The Keto Craze

Posted on Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Seminars, Webinars

By Dr. Laura Pawlak

Unlike any time in history, Americans are faced with an obesity epidemic.  The sensible weight-loss guidelines of a mere decade ago appear to be failing.

“The best foods to eat on a diet?  The best foods to eat to keep weight off?  The same foods you should eat when you are not on a diet, but just less of them.”  Dr. Frank Sacks, Harvard School of Public Health, 2009.

The above statement was based on the study of 48 popular diets. All diets failed to produce significant differences in sustained weight loss.

Fast-tracking to 2019, the American diet has drifted far from the standard of what should be consumed. The foods we eat are primarily processed, containing almost 90 percent of the diet’s added sugar.  Also, these foods contain too much salt, very little fiber, and lots of saturated fats.  Eating less of these foods may result in weight loss, but the body and brain remain unhealthy.

When it comes to dieting, today’s fast-changing lifestyle demands novel, quick fixes.  The hype in the latest keto diet craze is infectious:  Fast weight loss without exercise;  novel tools to measure rising ketone levels;  easy-to-find processed keto foods; and keto pills when the diet is too tough to follow.

You eat lots of fat (at 80 percent of calories), moderate amounts of protein (at 20 percent), and very few plant foods, sugar, or starch (at 5 percent).  The excess intake of calories from fat triggers metabolic, nutritional, and hormonal changes not meant to be sustained for long periods of time.  Guidance by a registered dietitian is definitely recommended.

The Atkins program proposes a moderate approach to the keto craze:  A choice of 20 percent or 40 percent of the diet as carbohydrates for a limit of one month — and progression toward more plant foods.

If weight loss is achieved on a keto diet, a major challenge still remains:  The need to maintain your lower, healthy weight with a diet that offers protection against disease — not a keto plan.

A 25-year study evaluating healthful longevity and diet, published in 2018, identified the foods you should eat for a long, disease-free life:  Consume approximately 50 percent of your calories as carbohydrates, primarily as whole plant food; eat proteins, mainly from fish and plants; and add healthy oils from olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds.


Dr. Laura Pawlak (Ph.D., R.D. emerita) is a world-renowned biochemist and dietitian emerita.  She is the author of many scientific publications and has written such best-selling books as “The Hungry Brain,” “Life Without Diets,” and “Stop Gaining Weight.”  On the subjects of nutrition and brain science, she gives talks internationally.

What Exactly is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

Posted on Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

sugar-485045_640High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was first developed in the mid-1960s.  It starts out as cornstarch, which is chemically or enzymatically degraded to glucose and some short polymers of glucose.   Another enzyme is then used to convert varying fractions of glucose into fructose.  Because of its unique physical and functional properties (e.g., stability in acidic foods and beverages, such as soft drinks), it was widely embraced by food formulators.  Its growth has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, principally as an attractive replacement for table sugar.  Today, HFCS serves as a visible marker for foods that are highly processed and refined.

Fructose comes from three main sources:

  • natural sources such as fruits, some sweet vegetables, and honey;
  • sucrose, or common table sugar (which is 50 percent fructose); and
  • high-fructose corn syrup or HFCS (which is up to 55 percent fructose).

While some argue that the addition of fructose to foods and beverages is “natural” because fructose is found naturally in fruit and other foods, the clear difference is that the quantity of fructose that we get from fruit pales in comparison to the amount we get from processed foods.   Another difference is that fructose in fruit serves as a “signal” for sweetness, energy, and nutrition.  This sweet taste encouraged our ancestors to seek out fruit for both pleasure and good health. In contrast, when we consume processed and refined foods sweetened with HFCS, we get the sweetness and calories, but little else.  We are essentially being short-changed on nutrients.

Although HFCS is chemically similar to sucrose (though HFCS has a slightly higher percentage of fructose), concerns have been raised that our bodies react differently to HFCS from the way our bodies react to other types of sweeteners.

All of these nutritive sweeteners are composed of approximately 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose (though the amount of fructose may be slightly higher in HFCS).  All are absorbed similarly, have similar sweetness, and have the same number of calories per gram

Clearly, more research is needed to  understand fully the metabolic effect of dietary fructose in humans.  And more research is needed to determine whether there are any unique attributes of fructose or HFCS that make these substances a problem.  Until we know more, it may be best simply to focus on reducing ALL added sugars from our diet because too much of any caloric sweetener can pose a problem (whether the sugars are derived from corn, sugar cane, beets, or fruit-juice concentrate). Excessive consumption of any sugar can promote weight gain and a range of metabolic abnormalities.  Excessive consumption can also bring about adverse health conditions  as well as inadequate intake of essential nutrients.

Homestudy

Insulin Resistance in Women

Posted on Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

insulin-resistanceWhen you say “insulin,” most people think of diabetes. But problems with insulin go far, far beyond diabetes. In fact, science is just beginning to understand how important insulin is. Insulin throws many important switches in the body. In fact, some sources have gone so far as to refer to insulin as the master controller of health and disease. But the real problem is that so many of us have become resistant to insulin—we’ve developed a condition called insulin resistance, which is a concern not only because this condition is quite common, but also because it is associated with some of the biggest killers. This is the case because if cells, organs, and tissues become resistant to insulin, the pancreas responds by cranking out more insulin to compensate. And this can overwhelm the rest of the body, putting us at risk for a whole range of ailments besides diabetes: heart attacks, stroke, liver disease, certain cancers, and even declining cognitive function.

You are at the highest risk for developing this condition if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or if you have suffered from gestational diabetes, hypertension, or are seriously overweight.

Women who tend to gain most of their weight around their abdomen, show less tolerance for insulin. Most are shocked when they learn they either already have the condition or are well on their way to developing it. Experts estimate that 25% of all Americans suffer from insulin resistance. We believe the percentage is much higher among peri-menopausal women. To assess risk, measure around the smallest part of the waist (don’t hold your stomach in!) and the biggest part of the hips. Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A ratio bigger than 0.8 for women (or 1.0 for men) indicates that your abdomen is obese and you are at risk for developing insulin resistance.
The health effects of insulin resistance — also called Syndrome X — are dramatic. Besides leading directly to diabetes, it’s been implicated in heart disease, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and many more diseases. It also often accompanies, and contributes to, related problems of hormonal imbalance such as adrenal fatigue.

Because insulin is one of the “major” hormones, it’s also impossible for your body to balance its “minor” hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone among them) until your insulin metabolism is balanced first. To put it simply, if you have hot flashes and you are insulin resistant, it’s going to be nearly impossible to cure the hot flashes without first healing the insulin resistance.

The good news is that insulin resistance can be healed. What many women don’t realize is how nutrition is integrally connected to the web of hormonal balance. If you change your diet, you can change your hormones. This can be achieved by eating balanced meals, including complex carbohydrates and high quality protein and fats. You can regulate the insulin your body releases and keep estrogen and testosterone in balance.

To learn more about insulin resistances and other diabetic related issues check out our Homestudy Courses and Seminars.

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