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    Archive for the ‘insulin’ Category

    In The News: "Second Hand" Obesity

    Today’s New York Times reports on a new pooled analysis study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which concluded that “obese women are more likely to have babies with rare but serious birth defects, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects.”

    Although spina bifida is generally associated with insufficient maternal intake of folic acid, lead study author Dr. Judith Rankin theorizes that in the case of obese women, “insulin resistance and undiagnosed diabetes may be playing a causative role in birth defects… though the precise mechanism is not known.”

    This new study gives further credence to weight-loss recommendations given to obese women planning to start a family.

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Hydrogenated/Interesterified Fats

    Thanks for explaining all about trans fats.

    I have a question, though.

    I have recently seen hydrogenated oils on Crisco food labels (not “partially hydrogenated”, but “hydrogenated”.)

    Are these also trans fats?

    — Patrick Altug
    Boulder, CO

    No, they are not.

    Whereas the partial hydrogenation of a liquid oil transforms its chemical structure in such a way that yields a solid, yet pliable texture (i.e.: easy to spread on toast,) full hydrogenation results in a solid mass that you can’t do much with.

    So, in an attempt to remove trans fat from their formulations, many products will interesterify fats.

    In this process, solid oils and liquid oils are combined in vats, hydrogenated, broken down to their most basic form (triglycerides) and later manipulated/reconstructed in order to achieve a desired consistency.

    Unfortunately, these fats come at a price.

    Recent research studies in the United Kingdom and Malaysia have found that interesterified fats decrease HDL (“good” cholesterol), raise blood sugar, and, perhaps more worrying, suppress the secretion of insulin.

    Why the worry?

    Raising blood sugar while lowering levels of insulin (the hormone that moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells) is certainly a rather powerful risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes.

    Although many people roll their eyes at this bit of news and often make statements like, “Are these dietitians EVER satisfied with anything? If it’s not trans fats, it’s something else,” there is an important lesson in all of this — stick with unadulterated fats!

    Whether partially or fully hydrogenated, those fat molecules have been chemically altered.

    A diet rich in minimally processed foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and heart-healthy fats) won’t include either type of hydrogenated oils.

    Share

    Soda 911

    After much buzz, Pepsi has finally launched Tava, its new “vitamin enhanced” calorie and caffeine-free sparkling beverage drink, largely aimed at the female 35 – 49 demographic.

    A lot of money and effort has been dedicated to Tava.

    It’s no surprise. Over the past two years, soda sales have been slipping.

    Consumers are instead reaching for just as sugary, but healthier sounding beverages like Vitamin Water or artifically sweetened drinks in fancy glass bottles containing trendy fruits like pomegranate and acai.

    Not surprisingly, soda companies are fighting back, no-holds-barred style.

    The New York Times recently profiled Tava’s alternative marketing strategybypassing traditional media and instead focusing on online advertising and music and art festivals in certain states (among them Colorado, New York, Washington, Florida, and Utah).

    Pepsi definitely spent a lot of time — and money — dressing up what is basically flavored sparkling water and aspartame with with lots of pretty accesories.

    First we have the vitamin factor, clearly thrown in to compete with Diet Coke Plus.

    Tava offers 10 percent of the daily requirement of Vitamins E, B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), and a trace mineral known as chromium.

    What’s the chromium fortification all about? Personally, I think it’s just part of the “exotification” of Tava.

    Don’t get me wrong; chromium is an important mineral. It teams up with insulin to help cells take up glucose and thereby maintain blood sugar levels.

    Some recent research also suggests possible links between chromium and heart health.

    The good news is that chromium is easily available from whole grains, vegetables, raisins, legumes, nuts, chicken, seafood, and dairy.

    Since it is found in many foods and a trace mineral, chromium deficiency is extremely rare.

    It is mainly seen in hospital patients on tube feedings, pregnant women, and people whose diets are very high in processed foods.

    People eating a variety of foods do not need further supplementation.

    Then there’s the three flavors.

    We’re treated to “exotic” names like Mediterranean Fiesta (black cherry citrus), Brazilian Samba (passion fruit lime), and Tahitian Tamure (tropical berry).

    In an attempt to class up the joint, Tava’s website offers “suggested food pairings” for all its drinks.

    For instance, if you’re sipping on Mediterranean Fiesta, you’re suggested to do so while nibbling on dark chocolate truffles or BBQ spare ribs.

    But wait, there’s more! Tava comes with a grassroots focus as well.

    The website features emerging artists and musicians, and displays “inspirational” messages reminiscent of those often seen on Senior yearbook pages like, “sometimes it’s okay to think inside the box, ” “set your mind to shuffle,” and “what if what if didn’t exist?”

    Oh, and if you’re wondering what Tava means, the Frequently Asked Questions page proclaims that the name was created to “evoke feelings of possibility and discovery.”

    Do you think Tava will be a hit in Pepsi’s roster or a beverage bomb like their Crystal and Blue varieties?

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Gary Taubes

    I would very much appreciate any thoughts you have regarding Gary Taubes.

    — Karen Carabio
    Reno, NV

    This question arrived in my inbox on March 3, the same day I heard that Mr. Taubes was due to speak at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health on March 13.

    I wanted to attend that event before answering Karen’s question, so as to truly familiarize myself with his theories and viewpoints.

    If you are not familiar with Gary Taubes, he is a journalist and physicist who has contributed articles to Science magazine since the 80s.

    He became a semi household name in August of 2002 when his article “What If It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie?” made the cover of The New York Times Magazine.

    Its main point? Carbohydrates — and only carboydrates — are to blame for rising obesity rates in the United States.

    Cut out carbs from your diet, Taubes claimed, and you won’t gain weight. And when he says “carbohydrates”, he’s even referring to whole grains.

    His article paved the way for the 2002 rebirth of the Atkins diet.

    And what a rebirth it was! Six hundred low-carb products were launched in 2003.

    Even common products like oils, cheese, and diet sodas included large “Low Carb!” stickers on their packaging, capitalizing on consumers’ growing interest in shunning carbohydrate-rich foods.

    By 2005, however, the hype died down, the Atkins company filed for bankruptcy, and “low carb” was out (thank goodness!).

    That certainly didn’t change Taubes’ mind, though.

    Last year, he pubished Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.

    Its main point? Dietitians are blaming the wrong guy for this country’s increasing weight problems.

    Obesity, Taubes claims, is not caused by overeating. Not only that — calories have nothing to do with weight gain or loss!

    So what is the cause? Taubes attributes it to insulin.

    The more insulin you produce, he believes, the more weight you gain.

    Therefore, it follows that carbohydrates (which raise blood glucose levels more than fat or protein, thereby signaling the body to release more insulin) cause weight gain.

    At his March 13 NYU talk, Taubes presented a few more points.

    He first referred to animal studies demonstrating that when animals overfeed themselves, their metabolism revs up and burns more energy than usual; when they underfeed, their metabolism slows down.

    Taubes went on to explain that the same concept can be attributed to humans.

    If we overeat, he explained, our bodies are smart enough to know to burn more calories. If we undereat, our metabolism slows down.

    In Taubes’ view, calories in and of themselves are irrelevant because our bodies can handle what comes their way.

    Fair enough — one of the main flaws behind very low calorie diets is that they end up slowing metabolism down, thereby making it easier to gain weight when regular eating patterns are resumed.

    And while it is true that our metabolisms can compensate if we overeat by 50 or so calories, don’t count on it to balance things out if you overeat by 300, 500, 1,000 or 1,200 calories.

    Taubes claims that all overweight people are in such a state simply because of high carbohydrate consumption.

    Okay, but can he point to examples of people overeating calories and NOT gaining weight?

    Taubes believes that “portion control” only works because people are eating less carbohydrates.

    Yes, but they are also eating less fat and protein, thereby discrediting his entire argument.

    After the talk, a member of the audience asked Taubes how he explains many Asian cultures subsisting on “bad carbs” like white rice and having lower obesity rates than the United States.

    His response? “Well, they’ve been eating rice for thousands of years, so their bodies are just used to it.” Huh?

    At one point in his talk, Taubes claimed that sugar and refined carbohydrates are only approximately a hundred years old or so in much of Europe and North America.

    I would love to know where he got that information from, since the most basic of research on sugar points to its existence in Persia around 650 AD, and its delivery by European Crusaders to their continent in 1100 AD.

    Sugar is not new. It has been consumed by civilizations around the world for centuries. Following his logic then, why aren’t most humans “immune” to calories from sugar?

    Overweight and obesity are clearly linked to a higher consumption of calories.

    If you are skeptical, do me a favor and eat 1,000 more calories than usual (solely from pure fat or protein sources; absolutely no carbs) every day for a month.

    Then, get on a scale.

    Or, try the reverse and subsist on 400 calories of pure carbohydrates every single day for a month. According to Taubes, you would still gain weight.

    Taubes was also asked by an audience member if he thinks it is possible for humans to live healthfully without consuming a single gram of carbohydrates.

    His answer? A resounding “yes.”

    At one point in his presentation, he even referred to fiber as “insignificant.” I thought my eyebrows were going to reach the ceiling.

    I seriously wonder how he came to this conclusion; a thorough review of the evidence-based research on fiber consumption and its role in decreading cancer risks (particularly colon and prostate ones) clearly demonstrates the important role it plays in overall health.

    Once again, this theory can easily be disputed by trying it out yourself.

    If you think fiber is irrelevant to your health, go two weeks on a fiber-free diet — no laxatives allowed! I’m pretty sure you’ll soon realize just how crucial fiber is.

    By the way, Taubes’ infamous 2002 article quickly received a response from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Washington Post health reporter Sally Squires (I am unable to find her excellent article online — can anyone help?).

    Michael Fumento of Reason magazine also added his two cents at the time.

    Gary Taubes fired back a response, which in turn was replied to by Fumento.

    I have provided links to all these articles to enable you to read and form your own conclusions.

    I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Gary Taubes

    I would very much appreciate any thoughts you have regarding Gary Taubes.

    — Karen Carabio
    Reno, NV

    This question arrived in my inbox on March 3, the same day I heard that Mr. Taubes was due to speak at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health on March 13.

    I wanted to attend that event before answering Karen’s question, so as to truly familiarize myself with his theories and viewpoints.

    If you are not familiar with Gary Taubes, he is a journalist and physicist who has contributed articles to Science magazine since the 80s.

    He became a semi household name in August of 2002 when his article “What If It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie?” made the cover of The New York Times Magazine.

    Its main point? Carbohydrates — and only carboydrates — are to blame for rising obesity rates in the United States.

    Cut out carbs from your diet, Taubes claimed, and you won’t gain weight. And when he says “carbohydrates”, he’s even referring to whole grains.

    His article paved the way for the 2002 rebirth of the Atkins diet.

    And what a rebirth it was! Six hundred low-carb products were launched in 2003.

    Even common products like oils, cheese, and diet sodas included large “Low Carb!” stickers on their packaging, capitalizing on consumers’ growing interest in shunning carbohydrate-rich foods.

    By 2005, however, the hype died down, the Atkins company filed for bankruptcy, and “low carb” was out (thank goodness!).

    That certainly didn’t change Taubes’ mind, though.

    Last year, he pubished Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.

    Its main point? Dietitians are blaming the wrong guy for this country’s increasing weight problems.

    Obesity, Taubes claims, is not caused by overeating. Not only that — calories have nothing to do with weight gain or loss!

    So what is the cause? Taubes attributes it to insulin.

    The more insulin you produce, he believes, the more weight you gain.

    Therefore, it follows that carbohydrates (which raise blood glucose levels more than fat or protein, thereby signaling the body to release more insulin) cause weight gain.

    At his March 13 NYU talk, Taubes presented a few more points.

    He first referred to animal studies demonstrating that when animals overfeed themselves, their metabolism revs up and burns more energy than usual; when they underfeed, their metabolism slows down.

    Taubes went on to explain that the same concept can be attributed to humans.

    If we overeat, he explained, our bodies are smart enough to know to burn more calories. If we undereat, our metabolism slows down.

    In Taubes’ view, calories in and of themselves are irrelevant because our bodies can handle what comes their way.

    Fair enough — one of the main flaws behind very low calorie diets is that they end up slowing metabolism down, thereby making it easier to gain weight when regular eating patterns are resumed.

    And while it is true that our metabolisms can compensate if we overeat by 50 or so calories, don’t count on it to balance things out if you overeat by 300, 500, 1,000 or 1,200 calories.

    Taubes claims that all overweight people are in such a state simply because of high carbohydrate consumption.

    Okay, but can he point to examples of people overeating calories and NOT gaining weight?

    Taubes believes that “portion control” only works because people are eating less carbohydrates.

    Yes, but they are also eating less fat and protein, thereby discrediting his entire argument.

    After the talk, a member of the audience asked Taubes how he explains many Asian cultures subsisting on “bad carbs” like white rice and having lower obesity rates than the United States.

    His response? “Well, they’ve been eating rice for thousands of years, so their bodies are just used to it.” Huh?

    At one point in his talk, Taubes claimed that sugar and refined carbohydrates are only approximately a hundred years old or so in much of Europe and North America.

    I would love to know where he got that information from, since the most basic of research on sugar points to its existence in Persia around 650 AD, and its delivery by European Crusaders to their continent in 1100 AD.

    Sugar is not new. It has been consumed by civilizations around the world for centuries. Following his logic then, why aren’t most humans “immune” to calories from sugar?

    Overweight and obesity are clearly linked to a higher consumption of calories.

    If you are skeptical, do me a favor and eat 1,000 more calories than usual (solely from pure fat or protein sources; absolutely no carbs) every day for a month.

    Then, get on a scale.

    Or, try the reverse and subsist on 400 calories of pure carbohydrates every single day for a month. According to Taubes, you would still gain weight.

    Taubes was also asked by an audience member if he thinks it is possible for humans to live healthfully without consuming a single gram of carbohydrates.

    His answer? A resounding “yes.”

    At one point in his presentation, he even referred to fiber as “insignificant.” I thought my eyebrows were going to reach the ceiling.

    I seriously wonder how he came to this conclusion; a thorough review of the evidence-based research on fiber consumption and its role in decreading cancer risks (particularly colon and prostate ones) clearly demonstrates the important role it plays in overall health.

    Once again, this theory can easily be disputed by trying it out yourself.

    If you think fiber is irrelevant to your health, go two weeks on a fiber-free diet — no laxatives allowed! I’m pretty sure you’ll soon realize just how crucial fiber is.

    By the way, Taubes’ infamous 2002 article quickly received a response from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Washington Post health reporter Sally Squires (I am unable to find her excellent article online — can anyone help?).

    Michael Fumento of Reason magazine also added his two cents at the time.

    Gary Taubes fired back a response, which in turn was replied to by Fumento.

    I have provided links to all these articles to enable you to read and form your own conclusions.

    I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Whole Grains/Diabetes

    Why are whole grains regarded as good? Sure, they break down into sugar more slowly than white bread, but they do break down to the exact same sugar which provokes the exact same insulin reaction, just over a slightly longer period of time.

    Yes, there are more nutrients in whole grains than refined, but you can get these same nutrients in higher quantities in meats and other non-grain foods. Even when whole, grains appear to be foods deficient in necessary nutrients and full of risk.

    I consume mostly plant-based foods, and a large portion of my diet consists of whole grain and sprouted grain breads, whole grain cereals (Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes and Nature’s Path Raisin Bran), oatmeal, etc.

    I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity to low-glycemic diets, but is there any cause for concern that insulin resistance could increase if a diet relies “too heavily” on whole grains?

    — Steve W.
    Boston, MA

    Whole grains are a healthy choice because they contain higher levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals than products made with refined white flour.

    Fiber is of significance here, as it helps regulate — and stabilize — blood sugar levels. Whereas munching on pretzels while watching television will spike blood sugar very quickly, replacing that with a high-fiber snack like whole grain crackers or almonds will prevent a sharp increase — and subsequent decrease.

    As far as them breaking down to glucose (“the exact same sugar which provokes the exact same insulin reaction”) that is irrelevant to whether or not a food is healthy or not.

    Why? Anytime we eat — no matter what it is — our pancreas secretes insulin. There is no way to have a meal or snack and NOT have this occur.

    You could completely shun any kind of grains and your body would still need to release insulin after a meal to control blood sugar levels.

    Also, I am not sure what you are referring to when you say whole grains are deficient in necessary nutrients. Which ones? They are a great source of B vitamins, fiber, protein, iron, and phytonutrients.

    Additionally, studies have shown a correlation between diets rich in whole grains and lowered risks of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

    As for them being “full of risk”, I don’t see how or why. They don’t pose a threat to human health in any way (unless someone has a wheat allergy and is eating wheat products).

    Insulin resistance is not going to be developed as a result of too many whole grains because, quite simply, your blood glucose levels are being more controlled than when you eat heavily processed grains. There is no need for you to be concerned.

    One of the main risk factors for type-2 diabetes is being overweight, NOT eating a certain food group. The main theory is that fat cells are less receptive to the insulin being secreted by the pancreas. In turn, the pancreas keeps producing more and more, until it finally wears itself out.

    This is why weight management — not “carb” management — should be everyone’s focus.

    Share

    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Defeating Diabetes?

    Halle Berry firmly planted both feet in her mouth when she recently declared that she managed to “downgrade” her Type 1 diabetes into Type 2 (and go off insulin) through healthy eating and exercise.

    I know Halle made for one fierce Catwoman, but no feline prowess can be THAT miraculous!

    Type 1 diabetes, which is non-preventable, used to be known as juvenile diabetes because it is commonly diagnosed in children. There is no one “cause”, but the more solid theories point to a genetic defect.

    People with this condition are living with a non-functioning pancreas.

    Remember, the pancreas is responsible for secreting insulin (a hormone that converts glucose — a sugar present in the blood after a meal — into energy).

    Without insulin, glucose remains in the blood (rather than go into cells for energy conversion), leading to various health complications.

    People with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every single day.

    People with Type 2 diabetes — formerly known as “adult onset diabetes” — are living with a pancreas that DOES secrete insulin, which the cells in the body don’t recognize (hence the term “insulin resistance”).

    In turn, glucose remains in the blood, and the pancreas continues to secrete insulin.

    In the longrun, the pancreas tires itself out, and becomes unable to produce sufficient insulin on its own. The solution? Injecting insulin and/or taking pills that help stabilize blood sugar (the pills are NOT insulin).

    Here’s the good news. Type 2 diabetes can be kept under control by healthy eating, exercise, and practicing blood glucose management.

    Type 1, however, can not be reversed, no matter how healthy the person’s lifestyle, since the pancreas is completely out of order and simply can not be resuscitated.

    If Halle Berry was able to go off insulin, she was able to control her type TWO diabetes, not change from type 1 to type 2.

    Share

    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Defeating Diabetes?

    Halle Berry firmly planted both feet in her mouth when she recently declared that she managed to “downgrade” her Type 1 diabetes into Type 2 (and go off insulin) through healthy eating and exercise.

    I know Halle made for one fierce Catwoman, but no feline prowess can be THAT miraculous!

    Type 1 diabetes, which is non-preventable, used to be known as juvenile diabetes because it is commonly diagnosed in children. There is no one “cause”, but the more solid theories point to a genetic defect.

    People with this condition are living with a non-functioning pancreas. Remember, the pancreas is responsible for secreting insulin (a hormone that converts glucose — a sugar present in the blood after a meal — into energy).

    Without insulin, glucose remains in the blood (rather than go into cells for energy conversion), leading to various health complications.

    People with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every single day.

    People with Type 2 diabetes are living with a pancreas that DOES secrete insulin, which the cells in the body don’t recognize (hence the term “insulin resistance”).

    In turn, glucose remains in the blood, and the pancreas continues to secrete insulin. In the longrun, the pancreas tires itself out, and becomes unable to produce sufficient insulin on its own. The solution? Injecting insulin and/or taking pills that help stabilize blood sugar (the pills are NOT insulin).

    Here’s the good news. Type 2 diabetes can be kept under control by healthy eating, exercise, and practicing blood glucose management.

    Type 1, however, can not be reversed, no matter how healthy the person’s lifestyle, since the pancreas is completely out of order and simply can not be resuscitated.

    If Halle Berry was able to go off insulin, she was able to control her type TWO diabetes, not change from type 1 to type 2.

    Share

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