What’s wrong with the dietary advice Diabetes UK dishes out to diabetics? from Dr. J Briffa

Welcome back:
This week I am presenting a post, originally posted on March the 5th 2012, by Dr John Briffa – a UK physician who is right up there in terms of commonsense, proven & scientifically supported nutrition

If you’re reading this blog post on 5th March 2012, there’s a good chance you came to it as a result of listening to discussion on BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘You and Yours’ about the most appropriate diet for those suffering from diabetes. You can listen to the broadcast here (the item starts about 15 minutes into the show). The UK’s largest diabetes charity – Diabetes UK – advises diabetics to include starchy foods with every meal. I strongly object to this on the grounds that this approach is unscientific, counter-intuitive, and likely to worse blod sugar control and increase the risk of complications. I wrote this article ahead of time, because I know how challenging it can be to get all the most important facts out when time is short. This article is an attempt to get down what I believe to be the salient points, with some references to the science where relevant.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition characterised by raised levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. It comes in two main forms:

1. Type 1 diabetes: caused by a failure of the body (actually, the pancreas) to secrete insulin – the chief hormone in the body responsible for keeping blood sugar levels in check. It usually develops in childhood or early adulthood. The condition requires treatment with insulin.

2. Type 2 diabetes: here there is often a lot of insulin in the body, but the problem is the body has become somewhat unresponsive to the effects of this hormone (insulin resistance). Sometimes, type 2 diabetics can have difficulty secreting enough insulin as a result of what is sometimes termed ‘pancreatic exhaustion’. The condition generally develops in adulthood (though it’s increasingly being diagnosed in children). Treatment usually involves lifestyle modification (diet and exercise) and drugs. Some type 2 diabetics go on to require insulin. Type 2 diabetes makes up more than 90 per cent of all cases of diabetes.

What’s the problem with raised levels of sugar in the bloodstream?

When blood sugar levels are raised, there’s increased risk of glucose attaching to and damaging tissues. This can lead to complications such as eye disease and blindness, heart disease, kidney disease and poor circulation and nerve damage in the legs which may lead to amputation.

What does Diabetes UK recommend that diabetic eat?

You can read Diabetes UK’s advice for type 2 diabetics here. Here’s a core piece of advice:

At each meal include starchy carbohydrate foods
Examples include bread, pasta, chapatis, potatoes, yam, noodles, rice and cereals. The amount of carbohydrate you eat is important to control your blood glucose levels. Especially try to include those that are more slowly absorbed (have a lower glycaemic index) as these won’t affect your blood glucose levels as much. Better choices include: pasta, basmati or easy cook rice, grainy breads such as granary, pumpernickel and rye, new potatoes, sweet potato and yam, porridge oats, All-Bran and natural muesli. The high fibre varieties of starchy foods will also help to maintain the health of your digestive system and prevent problems such as constipation.

What’s the problem with this advice?

Starch is made up of chains of sugar (glucose) molecules. When we eat starch we digest it down into sugar and then absorb this sugar into the bloodstream from the gut. While it’s often said that ‘complex carbohydrates’ give a ‘slow, steady’ release of sugar into the bloodstream, this is generally not the case at all. We know this from research in which the tendency for foods to disrupt blood sugar levels has been measured to derive what’s known as its ‘glycaemic index’.

The GI is a quantification of the speed and extent to which a food releases sugar into the bloodstream. The higher a food’s GI, the more disruptive it is to blood sugar levels. In the GI scale, pure glucose is given a value of 100, and then other foods are compared to it.

Table sugar (that some people use on their cereal, add to tea or coffee and use in baking) is made of sucrose, which is half glucose and half fructose. The GI of table sugar is about 65.

Just bear these things in mind when consider that boiled and mashed potato have GIs that averages about 55 and 70 respectively. Wholemeal bread has a GI that averages out at about 70. The GIs of white rice, egg noodles and porridge are about 60, 57 and 70 respectively. We can see from this that many of the foods Diabetes UK recommend for diabetics are about as disruptive for blood sugar as eating sugar itself.

You can read what Diabetes UK has to say about the GI here.

Here you will find that Diabetes UK gives us this table:

Diabetes UK does not define what constitutes ‘low-‘ ‘medium-‘ and ‘high-GI’. However, rather oddly, brown rice gets a ‘high’ rating, though its GI is about 45, while say Shredded Wheat is rated as ‘medium’ while its GI is 83.

Over in the ‘low-GI’ column we have Special K and Sultana Bran, yet both of these cereals have GIs of about 70 (Special K’s GI varies according to country but averages out at about 70). In fact, Diabetes UK gives special mention to these named foods in its breakfast recommendations.

However, including starchy (and sometimes sugary) foods such as these in the diet will likely worsen blood sugar control (compared to a diet lower or devoid of these foods), thereby increasing the need for medication and enhancing risk of complications.

What might explain this misinformation and bad advice?

See here for a list of corporate sponsors of Diabetes UK. In amongst a whole raft of food and diet companies, you’ll see ‘Kelloggs’ (who make Sultana Bran and Special K) and ‘Shredded Wheat’. Could this explain why there highly disruptive foods get special mention from Diabetes UK and make their way into the ‘low-GI’ category even though they are anything but? I don’t know, but we should at least ask the question, I think.

Does eating less carbohydrate help control diabetes?

The evidence regarding lower-carbohydrate eating in diabetes has been well reviewed [1].

This review provided evidence that carbohydrate restriction improves blood sugar control. One study, for instance, found that a low-carbohydrate diet over 6 months allowed more than 95 per cent of type 2 diabetes to reduce or eliminate their medication entirely [2].

It should also be pointed out that, overall, low-carbohydrate diets are significantly more effective than higher carbohydrate, lower-fat diets for weight loss (the evidence is comprehensively reviewed in my latest book Escape the Diet Trap).

Low-carbohydrate eating is not a magic pill, but in practice countless individuals have found it to be highly effective for controlling blood sugar levels and improving markers for disease. I’ve known many type 2 diabetic use this approach to return to a state where tests essentially show no evidence of diabetes.

So what’s wrong with low-carbohydrate diets?

The usual accusation that such diets are high in fat, including ‘saturated’ fat that can cause heart disease (that diabetics are prone to). Actually, there is good evidence that when carbohydrate is cut from the diet, while the percentage of fat increases in the diet, the absolute amount of fat in the diet stays about the same (in other words, those switching to low-carb eating don’t generally eat more fat as a result) [3-6].

This issue is a moot point, because there really is no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease anyway. There have been several recent major reviews of the evidence regarding role that saturated fat, or fat in general, has in heart disease.

One such review conducted by researchers from McMaster University in Canada found that epidemiological evidence simply does not support a link between saturated fat and heart disease [7]. Another recent study out of Oakland Research Institute in California, USA [8] – this one, a meta-analysis (adding together of several similar studies) found saturated fat consumption has no links with heart disease risk.

Yet another comprehensive review of the relevant literature was performed as part of an ‘Expert Consultation’ held jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the US [9]. Again, no association was found between saturated fat and heart disease. This review also included a meta-analysis of intervention studies in which the effects of low-fat diets (these usually target saturated fat specifically) were assessed. Lower fat diets were not found to reduce the risk of either heart attack or risk of death due to heart disease.

The most recent review of the evidence was a 2011 meta-analysis, in which the results of 48 studies were pooled together [10]. Each of these studies tested the effect of reducing fat and/or modifying its nature in the diet. In general, the study subjects reduced saturated fat intake and/or replaced it at least partially with so-called ‘polyunsaturated’ fats (e.g. vegetable oils). The results of this review showed that these interventions did nothing to reduce the risk death due to cardiovascular disease nor overall risk of death. In studies in which lowering and/or modification of fat was the only intervention, risk of cardiovascular events such as heart disease and stroke was not reduced either.

What about fibre?

You’ll notice that part of Diabetes UK’s justification for including sugar-disruptive foods in the diet of diabetics is the fibre they can provide. The sort of fibre that is generally being referred to here is known as ‘insoluble’ fibre – more colloquially referred to as ‘bran’ or ‘roughage’. This is said to provide bulk to our stools, and help prevent constipation and colon cancer.

Actually, insoluble fibre can be irritant to the gut, and provoke symptoms such as bloating and discomfort. On the other hand, the other main form of fibre – ‘soluble’ fibre – tends to improve bowel symptoms such as constipation and abdominal discomfort [11]. Soluble fibre is found abundantly in natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

The idea that insoluble fibre helps prevent colon cancer is not supported by the research, either. For example, studies show supplementing the diet with fibre does not reduce the risk of cancerous tumours or pre-cancerous lesions [12-14].

The authors of a recent review concluded that “…there does not seem to be much use for fiber in colorectal diseases”, adding that their desire was to “emphasize that what we have all been made to believe about fiber needs a second look. We often choose to believe a lie, as a lie repeated often enough by enough people becomes accepted as the truth”  [15].

Anything else?

On 2nd March I had an email from someone telling me that he’d recently been approached by people in the street asking for donations to Diabetes UK. Nothing odd about that, except that they, apparently, were using Krispy Kreme doughnuts as an inducement. His enquiries reveal that Diabetes UK sanctions this approach and discourages the elimination of any food group from the diet. What, even doughnuts? What sort of a message does using doughnuts to induce people to donate to Diabetes UK send out? Sadly, in my view, it’s a message that is consistent with the wrong-headed and potentially dangerous dietary advice that this charity dishes out generally.


1. Accurso A, et al. Dietary carbohydrate restriction in type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome: time for a critical appraisal. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008 Apr 8;5:9

2. Westman EC, et al. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & Metabolism 2008;5:36

3. Larosa JC, et al. Effects of high-protein, low-carbohydrate dieting on plasma lipoproteins and body weight. J Am Diet Assoc 1980;77(3):264-70

4. Yancy, WS Jr, et al. A low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 2004;140:69-77

5. Dansinger ML, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, WeightWatchers, and Zone Diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction. JAMA 2005; 293: 43–53

6. Gardner CD, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among over- weight premenopausal women. JAMA 2007; 297: 969–977

7. Mente A, et al. A Systematic Review of the Evidence Supporting a Causal Link Between Dietary Factors and Coronary Heart Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(7):659-669

8. Siri-Tarino PW, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91(3):535-46

9. Skeaff CM, et al. Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: summary of evidence from prospective and randomised controlled trials. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 2009;55:173-201

10. Hooper L, et al. Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul 6;7:CD002137

11. Heizer WD, et al. The role of diet in symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in adults: a narrative review. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(7):1204-14

12. Fuchs CS, et al. Dietary fiber and the risk of colorectal cancer and adenoma in women. N Engl J Med. 1999;340(3):169-76

13. Jacobs ET, et al. Intake of supplemental and total fiber and risk of colorectal adenoma recurrence in the wheat bran fiber trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002 11(9):906-14

14. Alberts DS, et al. Lack of effect of a high-fiber cereal supplement on the recurrence of colorectal adenomas. Phoenix Colon Cancer Prevention Physicians’ Network N Engl J Med. 2000;342(16):1156-62

15. Tan KY, et al. Fiber and colorectal diseases: separating fact from fiction. World J Gastroenterol. 2007;13(31):4161-7

GI references in this blog post values are derived from: Atkinson FS, et al. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care 2008;31(12):2281-2283

This post originally posted by Dr John Briffa on his web site: http://www.drbriffa.com/

Don’t let his hairstyle fool you!! He really knows his stuff!!

Be well – see you next week.

Six Rules to Use to Avoid Becoming Fat (& if You’re Fat these’ll help You Get Thin…)

Welcome back – there are six rules to live by contained in this post.

Six rules that will keep the fat off, keep you lean and if you are fat already will help you re-condition your metabolism and get leaner and healthier.

Six rules that if you adopt them will improve your quality of life.

Six rules that if you pass them on to your family and your kids they all will live better, less disease prone lives.

Rule #1: Severely Limit Fructose in Your Diet

I’ve written before about the evils of fructose (http://bodyshapeshiftersonline.com/2011/10/01/fructose-but-not-glucose-knocks-your-metabolism-backwards/) and the evidence against this ghastly additive continues to rise.

You need to realise that we are programmed through evolution to desire sweet and salty foods. This is hardwired into us and what was once a survival mechanism has become an out of control craving. A hunger that food manufacturers use to their advantage.

HFCS – the worst form of sugar for your health & leanness!!


I’ve often said that you can’t out train a bad diet – that exercise alone, no matter how often or how hard, will keep you lean. It is your diet that makes the difference and it is the easiest thing to lose control of.

Simply put ant exercise you do can be undone just by ingesting fructose laden beverages and foods. Soft drinks / soda, fruit drinks and sports drinks – most if not all are full of fructose and make you fat. Vitamin Water for example has 33 grams of sugar in its regular sized bottle, a can of Coca Cola had 27.

The science is not in dispute (again click on & read the above article for the facts)

By now you should be used to reading the labels on any & all processed / packaged foods that you eat. If you don’t then when you start the amount of sugar in the food you routinely eat will shock you. Even worse because it is cheaper to manufacture & use much of this sugar is fructose.

Restricting the amount of fructose in your diet is vitally important for fat loss, lean maintenance and overall health.

There are numerous reasons for this but latch onto this one if no other: eating fat does not make you fat; eating excessive fructose does!

Right message wrong marketing!! Water is the best beverage…not soda.

Look at cans of soft drink / soda as you have been taught to view a chunk of fat and you would be on a truer road to wellness. (BTW the fat would be healthier for you!)

Fructose simultaneously promotes fat storage and maintenance by:

  • Impacting your Leptin levels resulting in reduced feeling of being full (satiety) so you stay hungry for longer and eat more. (for more on Leptin read this: http://bodyshapeshiftersonline.com/2011/08/20/metabolism-what-it-is-how-you-can-make-it-work-for-you-part-7/)
  • Excessive fructose actually enhances ghrelin release – the ‘keep eating I’m still hungry hormone’  (Glucose however does suppress ghrelin – see all sugars, like all calories are most definitely NOT equal!!)
  • Over time, excessive fructose contributes majorly to the development of insulin resistance.
  • It raises triglyceride levels significantly
  • It converts to fat more easily and readily than any other sugar.
  • Etc etc etc – do you need more reasons to avoid this additive?

Many health experts are now suggesting that we all strive to keep our daily fructose levels – including that from fruit – to under 25 grams per day. Aim for 15 conscious grams from fruit and try to have zero from other sources this way you’ll hit the 25 gram level easier.If you need to drop body fat then you need to aim for 15 grams total.

Rule # 2: Reduce Your Grain Carb Consumption

Like fructose there is an increasing amount of research coming out that says that grain based foods and carbs are bad for us and are another major player in the obesity epidemic.

Some of the common side effects associated with high grain based food intake are:

Excess body fat Depression Abdominal Bloating High blood pressure
Fatigue and frequent sleepiness Brain fogginess Low blood sugar High triglycerides

If you experience any of these symptoms, then the chances are very good that the excess grain carbohydrates in your diet are to blame.

No where near as healthy as we’ve been brought up to believe…

The main reason to cut down if not out grain based foods from your diet is that these foods convert easily into sugar and cause insulin spikes. A few slices of bread has the same effect on blood sugar levels as a Mars bar or two…

Insulin spikes eventually lead to the development of insulin resistance and more fat storage as well as Type II adult onset diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

So to be come healthier & leaner reducing your grain based carb consumption is a must!! This means cutting down or preferably OUT:

  • Breads and baked goods (ALL grains, organic ones aren’t any better)
  • Breakfast cereals (including oats & muesli)
  • Rice (white, brown & wild)
  • Pasta

Your body needs carbs but due to clever & insistent advertising most folk think carbs means grains & cereals when what we need to eat for our carbs are fruit and vegetables.

Our ability to store carb created sugars (as glycogen in the liver & muscles) is limited so excessive carbs, especially those readily converted to sugar get stored as fat.

Grains are at best left to be an optional & rare extra.

Rule # 3: Increase Your Healthy Fat Consumption

Fats are where its at in terms of fuelling your body.

Avoid these – check labels trans fats are everywhere in processed foods…

NOT TRANSFATS though – they are dangerous (see http://bodyshapeshiftersonline.com/2011/10/29/the-fat-in-your-diet-is-not-the-fat-on-your-hips-or-belly-or-thighs-or/) See below as well.

Carbs provide sugar and provide quick burning fuel when taken in the right amounts. But for endurance and satiety fat is what your needs.

Once you reduce your sugar load through avoiding grains & fructose  then you need to replace them with increased amounts healthy saturated fats. Fats provide you with high quality fuel your body needs and do not cause insulin spikes. However eating a lot of  margarine, or vegetable (more correctly seed) oils is asking for trouble as these types of trans fats have been linked to:

Cancers of various types Lower immune function: Obesity
Diabetes Hormonal problems – especially testosterone in males Heart disease: Trans fats can cause major clogging of your arteries

Healthy fats are:

The preferred fuel for your heart Useful antiviral agents (caprylic acid) Useful for lowering cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids)
Carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and required for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes Effective as an anticaries, antiplaque and anti fungal agents (lauric acid) Modulators of genetic regulation and prevent cancer (butyric acid)

Good sources of healthy fats include:

Olives and Olive oil (for cold dishes) Coconuts, and coconut oil (for all types of cooking and baking) Butter, best made from raw grass-fed organic milk
Raw Nuts, such as, almonds or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados
Grass fed meats Palm oil Unheated organic nut oils


Healthy fats

Lastly let’s not forget Omega #’s. Best gotten from dep cold water fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines or from quality Krill supplements Omega 3’s are the closet thing to a winder drug in terms of fats yet discovered.

For more information about omega-3’s please read this Dr. Mercola article. I do not agree with everything he says but he is on the money more often then not!!

Rule # 4: Avoid All “Diet” Foods.

Diet anything is best avoided…

It turns out that artificial sweeteners may be linked to weight gain. This appears to be because the artificial sweeteners are less satisfying for your body and may actually increase cravings for the real thing.

If a food says it is diet & contains any of the artificial sweeteners avoid it unless you want stronger sugar cravings…

Rule # 5: Eat lots & lots of Vegetables

Two posts ago we looked at the incredible story of Dr Terry Wahl & how she reversed her MS by eating the equivalent of 6 heaped dinner plates of fruits & vegetables with lean protein everyday.

Her story and more research than you can jump prove that one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your health and drop body fat is to increase your intake of fruits & vegetables.

These are real carbs with real benefits…


There is a lot of talk about the need for these to be organic and there is some truth in this, but if you are currently eating a typical western diet don’t worry about the source so much as worrying about getting more F&V into your diet. (BTW frozen F&V has been shown to have vitamin & mineral profiles as good as if not better than many ‘fresh’ F&V from supermarkets…)

Rule # 6: Exercise often and smartly.

Lift some weights, walk often, sprint once a week, play a sport, do some yoga but move more & sit less whilst challenging your muscles & cardiorespiratory system.

Go back though this blog for programs to use or check out Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence

KBs are a great exercise tool!!

Training programs (link to the right a and yes it is an affiliate one!)

The secret to increasing your fat loss is to include some high-intensity, short-burst-type exercises, two to three times per week. Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session. Forget hours on exercise bikes or treadmills try metabolic resistance exercise.

Use a  variety of exercises  (weight training, cardio, stretching, etc.) Alternate difficult days with easier days Exercise outdoors, which helps maintain vitamin D levels and improve mood
Partake of Interval training sessions 2 x a week Lift weights 3 x a week Walk and run on softer, uneven terrain, such as sand, grass and dirt, possibly barefoot or in your Vibrams.
Vary your weight program every 30 or so days Ensure that you leave enough time for recovery after physical exertion Include Recreational activities, including dancing and sex

If you’re like most Western adults, especially those of us over 35 years old then you’re likely carrying at least a few too many pounds / kilos of excess body fat.

If you adopt these 6 rules you’ll lose them and quicker than you imagine.

Give these a go and let me know how you find them!!

See you next week.

Be well.

Reversing MS – Foods as Drugs

Welcome back!!

Thanks for putting up with lack of ‘on blog’ updates – it turns out one of the apps on the site had corrupted…Now we’re back with a new look & feel and some big plans for 2012.

This week I want to draw your attention to one of the most important TED (Technology Entertainment & Design) talks ever. This 17 minute Video could literally change your life for the better.

(TED, if you don’t know, is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading”. Essentially it is a platform for the world’s best thinkers, scientists, artists and humanists to share ideas and thoughts. Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, TED.com. Check it out.)

Regular readers will be familiar with my (researched!) beliefs about the damage that our Western Diet does to our bodies. Whilst my focus has been on fat loss, reconditioning your metabolism and getting lean an underlying theme has been becoming smarter in the way we live & eat so our overall health improves.

Our bodies have an almost limitless ability to survive adverse conditions and adapt o changing environments. Our internal environment can become damaged through improper nutrition and a poor lifestyle and yet despite decades of abuse our bodies can heal themselves if given the right support.

I know of no better example of this than the story of Dr Terry Wahl.

A noted, active Doctor & Academician she was struck with MS in the early 2000’s and underwent the normal, prescribed therapies available. Her condition, like every MS sufferer continued to worsen despite her best efforts. She became wheel chair bound and watched as her body slowly deteriorated.

Then she fought back! Through her own research she not only found a way to halt the progress of the disease but she reversed many of its effects.

Watch the video for a truly inspiring and more importantly scientifically documented story of courage and cure.


Watched it? Inspiring and somehow frightening as well. What are we and have been doing to ourselves and our children for all of these years? It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.

Simply put good health and longer health and dare I say a fit and lean body is within all of our reaches. As Dr Wahl says eating the way she describes may cost a bit more but it is much cheaper than the seemingly inevitable hospitalisation, drug therapy and health care that awaits too many of us in our later years as our poor diet catches up with us.

The idea of food as a drug is not new and has been around for centuries but rarely has there been as compelling a case for the truth of this as DR Wahl’s example. When the latest pharmaceutical drugs failed she turned to food for a cure and found one in no uncertain terms.

DR Wahl went from Wheel chair to Bike riding in 12 months

It’s true – over80% percent of our health & vitality comes from our diet.

We are truly what we eat.

Dr Wahl’s case proves that eating a more nutrient dense diet of whole foods can indeed reverse a debilitating neurological disease that conventional medicine and drugs have not been able to so far.

The implications here are enormous – we could, perhaps, through better diet actually undo decades of dietary abuse and get rid of what we currently accept as the ‘diseases of old age’ – arthritis, Type II diabetes and more besides…

In Dr. Terry Wahl’s case she specifically designed her diet to combat the effects of MS, but her results are so astonishing perhaps eating this way will achieve the same results for other chronic conditions? Research continues.

Dr Wahl’s diet was aimed at being rich in the B group vitamin (B1, B9, and B12), Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Sulphur, Iodine and antioxidants. These nutrients were researched by Dr. Wahl as being essential to proper myelin formation, nervous system action and mitochondrial health.

Whole foods - good carbs & no grains!

Here are the main foods Dr Wahl includes in her diet – the ones that are responsible for reversing her MS disease:

  • Dark green vegetables – especially Kale – that are rich in vitamin B, A, C, K and minerals
  • Foods from the Cabbage family are rich in sulfur – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, turnips, & radishes.
  • The Onion family including leeks, chives, shallots and garlic.
  • Mushrooms & asparagus
  • Bright coloured foods such as beetroot, carrots, peppers, capsicum, red cabbage, berries, mangoes, tomatoes and strawberries. These are important sources of the flavonoids and polyphenols which act as powerful antioxidants that help support your retina, mitochondria, brain cells and even be used in toxin removal.
  • Omega 3 rich protein sources like salmon & herring, grass fed beef and lamb.
  • Organ meats like liver, kidney, heart, and sweetmeats which are high in the vitamins, minerals (including Coenzyme Q10 which is particularly important in protecting your mitochondria)
  • Seaweed for its richness of iodine and selenium. Not only does your brain need theses to produce myelin (The protective sheath that protects your nerves) but they help remove toxins such as heavy metals like mercury and lead.
  • Few grains, no wheat products and little if any dairy as these food groups have high incidences of food intolerance and sensitivities which increase inflammation in your body.
  • No sugar except that in fruits.
  • No transfats

Despite using some supplements at the beginning of her radical self-treatment Dr Wahl decided eventually to get all of the essential vitamins and minerals needs met through whole foods.  She came to believe (as many nutritionists do) that whole foods contain many co-factors which assist in the assimilation and uptake of the nutrients contained in the food.  Co-factors that supplements don’t have.

No grains!! Very Paleo style!!

In fact Dr Wahl’s diet is very close to a Paleo (AKA Caveman) diet. It is also dead in line with the one I have been talking about here – high vegetable and fruit with quality protein and no highly processed carbs.

In reality the diet Dr. Terry Wahl tailored for herself to deal with her MS is very similar to the diet that promotes an overall lean, fit and healthy body.

So eat better, move more and avoid processed crap and you will be going a long way to not only becoming leaner but the chances are that you’ll also be on the road to undoing decades of damage from our Western diet.

Don’t forget to leave a comment, Tweet this or even drop by the Face Book page.

See you next week.


By the time you read this you’ll need it…

Welcome Back!!

I hope that you all had a great Christmas day and that Santa brought you what you wanted!!

I hope that you spent good times with family and friends. That the food was good & plentiful, the company enjoyable and the weather good…

Well Christmas lunch has come & gone and dinner is over, done and dusted. And you’re feeling….well stuffed, over fed, pants too tight, got a good case of belly bloat going on and that furry tongue feeling that comes from either too much alcohol. too many sweet carbs or a mixture of both. (in my case Lynne – as she always does – cooked up a superb all day feast that began with Christmas Brunch and continued all day…)

Ahh.. post Christmas Dinner bloat...

You know you should have followed the last post and eaten your Protein first but the honeyed veges looked too good, the egg nog was too plentiful, the christmas cake too inviting and well you just let go and enjoyed yourself. You let go of all of that hard won disciplne, that laser like focus on only eating to stay healthy & lean… Another Christmas day come & gone and you feel a bit guilty, like you blew it and find part of your mind saying (again) never again..

Okay time to move past this, time to get back on track, time to recognise that this was a temporary diversion and most of all time to repair some of the damage done.

So how to do this?

Firstly realise that letting go of your diet control once & a while is okay, just make sure that you climb back on the wagon. It’s really not something to beat yourself up about unless ‘once & a while’ turns into every week or….

Here’s how to get back in harness– your metabolism has been given a hiding, and your digestive system has been stressed far beyond normal limits… You need to hit the ‘reset button’.

This little trick will do what’s needed:

Once Christmas day and the following one (Boxing Day here in Australia) are done then make a decision to stay away from all highly processed, high GI foods and focus on lean Protein, fresh fruit and fibrous vegetables. Add some healthy fats via nuts & avocado and you are well on the way to getting back on track.

This means waking up and having an omelette with some Spanish onion and mushrooms in it and avoiding cereal & milk. It means grabbing an apple or a peach and some almonds for a snack, having big salads with

Drink lots of this...

olive oil dressing and chicken or turkey breast, it means avoiding breads, crackers or that the left over Christmas pudding, Pavlova or pie.

It means drinking a lot of water. A lot of water.

Eating like this will reduce the bloat, ease the stress on your digestive system and beat back those sugary carb cravings.

This works by allowing a number of things to happen – fewer carbs means your body has a chance to normalise & stabilise blood sugar levels after the havoc of the days just gone.

Your pancreas gets a break and you insulin levels will drop also. Your body will release excess fluids (high sugary carbs creates water retention – and drinking extra water when eating lower carbs actually forces a situation where excess retained water is ‘let go’).

High sugary carbs also unleash the cravings monster and eating as described above will blunt these.

So December 27th or 28th get stuck into water and left over protein, veges and fruit. Pass on the potatoes, the bread and sweets, pie & cakes. Not only will you lose the bloat but you’ll feel better quicker and be back on track for a fit & lean 2011.

Oh yeah add some gentle exercise – go for a walk, toss a Frisbee, ride a bike do some tai chi or or some swimming. The key here is to eas back into exercise not jump back in like a demon! There are some

May your dreams come true in 2012

psychological considerations for this time of year to take into account as well. Our mind tells us we should be taking it easy, we should be on holidays so our bodies are going this way as well. Don’t stop exercising just ease back into instead…

My best wishes for a Safe & Happy New Year – may 2012 be the year all your dreams come true!!

One Simple Trick to Avoid Overeating on Christmas Day…

Welcome back!!

Happy Festive Season to you & yours from me & mine!!

Just because its Christmas doesn't mean undoing all your hard wrok...

Look – we all know the sad truth of what is going to take place once the presents are opened, the hugs exchanged, and you and your family sit down for Christmas lunch – you’re all going to eat too much, way, way too much.

If you’re like me, you vow every ear not to overindulge, and every year you slip up. (in my case it is particularly hard – my much better half Lynne is a gourmet class cook who loves to put on a huge spread for the family for Christmas and damn it she knows ALL my favourites!!)

The calm before the (eating!) storm...

Once we sit down then the aromas of the Turkey, the roast Pork, the leg of Lamb, the baked Ham; the sight of the salads, the roast vegetables, the fresh  prawns and sea food, then desserts – all combine to overwhelm even the best intentions and steeliest of wills.

So what are we supposed to do?

How can we avoid eating until we become Michelin Man-like and need to have a lie down?

How can we avoid the nasty latent sense of guilt that rears its ugly head over the next few days and makes us feel bad about our lack of control?

It’s simple – apart from the most fanatical amongst us we really can’t… BUT there is one simple thing we can do that will give us at least a modicum of control…

Eat your Protein foods first.

Gotcha!! Hah!! You thought I was going to say use smaller plates, or drink a glass of water first, or chew on a chunk of cheese – nope – a very important part of Christmas (or Hanukkah or Ramadan, or Chinese New Year – whatever your particular celebration is, no matter when it is, is to celebrate and to let go – even if it is just a bit!

Start off with the Ham or the Turkey, with the Pork or the Lamb or the Prawns – just eat your proteins first.

If you have been reading this blog for a little while  you’ll know that Protein foods not only fill you up faster, but they assist in the secretion of the chemical messengers that let your brain know you are full. Eating protein gives your leptin a kick in the pants and tells your brain that you’ve had enough.

You can use this tip even with a smorgsabord!!

Protein first eating actually cuts down on the time it takes for your brain to register that your stomach is full and you’ve eaten enough. In general it takes about 20 minutes from the time your stomach is full until your brain gets this message, but Protein has the ability to send get that message from your stomach to your brain much faster than other nutrients. Protein promotes feelings of satiety (feeling full & satisfied at the same time) better than any other food.

Eating your Protein first will prevents over eating because it helps you realize you’re well-fed and not starving!! Even better, Protein will not elevate your blood sugar as dramatically as high GI ‘fast’ carbs. A rapid rise in blood sugar (almost an instant hyperglycaemia experienced at just about every Christmas Dinner) can actually make you feel more hungry by stimulating the hormone Ghrelin which is the ‘feed me more’ appetite stimulating hormone. Protein shuts down this hormone – a good thing!

Even worse a sugar ‘high’ actually switches off your ‘stop eating you’re full’ mechanisms so you get shaky and start shovelling food in – usually faster and faster, without even really tasting it.

Even he keeps in shape over the holidays...

Instead, protein keeps your blood sugars within a normal range so you don’t go through the rollercoaster highs and lows that make you feel even less satisfied.

So Protein first, then eat the high fibre vegetables (think broccoli, green beans, asparaghus etc). These too will add your sense of satiety so you feel full & satisfied.

Once you’ve done this (and enjoyed it!!) then it is open slather – go for the high carb, low fibre fare that remains. Thing is though you’ll likely find that your servings of those desserts and so forth will be smaller and you will need less to satisfy your taste for them.

There you have it – a simple plan for Christmas that will enable you eat well, feel full & satisfied, indulge without bloating and more importantly not upset the cook by eating like a monk!!

I hope that you & your families have a great Festive Season, no matter what your spiritual beliefs.

May your God go with you!


Low-carbohydrate diets look good for the prevention and treatment of cancer

Welcome back:

This week I am presenting 2 posts from the UK. Dr John Briffa (www.Drbriffa.com) is one of the few medicos on-line that are wroth following and I thought that these 2 posts of his are well worth passing on for you to read.


Low-carbohydrate diets look good for the prevention and treatment of cancer

Posted on 29 November 2011

In general terms, I recommend a diet lower in carbohydrate than conventional guidelines say is healthy. At least part of my thinking is based on abundant evidence linking a relatively carbohydrate controlled diet with benefits in terms of body weight and disease markers for conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, I came across a recent paper which made me think more about the impact a low-carbohydrate might have on risk of another important condition – cancer [1].

You can read a summary of the paper here and download a provisional pdf of the full paper here.

The paper starts with reference to hunter-gatherer diets, and their relatively protein-rich, low-carb nature, and remarks that cancer has been found to be rare in societies eating such a diet. It then goes on to postulate several major mechanisms that may account for this association. These include:

1. Cancer cells feed preferentially on sugar (glucose)
Glucose (from sugary and starchy foods) provides the prime fuel for cancer cells, so a diet lower in carbohydrate may therefore reduce tumour development or progression.

2. Insulin and IGF-1 can stimulate tumour cell growth
High carbohydrate diets increase levels of insulin and what is known as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which stimulate tumour cell growth. A lower carbohydrate diet may reduce tumour proliferation as a result.

3. Ketones suppress cancer
Very low carbohydrate diets can lead to the production of ‘ketones’ (mainly produced from fat) that suppress tumours.

4. Low-carbohydrate and ‘ketogenic’ diets ‘starve’ cancer
Low-carbohydrate diets mimic caloric restriction and ketogenic diets mimic starvation – and caloric restriction/starvation is linked to reduce tumour development and progression.

5. Low carbohydrate diets can reduce inflammation
Inflammation is believed to be a risk factor in the development of cancer, and high-carb diets encourage inflammation. Low-carbohydrate diets have been found to be more effective than low-fat ones in terms of reducing markers of inflammation.

The paper also makes the case that such diets may help better meet the nutritional needs of those with cancer.

I’ve only plucked out some of the highlights of this paper, as you can read it in its entirety if you so wish. If you do, though, you may well find that the paper makes a pretty compelling case for the role of carbohydrate-restricted diets in the prevention and treatment of cancer.


1. Klement RJ, et al. Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer? Nutrition & Metabolism 2011, 8:75

Questions raised over the role of HDL-cholesterol in cardiovascular disease

Posted on 2 December 2011

Cholesterol in the bloodstream is transported in two main forms: ‘low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol’ (LDL-cholesterol) and ‘high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol’ (HDL-cholesterol). Conventional wisdom tells us that LDL-cholesterol is responsible for the fatty build-up on the inside of arteries known as ‘atherosclerotic plaque’, but that HDL-cholesterol clears this plaque. Because of this, HDL- and LDL-cholesterols are dubbed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol respectively.

A paper was published recently which attempted to explore further the relationship between HDL-cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease. Low levels of HDL-cholesterol have been associated with enhanced risk. But just because two things are associated with each other, does not mean one is causing the other.

Low HDL-cholesterol levels often go hand-in-hand with other metabolic ‘abnormalities’ including raised triglyceride (a form of blood fat) levels, raised blood pressure, raised blood sugar levels and abdominal obesity. Could it be one or more of these associated factors or other factors entirely that account for the relationship between low HDL-cholesterol levels and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

To answer this question, Danish scientists isolated individuals with low HDL-cholesterol levels as a result of a genetic glitch [1]. In these individuals, HDL-cholesterol levels are low, but this is usually in isolation and not in combination with other metabolic abnormalities (such as raised triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar and abdominal obesity).

It turns out that in these individuals with genetically determined low HDL-cholesterol levels, risk of heart attack is no higher than in the general population. The logical conclusion here is that low HDL-cholesterol does not cause heart attacks (which means that higher levels do not protect against it either). In other words, this evidence strongly suggests the link between HDL-cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk is only an association and not causal.

But if this is the case, could the same not be true for LDL-cholesterol too?

Many doctors and scientists will not hear of such a thing, of course, and will quote studies which show cholesterol-reduction with statin drugs reduces risk of cardiovascular disease as evidence of the fact LDL-cholesterol causes heart disease. However, as is well-recognised now, statins have many actions in the body which might reduce cardiovascular disease risk in a way which has nothing to do with cholesterol (including anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning properties).

Also, we have evidence that statins substantially reduce the risk of stroke, even though cholesterol is a weak or non-existent risk factor for stroke. And we have evidence that statins reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in individuals with normal or even low levels of cholesterol. These lines of evidence suggest that statins actually work through mechanisms that are distinct from their cholesterol-reducing properties.

I know that some will tell us that cholesterol is to be found in atherosclerotic plaque and that ‘proves’ that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease. Actually, though, it does nothing of the sort. If I graze my knee and form a scab there, chemical analysis of the scab will reveal something called fibrin (a clotting agent). Has fibrin caused my scab? Of course not.


1. Haase CL, et al. LCAT, HDL Cholesterol and Ischemic Cardiovascular Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Study of HDL Cholesterol in 54,500 Individuals. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism November 16, 2011

See you next week when I’ll be looking at 4 fat loss proptocols to follow when you want to drop fat fast!!

Be well.


How to be ‘Fit and Flat’ at every age

Welcome back!!

This week we’re going to look at what you need to do to be fit with a flat belly at the different stages of your life. Because of the drop in metabolic rate, our ability to recover, our abuility to produce hormones and just plain strength we need to adopt  a slightly different approach to bot eating and exercise depending upon our age.

Here are some general rules…


At this age you can get away with more and, for the most part, your youth will soak it all up.

Flat Belly? Avoid grain based foods

I can remember being able to eat 5 big meals a day and still retaining a flt stomach. But by my late 20’s this was not the case – my abs starterd disappearing..

The lesson here is that being a 20-something doesn’t give you immunity against stomach fat. In fact

the habits that you adopt and create in your 20’s will either make your fitness & leannesss easier or hareder for the upcoming decades.

The biggest things to avoid eating are refined sugars (alcohol, sweets, biscuits, etc) and starchy, grain based carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice, etc)..

The way to exercise is to lift strong, run fast and do both often.And if you stay flexible, your abs will remain strong and your stomach flat, so try adding some semi-regular (at least) yoga or pilates. Learn and practise good posture and keep your overall body fat down.


You need to eat meals that are high in vegetables, lean animal protein and some fruit. If you’re a male avoid vegetable derived proteins – the phytoestrogens in these will begin to lower youtesterone levels even more than natural age progression.

There are only a few you consider using regularly...

If you didn’t take them in your 20s, definitely start taking fish oil supplements, Vitamin D3, a good multi and some E & C. These will go a long way towards to helping you stay lean and healthy.

For exercise keep a good mix happening : Cardio (such as sprinting, rowing, running, swimming, or even the occasional aerobics class), weight training (kettle bells, body weight, weights) and flexibility (such as yoga or pilates). Look at adding some relaxing exercises like Tai Chi or Chi Kung – these are really important in combatting stress levels and as we know increased stress means increased levels of cortisol which means more belly fat!!



Okay – now we begin to hit the downward spiral unless we either: 1) take strong corrective action NOW or 2) continue with good habits developed in our 20’s or 30’s. if you don’t do either then you will begin to lose vitality, fitness and really begin to add fat.

Your lean muscle mass starts to decrease around age 40.  Avoiding grain based starchy carbohydrates (especially those with a high glycemic load) and refined sugar will help to keep your insulin levels down and, in turn, will slow down the amount of lean muscle mass you lose. You will also need up your amount of

Being smart in your 40's means looking this good in your 50's & beyond!!

protein, as it provides the building blocks of lean muscle mass – and these need all the help they can get.

In order to preserve your muscles masss (& you can still add more if needs be!!) lift heavy at least twice a week (complex exercises in the 4-6 rep range – thing deadlifts & squats!), start doing lots & lots of chin ups to preserve, strength and your posture; cut spriniting back to a weekly exercise and get some swimming or cycling (even if its 2 or 3 spin classes) in. Exercise in your 40’s is essential if you are to remainlean & vital into your 70’s & beyond!!

Increasing your fish-oil consumption will lower inflammation and in turn help keep your stomach as flat as possible post-40. Your abs and (especially for the ladies who ‘ve had kids) pelvic-floor muscles need to be focused on now more than ever, so pilates, yoga and lots of planks & core work is essential.

50-something and above

More of the same – move more, lift as heavy as able, do squats & chin ups & push ups, swim or bike, run and stretch, tai Chi or yoga – stay active and challengingly so. Most exercise should be resistance-based, using weights and pulleys, as this increases lean muscle mass, as well as releasing serotonin (the feel-good hormone). It will also leave you with a strong core which will protect your hips, back and knees from injury, as well as keeping your stomach flat.

Turning 50 means that you become more aware than ever of how your body takes longer to recover and how

Tosca Reno - at age 50+

you begin to become at least half a step slower…However it does not mean that you have to relegate yourself to dimming vitality, lowered sexuality and the scrap heap. Even without good habits formed in your 20’s, 30’s and / or 40’s you can still slow down the slide . A lot. But you have to get itno it and realise that once you get lean & fit again it will be even harder to do so if you let yourself slide again…

Your meals should be frequest with protein and lots of veges and fruits as often as possible.Eat as many colours of fruit & vegetables as you can daily – the phytonutrients & co-factors are needed like never before. Dark green leafy vegetables are important for their calcium content and you need to be eating lots of calcium-rich foods to reduce your increased risk of osteoporosis.

So the lessons don’t change – avoid sugars & trans fats, cut back or eliminate grains, avoid starchy carbs, lift heavy weigths, move more and do it regularly throughout life.

One more piece of inspiration – this is a 69 year tested & avowed natural (ie no steroids) Doctor who left it until his 50’s to get into shape. Great genetics for sure – but I’d like to look as close to looking that good as my genetics allow at that age.

See you next week. Be well.


6 Simple Diet Rules to Lose 15 Kg in 12 weeks

Welcome back…

Regular readers know that I am a proponent of  reconditioning your metabolism through a strategic mix of challenging, high intensity (but brief duration!) exercise, tactical food intake to manipulate hormones and to harness the thermic effect of eating.

I also believe that over 80% of our body’s composition is down to diet, and if your diet is wrong then you’ll stay fat.

Diet did this

There are two real culprits in the obesity crisis. One is the fast-acting carbs and sugars in breads, cereals, pastas, desserts, cakes, rolls, crackers and fast foods that we all tend to eat. The other is that we tend to eat overlarge portions of just about everything.

With this in mind here are six simple but effect rules to introduce into your eating habits that will enable you to drop 30 lbs or 15 kilos over about 12 weeks.

Give them a try and let me know what you think.


To the remaining horror of many an ill-informed Dietician if you want to lose body fat you have to immediately go on a “controlled-carbohydrate diet “.

Now unlike what the Newspapers will tell you (or those pesky Dieticians) this doesn’t mean cutting out carbs altogether, but it does mean eating strategically and with a degree of awareness so that you restrict the carb types that significantly raise your blood sugar and thus your insulin levels. For example, the carbs found in soft drinks, sweets, baked goods like cakes & cookies, bread & pasta.

Cut down or out completely for the first few weeks

I even recommend that you cut out multigrain breads and cereals for the first few weeks. Why? Well multi-grain foods still raise insulin levels. Avoid as many grains as possible – including rice & pastas, no matter what their colour. Because milk has a significant number of carbohydrates, it is off-limits for at least the first 6 weeks – so are other dairy products except cheeses.

The upshot is that this plan limits your carbs to those found in vegetables and fruit.

Now on this plan you should also:

1)      Eat only when you’re hungry

2)      Eat only to the point of feeling full.

3)      Eat as much protein as you like

4)      Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you like.

5)      Eat no more than 80 – 150 grams of cheese daily and no other dairy for at least 6 weeks.

6)      Restrict your fruit to no more than 3 daily servings of low glycemic fruits like berries, melon, apples, plums, citrus like oranges, apricots, kiwifruit or peaches or nectarines

7)      Drink at least 2 litres (2 quarts) of water every day

Follow these guidelines and you’ll also lose 15 kilos in three months.

Here are the Six Simple rules:

1. Cut out quickly digested carbs.

Fast carbs to avoid - sugar to sugar!!

Use the Glycemic Index as a rough guide, use the Glycemic Load of a food as an even better one. Foods that have a high glycaemic index (GI) tend to raise blood sugars quickly – it’s not the whole story but it is a good rule of thumb to follow. (more on this in Rule #2)

You’re an adult – eliminate junk food from your diet at least until you have lost the desired amount of body fat.

No soft drinks / soda pop, no sugary sweets, desserts or baked goods, no bread or biscuits etc. If it is a processed carb avoid it!

Eating these foods signals your body to release a flood of insulin – eliminate them and your insulin levels stay where you want them to be: low. This in turn improves both your health & fat loss. Need proof?

A University of Connecticut research study analysed why low-carb dieters were so successful and they calculated that at least 70 per cent of the fat loss stemmed from low-insulin levels.

2. Eat more vegetables.

Yep – your Mum was right – eat more vegetables, cliché or not there is no denying that for overall health and fat loss this works.

You need to aim for 4 or more servings of non-starchy vegetables every day. Why non-starchy?

There’s a lot of confusion about certain starchy vegetables that have a “high glycemic index”, vegetables that people following lower-carb eating plans have been told to avoid.

The glycemic load is a far  more meaningful measure of the effect of foods on your  blood sugar and insulin levels.

  • Peas and Carrots are good examples – they have a GI of above 60 (80 for peas) but a GL of only 3. In other words a serving of carrots and / or peas will have a negligible effect on your blood sugar.
  • Potatoes however have both a high a glycemic load and index – as does corn so you have to avoid these.

Take home message is that you can eat  virtually any vegie of your choice other than potatoes (white, sweet or fried), and corn.

Cheeses - especially hard cheeses is okay!!

3. Have protein at every meal.

By having protein at every meal you not only promote your body’s TEF (Thermic effect of food), support muscle preservation (vital to fat loss) but you also help trip the satiety signals. Eating protein at every meal helps you feel fuller quicker and for longer.

This is particularly true for breakfast when you body is essentially coming off an 8 hour+ fast.

The best sources are beef, chicken, fish, whey protein powder and eggs.

4. Don’t be afraid of natural fat.

Fat does not get stored as fat – all foods are broken down into their components and largely turned into blood sugar(a simplistic view) and it is an excess of blood sugars that get stored as fat.

The natural (ie non-transfats, non-manipulated by man) fats like those found in unprocessed meats, avocadoes, olives or olive-oil-based dressings do not raise your insulin levels, and have little to do with making you fat.

It is when high amounts of carbs are coupled with high levels of fat(regardless of source) that insulin release is stimulated causing your body to store fat instead of burning it.

God what about cholesterol and the health of my heart??

The Journal of Nutrition reviewed 13 studies of low carb diets and found that this type of diet – even with 50% of calories typically coming from fats – were more effective at reducing heart-disease risk than traditional

NOT the protein that you want to be eating...

low-fat diets.

5. Forget about processed foods.

This includes luncheon meats, cereals, snacks, baked goods etc etc.

If you follow only one rule, make it this: if it comes in a box or a bag, skip it. I guarantee you’ll have success.

6. Make Calorie Density work for you.

Calorie dense food...

In addition to adding protein to every meal another way to eat well and to feel full is to utilise calorie density. Caloric density is the amount of calories present in a given amount or volume of food.

This means that a food that contains a large amount of calories in a small volume of food has a high caloric density.  Sometimes very high. At the other end of the scale are thiose foods which are large in volume but low in calories – these foods are considered to have low calorie density.

NB The carbs with the highest caloric density tend to be those that are nutrient sparse and low calorie density carbs are nutrient dense. Fruits and vegetables have very low caloric densities, especially green and leafy vegetables. So do lean proteins.

Foods with low caloric density therefore allow you to eat more volume of food for fewer calories. You can eat more and ingest fewer calories.

Think of it this way – what is easier to eat – 1000 calories of cheesecake or 1000 calories of spinach?

So part of fat loss is to be able to eat well, eat healthily and in a way that leaves you feeling full and less likely to develop cravings. So it is important that you combine lots of fruits, veggies, beans, and lean proteins for meals that leave you full with a lower calorie price to be paid.

Nothing Tastes as Good as Being Lean Feels...

Here are the Six Simple rules:

1. Cut out quickly digested carbs.

2. Eat more vegetables.

3. Have protein at every meal.

4. Don’t be afraid of natural fat.

5. Forget about processed foods.

6. Make Calorie Density work for you.

Eating by following these 6 rules will enable you to shave hundreds of calories off your daily total while being completely content with the amount of food you’re eating. Not to mention how much healthier overall you’ll feel.

See you next week – Be well.

Using Carb Refeeding to shake things up…

Welcome back!!

This week I want to take a bit of a different look at low carb eating & lifestyle.

As always seems to be the case, information taken solid research seems to lead to extreme pendulum swings in terms of belief & perception.

High protein, low carb is the perfect example of this. Too many folk don’t bother to learn about this and adopt one of 2 opposed stances – all carbs are ‘bad’ or eating high protein is ‘bad.’ Of course neither is correct nor entirely wrong.

Protein & low processed carbs - Ideal!!

Eating low carb means eating low glycemic index. Low glycemic load, low-or- no processed carbs, it doesn’t mean avoiding carbs. It also means pretty much avoiding starchy carbs, but as we will see even these have their uses.

Let’s make no mistake- there is such a thing as ‘bad’ carbs and they are the highly processed calorie dense nutrient sparse crap that fills our western diet. Eating highly processed, high GI and high GL foods are detrimental to your health – the evidence has been in for over a decade on this!!

Likewise eating high protein will not cause heart disease or any of the other highly touted but never proven side effects – but like any fuel source too much can cause imbalances in your body systems and in every case too many calories eaten above those needed for your activity level and you’ll put on fat. No matter what the source of those calories. (But as we discussed in earlier posts the source & type of calorie does matter – processed foods with HFCS and transfats elicit different & damaging responses from our metabolisms compared to salad & steak!)

Many ‘fans’ of low carb diets will only eat the bare minimum of carbs that they feel is necessary to maintain health – this is extreme and wrong. Carbs do not have to be shunned – just chosen wisely, and eaten in line with body needs. This means that it is alright to go high carb if you earned it!! The immediate post work out period is one such time as is first thing in the morning or after a long period of intense mental effort.

The best, the healthiest and most ‘acceptable’ forms of carbs are vegetables & fruits. So although most carbs aren’t the “bad guys” they’re not viewed in the same light as “heroes” like protein and healthy fats and there’s good reason for the food discrimination.

Perfect carb sources

Of course most of us are now aware of the processed carb / insulin /fat storage connection (see last week’s post on Obesegenics) and this is one of the biggest reasons to keep processed carb consumption low. If you can keep insulin sensitivity high and insulin levels low you will not only be maintaining a healthy and optimally functioning body, you’ll also be able to drop body fat if you need to.

We also know that our bodies love to become efficient at everything they do so they can reduce the amount of energy used (our bodies are still focussed on energy  conservation) – this is why you should alter your workouts at least every 6 weeks – to keep ‘inefficiency’ and therefore metabolism high…

Likewise your body seems to adapt and get used to any particular diet. Research supports the view that most of us eat fewer than 20 different meals on a regular basis. Again our body becomes efficient at handling these foods and the results we may be trying to use diet to achieve can become blunted.

This is as true for low carb diets as for any other eating pattern. This means that if you’ve been on a low carb diet for a prolonged period of time, an occasional ‘spike’ in your carb intake can actually be beneficial for your health.

There are a number of terms for this, the most common being ‘carb refeeding’.  Really it is a way to give your metabolism a bit of stimulation that is not activity dependent, and if you’ve hit a fat loss plateau it can help restart it.

It works like this – you add starchy carbs (strategically chosen – see below) to your diet in amounts that actually increase your insulin production.  Notice I said strategically chosen – junk is junk and processed

Junk is still junk - refeeding or not!

carbs are processed carbs no matter when you consume them. The only real exception to this is if you are using a short term carb ‘surging’ protocol to replenish glycogen stores after some serious depletion. This is using the famous ‘cheat day’ once a week.
So bad carbs (processed and / or high glycemic index & glycemic load) remain not good for you and too many calories are still too many – even on programmed cheat days. The goal is to stimulate your insulin, not release so much that it begins to create an environment of insulin resistance in your body!
There are healthier ways to increase your carb intake that’ll help re-stimulate your insulin and make sure that this hormone is working efficiently.

In normal practise I recommend that we keep our carb intake to around 100 – 150g a day. This level is easy to maintain and means that you are able to consume enough nutrient dense vegetables and fruits to sustain a very healthy diet.

Eating this way though means that starchy carbs are likely to be a part of your diet very often (a good thing except in this case). Starchy carbs are what we use to re-stimulate your insulin.

Let me be clear – by starchy carbs I don’t mean breads, muffins or any baked goods; nor do I mean pasta or rice. Why? It is becoming increasingly supported that grain based foods are actually detrimental to our health largely because they contain plant proteins called ‘lectins’ and a host of enzyme inhibitors. (look up Marks Daily Apple for a Paleo style run down on this – my own research mans that I only any grain based foods on a Sunday – and that is usually for the family brunch…)

Definately NOT the type of starches I'm talking about...

No the starches I recommend and am talking about here are grain free foods that don’t contain these harmful, if natural, compounds. I recommend: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, squash, beets and taro.  This is by no means a complete listing – but the foods on it are easily found in most areas.

Here are some rules to cover off your carb re-feeding:

Carb refeeding is not suitable for everyone.  If you have insulin resistance, metabolic disorder, diabetes or any auto-immune disease it’s not recommended.

Carb refeeding is for you if you’ve been eating low carb for over 2 months and you’re beginning to feel a bit ‘flat’, and you fat loss has slowed or even stopped.

Carb refeeding doesn’t mean adding if foods you don’t normally eat (Yams, sweet potato etc should be a part of your regular diet!) but it does mean increasing the percentage of them for a short, insulin ‘invigorating’ period of time.

Carb refeeding is meant for short time use, not daily / weekly regular add-in to your diet. It is best done like a cheat day – once a week and usually never more than 3 or 4 weeks in a row.

If you do the weekly version then you can increase your carbs up to 500 g for that day if you’re eating vegetable starches (never grain) – but try to make it a day where you have a challenging weight lifting session.

Carb refeeds work better on days when you move some iron...

Remember the idea is to ‘tickle’ your insulin, not to undo the good work of your previous weeks of diet. This means that if you’re doing a carb refeed once a week; make sure that the very next day you get right back to your low carb diet.  Don’t lose control and let your carb intake remain high. You can even lower your carb intake further than normal – by about 50% – the next day to get you back to your normal routine.

Likewise you should decrease your fat intake for the day when you’re carb refeeding.  A good range is around 200 – 500 calories.

Carb refeeding is really designed for folk who have been eating low carb for at least 10 weeks, 12 – 16 is even better. The reason is that if you use carb refeeding before your body has the chance to adapt to burning fat as its main fuel source (which is a part of the reasoning behind low carb diets – metabolically switch your body’s fuel preference) it will hinder your fat loss progress.

If you’ve been leading a low carb lifestyle for some time now (at least 10 weeks) and you’re feeling great – don’t change! It is working for you and you should stick with it.

Conversely if you’re feeling like things have stagnated and you need to shake things up a little, incorporating a carb refeed may be just what your body and mind needs.

 See you next week.

From Dr. Johnny Bowden – Why You Don’t Need to Worry About that Women and Vitamins Study

Welcome Back!

As most of you know I rarely have guest posts and even more rarely do I re-publish something from someone else.

However the post I’ve included today is so important for our understanding of how the media and unfortunately many medical companies & practitioners twist the tuth to give their p[referred story that I felt that I had to put ti up here.

The original can be found here: http://jonnybowdenblog.com/women-and-vitamins-study/bowden.

If you’re not on his mailing list you should be – he provides great, unbiased information. (& no I am NOT an affiliate, nor do I earna cent from recommending his site…)

Without further ado – here is this imprtant article – it’s long but well worth a read. More from me next week.

Why You Don’t Need to Worry About that Women and Vitamins Study

by Dr. Jonny · 14 comments


Before I start talking about that vitamin study you all want to know about,  I want to say a few words about MSNBC and FOX NEWS.

Trust me, it’s relevant.

No matter what side of the political fence you’re on, I’m sure you’ll agree that cable news has become extremely shrill and highly partisan. Both MSNBC and FOX may agree on the facts they are reporting but then spin them in an entirely different way to reach entirely different conclusions.

Each political argument is founded on certain “if’s, and’s and “maybes”; i.e. this policy will lower (or raise) the debt assuming certain projections (such as medical costs or unemployment) are in fact true. Different researchers come up with very different projections (just read the Wall Street Journal stock advice columns!) Depending on whose projections and figures you use, even well-intentioned honest people can come to very different conclusions.

So why am I talking about cable news in a story about women and vitamins?

Because, sadly, the same thing that happens on cable news happens in nutrition science.

The problem is everyone knows it’s happening in cable news, but people naively think science is always “objective” and reporting about science is actually accurate.

Neither is true.

Take the latest scary study that’s got everybody all a-dwiddle about how if you’re an older woman taking some common vitamins, you might die.

The Media’s Take: Fair and Balanced, Anyone?

Let’s start with the reporting. One typical headline I saw about this story shrieked, “More Bad News About Vitamins!” Now if you read that without slowly shaking your head, go back and think for a minute about what’s implied in that headline.

We’re talking one study with a very mildly (and very questionable) negative result (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Now compare that one study to the dozens and dozens and dozens of studies that come out on a regular basis showing the benefits of vitamin K, vitamin D, vitamin C, minerals like selenium, magnesium, fats like omega-3’s, and even- in several studies- the lowly multivitamin. A writer or newspaper or television station with a different slant might easily have titled this story, “A Surprising Negative Study on Vitamins Amidst a Sea of Positive Ones”. “More Bad News About Vitamins!”? Serious?

(Yes, I used “serious?” instead of “seriously” on purpose. I feel like it gives me street cred. Please humor me.)

OK now let’s get to the study itself, and what it found.

Which isn’t very much. But let’s take a look.

“Let’s Go To The Videotape”

The study was titled “Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women: The Iowa Women’s Health Study“.

The researchers took the database of the Iowa Women’s Health Study and examined the records of 38,772 older women- average age 61.2 at the start of the study—looking specifically at their use of dietary supplements.

Well, they didn’t exactly look at the women at all, since it was not a clinical study. No one was given supplements and monitored, supplement use wasn’t confirmed by any outside source, nothing like that.  No, they assessed supplement use with three….count ‘em, three… self-reporting questionnaires given to the women at three different points during the 18 year study, which began in 1986  and continued through 2004.  (No one was asked about doses, brands, combinations, nothing. Just “did you use a supplement?” “Yes: Vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, multivitamin, calcium, iron”.)

OK, cool, see you in 11 years or so!

The researchers then examined the death records through the State Health Registry of Iowa and through the National Death Index. They checked for all original 38,772 women and found that by Dec. 31, 2008, 15,594 of them had indeed died. (Which was approximately 40% of the women. But do remember, at baseline- 1986—they were pushing 62. This is 22 years later. An optimistic way to look at it is that 60% of these ladies were living into their mid-eighties! But I digress, and this really has nothing to do with the story.)

But that’s OK, because the study itself is pretty boring and doesn’t have very much to tell us. Although you’d never know it from the media attention it got (see above).

First let’s look at the conclusions of the study, then we’ll talk about what they mean. (Spoiler alert: they mean next to nothing. I’ll show you why.)

The conclusions of the study (in the researchers’ words): “In older women, several commonly used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased total mortality risk; this association is strongest with supplemental iron. In contrast to the findings of many studies, calcium is associated with decreased risk”.

Since the words “associated” or “association” are used three times in the above paragraph, let’s take a minute and look at what an association (observational) study actually is.

What Exactly Is An “Observational” Study?

In an observational study from which many associations are generated, you take a whole bunch of people- thousands of them—and you gather data about a zillion different things.

Maybe it’s blood pressure and cholesterol, maybe it’s heart disease, maybe it’s what they ate for breakfast, how often they brush their teeth,  how many of their parents had diabetes,  how many of them own television sets, practice the rhumba, love Lady Gaga, take antidepressants, or pop a Centrum now and then.

OK now you’ve got a statistician’s version of heaven—tons and tons of data. Eighty gazillion gigabytes of numbers from thousands of people, and it’s your job to see if there’s any pattern, to determine which things are “associated”, meaning “found together”. If two things are said to be associated, that means there is some relationship between these two things that’s unlikely to be an accident.

Which brings us to “yellow finger syndrome”.

Correlation, Cause and “Yellow Finger Syndrome”

Interestingly, people with lung cancer are more likely to have yellow, stained fingers. So yellow stained fingers are positively “associated” (correlated) with lung cancer. In any given group, the more cases of yellow fingers you see, the more cases of cancer are likely.

Hmm…so who would have yellow fingers?

Let me guess. Smokers?

You can see in this case how wrong it would be to assume that because two things are associated, there is a cause and effect relationship. An association is not proof of cause. Yellow fingers don’t cause lung cancer, and lung cancer doesn’t cause yellow fingers. They’re found together because they’re both associated with a third variable, namely smoking.  Smoking causes lung cancer, and yellow fingers are a kind of irrelevant by-product of the real cause. (This kind of mistake is made all the time in cholesterol studies where high cholesterol is “associated” with heart disease except it’s not a cause even though everyone thinks it is. But I digress.)

So one thing we might ask is, what else might be true of women who are taking vitamins? Remember this study began in 1986, and vitamin usage wasn’t what it is now. Maybe these people were a bit sicker at baseline and were seeking out vitamins as a way of not getting sicker? Maybe they were people who were eating a particularly bad diet and told themselves that vitamin caps would make up for it? Who knows?

You always have to ask yourself, with any association, what else might be going on here? What else might be interfering with or “confounding” the results? Were all the vitamin takers, for example, also soccer players? (Of course not, but there’s a wild example of how an uncontrolled variable can have a huge effect on the results without anyone noticing.)

The Confounding Variable Issue

Researchers are very aware of confounding variables, so they try to adjust for these influences with statistical techniques (“adjusting for possible confounding variables”) but they don’t always adjust for the right ones. Or they can over adjust and wind up with an “association” that’s a pure statistical fluke. I’ll come back to this “adjusting” thing in a minute-  it’s very relevant to our little story, and wait till you hear how it relates to this study.

Though you’d never know it in a million years from any newspaper article or television story about this study, here’s what was true of the supplement using women at the beginning of the study: (This is taken directly from the actual research paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine.)

“At baseline, compared to nonusers, supplement users:

  1. had a lower prevalence of diabetes
  2. had a lower prevalence of high blood pressure
  3. smoked less
  4. had lower average BMI
  5. had lower average waist to hip ratio
  6. had higher educational levels
  7. were more physically active
  8. were more likely to be on estrogen replacement therapy

Then, get this—(you’re going to love this one!)

Adjusted for age and (calorie) intake, supplement use of vitamin B complex, vitamins C, D and E and calcium had significantly lower risk of total mortality compared to nonuse.

Wait, I thought the study concluded vitamin takers had a higher risk of total mortality?

Patience, grasshopper. We aren’t finished with the data.

OK, the researchers must’ve thought, age and calories are important, glad we adjusted for those, but there are probably a few other things to adjust for, so they did just that. “With further adjustment only the use of calcium retained a significantly lower risk of mortality”, they explain.

So none of the vitamins (except calcium) had a protective effect, which was exactly the hypothesis they set out to prove. (Their words: “Our hypothesis, based on the findings of a previous study by some of us, was that the use of dietary supplements would not be associated with a reduced rate of total mortality”.)

Great, hypothesis confirmed, vitamins suck, we can all go home now, right?

Ah what the heck. Let’s squeeze the data a little more, throw in some more things, see what we come up with.

Uh oh. Squeeze that data even more and presto now those three-times-in-18 years self-reports of vitamin use are now “associated” with a higher rate of mortality.

Do I have to tell you they were serving champagne that day in every marketing department of every pharmaceutical company in America?

So What’s the Risk?

The real punch line is that with all that hoopla, what “increased risk” of mortality are we talking about? Depending on the vitamin, maybe 6%- 15%. But let’s look at what that means, since it sounds way worse than it is.

Let’s say non-vitamin users died at a rate of 15 per 1000. A 6% increase in the risk of dying associated with vitamin use would mean that vitamin users would be now be expected to die at a rate of  15.9 women per 1000. A 10% increase in risk would mean that 16.5 women per 1000 would be expected to die. Now that’s no small thing if you happen to be among the .9 – 1.5 women affected, but let’s keep it in perspective. It’s a tiny association of questionable meaning-not exactly the death toll for the multivitamin, as Dr. David Katz solemnly proclaimed it on the Huffington Post.

I mean, come on.

Look, I’m not dismissing this study completely. But I am saying that there’s very little likelihood there’s anything to it. Put enough data into the mix and you can come up with associations to make almost any case. (The China Study, T. C. Campbell’s book about The China Project—a massive study of diet and health in rural China– is a perfect example of this kind of data selecting. Out of 8000 associations generated in the original China Project, T.C. Campbell picked just those that supported his pro-vegan hypothesis and put them in his book, The China Study, conveniently omitting all the many associations that refuted his theory. But don’t get me started.)

Now if I were preparing a scholarly rebuttal to this study, I’d put it in perspective by citing the the hundreds of studies that have shown benefits for vitamins and minerals. I could easily go back and search out the many, many studies showing how low folic acid is a risk for cancer, how folic acid helps prevent spinal tube birth defects, how vitamin D affects mood, physical performance, obesity, cancer, how vitamin C increases phagytosis (a function of the immune system), how magnesium is associated with lower blood pressure and better blood sugar control, indeed how virtually every vitamin tested in the study has been shown in other studies to perform vitally important functions essential to your health.

But honestly, I give speeches, write books and columns and run a health website for a living. I don’t have research assistants. I don’t have graduate student interns who can look all this stuff up and find the references.

So what I’m hoping is that one of the more brilliant health bloggers like Denise Minger or Chris Masterjohn, avowed and self-described data-nerds, will spend a week sitting up all night with the research and will come up with their usual brilliant, referenced, unimpeachable, “just the facts, ma’am” rebuttals to the findings in this study.

Meanwhile let me just say this: It’s a tempest in a teapot.

Does it make any logical sense that in a study of over 30,000 women lasting 19 years, with eight gazillion other factors involved, popping the equivalent of a Centrum or One-A-Day (or saying that you did on the three questionnaires you filled out over the course of the study) made you more likely to die?


That just doesn’t pass the smell test for me.