I occasionally read through veterinary catalogs for horse supplements. These animals, worth up to millions of dollars get the best of care and often state of the art medicine before it percolates down to humans. Many herbal and nutritional supplements are described for effectiveness in terms that the FDA would prohibit for people -which tends to prevent good information from getting to us about how to use nutritional supplements.
As I was reading through the catalog it struck me that the weight-gain supplements contain some of the very same ingredients that are touted for weight loss in articles and ads all over the web. What gives? Continue reading Digestion and Weight Gain→
Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease has four components: What to Eat, What Not to Eat, Useful supplements and How to Eat, given symptoms of the disease. This will be a four piece series. Some of it is basic: the foods and superfoods that enrich the diet. Some is specific to the typical complaints from either the disease, the medications and the often restrictive lifestyles that PD patients often adopt. And the how-to acknowledges that the disease creates some physical problems that adaptive devices might help.
This month’s Scientific American has an article on a subject close to my heart, “Your Inner Ecosystem.” Only 10% of the DNA in our bodies is human. In other articles I have advanced the idea that we are walking colonies of microbes, worms and fungi in a human superstructure, where ecological balance is the goal of health rather than purity. That begs the question of which creatures might be pathogenic- I certainly don’t want ebola in my ecology. Not only doesn’t it play well with my other creatures, but it is deadly.
Ebola is easy to classify. However some organisms are difficult to classify. Acidophilous is great in your gut, especially if you have difficulty assimilating nutrients but it can eat away at your teeth where you might prefer Streptococcus oralis. There are benign E. coli strains, sold in Europe but not the USA as probiotics, which tend to predominate in thin people while firmiciute bacteria like the Lactobaccili predominate in fat people and can make thin rats fat. Even low level staph infections on the skin may crowd out nasty drug-resistant MRSA.
Heliobactor pylori is another example. This bacteria increases acidity in the stomach, resulting in both the environment where it thrives and breakdown of food. However in susceptible individuals, it causes ulcers. When Dr. Martin Blaser, now professor of microbiology and internal medicine at NYU found H. pylori 25 years ago, he approached it as a simple pathogen causing ulcers- and with antibiotic treatment ulcer diagnoses have reduced by more than 50%. But in 1998 he published research showing that in the vast majority of people H. pylori is beneficial, regulating the acidity of the stomach properly. H. pylori was also linked to a reduction in adenocarcinomas. In 2008 he found that H. pylori regulates ghrelin which tells your body to stop eating. When ghrelin levels are high you become hungry. After you eat -unless your H. pylori levels are low- ghrelin levels plummet. In a study of 92 veterans treated with antibiotics to lower H. pylori for ulcers, gained weight in comparison to uninfected peers. Lower H. pylori is also linked to higher diabetes rates.
One of the curious things is that two or three generations ago something like 80% of children were hosts to H. pylori. Now fewer than 6% of children have the appetite suppressing bacteria, perhaps because of broader-range antibiotics and the inclusion of antibiotics in meat production which could account for less exposure to seed the microbiota. There is apparently preliminary information suggesting a second mechanism for this where antibiotics silence bacterial signalling for undifferentiated stem cells to make tissue other than fat.
The hygiene hypothesis also may affect the acquisition of H. pylori. Water is cleaner. Plant food trucked across the country may contain fewer live bacteria. Increased C-section rates may prevent the transmission of a mother’s microbiota to the infant in the birth canal. We have fewer commensal bacteria now altogether and H. pylori is a stunning example of the reduction of a bacteria that can help keep us thin.
However it appears that adding H. pylori may not be helpful once you are fat and possibly the age of acquisition is important. In further experiments people who were obese and diabetic had higher levels of H. pylori. Researchers think lowering H. pylori with antibiotics might help lower A1c levels in diabetics. Is H. pylori exerting a U-shaped influence where too little and too much cause weight gain? We don’t really know. In the human body with all its feedback loops, direct interventions work quite differently than in petri dishes.
Still, farmers have known for some time that adding antibiotics and increasing starchy feed is the best way to get animals fat for market. When we do this to ourselves and our children, it should not surprise us if we get the same result. While it is not a likely single cause of obesity and diabetes, its effect may be far from trivial.
Adding herbs to lifestyle changes doubles the likelihood of lowering blood sugar in people with metabolic syndrome and according to the study will prevent progress to Type 2 diabetes unlike lifestyle changes alone. Three proprietary Chinese formulas included Jiangtang Bushen, Xiaoke huaya and Tang Kang yin. The ingredients were not specified but when I searched Pub Med I found that the lead researcher has done positive research on American ginseng saponins, puerarins from kudzu, glucosides from bai shao and berberine from coptis for the problem. Herbs such as rhemannia, jiaogulan and mai men dong are also traditionally used for diabetes, depending upon the Chinese medicine pattern. And I suggest that Continue reading Chinese Herbal Formulas May Prevent Diabetes→
I know, we all want to blame it on studies of bad diets-maybe it included Ornish, or Atkins, or the Standard American Diet or fads, which could muddy the data. That could be a problem with a mega analysis but this study seems well done. No one wants to believe that permanent weight loss isn’t possible (unless you didn’t have that much to lose to begin with). The researchers think that unless you are in the 1-2% who can change your life enough to keep weight off, dieting (as opposed to healthy eating) will only make your weight problem worse. And it isn’t just psychological feelings of deprivation.
Dieting Does Not Work, Researchers Report
ScienceDaily (2007-04-05) — Dieting does not work, report researchers who analyzed 31 long-term studies on dieting. “You can initially lose five to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people”
The study was perhaps the most rigorously analyzed and most comprehensive of its type
At least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher
The study underestimates how many people fail at diets since the failures are reluctant to return for follow-ups. Many studies have less than 50% followup and rely upon self-reporting of weight levels.
Several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.
One study found that both men and women who participated in formal weight-loss programs gained significantly more weight over a two-year period than those who had not participated in a weight-loss program.
Even when you follow dieters four years after the diet, they are still gaining weight.
Exercise may be the key factor leading to sustained weight loss. Studies consistently find that people who reported the most exercise also had the most weight loss.
None of this means that eating healthy foods in moderation and exercise are not worthwhile. You can be healthy and improve blood sugar levels or blood lipids.
An article by John Cloud, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin on Time.com misses the point of why exercise is important. It is true that exercise only burns an infinitesimal number of calories. If you are into the calories in, calories out frame of mind, you will need to exercise for 10 hours to cover a Big Mac. 20 minutes of jogging barely covers a small chocolate chip cookie. It isn’t even a matter of converting fat to muscle: if you converted 10 pounds of fat to muscle, you would be able to burn an extra 40 calories a day, which isn’t that much. No, the reason to exercise is metabolic, and you need to match that with metabolic eating.
Say you eat an apple which is all sucrose and some fiber. Half of sucrose is glucose and 76% of that burns off at the first pass while 24 % of it goes into the liver where most of it is stored as glycogen and the rest powers mitochondria for energy. Maybe a half a calorie goes through the TCA cycle which will turn into VLDL cholesterol, used to store fat. The other half is fructose of which 72% goes into the liver. The breakdown products of this fructose in the liver is far more pernicious, including uric acid which causes gout and hypertension, but more importantly Continue reading Time Article Misses the Point of Exercise in Weight Loss→
The video by Robert Lustig of UCSF is extremely interesting, but wonky. If you work in health care or are dealing with blood sugar issues, I highly recommend listening. I do anyway. But here are the highlights for the rest of you:
We have a worldwide epidemic of obese six month olds. Yes, 6 months. So it isn’t all about more food in and less exercise out.
Americans now eat 141 pounds of sugar per year, 63 pounds of which is high fructose corn syrup and over half of which is fructose in all forms.
A calorie is not a calorie. Some calories are nutritious, some are merely empty, some are poisonous.
If we are consuming 275 extra calories a day compared to 20 years ago, it is because our regulatory hormones like leptin are not stopping us. We had as much food available 50 years ago, but less obesity. Something in us changed.
And it isn’t our fat consumption, which has dropped. Fat dropped significantly after 1992 when the food pyramid was established, suggesting we increase our carbohydrate consumption.
As someone who has dealt with obesity since kindergarten, when they pulled me indoors from climbing trees all day, I have dealt with fat, diets and fat fallout all of my life. I was on Metrecal shakes in the third grade, and at 16 my Italian doctor was shocked at the diet pills my US MD had prescribed since age 14. Every kind of diet- low fat, low carb, low calorie, Weight Watchers, fad diets, macrobiotics, non diets,- lots of exercise, hypnosis, EFT, and positive imagery was tried. I know all the supplements, the portion sizes, the caloric values, the allergens and the energetics of foods. And like most fat people I have had the will power to lose weight many times over. Continue reading Ten Things About Being Fat→
Each month herbalists are encouraged to submit articles to the Herbal Blog Parties, hosted by various herbalists. The August party had as its theme sweet ways to use herbs, including herbal honey’s, glycerites, elixirs, electuaries, melomels and the like. If you need definitions, go down to Kiva Rose’s article which has an overview.
While we generally want to keep sugars low in our diet, there are legitimate uses for sweet herbs. Sugar in its various forms is used in a variety of traditional medicines. In Chinese medicine it strengthens the Spleen/pancreas function (in judicious quantities) and formulas often use dates, honey, longan fruit, or licorice to engage the digestive function. Ayurveda makes medicinal honey and ghee preparations like Chayawanprash. Continue reading The Sweet Herbal Blog Party→
Turmeric is an extraordinary herb. An orangey-yellow root that looks something like a riotous ginger, turmeric is beloved in Indian culture for its abilities to soothe the GI tract, reduce inflammation, stop bleeding and fight infection. In China, huang jian “yellow ginger” is used to move qi and blood and to stop internal wind, which means it is a great circulatory tonic while being antispasmodic, valuable properties for arthritis indeed!
By itself turmeric is bitter, dry, spicy, and warming. Dry turmeric is more warming and somewhat less aromatic than the fresh root that I find in Indian grocery stores but both are strongly anti-inflammatory and I find tinctures made with dried root to be stronger. Continue reading Turmeric, Sweet Turmeric→
More research showing that coffee is not the brew of the devil. Not only does it prevent Alzheimer’s, it stopped the progression of the disease. But a few caveats: it was caffeine, not coffee; it’s an awfully lot; it was mice, not people and no one asked them if they were jittery.
From the Times of London:
Daily caffeine dose may delay progress of Alzheimer’s, researchers say
(Schwarz, Eleanor et al. University of Pittsburgh. Quoted by the New York Times April 22, 2009)
A study from the University of Pittsburgh looked at the health history of 139,681 women and concluded that the longer women nursed their babies, the lower their risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. While mothers who nursed only one month had lower blood pressure and diabetes, those who nursed at least one year had significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease as well.
I was listening to Jeffrey Yuen speak about how heat turns into fire toxins unless the body damps it down, and it suddenly hit me why people with long term heating emotions might eat the way they do.
In Chinese medicine, the seven emotions are considered causes of disease. If you are feeling chronically stressed or anxious, it can cause a condition of internal heat in the body. Heat can turn into fire, which can harass the heart, causing anger or mental illness, depending upon the situation. Fire, if unaddressed, can turn to fire toxin, a truly toxic situation that can lead to abscesses, ulcerations and even cancers.
What does the body do to prevent this? Fire can be cooled, but the human body lacks internal refrigeration. So the more likely response is to dampen the fire with fluids. Fluids in the body are generated primarily by food and drink.
And what kinds of foods do we look for when we eat emotionally? Sweets, breads, chocolate, ice cream, perhaps with a glass of milk- all the foods that tend to generate dampness when consumed. We rarely have cravings for bell peppers or mustard greens or shitake mushrooms when we are emotionally spent.
Most people with blood sugar problems have noticed that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, often followed by a crash. The various low carbohydrate diets- Atkins, South Beach, Anti-Inflammation Diet, and even the Zone- do somewhat better at weight loss compared to a low calorie diet, but really excel at keeping blood sugar levels stable, lowering triglycerides, lowering blood insulin, and even cholesterol.