Monthly Archives: October 2006

The See-Food Diet: What You See is What You Eat

The See-Food Diet: What You See is What You Eat

Competency # 9 Environment

Reference: Painter and Wansink: International Journal of Obesity 30:5, May 2006

I see food and I eat it.  Simple as that.  The See-Food diet.  This is not rocket science.  My mother knew this.  And now it is science.  The wonderful candy bowl we put out to welcome our guests who come to us.   Put a few chocolate kisses in there.  And what happens to you?   We eat it.

Drs. Painter and Wansink put glass candy bowls on desks in front of office staff.  They measured the amount of candy eaten to the piece.  Those given clear glass candy bowls ate 77% percent more candy that those given opaque glass bowls.  7.7 pieces a day versus 4.6.    Their best measurement is that you see the bowl about 12 times an hour, and have to say no 12 times an hour.  Eventually, you give in, just a little.  3.1 times a day more often than if you can’t see it.  That difference, day after day, turns into about 3-4 pounds a year.  The little difference being clear glass versus opaque glass.  3 extra kisses a day.

Three to four pounds a year is what we all gain each year if we aren’t really watching.  Changing your environment to make it safe for you means you have to get that stuff that you eat without thinking about out of sight, and out of mind.   That’s how successful weight loss really works.  Making those little changes that you don’t even notice, but that put you beyond the realm of risk.  You don’t feel deprived when you cut your intake by just a 100 calories a day.  More importantly, you don’t trigger your metabolism to go into starvation mode, where you shut down how much you burn.

So, while you are in a sane moment, make it healthy food that you can see.  Express your hospitality to others with something good for you, and for them.  An exquisite piece of fruit!  You might not eat it because it’s not quite the rush of pure chocolate.  And if you do, it will take longer, make you feel fuller, and have many fewer calories.   And then your hips don’t have to carry those around for the rest of your life either.

What Will Work for Me:  I’m re-engineering my personal environment.  The Honeycrisp apple season is almost over.  They are so good while they last.  But as the holidays come up, I’m thinking about how to keep me safe from binging.  And I’ve stopped buying almonds in huge bags.  If I buy those tasty almonds in a pound bag, I see the pound and I eat the pound.  I’m looking for smaller sizes of the stuff that’s good for me.  How about a fat free yogurt that’s back in the fridge where I can’t see it.  But when I’m really hungry, it’s there for a midmorning snack.


Walnuts: A Superfood! Maybe BETTER than Olive Oil!

Walnuts: A Superfood!  Maybe BETTER than Olive Oil!

Competency # 14 Superfood and # 13  Fats

Reference: American Journal of Cardiology – Oct 17, 2006

Endothelial dysfunction.  That’s the $ 40 word for what happens to your arteries when they get exposed to “bad fats”.   To quote the article,  “Endothelial dysfunction is a critical event in atherogenesis that is implicated both in early disease and in advanced atherosclerosis. It is characterized by a decreased bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO) and increased expression of proinflammatory cytokines and cellular adhesion molecules. The predominant mechanism of NO inactivation is a perturbation of the L-arginine–NO pathway by oxidative stress leading to elevations of plasma asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), which in turn exacerbates oxidative stress.”

Ok, that sounds complicated.  What it boils down to is that your arteries are affected immediately after eating.  Both short-term effects and those short-term effects have long-term implications.   The food you eat makes a difference.  One way by which arteries show their vulnerability to damage is to constrict, become narrow, and reduce their flow.  You also release inflammatory markers and show oxidation of your fats that are circulating.  Yes, that happens after a single high fat meal.   This study gave a standardized meal to volunteers and then measured the flexibility and the inflammatory markers in their blood right after the meal.  The variable they measured was olive oil versus walnuts.  It was a 63% fatty meal, of which half the fat was either olive oil or walnuts  (about 8 whole walnuts).  (1200 calories from salami, cheese, white bread – then they added the oil or walnut oil)

What they found was that both oils reduced the inflammatory markers in their blood.  We’ve known that olive oil is a great oil.   Blood fats did go up in both groups.  But the huge difference was that the walnut diet had an INCREASE in blood flow whereas the olive oil had a decrease.  That is an indirect measure of all the complicated nasty influences of fats on your blood vessels after a fatty meal.  The Flow Mediated Dilatation (FMD if you want to sound scientific) was –17% for olive oil, and + 34% for walnuts.

This study was supported by the folks who grow walnuts.  Does that make it suspect?  We always wait for a few more studies to confirm this kind of stuff.  But their methods and results were well done and rigorous.

WWW:  What Will Work for Me.  I’ve always munched on almonds.  I’m going to start looking favorably on walnuts too.  And knowing that a salami and cheese sandwich is over 63% fat, … I’m cutting down on those.  If all this bad stuff happens after a single high fat meal, consider the flip side, how it all can be immediately reversed with a good meal.  Walnuts!

Snacking: The Science of Getting Fat One Chip at a Time

Snacking:  The Science of Getting Fat One Chip at a Time

Reference:  Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink

This book is hilarious, and way too true.  Professor Wansink has done research on how we snack and the psychology of it all.  He’s at Cornell now but started at University of Illinois, Urbana.  His book is being published this week.    His findings are being intensively studied by the food industry.  They are trying to sell you more.  We need to be savvy and learn our own vulnerabilities, so that we can name our own behavior, observe our weaknesses and develop strategies to counteract those chinks in our determination.

How deep is your soup bowl?  How big is the ice cream scoup?    What is the person next to you eating?  Are you distracted?  Are you in an environment where you always eat a snack?  How big is the container?  All those little cues influence us in a fashion that is almost out of your consciousness.  What Dr. Wansink has discovered is that we are influenced by the environment in which we are placed, even though we will adamantly deny it when asked.

For starters, we think we make 15-20 food decisions a day.  Wrong.  More like 200.  Your companion next to you?  If they eat like a pig, you will too.  A bigger plate?  You obediently fill it up.  A soup bowl with a trick bottom that never gets empty.  We will all happily munch away until his lab techs stop the experiment and send us of with a whole belly full of soup, thinking we just ate a little tiny bowl of tomato soup.  The buffet dinner with 50 choices?  We think we need to sample them all.  Exercising?  We all calculate far more than we need afterwards.

One of his experiments was in a Chicago movie theatre with 5-day-old popcorn.  It was given to movie goers for free in either large or medium buckets.  Then weighed when it was done.  The large bucket folks ate 51% more.   Now, I find 5 day old food of one kind or another in the break room at work all the time.  And I’m not shy to dig in.  When it’s sitting there in a big bowl, our instinct is that of the hunter-gatherer who just found a food supply.  Dig in and get as much as you can, you never know if you will ever eat again.  That’s what our lizard brain tells us.  And our body obediently takes all those calories and stores them in our fat cells against that rainy day of no food.

Dr. Wansink’s suggestions?  Sit next to the slowest eater with the smallest plate at a party.   Start eating last.  Talk.   Be like the French, stretch your eating out over time so that your brain has a chance to get the full messages your body sends out after about 20 minutes of eating.  Never ever eat from a package.  Close it up and put it away before you eat.  Only take two items at a time from a buffet line.  And all of those things before you even decide what food to eat.

WWW: What will work for me.  I’ve ordered this book.  We all need to understand its psychology.  I’m getting better at catching my own lizard brain instinct to pile in the calories when I’m distracted.  But for me, I have to keep those delicious snack foods out of the house.  That pan of brownies becomes a goal to get through before they go stale.  You don’t want to “waist” food do you?

How to Prevent the Flu! NOT Vit C! The Vitamin D Story Continues

How to Prevent the Flu!  NOT Vit C!  The Vitamin D Story Continues

Competency # 17: Knowing About Vit D

Reference: Epidemiol Infect. 2006 Dec;134(6) 1129-40

This is really beating a drum again and again but now is the time.  We are all getting news about how to get flu shots and we are all planning on how to get ready for an epidemic of avian flu.  And this last week I found an article about Vit D and influenza.

We have known for years that influenza has a seasonal trend.  It occurs more in winter.  But in the tropics, influenza occurs more during the rainy season.  Hmmm.   We also know that kids with rickets (Vit D deficiency in its extreme form) get tons of infections.  And we know that the frail elderly die in winter from all sorts of causes, but that it all peaks with the flu epidemic each year.

The story to tell below is by Dr. J Cannell who is a psychiatrist in a prison for the criminally insane.  He had taken an interest in Vit D several years ago and, recognizing that his patients didn’t get any sunshine and had very low levels of Vit D in their blood, started his patients on 2000 Units a day.  Last year, his prison had an epidemic of flu.  His ward didn’t get sick!  He was amazed.

This is unproven yet by standard clinical trials.  The purpose of this email is to get my readers information that is at the cutting edge.  These are the questions he asks in his article that would all be neatly answered by Vit D turning on your immune system.  From last week, we know that to be true.  And we know how to measure the chemical: cathelicidin.   It works on tuberculosis in the laboratory.   Does it work on flu too?

1. Why the flu predictably occurs in the months following the winter solstice, when vitamin D levels are at their lowest,

2. Why it disappears in the months following the summer solstice,

3. Why influenza is more common in the tropics during the rainy season,

4. Why the cold and rainy weather associated with El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which drives people indoors and lowers vitamin D blood levels, is associated with influenza,

5. Why the incidence of influenza is inversely correlated with outdoor temperatures,

6. Why children exposed to sunlight are less likely to get colds,

7. Why cod liver oil (which contains vitamin D) reduces the incidence of viral respiratory infections,

8. Why Russian scientists found that vitamin D-producing UVB lamps reduced colds and flu in schoolchildren and factory workers,

9. Why Russian scientists found that volunteers, deliberately infected with a weakened flu virus – first in the summer and then again in the winter – show significantly different clinical courses in the different seasons,

10. Why the elderly who live in countries with high vitamin D consumption, like Norway, are less likely to die in the winter,

11. Why children with vitamin D deficiency and rickets suffer from frequent respiratory infections,

12. Why an observant physician (Rehman), who gave high doses of vitamin D to children who were constantly sick from colds and the flu, found the treated children were suddenly free from infection,

13. Why the elderly are so much more likely to die from heart attacks in the winter rather than in the summer,

14. Why African Americans, with their low vitamin D blood levels, are more likely to die from influenza and pneumonia than Whites are.

WWW:  What Will Work for Me?  I took Vit D last winter for the first time.  I just started this week again for this year.  I’m taking 2,000 U a day: two  800 U tablets of Vit D and a multivitamin with another 400.  If I start getting a cold this year, I just might add 3-5 more tabs of Vitamin D instead of Vitamin C.  Linus Pauling might have been right, if he had only moved up one letter in the alphabet from C to D.  I’m betting the clinical trials will prove it.  I share this information with you because I believe 2000 U a day is so safe, the benefits for all of us far outweigh any conceivable risk.


Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy. What’s Enough? It’s Implications to the World’s Second Most Dangerous Disease

Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy.  What’s Enough?  It’s Implications to the World’s Second Most Dangerous Disease

Competency # 17.  Knowing about Vitamin D

Reference: Am J of Clinical Nutrition, August 2006: 84, 350,  Science: 311, 1717-73) and Journal Science. 2006, Mar 24 p 1770 – 3.

This study in the Netherlands looked at pregnant women from non-European backgrounds and measured their Vit D levels in their blood.  They chose a very conservative level of “what’s enough” Vit D:  > 25 nmols/L in your blood.  That’s been our standard for years.  It’s a level enough to keep you from getting rickets.  What they found was alarming.  Most “non Western” women had mean levels in the ranges of 15-20.  Way low.  Caucasian women had levels of 52.7.  Living as far north as the Netherlands with limited sun from Nov-April, having cultural practices of remaining indoors and covered up, and having few dietary sources of Vit D were all considered part of the nutritional epidemic why non-Caucasian women were deficient.

We’ve all known that Vit D is important for bone growth.  That’s the old news.  The new science of Vit D is that it plays a dramatic role in many other functions in our body like muscle strength and immune response.  There is also strong epidemiological linkages to Vit D and multiple sclerosis, colon cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and possibly multiple other cancers and insulin dependent diabetes.  Even schizophrenia has been linked.   Here is some hard science linking your immune system and Vit D.  And the link for us to take home is to recognize our risks in relationship to this information.

What’s enough Vitamin D?  In the Journal Science this year Dr. Liu et al describe the effect of Vitamin D in activating your immune system.  Vit D “induces” or activates a protein called cathelicidin in macrophages.  Dr. Liu showed that those macrophages (white blood cells that gobble up bacteria) could control and destroy the TB bacteria, but only when the serum Vit D level is above 80.  Not 25.  Now, tuberculosis is present in about 35% of the world’s population.  It is not active in that many people, it is merely lying there waiting for the body to lose the ability to control it.  But the statisticians tell us that health care workers are more likely to catch TB at work that HIV.  And the HIV epidemic is uncovering more and more cases of drug resistant TB, such that a looming public health risk for all of us is polydrug resistant TB.  That’s why having an immune system that is optimally operating is important to each and every one of us.  And if its important to prevent you from getting a dramatically dangerous disease like TB, why isn’t it important when you get exposed to a cold virus on the door handle of the grocery store?  Or the influenza virus sneezed on you at work?  Dr. Liu’s seminal study shows a clear link between this simple little Vitamin and the optimal operation of our immune system.  We need more Vit D.   Period.  A blood level of 25 is too low.

What we need to recognize is the risk we go through each and every year when we get to winter, and the sun goes down.  As fall progresses, the angle of the sun is getting lower and the ability for our body to make Vit D from sunlight is gradually fading.  Is that part of why we get more colds in winter?  Your bones can make it through the winter by coasting on the reserves you have saved up in your fat tissue.  But a growing baby, a growing uterus, a nursing mom?

And what if you’re pregnant, or have darker skin, or don’t drink milk, or always wear covering clothes, or never go out of doors?  The Netherlands study suggested that pregnant non-Western women might need as much as 6000 IU a day.

WWW.  What will work for Me?  This author advocates at least 2000 IU a day for each and every one of us.  And the AJCN study suggests we may need more when we are pregnant.  If you know someone who is pregnant, please, please tell her to see her doctor and ask about extra Vit D.  As for me, I’ve upped my daily goal to 2000 IU a day during the winter months.  I’m starting Oct 1st.  I want a blood level of 80.

Burn Baby, Burn: Eating Low Glycemic Breakfast Helps you BURN FAT OFF!

Burn Baby, Burn:  Eating Low Glycemic Breakfast Helps you BURN FAT OFF!

Competency # 10 Understanding the Glycemic Index   Number 150

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2006 Stevenson et al, pp 354

The breakfast you eat can set the tone for how well your body burns fat when you exercise later.  Plain and simple.  This has never been studied in women before.  A low glycemic index meal is different from a high glycemic meal by the speed in which the glucose present in the meal gets into your system.  As we all know, glucose is the gasoline your body runs on.  Carbohydrates are simply very long chains of glucose all strung together.  Your saliva and stomach have enzymes that unzip those long chains very rapidly and allow the glucose released to get into your blood.  If you would eat 100 grams of pure glucose and measure how fast it got into your blood, you would call that 100%.  All foods can be compared to that benchmark.  So, white bread has a glycemic index of about 72, which means the glucose contained in the flour turns into sugar in your blood at 72% the rate at which pure glucose does.  A potato has a glycemic index of about 95.  Rice and pasta are also carbohydrates with relatively high glycemic indexes.

In this study, the subjects were given a low glycemic index breakfast (GI of 44) or a high glycemic breakfast (GI of 78).  Then they were exercised 3 hours later.  The amount of insulin their bodies released, the amount of glycogen in their muscle, the amount of fat from their fat stores they burned were all measured.  And what the researchers found was amazing.  The low glycemic index breakfast eaters had lower spikes in their serum glucoses after breakfast, lower insulin spikes and less glycogen stored in their muscles.  And the low GI subjects burned more fat from fat stores.  Significantly more.

This makes perfect sense.  The best explanation is to consider a threshold of glycemic index around 55.    Meals with foods below that don’t release insulin as much as meals above that.  Insulin drives glucose into storage in your fat cells.  Unfortunately, that storage effect lasts for 6-8 hours.  When you eat a high glycemic meal, you force your fat cells to go into storage mode and they grudgingly refuse to release fat for your to burn when you exercise.  They can’t, they have been “told” to take up fuel in storage, not release it for use.  This study is the first to clearly show that effect.  I suspect it’s not just with exercise that this effect is important: it’s every morning at 10 am when you are starving hungry and need energy: you go for a donut.  If you had a low glycemic breakfast, your body might just have had the energy reserves it needs because your fat cells could and would be releasing fat stores for you to metabolize.  (This is the secret of the Atkins Diet: low glycemic meat and fat never make you release insulin.)  The relevance of the glycemic index has been questioned because no one eats pure foods.  We eat a variety.  This study proves it’s relevance.  I suspect more will follow.  This is what they used.

High glycemic breakfast:  cornflakes, white bread, jam, 8 oz sugared soda

Low glycemic breakfast:  Muesli cereal, apple, canned peach, yogurt, apple juice

WWW: What Will Work for Me.  I switched from boxed flake cereal to whole grain cereal about 5 years ago and have lost 40 pounds since.  I don’t get as starving as I used to get. My home grown cereal recipe below has a GI of about 40.  Try it.  This study proves its worth.  If each of us is to maintain our weight at health levels and have “energy” during the day, we need to understand how our bodies manage the food we eat.  It gets you to “optimal performance”.  And that’s important.


Dr. W’s “Llama Chow” or Beneficial Motivator Cereal

Purchase and keep in dry storage a 50:50 mix of cracked wheat and steel cut oats.  You can use a pure cracked wheat, a pure steel cut oats, quinoa, or any other WHOLE grain.

To Cook:

1 cup of the above mix of whole grain oats and wheat

3 cups of water  (2 cups of water with a cup of quinoa)

1/2 tsp salt

Simmer for 20 minutes with frequent stirring to prevent boiling over

Set aside: let cool.  Place in glass storage container in fridge.  Lasts 10 days


To Prepare Breakfast

About  ½ – ¾   cup of the above mix

Add ~ 1 cup skim milk, almond or coconut milk

(I add ½ cup frozen blueberries)

Place in microwave and heat about 3 minutes

Add 1 packages of Stevia if you must – but try it without

Add ¼ cup ground flax seed (15 grams extra fiber and tons of omega 3s)