Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Trouble With Wheat #1: Redefinition of Obesity

The Trouble With Wheat #1:  Redefinition of Obesity

Reference:  Eric Westman, MD Duke University Weight Loss Clinic

We have always defined obesity as YOUR problem.  You got fat because you ate too much and were lazy!  That definition doesn’t get us very far because all of us are now fat.   I bet most of you don’t think of yourselves as lazy.  So, we come up with simplistic answers like, “you are fat, therefore, don’t eat fat”.  In 1978, our food guidelines from our own government came out with the biggest public health disaster in modern history.  We said to stop eating fat and stoke up on healthy carbs.   As many as you want.  Our FDA said it so our Diabetes Association, our Dieticians, our American Heart association all chanted the same mantra.  You get fat because you eat too much fat.  And in the next thirty years, we all cut down on our fat, and got fatter.

Someone needs to tell the Emperor that his clothes don’t fit!  In fact, that theory is dead wrong.  There is now an emerging consensus from both research on humans and population studies all around the world in “non-obese” populations that we get fat when we eat our unique, Western, wheat and processed carb (including sugar) diet dominated diet.  I’m going to discuss this for a couple of news letters, but first, we are going to start with a new definition of obesity and how you got there.  Then, I’m going to prove it to you!  If it’s outrageous and different enough, we’ll both learn something here.  So, bear with me and enjoy this ride.

Here goes.  # 1 What is obesity?  Dr Westman proposes that it is a disorder of excessive fat accumulation.  NOT overeating, NOT energy balance, NOT sedentary behavior.  You are accumulating fat because your hormonal response to the food you eat is all messed up by insulin sensitivity.  YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME!

#2:  The PRIMARY DEFECT is in the body, NOT the brain.  Our fat tissue is tightly regulated with incredible sensitivity to our insulin levels.  That’s what’s messed up. Our bodies think we are hibernating for winter, and store calories willy-nilly.

#3  OVEREATING and SEDENTARY behaviors are COMPENSATORY, not primary behaviors.  We’ve had chicken and egg backwards.   We eat to keep up with our fat tissue accumulating fat.  We rest because we are exhausted, and don’t have the energy to exercise.   Your calories are all going to fat, and not to energy.  You get starving hungry so you eat again, and again, and again.  And when you eat wheat, you force yourself to release insulin, store more calories and get fatter.

#4  THE CORE PROBLEM is that insulin is exquisitely capable of defining how much fat we either STORE or BURN.  Hence, if we force ourselves to secrete insulin, we lock up fat calories, and force ourselves to put on weight.   We’ve had our strategies all backwards because we based them on the concept that we simply have to eat less not realizing the incredible power of appetite to drive our behavior.  We have to change the food we eat to get away from the vicious circle.  And wheat sits at the center of that circle.  That’s just one of the problems with wheat.  There are more.

We are doing it to ourselves, that we must admit.  But it has been upon the advice of all our experts from the FDA, to the ADA, to the American Heart Association to EAT MORE WHOLE GRAINs.  And that means eat more wheat.  Next week: a whole new world.  “The problem with wheat”.

WWW. What will work for me?  The bread of life.  Wheat is a problem.  It makes us sick.  It makes us fat.  It forces us to secrete insulin.  Now that I have your attention, I’ll show you how in about 5-6 newsletters.  We will learn more about “the trouble with wheat”.   You got fat because the food we have invented in the 20th century is poisoning you in unique ways that play upon the core mechanisms of our metabolism.  You need to understand those mechanisms and how to get around it.  But it all starts with wheat.

Written by John Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic, 17575 W North Ave, # 160 Milwaukee, WI 53045   262-784-5300  www.LiveLongMD.com

Paleolithic Diet Beats Mediterranean for Satiety and Appetite Control

Paleolithic Diet Beats Mediterranean for Satiety and Appetite Control

Reference:  T Jonsson Nutrition and Metabolism 2010:7;85

Want to lose weight?  The holidays are around the corner with lots of parties going on right now.  Pretty easy to pack on 3-4 pounds in the next two weeks.  Consider a strategy to not to that, and you come out 4 pounds ahead if you just break even.  Better yet, as you contemplate the New Year and want to think how to do it,  consider asking Santa for a Paleolithic Cook Book.  Understanding how to control your weight, and lose weight is one of our most important personal health strategies.  Weight loss depends on satiety.  Satiety depends on leptin.  So, here is my Holiday Gift to You!

We have lots of literature on the Mediterranean Diet.  Eat more fish, abundant vegetables, whole grains, healthy olive oil, less red meat and less sugar.  In this study from Sweden, the Mediterranean diet is what the study subjects were naturally given as they life the ICU after having a heart attack.    All the subjects in the study qualified as “metabolic syndrome” with slightly big tummies (>37 inches) and abnormal glucose.  We all have been encouraged to use the Mediterranean diet for the last 15 years as an alternative to the Standard American Diet of fried food, white bread, abundant carbohydrates based on wheat, corn and soy, and most everything packaged, convenient and highly processed.   And it has shown benefits.  The Lyon Heart Study showed remarkable reductions in cardiac mortality using the Mediterranean diet with a touch of extra fish oil.

Now, following these 29 patients from the ICU at Lund Hospital in Sweden, we have a comparison of two groups given different dietary advice.  Their ad litem food consumption was precisely followed (even being weighed for 4 days), total calorie intake, weight loss and leptin changes were recorded.  The new variable was using the Paleolithic Diet instead of the Mediterranean.  The difference in food intake was essentially to teach how our diet has changed in the last 10,000 years with new use of dairy, sugar and cultivated grains.  A Paleo diet doesn’t have dairy at all.   Doesn’t have wheat.  Doesn’t have sugar.   No soft drinks.  No beer.  What they could have was walnuts, an egg a day, increased intake of lean means, fish, fruit and vegetables.  They were allowed a potato a day and olive oil or canola oil but otherwise not much oil.  All the vegetables they wanted.  Lots and lots and lots of vegetables.

And what happened?  Interestingly enough, the Paleo group ate less food and felt less hungry.  They lost 5 kg vs 3.8 kgs, but that was not statistically significant.  Their leptin changed about the same.  The “satiety score” they used was 2.7 for the Paleo group and 1.8 for the Mediterranean group.   That was significant.  The Paleo group ended up having a higher proportion of protein, but only because they ate less calories.  They also had less calcium and fell below the current recommendations of calcium intake.  However, the authors point out that current calcium recommendations are under scrutiny with widespread skepticism over our present recommendations.

That’s what it takes to lose weight.  You have to feel less hungry to eat less.  Our lizard brains drive our behavior one way or another if we don’t feel full.

WWW. What will work for me?  I’m fascinated to find another confirmation of our metabolism conforming to how we were designed by our Creator, or our evolution, however you wish to structure your own belief.  But the last 200 years have been rough on us, and it’s getting worse in the last 30.  Our foray into low fat diets in the 70s and 80s was a public health disaster.  We all gained a pound a year in the 80s and 90s and here we are, obese, sedentary and chronically ill.  Time to get Paleo.  Ask Santa for a book to read this coming year.   You don’t have to ask for a spear and arrows to go hunting, just read the book and avoid the sugar, the milk and the flour.   At the Christmas/Holiday Party, focus on your friendships and not the cookies.

Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic,  262-784-5300   www.LiveLongMD.com

Brain Health, Exercise and BDNF

Brain Health, Exercise and BDNF

Reference:  New York Times, Nov 30th, 2011, Physiological Behavior, Oct 24, 2011

We got it!  It’s BDNF! Brain derived neurotrophic factor.  That’s the key to preserving memory and brain health as we age.  It’s a name we all need to become familiar with as I’m certain new research will blossom from this paper.  This is the link with exercise and cognitive decline.  Dr. Griffin et al from Trinity College in Dublin took a group of young exercising men and measured their BDNF levels in comparison to their ability to remember faces on both an acute and a chronic level of fitness training.  What they found was that exercise raises their levels of BDNF, and that correlates with their ability to remember complex face recognition patterns.

BDNF is a protein that stimulates your brain to put out new neurons and for those connections with other neurons to stick.  It is critical to learning.   Many of our neurons are fixed at birth and don’t change much over our life times.  Our first couple of years have massive amounts of remodeling and making connections between our neurons with maturation continuing up into our twenties.  But the concept of neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to grow new pathways is also emerging and we are beginning to realize that the brain is not a fixed, static entity that gradually loses it’s ability to grow.  At any time in life we can grow new brain cells.  It is particularly active in the hippocampus, cortex and basal forebrain where we have the most important parts for neural memory and higher thinking type functions.

The New York Times article also references a study in older pilots who were asked to practice in a flight simulator repeatedly over several years.  Their ability to function in the complex world of flying an airplane was shown to decline with age.  More interesting was that those pilots with markers for low BDNF declined the most in their ability.  This suggests that BDNF is particularly important to maintaining memory and cognitive function.

You can’t take BDNF as a pill.  It is a complex, large protein.  But at any age in life you can stimulate it to be more present.  It’s hard to take humans brains out and examine them, but in rat models of aging, the NYT article references several studies in which aging rats were allowed to exercise and then had their brains looked at for BDNF content.  Sure enough, exercise stimulated BDNF and its precursor molecules within a week.  And the older exercising rats performed almost as well as younger rats on memory tests.

WWW. What will work for me.  Now that winter is upon me, I need a little more motivation to get moving.  I have to go somewhere to exercise because it’s not so easy to run outside.  My BDNF might just be it.  Very interesting concept.  BDNF.

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic,  17585 W North Ave, Suite 160, Brookfield WI  53045   www.LiveLongMD.com  Brain Health, Exercise and BDNF

Reference:  New York Times, Nov 30th, 2011, Physiological Behavior, Oct 24, 2011

We got it!  It’s BDNF! Brain derived neurotrophic factor.  That’s the key to preserving memory and brain health as we age.  It’s a name we all need to become familiar with as I’m certain new research will blossom from this paper.  This is the link with exercise and cognitive decline.  Dr. Griffin et al from Trinity College in Dublin took a group of young exercising men and measured their BDNF levels in comparison to their ability to remember faces on both an acute and a chronic level of fitness training.  What they found was that exercise raises their levels of BDNF, and that correlates with their ability to remember complex face recognition patterns.

BDNF is a protein that stimulates your brain to put out new neurons and for those connections with other neurons to stick.  It is critical to learning.   Many of our neurons are fixed at birth and don’t change much over our life times.  Our first couple of years have massive amounts of remodeling and making connections between our neurons with maturation continuing up into our twenties.  But the concept of neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to grow new pathways is also emerging and we are beginning to realize that the brain is not a fixed, static entity that gradually loses it’s ability to grow.  At any time in life we can grow new brain cells.  It is particularly active in the hippocampus, cortex and basal forebrain where we have the most important parts for neural memory and higher thinking type functions.

The New York Times article also references a study in older pilots who were asked to practice in a flight simulator repeatedly over several years.  Their ability to function in the complex world of flying an airplane was shown to decline with age.  More interesting was that those pilots with markers for low BDNF declined the most in their ability.  This suggests that BDNF is particularly important to maintaining memory and cognitive function.

You can’t take BDNF as a pill.  It is a complex, large protein.  But at any age in life you can stimulate it to be more present.  It’s hard to take humans brains out and examine them, but in rat models of aging, the NYT article references several studies in which aging rats were allowed to exercise and then had their brains looked at for BDNF content.  Sure enough, exercise stimulated BDNF and its precursor molecules within a week.  And the older exercising rats performed almost as well as younger rats on memory tests.

WWW. What will work for me.  Now that winter is upon me, I need a little more motivation to get moving.  I have to go somewhere to exercise because it’s not so easy to run outside.  My BDNF might just be it.  Very interesting concept.  BDNF.

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic,  17585 W North Ave, Suite 160, Brookfield WI  53045   www.LiveLongMD.com

Fish Builds Brains – But Not if It’s Fried

Fish Builds Brains – But Not if It’s Fried

Reference:  USA Today Nov 30, 2011

Brain health is important.  Fifty percent of us will have Alzheimer’s by the time we are 85 if we don’t do something about it.  Eating fish just once a week may help with that, according to new research reported on in USA today this week.  But there is a big fat caveat.  It can’t be fried.  Fried fish doesn’t do you any good at all.

What this study did was very detailed brain scans that looked at the size of brains and then asked people what they ate.  They found a significant association between volume of brain and fish consumption, if it was baked or broiled, but not fried.  Those folks with larger brains had a five-fold reduction in risk for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, according to the lead author, Dr Cyrus Raji.  This study came out of a 10 year project in which 3-D MRIs were done on 260 healthy adults who were then followed for changes in brain volume.   163 of them ate fish at least once a week, so they had a good sample size to follow.

How can you explain this benefit?  Here’s my take.  Our brains have omega fatty acids as their main membrane ingredient.  As much as 40% of the dry weight of our brains come from DHA and EPA.  Our diet in America is so deficient in omega -3 fatty acids that any source will boost us.  Fish tend to have more omega-3 than feedlot raised animals.  Eating fish will provide you with some omega-3 fatty acids and make the volume of your brain larger.  It’s like pumping up a low tire with more air.   And the reason frying won’t work?  That’s easy.  Frying is generally higher temperature than baking or broiling.  Omega-3 fats have many “cis” bonds that are inherently delicate and unstable.  The extra heat of frying will provide the energy for them to transform into “trans” bonds, changing their chemical nature and beneficial qualities.  Just like olive oil can’t be used to fry food because it becomes a trans fat, so too does fish oil.  The “cis” chemical bonds in fish oils are so delicate that we need to keep it in the fridge in a dark bottle when we buy it as a liquid because even light and room temperature will slowly degrade it.

This would suggest that cognitive impairment in the elderly is in part nutritional in origin.  Considering that trans fats block several of the pathways that make our own omega-3 fats, and realizing that the American diet still has lots of trans fats in it, our epidemic of cognitive impairment may be partially attributed to the one-two punch of the dietary lack of omega-3 and the dietary excess of trans fats.

WWW:  What Will Work for Me!  Fish is great nutrition!  Sounds like once a week is good and four times is better.  Or maybe just focus on the fish oil!  And while I focus on that, I’m making an extra effort to eat less trans fats.  I’ve been raising my daily omega-3 fatty acid intake to 3 grams a day by taking a teaspoon of liquid lemon flavored fish oil.  Tastes quite mild and goes down easily.  So much for the Friday night fish fry.  Time to go baked.

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD   Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160  Brookfield WI   262-784-5300  www.LiveLongMD.com