has gotten a lot of press lately. I must admit that I dismissed most of it and until today had not really looked into whether or not this natural sweetener was good or bad for us.
This afternoon I had a patient call me and ask me if it was ok. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but to be safe, she should stay away from it. I am glad that I did. Here is what I found out about agave nectar syrup.
Agave is marketed as a health food for several reasons. Extracts from the agave plant have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These extracts, however, are NOT in the syrup you can buy in the stores so there’s no value there.
Secondly, agave syrup is low glycemic so it has been marketed as a safe sugar for diabetics to use. This, as it turns out, is only a half truth. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
Thirdly, because it comes from a plant it has been marketed to the vegan crowd as a better alternative to table sugar (because it’s “healthier”) and honey (because vegans don’t eat anything that has been taken from any animal, in this case, bees).
Agave has some slick marketers. The truth about agave, however, is not so great and from now on I will advise my patients not to use it. Here’s why.
Agave is low glycemic because it is made almost entirely of fructose, or fruit sugar. Fructose is, by nature, a low glycemic sugar. Fructose, however, is just about the worst sugar to use as a sweetener.
All sugars are a mix of fructose and glucose. Table sugar is a 50/50 blend. High fructose corn syrup is a 55/45 blend. Agave is usually about 90/10.
But what about fruit? Yes, it is true that fruit is naturally sweet because of fructose. It has very low levels of fructose. An apple for example is only 7% fructose. Plus your apple comes with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Agave syrup does not.
Fructose, when consumed in high amounts raises triglycerides (which increases cardiovascular risks) and increases the risk of diabetes. And rats fed a high diet of fructose have been shown to build abdominal fat which is the worst kind.
When agave is processed it takes any health benefit that it might have and throws it away. In the end, agave syrup is no better for us than high fructose corn syrup and may in fact be worse.
Bottom line – stay away from it.
Filed under Diet, Public Health
The U.S. is lagging behind other high income countries in life expectancy despite spending more on health care than any other country.
A new report from the National Research Council finds that Americans can expect to live shorter lives than in other industrialized countries. They council blames two things – smoking and obesity.
The popularity of smoking has gone way down in the last 20 years, but it was very popular from the 50’s and into the 80′. The effects of smoking are not realized until much later in life and we are seeing now that it is affecting the life expectancy of the baby boomer generation and beyond.
The other factor, obesity, is an obvious one. The U.S. has the third highest obesity rate in the world. Over two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. The only countries with higher rates of obesity are Kiribati and American Samoa.
See the list below and where the U.S. falls in life expectancy.
England and Wales 81.73
United States 80.78
England and Wales 77.46
United States 75.64
Filed under Public Health
The Body Mass Index, or BMI, is used to ascertain whether someone is overweight, obese or at the correct weight for their height. It’s used by health professionals across this country as a guide for their patient’s health. It’s wrong.
The reason for this blog is a conversation I had with a good friend of mine. He also happens to own a gym and is a very talented and knowledgeable trainer/fitness coach. We were discussing it in relation to his clients and my patients and how people are often times misled by the numbers they see when they use the BMI scale.
BMI was designed to be used as an easy tool for clinicians to assess their patients in terms of body weight relative to height. Before the BMI scale was invented it was hard to assess someone’s weight and say that it was appropriate because height is also an important factor in weight. BMI combined those two.
The formula is simple. You need your weight in pounds and your height in inches. Take your weight and multiply it by 703. Take your height and multiply it by itself (height squared). Now divide the first number by the second number and you have your BMI. Here is an example. We’ll use my numbers. I am 201 pounds and 71 inches tall.201 lbs x 703 = 141,303 71 in. x 71 in. = 5,041 141,303/5,041 = 28.03
So my BMI is just over 28. This puts me in the overweight category, actually moving close to obesity. Wait…what?
If you look below you can see the classification system used for BMI.
You will see that anything above 30 is considered obese. Technically anything above 29.9 is obese. If we use this scale, I am only 13-14 pounds short of being considered obese. People who know me will tell you that I do not look obese. They will also tell you that I do not even look overweight. So what’s the catch?
That is the problem with using BMI to assess health. It doesn’t take into account many factors.
The problem for some people, like athletes, it does not take into account muscle mass. A person that is heavily muscled will always be overweight according to the BMI. As a matter of fact, I have been considered “overweight” since college despite always being is relatively good shape. If we look at professional level athletes, most of them would be considered obese!
I understand that not everyone is an elite athlete. What about the elderly? BMI is not ideal for them either. Many times an elderly person will fit nicely into the BMI by being considered “ideal weight” for their height. This can be significantly misleading. Why? In the elderly muscle mass begins to drop. It happens to all of us. However, with this drop in muscle mass comes a drop in weight. As weight is lost a person is likely to fall into the “ideal weight” category even though they should be concerned about muscle mass loss. This loss in muscle mass causes a loss in strength and stability increasing the risk of falls and increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Another problem with muscle loss is the change in your body composition. As muscle mass is lost one’s body fat percentage increases. Body fat percentage is a great indicator of health. The lower it is (within reason) the healthier you are, generally speaking.
So does it work for anyone? Yes, there are some people that it works for. If a person is sedentary and eats a poor diet it may accurately depict your current weight status (ideal, overweight or obese). There are, however, better ways to assess health.
The best way to assess your weight status is to perform body composition. This gives us a percentage number based on body fat. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs and 50lbs of that is from fat, your body fat is 25%. Below is the ideal body fat percentages for men and women.
The gold standard for measuring it is the caliper test or skin fold test. A pinch of skin is precisely measured by calipers at several standardized points on the body to determine the subcutaneous fat layer thickness. These measurements are converted to an estimated body fat percentage by an equation. It is most reliable when taken over time and it must be done by the same person to be accurate. Techniques can vary from person to person and may change the results.
The other way to measure it by bioelectrical impedance. You are hooked up to electrodes that are spaced far apart on your body; usually on each hand or on a hand and a foot. An electrical signal is passed between the electrodes and the resistance to the current flow is measured. This is a painless process. Fat and muscle have different resistance rates so the machine can estimate the body fat percentage based on that. It is affected by hydration levels so be sure to be hydrated when you take a test like this. This is a very accurate method and does not depend on a person’s technique as the skin fold test does.
The best way to get your body fat to the desired level is a healthy diet and exercise. You want to increase muscle mass and decrease fat. This is done by weight training and short duration, intense circuit type workouts. All of this can easily be done at any local gym.
Filed under Diet, Public Health, Uncategorized
The post below is from our friends at NaturalNews.com. It’s a good site to get health information without the slant of the pharmaceutical industry or its partner mainstream medicine.
San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to crack down on the dubious practice of fast food companies luring children into eating unhealthy meals by giving away gimmicky toys. “Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly high, especially among children of color,” said San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, the sponsor of the measure, in a press conference.
The new law, which goes into effect December, 2011, would only allow toys to be given away with “healthy” children’s meals. That’s defined as a meal under 600 calories that includes fruits and vegetables but not a beverage with excess sugar (such as a soda). McDonald’s Happy Meals obviously do not fit this definition of a healthy meal.
According to a Reuters report, McDonald’s spent over half a billion dollars advertising and giving away toys in 2006. This is obviously money spent with a purpose — and the purpose is to keep children begging for more Happy Meals so they can get their hands on more toys. Across the industry, promotional spending on children’s toys to promote junk food tops $1.6 billion a year, reports Reuters.
That’s $1.6 billion spent in trying to persuade children to eat factory-fabricated animal products and nutritionally-depleted fast foods. Can you imagine what this must be contributing to childhood obesity? What about diabetes and heart disease later in life?
San Francisco understands that feeding junk food to your children is not a smart way to have a healthy city (or state, or nation for that matter). I actually admire the city’s willingness to start clamping down on these toy enticements. There’s a point at which local communities and cities need to send a message to corporate America: “You will NOT be allowed to harm our children any longer!”
I just wish more cities had the courage to stand up to the powerful fast food chains and say enough is enough. Yes, you can sell food. Or you can sell toys. But you can’t use toys to trick children into asking for food that we now know is strongly contributing to an epidemic of obesity and disease.
In a perfect society, of course, it would be parents who would say no to their children and stop buying Happy Meals with toys in them in the first place. But health-oriented parenting is another article altogether.
Filed under Diet, Public Health
It’s that time of year again. Halloween! I enjoy Halloween as much as the next person, but from a health standpoint this holiday is a nightmare!
Parents often say to me,”It’s just once a year. It won’t hurt them.” While this is true, the candy that children accumulate during Halloween can last months. I know when I was a child I used to come home with pillow cases full of candy. Everything from Snickers to Smarties and everything in between! Months of eating candy is not good for a child.
Today, I am going to give you some helpful hints on how you can control your child’s candy intake at Halloween.
First and foremost, remember that your child likes Halloween because they get to dress up and go from door to door in the neighborhood with their friends. It really isn’t about the candy. Yes, the candy is a bonus and they will enjoy the candy given the chance, but ask them whether they’d rather get candy or dress up and trick or treat? All of them will choose trick or treating over simply getting candy.
Secondly, be in control of the candy. When your child returns from trick or treating they will want to dump out their candy and see what they got. This is totally ok. When they go to put it away ask them to select a couple of pieces that they’d like to keep in an easily accessible spot like the refrigerator. All the other candy goes somewhere that is not easily accessible to them like on top of the refrigerator or a cabinet above the sink. If they have an inordinately large amount of candy, throw small handfuls away from time to time. It’s a little white lie, but it’s better than letting your children eat too much candy. If you feel uncomfortable with this, tell your children the Candy Witch gets half of all kid’s candy at Halloween and ask them to donate it. They usually don’t want to make the “Candy Witch” mad.
If you have children that are older you will have to be a little more upfront. Try the honest approach and that you simply do not want them eating that much sugary candy. Some teens are completely ok with this and won’t fight back. If you suspect that will be a bit of a fight, tell them you need the candy for co-workers at work and ask them if you can have some of it. If you want, bring it to work for others to share or throw it out. Whatever floats your boat!
Thirdly, ration the candy. If they want to have a piece from time to time, don’t be a miser. The quickest way for them to build up excitement for the candy if for you to not allow them to have it. Let them have a piece after dinner at night. Don’t let them snack on it mindlessly. This just leads to belly aches and poor behavior.
Lastly, have fun with it! A little candy here and there isn’t going to kill anyone. Just don’t go overboard with it. If you don’t make a big deal about it they won’t either. If you already live a healthy lifestyle they are unlikely to be difficult with this process anyway. Plus, they will likely lose interest in the candy after a few weeks. Enjoy the trick or treating!