Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Diet Soda: Is it really better than regular?

It appears that, just like regular soda, more than 1 diet soda a day may increase the risk of heart disease. (See the full story at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070723/ap_on_he_me/diet_soda_heart_risks;_ylt=AgYTL.eDQUYZxaKfshgASg8DW7oF).

Nutrition expert, Barry Popkin, and American Beverage Association president, Susan Neely, can't fathom how a beverage with no calories could contribute to bulging waistlines. They believe we should drink diet soda instead of regular soda. I'm guessing they believe bulging waistlines are the only link from soda to heart disease and excess calories are the only way to gain weight.

I looked up "diet soda and weight loss" on pubmed.com and 3 articles showed up. One of them, published in the International Journal of Food Science Nutrition in May 2007, involved 2 groups of teens. One group was put on a 1500 calorie diet but allowed a 150 calorie snack and the other group, on the same diet, was allowed a no-calorie snack.

The conclusion was that there was no difference in weight loss between the teens that had a regular soda for a snack vs a diet soda.

The other 2 studies had nothing to do with diet soda or weight.

If calorie intake is the only determinate for weight gain/loss/maintenance, then why have our waistlines bulged since the introduction of artificial sweeteners? Could it be that something other than calories may contribute to obesity?

Appetite is regulated by hormones and brain chemicals and these play a role in our weight. The hormone insulin causes us to store fat, so foods that trigger insulin make us fatter. Carbohydrates are the only calorie source that trigger insulin. Fat and protein do not. The diet we are told to eat, based on the food guide pyramid, is a high carbohydrate diet and it is no wonder we are all getting fat.

While aspartame, the artificial sweetener in diet soda, does not contain calories, it does contain an amino acid that blocks the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that controls food cravings. A lack of serotonin causes the body to scream out for foods that will increase serotonin production. And those foods happen to be carbohydrates.

So lets get this straight. Aspartame in diet soda has the ability to increase our cravings for foods that make us fat. Somehow, I don't think that's going to help with any weight loss goals, even if there are no calories in the diet soda.

And here's a freebie. Aspartame also raises blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have high blood pressure and you drink diet soda, stop drinking it and see what happens. You may be able to get off some medication.

The bottom line is diet soda is poison to the body. Regular soda isn't much better, but it's a lot safer than diet soda.

I recommend not drinking soda period. But I realize that most people can't live with that. So here's what you do. Avoid diet soda completely. Limit regular soda, preferrably one that doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup, to no more than 1 12 oz can a day. No supersizing allowed.

If you are a soda junkie, you are going to have to reduce your cravings first. Let's say you drink 6 sodas a day. Next week, drink 5 sodas a day. The week after that, drink 4 per day and so on until you are down to 1 soda a day. If you can, get down to 1 soda a week.

Achieving a healthy weight involves a lot more than just calorie control. You have to feed your body the nutrients it needs to do all the things it needs to do. And interestingly enough, most of those nutrients are in animal fat and those that aren't require fat to be absorbed properly.

So, skip the diet foods and eat your butter. You'll end up controlling calories naturally and you'll see your waistline shrink.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why Saturated Fat is Good For You

In the early 1900's, we heart disease was rare and usually consisted of congestive heart failure. Miocardial infarctions were unheard of until about 10 years after the introduction of Crisco, a trans fat.

Back in the early 1900's, we ate 18 lbs of butter a year. In 1990, that number dropped to 5 lbs a year. During that time, vegetable oil intake increase by 40%. So, while we were decreasing saturated fat and increasing polyunsaturated fat, we developed obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you refer back to the little chemistry lesson, you'll remember that saturated fat is the most stable of the fats. It does not go rancid as quickly, even when heated. Rancid fats produce free radicals, those nasty things that destroy your cells and cause disease. Eating saturated fat produces fewer free radicals and may even help get rid of them.

Butter contains nutrients that are good for the heart. Vitamin A helps the heart function properly. Lecithin is needed for the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol. The fat surrounding the heart is mostly saturated and it is that fat that the heart draws on for energy.

Here is an interesting side note. Have you ever heard of heart cancer? I haven't either. You want to know why? The heart gets it's energy from fat (the saturated fat surrounding it). Cancer cannot grow on fat, it needs sugar. That should tell us something, I think.

Anyway, back to the saturated fat. Butter also helps protect against cancer with it's vitamin A and E, selenium and cholesterol (which, by the way, is an antioxidant). And because butter contains fat, you actually get to absorb the vitamins and antioxidants so your body can use them.

Coconut oil and butter contain immune enhancing properties and are great for the lungs. These are the best things to eat if you have asthma. The protective lining in the lungs is composed of saturated fat.

Coconut oil and butter are also more likely to be burned as energy rather than stored as fat, so they aid in losing weight or maintaining an ideal weight.

Saturated fat is necessary to put calcium into your bones. I wonder if the increase in osteoporosis is due to our lowfat diet.

Saturated fat and cholesterol are the building blocks of the hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Our lowfat diet is providing a market for drugs like viagra and women are suffering menopausal problems. More and more women are also having difficulty bearing children (soy plays a role in this as does our lowfat diet).

While cutting out the fat and replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil, we have developed heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, infertility, ADHD and other wonderful diseases that require medication to treat.

We are indoctrinated into the lowfat cult from birth. Even in dietetics school, we are told that saturated fat is bad, but we aren't given any proof for this assumption.

The French eat lots of saturated fat, yet have way less heart disease and obesity than we do. Since the French don't fit in with the lipid hypothesis, we call it a paradox and blame the wine for the lower heart disease.

Well, I personally, would rather eat a high saturated fat diet with some red wine than a tasteless diet of cardboard and plastic to prevent disease. The French diet obviously works better than our lowfat diet and I can guarantee you it tastes a whole lot better.

So, eat your saturated fat. It's what your body needs.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More on Saturated Fat

Back in 1956, Ancel Keys, the author of the lipid hypothesis, found out that trans fats were bad. In spite of knowing this, Keys, along with all the American Heart Association board members, voted in 1961 to adopt the "prudent" diet. The "prudent" diet used margarine (a source of trans fat) instead of butter, chicken and fish instead of beef and cold cereal instead of eggs.

Since the lipid hypothesis came into effect in the 1950s, there have only been two studies involving humans that actually compared the outcome of a diet based on vegetable oils with a diet based on saturated fat. The first was the Anti Coronary Club which began in 1957 and ended in 1966 and was recorded in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study compared two groups of New York businessmen, aged 40 to 59 years. One group followed the “Prudent Diet” and the other group ate eggs for breakfast and meat three times a day.

The average serum cholesterol levels of the Prudent group were 220 mg/dl compared to 250mg/dl in the egg and meat eating group. With what we are taught about cholesterol and heart disease, one would expect the egg and meat eating group to drop like flies from heart disease. But that was not the case. Instead, 8 deaths from heart disease occurred in the Prudent group while absolutely no deaths occurred in the egg and meat eating group.

The other study was published in 1965 in the British Medical Journal. Researchers divided patients who had already had a heart attack into three groups. One group received polyunsaturated corn oil, another group received monounsaturated olive oil and the third group received saturated animal fats. After two years, the corn oil group had lowered their cholesterol by 30% but only 52% of the subjects remained alive. Fifty-seven percent of the olive oil group were alive at the end of two years, whereas 75% of the animal fat group remained alive.

These two studies, because they did not support the lipid hypothesis, were not publicized, so most physicians and dietitians don’t even know they exist.

Some would argue that these studies are old and not valid anymore. While I disagree, let’s look at more recent studies. In 2004, a Swedish study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that butter fat actually protects against heart disease.

Most everyone is familiar with the Framingham study which began in 1948. A 30 year follow up study revealed that “for each 1 mg/dl drop in cholesterol, there was an 11 percent increase in coronary and total mortality.” Yes, you read that right. Lowering cholesterol actually caused heart disease.

A 1993 Russian study published in Circulation found that low levels of LDL cholesterol, the kind we are told to keep as low as possible, were associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Many more recent studies exist that refute the lipid hypothesis.

If this is all true, then why are we so indoctrinated into the low fat, low cholesterol agenda? To answer that question, we need to see who benefits from the lipid hypothesis.

Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering drug, is the number one prescription drug sold in America and is a huge profit maker. The pharmaceutical industry has definitely benefited from the lipid hypothesis and they have successfully frightened healthy Americans into believing they have the disease of cholesterol and need to be medicated.

The food industry also benefits. They get to use cheap vegetable oils instead of expensive animal fats in their products, thus boosting their bottom line. The food industry makes tons of money on fat free and low fat processed foods and very little money on real, whole foods. As a registered dietitian, I get free processed food samples in the mail all the time from companies trying to get me to get my clients on their products.

Just an aside. The American Medical Association did not get on board with the lipid hypothesis until the mid 80's. The only reason they got on board was because the drug industry developed the National Cholesterol Education Program which was specifically designed to get MDs interested in cholesterol screening and prescribing drugs to lower cholesterol. The MD's bought it hook, line and sinker and now we are suffering the consequences; a tasteless diet and more health problems that cost a lot of money to treat.

Next time, I'll tell you why saturated fat is so good for you. It tastes good, too!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Western Diet and Breast Cancer

According to http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070710/hl_afp/uschinahealthcancerdiet;_ylt=Arvf7vkyGDSzkj1XRHlXmW4DW7oF, post menopausal Chinese women are more likely to develop breast cancer if they adopt a "western diet."

Researchers found that Chinese women who trade in their traditional diet of fresh water fish, vegetables and soy (which is a small part of the diet and usually fermented) for a diet high in processed red meat, bread, candy, dessert, milk, salt water fish and shellfish, they double their risk for estrogen receptor + breast cancer.

The salt water fish and the shellfish are most likely innocent unless they are raised in polluted waters or farmed, so we'll focus on the other components of the "western diet." It's important to take a look at this because Americans are eating a "western diet" and if this diet causes cancer in post-menopausal Chinese women, it will also cause cancer in Americans.

Most of the red meat in this country is from penned up grain fed cows who have been injected with hormones and antibiotics. This meat is mostly eaten after it has been cured with cancer causing nitrates and nitrites, so it is no wonder that the risk for breast cancer is increased. We should eat meat from grass fed cows that have not been injected with hormones or antibiotics or cured with the nitrites.

Traditionally, bread was made with sourdough starter which is essentially fermented flour. This fermented yeast increased vitamin content in the bread and destroyed anti-nutrients such as phytic acid. Phytic acid binds to minerals taking them out of the body so they cannot be absorbed. Now, our bread is factory made with lots of preservatives and dough conditioners. Most of the commercial bread out there also contains hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and soy flour (which is highly processed and contains cancer causing substances). Again, "duh" that it increases the risk for cancer.

Anyone with half a brain could figure out that a diet high in refined sugar foods such as candy and dessert is unhealthy. A high sugar diet messes with the hormone insulin creating hormonal imbalance in the body and obesity. Cancer also feeds on sugar. Our food guide pyramid diet which is very high in sugar (grains are a source of sugar) create a breeding ground for cancer.

What about milk? It's healthy, right?

Not really. Most of the milk consumed in the US is ultra-pasteurized (completely dead so even bugs won't eat it) and homogenized. Milk cows have also been injected with hormones and antibiotics. And, because we are fat phobic, most people are drinking fat free or low fat milk. Without the fat, you risk vitamin A and D deficiency as fat is essential for their absorption. Vitamins A and D help protect against cancer.

If Chinese women start developing cancer from eating a typical "western diet," then you should expect that Americans will also develop cancer and a host of other problems on this same diet.

The Chinese women traded a whole foods diet in for a highly processed diet and the result was increased breast cancer. So eat real food the way God made it and you'll live a longer and more fullfilling life.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Truth about Saturated Fat

Americans have been conciously avoiding saturated fat since the '80s, but began replacing animal fat with vegetable fat in the 1920s. Has anyone ever stopped to ask why? We are told that saturated fat is bad for us and that it causes heart disease, but is there any evidence to support this?

The answer is no. In fact, the evidence shows that saturated fat is actually very healthy and the lack of saturated fat in the diet explains the increase in chronic disease, obesity, ADHD and more.

If the evidence supports the health benefits of saturated fat, why are we told not to eat it?

I'll be answering that questions in several blogs as it demands a lot of attention.

First, a little chemistry lesson. This will be the boring part, but it is essential to have a basic understanding of the chemistry.

There are three types of fat. Saturated, unsaturated and trans. Saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature such as the fat on meat, butter, coconut oil and palm oil. Saturated fats have no double bonds and are therefore the most stable of the fats and do not go rancid as easily as unsaturated fats.

There are two groups of unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Examples of monounsaturated fat are olive and peanut oils, chicken skin and lard. Monounsaturated fats have 1 double bond so they are less stable than saturated fats, but more stable than polyunsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats contain 2 or more double bonds and are, therefore, highly unstable. They go rancid very fast. Within the polyunsaturated group are the essential fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-3. Polyunsaturated fats are found in soybean, corn, cottonseed, canola, sunflower, safflower and flaxseed oils and in fish.

What most people don't realize is that all fats have a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In whole foods, there is a preponderance of saturated and monounsaturated fats with a small amount of polyunsaturated fats.

There are two types of trans fats, natural and man made. Natural trans fats are found in dairy and meat and are very healthy. They do not have the same chemical structure as man made fats. Man made trans fats are liquid vegetable oils (highly unstable polyunsaturated fats) that have hydrogen added to them to make them more solid at room temperature (fat is composed of carbon and hydrogen). When man makes them, the chemical structure gets all messed up and it becomes a fat that the body will incorporate into tissues, but it doesn't function the same as saturated fat. This is what causes health problems.

End of chemistry lesson. Now for a little history. In America, we are operating under the lipid hypothesis. This hypothesis states that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet lead to plaque build-up in the arteries causing atherosclerosis which leads to coronary heart disease.

This hypothesis is based on two studies. In the 1950's, David Kretchevsky studied rabbits. He fed rabbits pure cholesterol and noticed that they developed a form of plaque in their arteries. Inspired by this research, Ancel Keys did his famous 6 country study. He basically hand picked 6 countries out of 22 and determined that the more fat available for consumption in a country, the more deaths from heart disease occured.

Sounds convincing, but there are some flaws. First, rabbits are herbivores and have no way to process cholesterol (cholesterol is found only in animal foods). We cannot compare a rabbit to humans because we don't have the same physiology. In Key's 6 country study, if you added the other 16 countries, there is no correlation between available fat (Keys did not test actuall fat intake) and heart disease death. Keys choose the countries that would give the result he was looking for.

That is not good science. Good science involves developing a hypothesis and then trying to prove the hypothesis wrong. But when the lipid hypothesis was formed, instead of trying to prove it wrong, we have desparately tried to prove it true. The reason we are still trying to prove it is because most of the studies have actually proved it false. We just don't hear about those studies.

Stay tuned next time for some of those unheard of, but published studies and the reason why they are kept from us.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fruits and Vegetables Don't Work

Nearly $1 billion of our tax dollars are spent annually on nutrition education in schools. According to an article by the AP (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070704/ap_on_he_me/failing_to_fight_fat;_ylt=Ald8DsYBAz5KfQgW85MhgCoDW7oF), that $1 billion isn't producing any results and no one knows why or what the solution is. But I do, so here it is.

Part of the money was spent on giving prizes to kids who eat fruits and vegetables. Other monies went to providing free fruits and vegetables, but the kids refused them because they didn't like the taste.

Here is the number one problem. Good nutrition, according to the government views on nutrition, tastes terrible! Why? Becasue we aren't allowed to put fat or salt in or on our foods. I won't even eat veggies without butter or salt and I'm an adult. How can we expect our kids to want plain, icky tasting veggies when they could eat a doughnut or some cheetos instead?

And eating extra fruits and veggies isn't going to make up for eating tons of refined carbs and hydrogenated oils. Those are the things that make us fat and sick.

The second problem is that we are fat phobic in this country because it is financially beneficial to the food and drug industries. It has nothing to do with health. In fact, Americans have been doing low fat since 1961 and since then, we have seen a huge increase in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and infertility.

Low fat isn't working and our hard earned tax dollars are actually creating more children and adults plagued with chronic disease and obesity.

Here's the solution. Stop eating processed food and start putting lots of butter and a little sea salt on your lightly steamed, not overcooked, veggies. Fat tastes good and if it's animal fat, it's good for you. I'll tell you why in another blog so stay tuned.