THE Premier Low-Carb store .. .. AND Meeting Place

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

PCOS Insulin Resistance Connection

Before I begin this article, it is clear that insulin resistance is best treated with a low carbohydrate diet, as it does an end-run on the insulin that is the culprit in this distressing syndrome. It is not a disease; however, it can lead to disease, and should therefore be addressed aggressively.

Recently I’ve developed an interest in PCOS because an acquaintance’s young daughter has it. In some people when they are young and in their teens, it manifests in a number of annoying symptoms, such as acne, irregular periods, weight gain and excessive hair growth on face, arms and legs, with perhaps thinning scalp hair. Not everyone has all these symptoms, but the root cause of PCOS is the same – insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance occurs when through unhealthy overeating of refined carbohydrates the pancreas starts producing too much insulin. Cells that become overwhelmed greatly reduce the number of insulin receptor sites. For instance, a healthy person can have 20,000 insulin receptor sites per cell, whereas someone with PCOS can have as few as 5,000. The insulin which normally attaches to the cell walls and acts like the key in a lock to allow the glucose in through the cell wall to be converted into energy is now rejected and floats freely in the blood stream, creating unbalanced hormone levels in PCOS sufferers, low blood sugar episodes (hypoglycemia) and later this could manifest in diabetes which is the end result of hyperinsulinemia leading to hyperglycemia when the pancreas cannot keep up anymore. Excess insulin also stimulates the ovaries to produce large amounts of testosterone, which may prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month, leading to infertility.

PCOS can also place one at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and uterine cancer. Although this news is frightening, it also carries a message of hope: Lowering insulin levels will almost certainly reduce future disease risk and alleviate many existing problems.

On the bright side, a few prominent specialists in the field are beginning to embrace a low carb diet approach for PCOS and they are seeing significant improvements in their patients, with many of them resuming normal monthly cycles and being able to fall pregnant. It also creates a greater sensitivity to prescribed medication.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Deep-Frying everthing from Oreos to Krispy Kremes

I could not believe this!!! People are loving this food, but hopefully they don't indulge in it too often. I feel sorry for the guy who is doing this for a living, if he is actually eating lots of his creations. How healthy can that be? The fact is combining high fat and refined carbohydrates to excess is a recipe for disaster in the human body, if it is a lifestyle. Most people indulge occasionally in unhealthy food, but every day would not be such a good thing for sure.

An extreme example of combining fat and refined carbohydrates on a daily basis is in this story that I know of where the father of two brothers owned a very successful ice cream shop, in which they sold high fat, sugar-filled ice creams. The dad got a bit older (early fifties) and sickly and passed on the business to the two brothers. Soon thereafter the dad died of a massive heart attack. Turns out the same had happened to his dad before him who owned the ice cream business. The brothers put two and two together and sold the family ice cream business!! The brothers then went on and lived to a ripe old age. Go figure!

Anyway, back to Chicken Charlie, the name he goes by: he loves to deep fry just about anything. He will deep fry a hot dog and zucchini after dipping in a wet pancake mixture. He has different pancake mixtures. He deep fries oreos, Krispy Kreme chicken sandwiches, sandwiches with honey and peanut butter, avocadoes and the list goes on. Normally people ask for toppings such as chocolate and icing sugar to add to the calorie feast. He is doing a roaring trade at over one and a half million dollars a year, selling 100 to 200 thousand deep fried twinkies and oreos respectively, and many other amazing concoctions.

We are a generation that loves excess in all sorts of ways, and food is no exception! Admittedly, this is a more extreme example.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Canadian School Children AreToo Sedentary

One of the world's leading obesity researchers in Quebec, Jean-Pierre Despr├ęs, is up in arms about the sedentary nature of the school lives of the children in Canada. In France in the year 1951, children spent a third of the time on physical education and usually received no homework. We know the French were doing something right, as their population was slender for many years, while America and other countries’ populations were growing bigger. At any rate Jean-Pierre suggests that there should be more physical education, some education about nutrition and more playtime. His recommendation comes as a result of the distressingly high number of obese and overweight children in schools. In addition, he said, “physical activity doesn't make children smarter, but it makes them less agitated, less stressed and in better condition for learning.”

A lower carbohydrate diet is famous for lowering triglycerides dramatically. On a low-carb diet my triglycerides are extremely low and my HDL (good cholesterol) is very high. Jean-Pierre went on to state that the BMI (Body Mass Index) is not the only predictor of heart disease. He wants physicians to measure waist size and triglycerides as a standard, clinical procedure, as these measurements are a better predictor of who is at risk for heart disease. Interesting to read about this and also alarming as the waist and tummy area is where we put on weight as we get older, because that is where insulin resistance causes weight to pack on first.

The cutest thing I’ve heard lately in the battle of the bulge is: “A nursery in Scotland has installed a tiny gym to help battle the growing problem of childhood obesity.”

Obesity - Not Only In America, But Also A Global Problem!

This is an update on my first post about obesity in America rising. Since then I’ve read several reports on obesity rising globally. This was news to me, frankly. I have an interest in this subject, probably because both my husband and I have had to battle our weight and probably because I’ve written cookbooks to help people who find it necessary to follow a special diet in order to lose weight. In the last 15 years it has been an enormous struggle for me and mostly I’ve been about 15 lbs (occasionally 20 lbs) over my ideal weight, with low-carb dieting bringing it down to 5 to 10 lbs overweight from time to time. My husband has a slightly bigger weight problem than I do and probably as a result, he now takes blood pressure medication. I take thyroid hormone for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and am pre-menopausal. My body is very resistant to weight loss, even on medication for my thyroid. As a young person at school, I did not have a weight problem, but in my twenties occasionally I saw a higher weight due to being on the pill or after a pregnancy. By age 35, I had to diet to get to a good weight and by age 37, I was struggling to lose weight even by dieting and that is when I found low-carbing. Although our weight problems are not considered that severe, we have suffered enough that I know in my heart that many people considered “obese” (I hate that term!) must suffer times 10 or more probably. It is my heart’s desire to see this epidemic ended forever. It was not this way when I was growing up. Overweight people were the exception, and rarely were they in the obesity range. Something changed!

According to the World Health Organization, it is the calorie dense foods that people have started enjoying in abundance – foods that contain lots of fat (extra calories, and most likely trans fats too) combined with refined sugars (worst offender of which is high fructose corn syrup hidden in many commercial products) and white flour (I added this last one as it acts similarly in the body to sugar). Combining a sugary diet along with high fat is a recipe for disaster. Also, the lack of exercise nowadays was mentioned as a culprit. Hmmm… Those foods are indeed often very yummy (says a carb addict and someone who loved golden corn syrup on white bread with cheese sliced on top, when I was a much younger woman. We also trucked bucket loads of sugary cocoa cola into our house. I provided my children with Kool-aid made with real sugar. Thankfully, I woke up not too long after that and discovered Splenda Granular.), but it is the addictive nature of sugar that makes one crave more and more to the point that eventually when we’ve overdone it, insulin resistance begins to occur. Insulin resistance happens when the cells of the body are no longer as sensitive to its action upon them, and in response the pancreas has to produce more insulin and more insulin as time goes by. Insulin is the fat storing hormone in the body. This insulin resistance is the "evil thing" that changes the body and makes us into fat storing machines instead of purely energy consuming and producing machines. At this point, it is no longer the person at fault. Something has gone drastically wrong in the body! It is like fighting an uphill battle to lose weight, let alone maintain a good, healthy weight, if one has managed the weight loss through superhuman effort. For some it is easy to lose weight, but maintaining proves to be the difficult part due to the above mentioned factors.

The tragic thing is that the young generation coming up is suffering and at younger and younger ages. For instance, we all knew in years gone by that the French were eating well (butter, cheese, cream, meats, wines, vegetables and fruits with less emphasis on empty carbs ironically) and remaining slender. We wondered enviously how they did that. My first visit and only visit to France when I turned 46 years old showed me a Paris that had a MacDonalds or another American Fast Food Franchise on practically every corner, plus many wonderful-smelling bakeries with all kinds of sugary, high-fat desserts temptingly displayed. Yes, alas my husband and I succumbed to not only the desserts, but also those famous French croissants (yes, they are excellent)!! If it is difficult for a committed low-carber to avoid these temptations, then think how difficult it is for those folks for whom these foods are not necessarily off limits! The fact is today in France, 5.9 million people are obese, of which 2.3 million are nine years old. That is plain old shocking to me and it makes me feel so sad, for the children in particular. It is cruel what is happening and we have to look at ways to stop this from continuing. Admittedly, organizations and countries are looking into ways to stop this epidemic. Yet, to this day, low-carbing is not provided as an option and that is too bad, as it is a solution for many people who have carbohydrate intolerance due to insulin resistance. In fact, a person with diabetes (definitely a carbohydrate intolerance disease) will often become a latent diabetic on a low carbohydrate diet. A low fat diet (usually high carb and low calorie) still contains far too much carbohydrate for some people to get a handle on their hunger longterm, because too much insulin is being produced in response to eating carbohydrates frequently. It stimulates hunger, when the blood sugar drops too low due to the insulin grabbing too much sugar out of the blood stream. The cravings at this point are usually for more quick-fix carbohydrates, creating a vicious cycle in the body.

In China, the obesity rate has climbed to the point that some cities have 20% of people considered obese. I always thought of Chinese people as incredibly slim and petite and usually felt quite large with my broad shoulders and big chest next to a Chinese woman. Did MacDonald’s and other fast food places from the West cause them to develop insulin resistance as well?

One thing we can do besides eating less (low-carbing makes this easier as it cuts cravings for the bad carbs that call our names) is increase physical activity. The easiest way is to find time to walk. I prefer evenings, but some people would prefer the early morning. Walking is weight-bearing exercise that helps prevent osteoporosis, plus it is using up calories and keeps the metabolism humming, even while reducing calories. Other forms of exercise, including weight lifting, are also beneficial. Anything that gets the body moving is far better than being sedentary, which combined with a bad diet and being overweight is implicated in an increased susceptibility to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, etc.

On the bright side, the facts are that having some of these things go wrong and being very overweight often does not shorten one’s life by more than a paltry few years, but it is the quality of life that goes down the tubes sometimes. I have known people classified as obese, who’ve been that way for most of their latter adult years, who have lived to 100 or close. However, sometimes they had challenging health problems that made life less enjoyable for them. Longevity is still mostly controlled by one’s own particular genes, I think. However, we can definitely improve the odds of living a healthier and thereby more enjoyable life, by being proactive and finding what works for us to either lose weight (difficult, I understand), or at the very least remain as active as humanly possible, and adopt a healthier diet, by cutting out the sugars and foods with hidden sugars and white flour (a friend calls them: “white death” and the late Dr. Atkins called them “anti-nutrients” that steal nutrients from the body in order for the body to process them).

I hope I reported on the facts fairly well and at the same time was sensitive to people’s feelings and also gave some food for thought and awareness along with hope for some people. I never want to hurt feelings – that is not my intent. People are people irregardless of size and we all have feelings and living in an overweight body is challenging and stressful to a person living in a narcissistic society, where we acutely feel that others may be judging us.

In the end, life is not about looks or weight, it is not about things either, but it is indeed about loving people and about relationships and most of all, it is about finding and loving God. Just my thoughts today….knowing also, that some relationships are beyond mending on this earth, but by praying and asking God, just maybe it will be different in heaven one day. I speak from my own life script, so please remember to cut me some slack. Thanks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Foods To Eat Or Avoid In The Battle Against Cancer

When it comes to cancer, everyone seems to be at risk to some extent. Some of the foods we eat could be poisoning us, as well as some of our lifestyles. Yet, there is always someone we are aware of who did all the wrong things such as drank and smoked, supposedly ate many of the wrong things and never heard the word "cancer". Alarmingly, increasing numbers of people are getting the diagnosis without actually having cancer. I was one of them. It is very stressful to go through such a diagnosis, even if in the end, it is found to be false. At the same time many receive the correct diagnosis and beat the odds miraculously by fighting back.

Despite cancer being something that does not seem fully under our control, it is a good idea to eat right to do our part in trying to prevent this devastating disease. A recent news article reminds us of all the sensible cancer-fighting foods to eat frequently each week such as tomatoes, berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and raw cabbage. The combination of calcium and vitamin D (especially D3, the active form of the vitamin) has a protective influence on the colon. Therefore, consuming dairy products, especially yogurt for it’s other benefits such as providing good bacteria, makes sense. If sunshine is lacking in your area, taking a D3 supplement every day is a good idea, along with calcium for good measure, making sure the daily requirement for both is met. Keep calcium at optimum levels, but don’t overdo is the message I have received throught the years. It is also a good combination supplementation to take to prevent osteoporosis. It is suggested that getting most of one’s fats from healthy fats such as olive oil, avocadoes, fish and nuts is advisable and to cut down on saturated fats, although they admit the jury is out on that one with regard to breast cancer risk in women. In fact, it is quite a controversial subject!

At the same time, it was recommended to cut down on certain foods. Top of the list are foods containing nitrates such as hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats, which have been implicated in colon cancer. In fact, “women who ate approximately 1 ounce of processed meat (about one slice of bologna) two or three times a week for a decade were 50 percent more likely to develop colon cancer according to a large study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.” They recommend less than 3 oz of red meat a day and to avoid charred meat. Most of us also know that burnt toast is something to avoid. I imagine better choices for protein would be eggs, chicken and fish.

Alcohol tops the list of foods to avoid for breast cancer risk. One drink a night is permissible, but having several drinks over a couple of days is not recommended. The jury seems to be out with regard to soy, but I know I cannot have it with my hypothyroidism. Indeed, cruciferous vegetables mentioned above are contra-indicated for hypothyroidism as well, as is peanut butter, however, these foods I include in my diet in moderation without noticeable side effects. I suspect it is a “your mileage may vary” issue, however, I digress.

I think most of us have heard these facts before several times, but it does not hurt to be reminded to make healthier food choices daily.

How To Keep Alzheimer's Disease At Bay

I recently read about a study that proved people are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if they are organized, self-disciplined, goal-oriented type of people. These people keep their brains active and exercised so much so that their brains remain healthy longer. It has been shown through autopsies that some of these personality types of people did indeed have signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain, but it had not manifested in their life times at all. In other words, their lifestyles kept the disease at bay and delayed the full onset. It was also found that people who were positive had less risk than those who were significantly weighed down by life’s worries and hardships.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Moderate Low-Carbing

Most people who know anything about low-carbing are familiar with the popular low-carb diets such as the Atkins diet, Protein Power, Carbohydrate Addicts LifeSpan Program, South Beach Diet and several more. Many people that follow a low-carb diet try to follow the really strict low-carbing regime of really few carbs in the Atkins diet, with as little as 20 grams a day for the entire weight loss period. It’s really meant to be that low for only two weeks during a period called induction. To continue to follow induction works for some folks, especially those who have a lot of weight to lose. Some people increase their carbs, as they’re meant to according to several of the low-carb diets and that works for many other folks.

Moderate low-carbing has its place for lots of folks who are no longer enthused with very low-carb diets. These same folks may now have developed what my sons call a “carb conscience”. White flour, white sugar and junk foods in general are now widely accepted as not healthy foods, but rather as anti-nutrients as the late Dr. Atkins stated. Moderate low-carbing in my opinion can fall anywhere between 50 and 100 grams of carbohydrate per day, still a far cry from the over 300 grams a day in the typical North American diet. Obviously the higher the carbs, the lower the fat should be. Someone who is eating 20 grams of carbohydrate a day will be eating more fat than someone eating, say, 60 grams of carbohydrate a day. In my personal experience, being rather short in stature at 5’ 3”, calories also matter for me. I need to eat less in order to lose more, but by low-carbing with adequate fat, my appetite is usually satiated more easily. One of the tricks that I incorporate when I feel hungry or shaky (I sometimes experience low blood sugar episodes) between meals is to have a cup of tea with evaporated milk and a teaspoon of no sugar added peanut butter. Some people may find that cheese works better. At any rate, that combination usually settles my hunger for many hours and I no longer feel shaky or weak.

Carbohydrate Addicts LifeSpan Program written by the Hellers is a lesser known lower carb diet that also does an effective end-run on insulin production. This program allows higher carb foods at only one time during the day. This obviously limits frequency of insulin output. It involves two very low-carb meals (not much insulin released at all) and one reward meal with carbs of heart’s desire included in a balanced meal to be eaten in one hour to prevent a second insulin surge, which apparently happens sometime after eating longer than one hour. The reward meal needs to be roughly balanced 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs, 1/3 veggies and requires that one start the meal with a salad. The times that I follow this way of eating I most often skip eating the salad upfront and eat it with my meal as the veggie allowance. This is my personal preference, but obviously not the way it is intended. The salad is meant to fill one up and prevent overeating on the reward meal. At any rate, this diet does allow one the flexibility to eat at friends’ houses or at restaurants without having to completely forego the more carbohydrate-filled foods. It is also something that can be incorporated as a day here or there on a stricter low-carb regimen. It is a very good strategy to keep in one’s low-carb arsenal.

About diets in general and my own personal diet: We all know that diets don’t work, but that changed lifestyles produce long term, permanent results. Exercise helps to keep the metabolism from dipping low and sabotaging our efforts. The most successful dieters keep a journal. I suspect it is because one can see trends and one can see what works and what doesn’t. It acts as a learning tool to fine tune one’s dieting strategies. Graphing one’s weight is another way to encourage one to keep seeing the downward trend. There are web sites, I am told, that will provide this service free of charge.

Although I wrote cookbooks to help people low-carbing even at very low-carb levels, I myself have been following a moderate low-carb approach for several years, as it is what suits my lifestyle best. It is also better for my thyroid condition to have a slightly higher carbohydrate intake. I would guess that I eat around 60 grams of carbohydrate a day, sometimes less and sometimes more. My fat intake is moderate and my protein intake is normal to just below normal for my body. When I’m trying to lose weight, calories do count for me at those carbohydrate levels, and I do better in the framework of a diet like Carbohydrate Addicts LifeSpan Program, because my thyroid disease can mimic insulin resistance. There are new diets out there like JUDD (Johnson’s up day, down day diet) and Fast-5 that could also incorporate low-carbing to make them easier on hunger and to make them more effective for weight loss. Everyone needs to find their own niche and what works for them. It might not be low-carbing at all and I can certainly appreciate that, as everybody is so different. That said, my first two books, Splendid Desserts and More Splendid Desserts are for folks following a more traditional low-fat, sugarless and low-calorie diet.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Should Diabetes Be Treated During Pregnancy?

A new, big study found that treating women who have diabetes during pregnancy vastly reduces the risk that their babies will become obese during childhood. The correlation between higher blood sugar levels and obesity in the children before age 7 was undeniable. Untreated the child’s risk is nearly double for becoming overweight or obese. Treatment usually involves a special diet, exercise and insulin if necessary. Treated mothers with diabetes have the same weight-related risks for their children as mothers without diabetes.

The danger is also that the mother’s elevated blood sugars can cause the fetus to grow too large necessitating a caesarian section delivery.

Here is an account from one grateful mother:

"I dreaded it because I knew it was going to happen," said Peterson, who lives outside Portland in the town of Scappoose.

With the help of a nutritionist, Peterson said she struggled to change her diet and keep her blood sugar low. During her second pregnancy with now 3-year-old Christian, she needed to use insulin.

"I had to keep telling myself, I'm doing it for my baby, I'm doing it for a healthy baby and I'm doing it for myself," she said.

Peterson said the effort paid off; today both of her sons are healthy and don't have weight problems.

There is talk about lowering the indicator for diabetes, because in the study, children were developing weight problems, even when the mother’s blood sugar levels were not considered diabetic.