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One in Two People Will Get Cancer – new report finds

A new report released by the Canadian Cancer Society predicts that almost one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

One half” is a very sobering number!

Currently, cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for almost 1/3 of all  of all deaths (30%).

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death, accounting for 1/5 of all deaths (20%).

In an interview with Peter Goffin of the Toronto Star, Dr. Robert Nuttall, Assistant Director of Health Policy at the Canadian Cancer Society attributed this alarming new statistic that 1/2 will get cancer in their lifetime to the “aging population” – notlifestyle factors“. 

Nutall said;

“The important thing to remember here is that the biggest driver behind this is the aging population. “Canadians continue to live longer, and cancer is primarily a disease that affects older Canadians.”

Japan has the oldest population in the world, with ~1/3 of people aged over 60.

What do their statistics show?

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Japan’s leading causes of death (2015) were:

  1. cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
  2. cardiovascular disease (heart disease)
  3. lower respiratory infection
  4. Alzheimer’s disease

Lung cancer was 5th, followed by stomach cancer (6th) and colorectal cancer (7th). In Japan, a country with the oldest population in the world, cancer of any kind wasn’t even in the top four!

Are half of us really going to get cancer because of the “aging population” or is it because of “lifestyle factors“?

Looking at the top 4 Causes of Cancer in Canada:

Ten Most Common Cancers in Canada – projected for 2017
  1. Lung cancer is the number one form of cancer and the Canadian Cancer Society indicates that more than 85% of lung cancer cases in Canada are related to smoking tobacco.

  2. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer and the Canadian Cancer Society indicates that risk factors for colorectal cancer include (a) diet , (b) being overweight, (c) physical inactivity and (d) smoking.

  3. Breast cancer (in both men and women) is the third leading cause of cancer. Apart for personal and family history of breast cancer and other genetic factors, the Canadian Cancer Society list the following known risk factors: (a) exposure to ionizing radiation, (b) use of oral contraceptives (c) alcohol and (d) being obese.

  4. Prostrate cancer which only affects men, is the fourth leading cause of cancer and the only known risk according to the Canadian Cancer Society is family history.

Major Risk Factors for the top 4 Causes of Cancer

Here are the major risk factors for the top four leading causes of cancer in Canada;

  1. smoking
  2. diet
  3. being overweight
  4. physical inactivity 
  5. exposure to ionizing radiation (x-rays)
  6. use of oral contraceptives
  7. alcohol

Except for use of x-rays, all of these are lifestyle factors!

Diet, being overweight and being inactive are three things that can be changed easily and sustainably! A low carb approach can be particularly helpful, as it not only addresses the weight issue, but new studies have found that a number of cancer cells feed exclusively on glucose.  When we are fat-burning and run on ketones, this may play a role in greatly reducing the food sources for many of these kinds of cancer.

Why are we being told that the biggest driver behind the projection that half of us will get cancer in our lifetime is the aging population– when the underlying risk factors of these cancers are lifestyle factors? In fact, the Canadian Cancer Society says themselves that half of the cases are preventable!

“We already know a lot about how to prevent cancer. If we, as a society, put everything we know into practice through healthy lifestyle choices and policies that protect the public, we could prevent about half of all cancers.”

The “aging population” isn’t the reason for these cancer statistics – look at the Japanese statistics!

We will all age and this is not preventable, but by addressing lifestyle factors including smoking, diet, overweight and physical inactivity and others, we CAN prevent almost 1/2 of all cancers!

Have questions on how I can teach you how to eat healthier and work with you to help you tackle being overweight and inactive, then please send me a note using the “Contact Us” form on this web page.

To your good health!

Joy

 


References

Canadian Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/lung/risks/?region=on#ixzz4kZ5AnNz6

Canadian Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.ca/en/about-us/for-media/media-releases/ontario/2011/not-enough-canadians-being-screened-for-colorectal-cancer-leading-to-many-unnecessary-deaths/?region=on#ixzz4kZ5vSGSS

Canadian Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/breast/risks/?region=on#ixzz4kZ8RvXbm

Canadian Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/prostate/risks/?region=on#ixzz4kZ9J6o64

Canadian Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/cancer-research/prevention/?region=on#ixzz4kZ9jQJwt

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, http://www.healthdata.org/japan

The Toronto Star, Peter Goffin (Staff Reporter), Tue June 20 2017, https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/06/20/half-of-all-canadians-will-get-cancer-in-their-lifetime.html

Do Calories Matter When Eating Low Carb?

One of the questions that I am asked frequently is “do calories matter when following a low carb diet?” and the answer is “well, yes and no”.  It depends on why someone is choosing to follow a low carb diet. Some people eat low carb to lower insulin resistance, others to lose weight and some want to do both. In this article, I examine lowering insulin resistance and weight loss separately.

Lowering Insulin Resistance

When we eat, the hormone insulin is released which signals our body to do two things;  (1) it tells our cells to uptake energy (in the form of glucose) and (2) to store excess energy as fat.

High Carb

When we are accustomed to eating a diet that is high in carbs and we eat every few hours (3 meals plus 2-3 snacks), we aren’t only eating because we are hungry and because we “choose” to eat, but because the hormones that we produce in response to the types of foods and the amounts of these foodsignal us to eat.

The dietary composition of what we eat (i.e. how much fat, protein,carbs, fibre and fructose are in it) impact how much insulin is released (more in an upcoming article).  When we eat foods that cause a lot of insulin to be released and we eat these types of foods every few hours, our cells become less sensitive to the signals from insulin. This is called insulin resistance.

When we are insulin resistant, our body releases more and more insulin to signal our body to deal with the same amount of glucose in our blood. Add to that stress and lack of sleep which increases cortisol levels, and these hormones and others (including dopamine and serotonin) result in our body craving specific types of food, especially carb-based food that are easy to break down to glucose. In response to the increase in some of these hormones and reinforcement by others in making us feel good when eat them, we gravitate towards sweet or savory carbs in the form of pastry, breads, pasta, chocoate …you name it.

It can’t be said enough that being overweight is not a matter of having a lack of will-power but in responding to signals from very powerful hormones that the body produces – in response to the types of foods we eat.

Unless we are quite physically active throughout the day (which most of us are not), our body does what insulin tells it to do and stores the excess energy as fat.  The excess energy (in the form of glucose, the sugar in our blood) is shuttled off to the liver, where a small amount is stored as glycogen and the remainder is shipped off to our adipose cells (fat cells), to be stored as fat.

When eating a high carb diet, getting excess calories into fat cells is easy, getting the fat out of fat cells, not so much.

Eating a high percentage of calories as carbs and a low percentage of calories as fat, as well as eating foods with a high insulin index will continue to increase our insulin resistance over time.

In answer the question above, even in eating a high carb diet, insulin resistance has less to do with the total amount of calories we eat than it has to do with the dietary composition of our diet (i.e. the percentage of calories we eat as carbs/fat, the insulin index of the foods we eat) and the frequency that we eat.

Low Carb

People’s response to a low carb diet is different for those that are insulin resistant than for those that are not.

For those that are not insulin resistant, going without food for a significant period of time (such as from the end of supper until breakfast the next morning), causes insulin levels to drop and to transition over to burning body fat. As a result, ketones  which can be used by the body as fuel instead of glucose rise.

If the person extends the time until they eat after waking up until say, lunch time, they continue to burn body fat and produce ketones – quite literally they are burning their own fat stores for energy! This wouldn’t occur if they ate every few hours, as the Dietary Recommendations encourage us to do.

These periods of time between meals where one isn’t eating or drinking foods that cause insulin release are referred to as “intermittent fasting“. It’s not “fasting” as in “starving” because we rely on, and have access to our fat stores, as fuel.

When people are insulin resistant from years of eating high carb low fat diets, as well as eating every few hours, blood glucose levels remain high for long periods after they’ve eaten.  This indicates that they are not metabolizing carbohydrate well. When they go without food for an extended periods of time (such as would occur between supper and breakfast), their body is slow to switch over to burn fat and produce ketones, because their insulin levels are high.

Focusing on eating foods that cause a low insulin response, allows insulin levels to fall, which then allows one’s own body fat stores to be used for energy, as described above.

Insulin levels fall and remain low as people keep the carb content of their diet to ~ 10% of our daily caloric intake and the fat content of their diet to ~70-75% of calories.  After a short period of time (~2-4 weeks) we become “fat-adapted” – which means we are efficient at burning fat for energy, rather than carbs. Ketones are produced at a fairly constant rate – which can be measured by urine dip stick, blood ketone meters or by breath analysis. Continuing to eat a low carb diet results in lowers blood glucose levels, as well as insulin levels, allowing the cells in the body to become insulin-sensitive again.

In summary, becoming insulin-sensitive has less to do with the total amount of calories we eat than it has to do with the dietary composition of our diet (i.e. the percentage of calories eaten as carbs/fat, the insulin index of the foods eaten and the amount of time between meals).

Weight Loss

High Carb

When we are eating a diet where 45-65% of the calories we eat are as carbohydrate, under the influence of insulin, excess calories not immediately needed by the cells are stored as fat.

We can’t get the fat out of the fat cells, as long as we keep taking in carbs, which are burned for energy – although people try either by restricting calories or increasing exercise, based on the old “calorie in, calorie out” model. This says that the only reason people gain weight is because they eat more calories than they burn.

Let’s look at this a bit closer…

Calorie Restriction

One way people try to lose weight is by restricting calories but instead of our bodies using stored fat for energy, our metabolism slows down to spare calories, with our Total Energy Expenditure dropping by as much as 30-50%.  The body does this in an effort to save calories for essential bodily functions, such as our heart beating.

In response to restricting calories, body temperature drops slightly and people complain of being unable to stay warm even with plenty of clothing because producing less heat enables the body to save  calories. Heart rate and blood pressure also drop to conserve energy (calories). People find it difficult to concentrate because the brain is very metabolically active and restricting calories turns that down.  Since calories are needed to move, a sudden calorie restriction leaves people feel weak during physical activity. Metabolism slows down as a survival mechanism, because the body doesn’t know when it will get another meal, and thus more glucose.

The total amount of energy we use (called Total Energy Expenditure) is not just used to move us around (exercise) but is used for generation of body heat and other metabolic processes (called Basal Energy Expenditure).  This is not something which is stable, but can increase or decrease by as much as 50%. This up-regulation and down-regulation for heat and other body processes contributes more to weight loss or weight gain than exercise does. 

We don’t really “choose” to eat or not eat. How much we eat (“calories in”) isn’t voluntary. As touched on above, there are hormones such as insulin and cortisol that are involved in eating behavior, as well as other hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, cholecystokinin and peptin YY that tell our body when we are hungry and when we are satiated (not hungry).

It is for these reasons that restricting calories doesn’t necessarily translate to weight loss.

Increased Exercise

Another way people try to lose weight is they increase the amount of exercise they do. They believe, based on the “calories in calories out” model, that that as long as “calories out” is greater than “calories in”, they’ll lose weight.  What they neglect to consider is that “calories out” isn’t only exercise, but includes energy used to synthesize muscle, bone and other proteins.

Exercise may be under voluntary control (people can choose to exercise or not), however the energy our body uses for building tissue, staying warm, cognitive function (thinking) are completely involuntary and the body decides where energy will be used.

The problem with the “calorie in calorie out” model is that neither “calories in” nor “calories out” are under our direct control (i.e. they aren’t voluntary). Hormones that our bodies produce determine when we feel hunger and our body determines where the calories we do take in will be spent.

Low Carb

When we are “fat-adapted” as described above, our bodies burn fat (first from our diet and then from our fat stores), producing ketones which are used by the body, in place of glucose.

Now here is where the total amount of calories we take in matters. If there are less calories in our diet than what we need, our bodies will burn the fat in our adipose cells for fuel. This is how we get the fat out of fat cells.

When we extend the time between meals by doing various lengths of “intermittent fasting“, our bodies continue to rely on our own fat stores for energy.  

So, yes, for those seeking to lose weight by means of a low carb diet, calories count.

That said, there is an advantage to eating low carb, outside of lowering insulin resistance and losing weight.

While it used to be assumed that when we eat any foods containing 100 calories (that it doesn’t matter if it is carbs, fat or protein), that 100 calories of heat is released. We now know that low carb diets provide a metabolic advantage by providing greater weight loss per calorie consumed compared to high-carbohydrate diets.

That is, on a low-carb diet, people will lose more weight per calorie than those on a high carb diet, but yes the total calories consumed still count.

In my next article, I’ll be writing about the implications regarding the foods we eat and when in a low carb weight loss diet, “Since Calories Matter“.

My Role

I tell my clients never to count calories.  I don’t want them enslaved to an old way of thinking that it is all about / only about calories, because it is not.

I do all the calculations to determine how many calories they should be taking in based on their physical needs and if they are seeking weight loss, I factor that in based on a realistic estimated weight loss per week / month and determine many of those calories should be as fat, carbs and protein.

I find out from my clients what they like to eat and when, and then design their meal plan to have the desired fat to carb dietary composition that promotes becoming “fat-adapted”. For those that are insulin resistant, I help them navigate the balance between lowering insulin resistance and weight loss – by focusing on foods that trigger a low insulin response and that are nutrient dense. 

I help with when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat so that all you have to do is eat!

Want to know more?

Please send me a note using the “Contact Us” form above and let me know how I can help.


References

Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al. Effects of Dietary Composition During Weight Loss Maintenance: A Controlled Feeding Study. JAMA : The journal of the American Medical Association. 2012;307(24):2627-2634. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6607.

Feinman RD, Fine EJ (2003) Thermodynamics and metabolic advantage of weight loss diets. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, 1:209-219.

Holt SHA, Brand Miller JC, Petocz P. An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods. Am J Clin Nutr 66, 1264-1276

Holt, Susanne H.A.; Brand-Miller, Janette Cecile; Petocz, Peter (November 1997). “An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods” (PDF). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 66 (5): 1264–76. PMID 9356547. Lay summary – Insulin Index (2009-10-14).

New Obesity Study Sheds Light on Dietary Recommendations

As mentioned in the previous article, a new study published Monday, June 12, 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed data from 68.5 million adults and children in 195 countries and found that 1/3 of people worldwide are overweight or obese and are at increased risk of chronic disease and death, as a result.

Data from one country, China, stood out among all of them due to record high rates of childhood and adult obesity;

  • In 2015, China had the highest incidence of obese children in the world (~10%) along with India. 
  • In 2015, China along with the US had the highest incidence of obese adults (>35%). 

As a Dietitian, I wanted to have a look at the Dietary Guidelines for Chinese Residents (Chinese: 中国居民膳食指南) in the years prior to 2015, to determine how they may have contributed to these high rates of overweight and obesity.

The Food Guide Pagoda

The Chinese Dietary Guidelines, known as the ‘Food Guide Pagoda’ was first published in 1989 and revised in 1997. The 2007 revision was developed in conjunction with a committee from the  Chinese Nutrition Society, in association with the Ministry of Health.  A new revision came out in 2016.

The 2007 ‘Food Guide Pagoda’ (the one that was in effect at the time the 2015 overweight and obesity statistics came out) was divided into five levels of recommended consumption corresponding to the five Chinese food groups.

  1. Cereals – in the form of rice, corn, bread, noodles, crackers and tubers make up the base of the Pagoda
  2. Vegetables and Fruits – form the second level of the Pagoda

    According to the Chinese Dietary Recommendations, the majority of foods in each meal should be made up of cereals, including rice, corn, bread, noodles, crackers and tubers (such as potatoes), followed by Vegetables and Fruit.


  3. Meat, Poultry, Fish & Seafood and Eggs form the third level, and it is recommended that should be ‘eaten regularly’, but ‘in small quantities’.

  4. Milk & Dairy and Bean & Bean Products – form the fourth level.
  5. Fat, Oil and Salt – form the roof of the Pagoda and are recommended to be eaten in moderation.

Specific Dietary Recommendations (2007-2015)

The main recommendations of the 2007 Chinese Dietary Guidelines were as follows:

  • Eat a variety of foods, mainly cereals, including appropriate amounts of whole grains.
  • Consume plenty of vegetables, fruits and tubers (e.g. potato, taro, yam etc.)
  • Consume milk, beans, or dairy or soybean products every day
  • Consume appropriate amounts of fish, poultry, eggs and lean meat.
  • Reduce the amount of cooking oil
  • Divide the daily food intake among the three meals and choose suitable snacks.

The Results (2005-2015)

1. Leading cause of death

In 2015, heart disease overtook Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as the second leading cause of death, followed by stroke.

In 1990, the leading cause of death in China was Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) largely contributed to by smoking, followed by heart disease and diarrhea.


2. Leading cause of premature death

In 2015 as in 2005, stroke was the leading cause of death, followed by heart disease.

 


3. What caused the most death and disability combined?

In 2015, stroke was leading cause of death in China, followed by heart disease.

 


Magnitude of the Problem – China compared to the US and Canada

In 2015, for every 100,000 people in China, 2,237 people died from heart disease and 1,672 people died from stroke.

In the US, for every 100,000 people, 457 people died from heart disease and 1,617 died from stroke.

In Canada, for every 100,000 people, 327 people died from heart disease and 1,106 died from stroke.

Rates of stroke in the China and US were quite similar. Both China and the US had the highest number of obese adults (>35%) in the world. 

China’s “solution”?

China concluded that given that stroke and heart disease were the two leading causes of all forms of death, of premature death and of disability in 2015 that “dietary risks drive the most death and disability“.

In response to these high rates of stroke and heart disease among Chinese, the Chinese government, with the assistance of the Chinese Nutrition Society produced a revised version of the Chinese Food Pagoda in 2016.

New Dietary Recommendations (2016)

When compared with the previous version of the 2007 Food Pagoda, the Chinese assure everyone that “there have been no significant changes in dietary recommendations” (Wang et al, 2016). This is what they are emphasizing:

Eat a variety of foods, with cereals as the staple – The daily amount of cereals and potatoes consumed for body energy production should be 250–400 g, including 50–150 g of whole grains and mixed beans, and 50–100 g of potatoes. The major characteristic of a balance diet pattern is to eat a variety of foods with cereals as the staple.

Balance eating and exercise to maintain a healthy body weight – this is based on the same “calorie in / calorie out” model that the US and Canadian recommendations have been based on. “Avoiding ingesting excessive food and physical inactivity is the best way to maintain energy balance”.

Consume plenty of vegetables, milk, and soybeans – The daily vegetable intake should be in the range of 300–500 g. Dark vegetables, including spinach, tomato, purple cabbage, pak choy, broccoli, and eggplant, should account for half this amount and should appear in every meal. Fruits should be consumed every day. The daily intake of fresh fruits, excluding fruit juice, should be between 200 and 350 g. A variety of dairy products, equivalent to 300 g of liquid milk, should be consumed per day. Bean products and nuts should be frequently eaten in an appropriate amount for energy and essential oils.

Consume an appropriate amount of fish, poultry, eggs, and lean meat – The consumption of fish, poultry, eggs, and meat should be in moderation. The appropriate weekly intake is set at 280–525 g of fish, 280–525 g of poultry, and 280–350 g of eggs with an accumulated daily intake of 120–200 g on average. Fish and poultry should be chosen preferentially. The yolk should not be discarded when consuming eggs, and less fat and fewer smoked and cured meat products should be eaten.

Final Thoughts…

China now has some of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world (~10%) and is tied with the US for the highest rate of adult obesity (>35%) yet to address the issue of incredibly high rates of stroke and high rates of heart disease, the 2016 Chinese Dietary Recommendations define a “balance diet pattern” as a daily adult intake of;

1/2 lb – 1 lb (250-400 gm ) of cereals, grains and potatoes

1/3- 3/4 lb (200 – 350 gm) of fresh fruit

1 1/2 cups of milk

and

1/4 lb – 1/3 lb of fish, poultry or eggs (with meat “in moderation”)

These “new” recommendations are based on the same “calorie in / calorie out” model that the US and Canadian Dietary Recommendations have been – on that fails to take into account how the body compensates on a carbohydrate-based diet for increased energy output or decreased caloric intake (see previous blogs).

The Chinese are being told that “the best way to maintain energy balance” (Wang et al, 2016) is to

  1. exercise more (150 minutes/week plus 6000 steps/day)
  2. eat less fat and animal protein
    and
  3. consume most of their calories as rice, corn, bread, noodles, crackers and potatoes 

Over the last four decades,  encouraged by our respective dietary guidelines, Americans and Canadians have dutifully reduced their fat consumption from ~40% in the 1970’s to ~30%, increased the amount of carbohydrate as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, are consuming low fat milk, eating more fish and drinking less pop, and presently, 2/3 of adults considered overweight or obese.

It makes no sense for our own governments to continue to make the same dietary recommendations to consume more and more carbs and less fat and protein, expecting different results.

It is said, that doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results is the epitome of insanity.

How I can help you

If you are looking to achieve a healthy body weight, lower blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides, I can help.

I take a low carb high health fat approach and can teach you how to eat well, without weighing or measuring food, or counting “points”.

Want to know more?

Send me a note using the “Contact Us” form, on the tab above.

To our health!

Joy


References

Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2015 Obesity Collaborators, Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years, N Engl J Med, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1614362

Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx), http://ghdx.healthdata.org/geography/china

Wang S, Lay S, Yu H, Shen S. Dietary Guidelines for Chinese Residents (2016): comments and comparisons. Journal of Zhejiang University Science B. 2016;17(9):649-656. doi:10.1631/jzus.B1600341.

 

Obesity Pandemic – new study

In the last few years, we’ve heard the term “obesity epidemic“, but a new study published this past Monday, June 12, 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine seems to indicate that it is now an “obesity pandemic“.

Researchers analyzed data from 68.5 million adults and children in 195 countries to assess (1) the prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2015 and (2) the trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity between 1980 and 2015.

The “short story” is that a 1/3 of people worldwide are now overweight or obeseput another way, two billion people globally are overweight or obese and are at increased risk of morbidity (chronic diseases) and morbidity (death), as a result.

The Significance

Epidemiological studies (studies of different populations from around the world) have identified high BMI as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and many types of cancer.

Furthermore, overweight children are at higher risk for the early onset of diseases such as type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) > 30 kg/(m)2

Overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25 and 29.9 kg/(m)2

Obesity Findings

Data showed that in 2015, there were 603.7 million obese adults worldwide and 107.7 million obese children.

The prevalence of obesity has more than doubled in 70 countries since 1980, and there has been a tripling of obesity in youth and young adults in developing, middle class countries such as China, Brazil, and Indonesia.

Worldwide, the prevalence of obesity is now 5% in children and 12% in adults — findings that mirror global trends in type 2 Diabetes.

Most alarming was that in 2015;

  • high BMI accounted for four million deaths globally
  • almost 40% of deaths resulting from high BMI occurred in people who were overweight, but not obese
  • more than 2/3 of deaths related to high BMI were due to cardiovascular disease

Varying Risk

It is important to note that risk of outcomes related to obesity has not been found to be uniform across populations. For example, it has been reported that at any given level of BMI, Asians have been shown to have a higher absolute risk of Diabetes and hypertension, whereas African Americans have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than other groups.

Addressing the Problem

To address the problem of overweight and obesity both here and around the world, requires correctly identifying its cause and for the last 40 years, excess dietary fat — especially saturated fat has been blamed as the villain and ostensibly responsible for the “obesity epidemic” and resulting “diabetes epidemic”.

But is it?

When one compares the Dietary Recommendations in both Canada and the United States since 1977 to rates of overweight and obesity in both of these countries, it seems apparent that it has been the promotion of diets high in carbohydrate that lies at the root.

In the next article, I’ll take a look at the Dietary Recommendations of the country with the highest rate of childhood obesity and adult obesity in 2015, as well as some of the highest rates of stroke and heart disease per capita, in the world.

How I can help

If you have eaten a ‘low fat diet’ and counted calories (or points) until you are blue in the face and are tired of doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome, why not drop me a note using the “Contact Us” form, above. I’d be glad to explain how I can help you achieve a healthy body weight, while normalizing your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

To your health!

Joy


References

Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2015 Obesity Collaborators, Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years, N Engl J Med, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1614362

Gregg EW, Shaw JE, Global Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity, N Engl J Med, doi: 10.1056/NEJMe1706095

Karter AJ, Schillinger D, Adams AS, et al. Elevated rates of diabetes in Pacific Islanders and Asian subgroups: the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE). Diabetes Care 2013; 36:574-9

A Dietitian’s Journey – 3 month update

Today marks 3 months since I started my own weight-loss and getting-healthy journey and so I’m posting this short update.

While I’ve only lost 7 pounds, I’ve lost a remarkable 4 inches off my waist, which is greatly encouraging, as I still have another 6 inches to lose (based on my height-to-waist ratio). I know without a doubt that this is entirely ‘doable’!

I look in the mirror and recognize the person looking back. I recently bought new jeans that are a full size smaller and when the weather has been hot, I’ve not only worn shorts, but I’ve wore them out of the house.

My blood pressure is very stable and now fluctuates between stage 1 hypertension and pre-hypertension; a dramatic improvement from the wildly erratic fluctuations between stage 2 and stage 1 hypertension, with a hypertensive emergency thrown in for excitement. It was that crazy high blood pressure which started me on this journey, but what keeps me on it, is how I feel. I feel great!

My blood sugar has been great after meals, but recently has become quite a bit higher several hours after eating, even though I have not eaten or drunk anything except water. From the reading I’ve been doing in the literature, this has been reported in those who previously had what is called “dawn syndrome” (high morning fasting blood glucose – which I had) after they’ve adopted a low carb high fat diet.  It seems that the second of the two stages of insulin release is suppressed in those such as myself, causing blood glucose to remain higher for a longer period of time. One way of addressing this is via exercise, so it seems I will be doing this more than once in a while to manage this.

This morning it was gorgeous out; clear sky, cool temperatures and the track was beckoning me, and so I went. I haven’t worked out more than 2 or 3 times a month since I began my journey, but despite that, I noticed a huge improvement in my fitness level today. I can only attribute that to the loss of fat around my middle. I did an extra two rounds on the track at a pretty decent clip, with a total distance of 3.2 km (2 miles). I could have done another round (maybe two) but thought I might be too stiff tomorrow, and since my goal is to do this more often to address my second stage insulin suppression, I decided to ‘call it a day’ after 3 km. As I was leaving the track, I decided to take a short video to post along with this 3-month update. Have a look at the video which is posted below, and compare it with the one from 3 months ago (http://tinyurl.com/yb3unuff). My progress is evident.

Want to know how I can help you accomplish your own health and fitness goals?

Please send me a note using the “Contact Us” form above and I’ll be happy to reply.

To our good health!

Joy


Low Carb / Keto Ice Cream

The last few days have been rather hot and humid out and one of my young adult sons wanted ice cream.  Since we both eat low-carb now, this necessitated me inventing a low carb ice cream. Not having an ice cream maker, I tapped into my years of cooking experience for the “how to”. The two flavors I made were both were delicious and super easy to make. 

Carb Content

Japanese Black Sesame Keto Ice Cream

The Japanese Black Sesame Keto Ice Cream had only 3.5 gms of carbs per serving (2 1/2 grams of carbs per serving from the touch of date syrup as sweetener and 1 gm of carbs from the 20 gms of Black Sesame Paste. The only other ingredient was whipping cream (no carbs!).

Keto Coffee Chip Ice Cream

The Keto Coffee Chip Ice Cream had 10 gms per serving, as more date syrup was needed to offset the bitterness of the the concentrated powdered espresso powder.  There were 8 grams of carbs per serving from the date syrup, but less could be used if you don’t want as intense a coffee flavor as I did. There were 2 gms of carbs from the 1/2 of a dark chocolate bar that I pounded into chocolate “chips”.

 

The “Recipe”

The recipe to make Keto Ice Cream is more of a method, than a recipe. It can be used for any variety of keto ice cream flavors you or I can dream up.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (12 oz) heavy whipping cream

4 oz heavy whipping cream

1 – 3 Tbsp Silan (also called Date Syrup or Date Molasses – available at most Middle Eastern grocery stores)

Either:

(A) 2 Tbsp black sesame paste (available from a Japanese, Korean or some Chinese grocery stores)

OR

(B) 1 – 1.5 Tbsp powdered espresso powder 

& 45 gms of dark chocolate pounded into small “chips” 

Method

In a stand mixer or using a large bowl and a hand-mixer, whip the 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream into soft peaks.*

* don’t over beat it, or it will become butter!

In a separate bowl, beat the 4 oz heavy whipping cream to soft peaks.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flavoring you are using (in this case, either the black sesame paste or the espresso powder and chocolate chips). Fold gently, so as not to deflate the whipped cream.

Now gently fold the flavored whipped cream into the bowl of plain whipped cream, just until blended.

Pour the soft mixture into a freezer-safe, 1 quart / 1 litre glass container with a locking lid.

Freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

(For softer ice cream, stir mixture every hour and a half, scraping down the sides with a spatula and continue freezing).

Enjoy!

Oh Nuts!

One of the challenges with trying to lose weight is reaching a plateau – where one’s weight stays the same for an extended period of time. When eating a low-carb or ketogenic diet, some foods such as nuts are a common pitfall. Despite being a rich source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, some nuts contain high amounts of carbohydrate.


Carbs Per Serving of Nuts

Serving Size

A serving size* of nuts is generally considered one ounce (1 oz.) which is about a handful of an ‘average-sized hand’. The problem with using this kind of measurement is that not all nuts have the same mass per volume, nor does everybody have the same size hand!

Here are the number of nuts per ounce for common varieties:

  1. Cashew 16-18 nuts per ounce
  2. Pistachio 45-47 nuts per ounce
  3. Almond 22-24 nuts per ounce
  4. Pine Nuts ~3 Tbsp. (160 kernels) per ounce
  5. Hazelnut 1012 nuts per ounce
  6. Walnut 8-10 halves per ounce
  7. Peanut 27-29 nuts per ounce
  8. Macadamia 10-12 nuts per ounce
  9. Pecan 16-18 halves per ounce
  10. Brazil Nuts 6-8 nuts per ounce

* When eating shelled nuts, many people eat a few palm fulls, so I’m going to indicate the carbs for a 1 oz and 3 oz serving.

Carbs are listed as “net-carbs” (i.e. once fiber (which is not digestible) has been subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrate).

Carbohydrates per Ounce

  1. Cashew 
    Cashews aren’t actually “nuts” but are the fruit of a cashew apple, and contain 9 gms of carbs per 1 oz (~17 nuts) – that’s 27 gms of carbs for 3 oz (~ 3 average handfuls). To think of this in terms of “carb foods”, that’s about the same number of carbs as in 2 slices of bread!


2. Pistachio 
Pistachios contain 6 gms of carbs per 1 oz serving ~ 46 nuts – that’s 18 gm of carbs in an average 3 handful serving (3 oz) a little more than a slice of bread.


3. Almonds

Almonds contain approximately 3.5 gms of carbs per ounce ~23 nuts, which amounts to 10 gms of carbs for 3 oz (~3 average-sized handfuls).


4. Pine Nuts 

Pine nuts (also called pignolias) contain 3 gms of carbs per oz. (which is about 3 Tbsp.)

 


5. Hazelnut 

Hazelnuts (~11 nuts per ounce) contain ~2 1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving (~11 nuts) / 7 gms of carbs for 3 oz / 3 average handfuls.

 


6. Walnut 

An ounce of walnuts (9 halves per ounce) contain the same amount of carbs as an ounce of hazelnuts (~2  1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving / 7 gms of carbs for 3 average handfuls or ~ 27 halves.


7. Peanut 

An ounce of peanuts (~28 shelled peanuts per ounce) also contain the same amount of carbs as an ounce of hazelnuts or walnuts (~2  1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving.

 


Top three low carb high fat / keto-friendly nuts:

Macadamias, Pecans and Brazil nuts are the 3 most low-carb and keto-friendly nuts – having between 4 and 5 gms of carbs for a 3 oz serving! That’s far better than the 27 gm of carbs for 3 oz of cashews and 18 gm of carbs for 3 oz of pistachios!

8. Macadamia

Macadamias have slightly more than 1  1/2 gms of carbs for a 1 oz serving (~11 nuts) / 5 gms of carbs for a 3 oz serving.

 


9. Pecans

Pecans have 1.3 gms of carbs for an ounce of nuts (~17 halves) / 4 gms of carbs for a 3 oz serving .

 

 

 


10. Brazil nuts

 

Brazil Nuts also have only 4 gms of carbs for a 3 oz. serving (~ 7 nuts)

 


A Tough Nut to Crack

Back in the day, eating nuts meant cracking nuts.

It was common to see living room tables with bowls of nuts in their shell, with nutcrackers and nut-picks readily available for use.

Each house had its preference for the style of nutcrackers they insisted were the best.  Growing up, we had ones like those above.

Nuts and “Carb Creep”

Carb creep” is when we think we are eating low carb, but hidden sources of carbs are sneaking into our diet without us being aware of it.

When I was pondering why I had reached my own weight plateau, I knew carb creep had to be the reason – but from where?

After analyzing my diet, it seemed that nuts might be the source and it was.

My biggest single downfall was that I like to crack and eat pistachios on the weekend, while working on my foreign language studies – and it is WAY too easy to crack them and eat copious amounts!  In fact, I am somewhat of an expert at shelling them, as my brother and I were placated by our parents with bags of pistachios, on long car trips. To get my “fair share”, I learned to be quite efficient at shelling them and so it seems, I haven’t lost that ‘skill’.

Over the course of several hours I can shell and eat 1/2 to 1 lb of pistachios without really noticing eat, and in the worst case scenario that’s almost 100 gms of hidden carbs!

Add to that a handful or two of almonds a day (another hidden 10 gm of carbs per day) and the source of my “carb creep” became clear.

Portioning

Of course to try to prevent eating too many, nuts can be portioned out in 1 oz or 3 oz ‘servings” and the rest put away for another time, but it is still way too easy for someone who is hungry or tired to mindlessly reach for a handful or two of nuts. It seemed to me that having large containers of shelled nuts that are too easy to reach for, may not be the best solution.

Unshelled Nuts

Replacing shelled nuts with nuts in the shell, like we ate in the “old days”, turns out to be a far more effective solution.

It’s very hard to over eat nuts you have to shell first.

It is much s-l-o-w-e-r to crack and then eat these almonds than these: 

 

…or to crack and eat these Brazil nuts  than these: 

Bingo!

Since pecans are a much lower carb nut than pistachios, they have become my go-to nut from the nut-bowl…and let me assure you, it takes quite a while to shell 17 halves for a mere 1.3 carbs! In fact, I’m pretty sure I expend more energy cracking them, than I take in, eating them.

The Right Tools for the Right Job

Despite having a variety of nutcrackers, I found pecans a “very tough nut to crack” – with them frequently flying out of the standard pinch-style cracker.

I found out that there is a special “pecan cracker” that one can order that apparently does the job very well and looks like this:

…but the little contraption below that I invented in my garage (with a d-clamp and a stick-on felt pad, works great, and I use it for pecans, walnuts and even hazelnuts. Even eating walnuts, which are a higher carb nut – it takes quite a while to shell 9 halves (2  1/2 gms of carbs).

How I can help

For the last 2 years, I have helped my clients lose weight and keep it off using a low-carb approach. More recently, I am ‘practicing what I preach‘ (as you can read about in the blogs titled “A Dietitian’s Journal”). The things I am learning “doing it” adds to what I know academically – which makes me able to coach people much more effectively.

Have questions?

Why not send me a note using the “Contact Us” form on the tab above.

Remember, Nutrition is BetterByDesign!

 

1977 Dietary Recommendations — forty years on

Since 1977, the dietary recommendations in Canada and the US has been for people to consume a diet with limited fat and where “complex carbohydrates” (starches) comprise the main source of calories.

From 1949 until 1977, the dietary recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide were for people to consume

~20-30% of their daily calories as carbohydrate

~40-50% of daily calories as fat

~20-30% of daily calories as protein

From 1977 onward, Canada’s Food Guide recommended that people consume:

55-60% of daily calories as carbohydrate

<30% of daily calories as fat, with no more than 1/3 from saturated fat

15-20% of daily calories as protein

The US recommendations since 1977 have been similar to those in Canada, with the Dietary Goals for the United States recommending that carbohydrates are 55-60% of daily calories and that calories from fat be no more than 30% of daily calories (of which no more than 1/3 comes from saturated fat).

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide which came out in 2015, recommends that people eat even more of their daily calories as carbohydrate;

45-65% of daily calories as carbohydrate

20-35% of daily calories as fat, with no more than 1/3 from saturated fat

10-35% of daily calories as protein

[Reference: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_macronutr_tbl-eng.php]

Health Canada recommends limiting fat to only 20-35% of calories  while eating 45-65% of daily calories as carbohydrates and currently advise adults to eat only 30-45 mL (2 – 3 Tbsp) of unsaturated fat per day  (including that used in cooking, salad dressing and spreads such as margarine and mayonnaise).

This is what people have come to call a “balanced diet“.

But is it?

For the past 40 years, the public has come to believe that ‘eating fat made you fat’ and that eating saturated fat caused heart disease. This however is not what evidence-based research shows. More on that in future articles.

Our society has become “fat phobic”. People guzzle skim or 1% milk with little regard to the fact that just 1 cup (250 ml) has almost the same amount of carbs as a slice of bread.  And who drinks only one cup of milk at a time?  Most people’s “juice glasses” are 8 oz and the glasses they drink milk from are 16 oz, which is 2 cups. Who ever stops to think of their glass of milk as having the same amount of carbs as almost 2 slices of bread? 

In addition, carbs are hidden in the 7-10 servings of Vegetables and Fruit they are recommended to eat  – with no distinction made between starchy- and non-starchy vegetables.  Many people eat most of their vegetable servings as carbohydrate-laden starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes and then have a token serving of non-starchy vegetables (like salad greens, asparagus or broccoli) on the “side” at dinner. Who stops to think that just a 1/2 cup serving of peas or corn has as many carbs as a slice of bread – and often those vegetables are eaten with a cup of potatoes, adding the equivalent number of carbs as another 2 slices of bread? 

People drink fruit juice and “smoothies” with no regard for all of the extra carbs they are consuming (not to mention the effect that all of that fructose has).  A “small juice glass” is 8 oz, so just a glass of orange juice has the equivalent number of carbs as another 2 slices of bread! Many grab a smoothie at lunch or for coffee break without even thinking that the average smoothie has the same number of carbs as 5 slices of bread!

Then there is the toast, bagels and cereal or bars that people eat for breakfast, the sandwiches or wraps they eat for lunch and the pasta or rice they have for supper.  These are carbs people know as carbs — which are added to all the carbs they consumed as vegetables, fruit and milk.

What has been the outcome of people following these dietary recommendations to eat a high carb diet since 1977 ?

Obesity Rates

In 1977, obesity rates* were 7.6% for men and 11.7% for women, with the combined rate of < 10 % for both genders.

* Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30 kg/(m)2

In 1970-72 the obesity rate in Canadian adults was 10% and by 2009-2011, it increased two and a half times, to 26%.

In 1970-72, only 7.6% of men were obese but by 2013, 20.1% of men were categorized as obese. In 1970-72, only 11.7% of women were obese but by 2013, 17.4% of women were obese.

In 1978 in Canada, only 15% of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, yet by 2007 that prevalence almost DOUBLED to 29% of children and adolescents being overweight or obese. By 2011obesity prevalence alone (excluding overweight prevalence) for boys aged 5- to 17 years was 15.1% and for girls was 8.0%.

The emphasis since 1977 on consuming diets high in carbohydrates and low in fat has taken its toll.

Effect on Health

Non-alcoholic liver disease is rampant and not surprisingly, considering 37% of adults and 13% of youth are abdominally (or truncally) obese – that is, they are carrying their excess body fat around and in the internal organs, including the liver.

Since the 1970’s, Diabetes rates have almost doubled.

  • In the 1970s, the rate of Type 2 Diabetes in women was 2.6% and in men was 3.4 %. In the 1980s that number rose in women to 3.8% and in men to 4.5%. In the 1990s the rate was almost double what it was in 1970in women it was 4.7% and  in men, 7.5%.

If people eating a high carb, low fat diet has corresponded to an increase in obesity, overweight and Diabetes, then what’s the alternative?

That is where a ketogenic diet comes in , which is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which supplies adequate, but not excess protein. Eating this way enables us to use our own fat stores for energy, and to make our own glocose and ketones to fuel our cells and organs. Since humans are designed to run on carbs (in times of plenty) and in our fat stores (when food is less plentiful), ketosis is a normal physiological state. By eating a low carb high fat diet when we’re hungry and delaying eating for short periods, we can mimic the conditions that were common to our ancestors. By eating this way over an extended period of time, we can bring down insulin levels and as a result, decrease the insulin resistance of our cells. We can improve our blood sugar, lower our blood pressure and see our LDL cholesterol and triglycerides come down to normal, healthy levels.

Want to know more?

Why not send me a note using the Contact Us form located above?

To your health!

Joy

What is a Ketogenic Diet and Why Eat Keto?

A ketogenic diet (also called a “keto” diet) is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which supplies adequate, but not excess protein. It enables us to burn our own fat stores for energy, make our own glucose and use ketone bodies as energy for our cells and organs.

Ketogenic Macronutrient Ratio

Generally speaking, the percentage of calories (kcals) from carbohydrate (carbs), protein and fat in a ketogenic diet (called the macronutrient ratio) is as follows;

65-75% of calories from fat

~20% of calories from protein

5-10% of calories from carbs

While each person’s energy needs and macronutrient needs are different (based on their age, gender and activity level, as well as any pre-existing medical conditions they may have), most people on ketogenic diets take in 10% or less of their calories from carbohydrates (net carbs*), with the amount of fat and protein intake varying from person-to-person within the above range.

* Net carbs are determined by subtracting insoluble fiber contained in food from the carbohydrate content of that food.

By restricting carbs, insulin level falls and glucagon and epinephrine levels in the blood rise.

This causes several things to occur;

  1. Fat stores are burned for energy
    The fat stored in fat cells (called adipocytes) are released into the blood as free fatty acids and glycerol. Since fatty acids contain a great deal of energy, they are broken down in cells that have mitochondria in a sequence of reactions known as β-oxidation, and acetyl-CoA is produced. This acetyl-CoA then enters the citric acid cycle where the acetyl group is burned for energy.


  2. Glucose is made for energy 
    When insulin levels are low (or absent) and glucagon levels in the blood are high, glucose is produced via gluconeogenesis (literally, the “making of glucose”) and then released into the blood and used as an energy source. As elaborated on below, while the brain can use ketones for fuel, it has a need for some glucose.


  3. Ketones are produced for energy 
    In significant carb restriction over several days, gluconeogenesis is stimulated by the low insulin and high glucagon levels results in acetyl-CoA being used for the formation of ketones (i.e. acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate and their breakdown product, acetone). These ketones are released by the liver into the blood where they are taken up by cells with mitochondria and reconverted back into acetyl-CoA, which can then be used as fuel for energy, in the citric acid cycleKetones can cross the blood-brain barrier, so they are used as fuel for the cells of the central nervous system – acting as a substitute for glucose (which is normally the end result of the body breaking down carbs and sugars found in various foods). After ~ 3 days on a very low carb diet, the brain will get ~ 25% of its energy from ketones and the other 75% from the glucose made via gluconeogenesis. After ~ 4 days the brain will get about 70% of its energy from ketones. While the brain can use ketones for some or even most of its fuel, it still has requirement for some glucose and that is supplied from gluconeogenesis. The heart ordinarily prefers to use fats as fuel but when carbs are restricted, it effectively uses ketones.

    Ketosis versus Ketoacidosis

    Ketones are naturally produced during periods of low carb intake or in periods of fasting and during periods of prolonged intense exercise. This state is called ketosisSince the human body is designed to use glucose as a fuel source (in times of plenty) and to use fatty acids and ketones (in times of food shortage), ketosis is a normal, physiological state.

    In untreated (or inadequately treated) Type 1 Diabetics (where the beta cells of the pancreas don’t produce insulin), the ketones that are produced are as the first stage of a serious medical state called ketoacidosis.

    Ketosis is a normal, naturally occurring state whereas ketoacidosis is a serious medical state associated with Type 1 Diabetes. While often confused, these two conditions are very different.

Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet may appear at first glance to be like the Atkins diet or other low carb, high fat diets but the main difference is that in a keto diet, protein is not unlimited. The reason for this is that excess protein will be converted into glycogen and have a similar effect on ketosis as eating too many carbs, disrupting ketosis.

Since having too little protein may cause muscle loss, a keto diet is designed to have adequate, but not excess protein.

But why eat a keto diet?

The last 40 years of burgeoning rates of overweightobesity and Diabetes, provide the motivation. (Please read the next article titled 1977 Dietary Recommendations — forty years on for a summary of those issues).

keto diet enables insulin levels to fall, glucagon and epinephrine levels to rise, resulting in the body:

(1) naturally accessing its own fat stores for fuel

(2) manufacturing its own glucose

and

(3) using ketone bodies for energy.

The human body is designed to use either glucose or fatty acids and ketones as a fuel source. Ketosis is a normal, physiological state where our bodies run almost entirely on fat.

Insulin levels become very low, which has benefit to those who are insulin resistant or Type 2 Diabetic. 

As a result, burning of our own body fat stores for energy increases dramatically — which is great for those who want to lose weight, without hunger and a steady supply of energy.

Want to know more?

Feel free to send me a note using the Contact Us form, above.

To your health!

Joy

Humans – the perfect hybrid machine

Long before the ‘hybrid car” there was the human body – a hybrid ‘machine’ perfectly designed to use either carbohydrates or fat for energy. Like a hybrid car, we can run on one fuel source or the other at any one time.

If we are eating a largely carbohydrate based diet, we will be in ‘carbohydrate mode‘ by default. Carb-based foods will be broken down by our bodies to simple sugars and the glucose used to maintain our blood sugar levels. Our liver and muscle glycogen will be topped up, then the rest will be shuttled off to the liver where it will be converted into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and stored in fat cells.

Historically, in times of plenty, we’d store up glycogen and fat and in lean times, we’d use up our glycogen and then switch fuel sources to be in “fat-burning mode” — accessing our own fat stores, for energy.

The problem is now that we rarely, if ever access our stored fat because we keep eating a carb-based diet.  So we keep getting fatter and fatter.

GLUCOSE OR FAT AS FUEL

When we are in “carb burning mode”, the carbs we eat are broken down by different enzymes in our digestive system to their simplest sugar form (monosaccharides) such as glucose, fructose and galactose.

Glucose is the sugar in our blood, so starchy foods such as bread and pasta and potatoes are broken down quickly so they are available to maintain our blood sugar levels.

Monosaccharides are the building blocks of more complex sugars such as disaccharides, including sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (the sugar found in milk), as well as polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch). When we drink milk for example, the galactose found in it is broken down into lactose and glucose.  When we eat something sweetened with ‘sugar’ (sucrose), it is quickly broken down to glucose and fructose.

Any glucose that is needed to maintain our blood sugar level is used immediately for that purpose and the remainder is used to “top up” our glycogen stores in our muscle and liver. There are only ~ 2000 calories of glycogen – enough energy to last most people one day, so when our glycogen stores are full, excess energy from what we eat is converted to fat in the liver and stored in adipocytes (fat cells).

One problem is that our diets are high in fructose – naturally found in fruit but also as high fructose corn syrup in many processed foods. Fructose can’t be used “as is”, so it is brought to the liver.  If our blood sugar is low, it will be used to make glucose for the blood (via gluconeogenesis) otherwise it will be converted into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and stored as fat.

Feasting and Fasting

When we don’t eat for a while, such as would have occurred when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, we’d use up our glycogen stores hunting for an animal to eat, or gathering other edible foods and if we weren’t successful at finding food to eat, then our bodies would access our fat stores, for energy.  This is known as lipolysis. This process is regulated mainly by a hormone called glucagon, but other hormone such as epinephrine (the “fright and flight” hormone), cortisol (the “stress hormone”) as well as a few others (ACTH, growth hormone, and thyroxine) also play a role.

In times of plenty, we’d store up glycogen and fat and in lean times, we’d use up our glycogen, switch into “fat-burning mode” and then rely on our stored fat for energy.

The problem for most of us in North America and Europe is that we have access to food in our homes, in stores and at fast food restaurants 24/7. We can’t go for a walk without passing places selling or serving food and if the weather is bad or we are too tired, food is just a phone call or web-click away. So we just keep storing up our fat for ‘lean times’ that never come.

In addition, irrespective of our cultural background, our eating style is carb based; pasta, pizza, sushi, curry and rice or naan, potato, pita – you name it.  Every meal has bread or cereal grains, pasta, rice or potatoes – and even what we consider “healthy foods” such as fruit and milk have the same number of carbs per serving as bread, cereal, pasta, rice and potatoes. That wasn’t always so. Our indigenous cultural foods were very different.

Compounding that, many “low-fat” products have added sugar (sucrose) in order to compensate for changes in taste from reducing naturally occurring fat, which then adds to excess carb intake.  Sucrose (ordinary table sugar) is made up of half fructose, so a diet high in sugar adds even more fructose transport to the liver, for conversion to cholesterol and fat.

The vilification of fat

In 1977, both the Canadian and US food guides changed in response to the promoted belief that eating diets high in saturated fat led to heart disease. Multiple studies and reanalysis of the data of older studies indicates that saturated fat is not the problem, but that diets high in carbohydrate combined with chronic inflammation and stress, is.

In 2016, it came to light that the sugar industry funded the research in the 1960’s that downplayed the risks of sugar in the diet as being related to heart disease and highlighted the hazards of fat instead – with the results having been published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967 with no disclosure of the sugar industry funding*. The publication suggested that cutting fat out of the American diet was the best way to address coronary heart disease, and which resulted in the average American and Canadian as inadvertent subjects in an public health experiment gone terribly wrong. Overweight and obesity has risen exponentially and with that Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol.

*(Kearns CE, Schmidt LA, Glantz SA. Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(11):1680-1685. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed. 2016. 5394). 

Over the last 40 years the promotion of “low fat eating” by governments and the food industry has resulted in carbohydrate-intake skyrocketing. Every high-carb meal is followed by another high-carb meal, and if we can’t wait, a snack, too. We eat every 2-3 hours, and eating carb-based foods every 2 or 3 hours all day, every day is quite literally killing us.

How do we get fat out of “storage”?

The “key” to unlocking our fat stores, is decreasing overall intake of carbohydrates by decreasing the amount of carbohydrates we eat, both by eating much less of it and on occasion, by delaying the amount of time between meals.

Decreasing carb intake lowers insulin, the fat-storage hormone. At first our bodies access liver and muscle glycogen for energy, but since that is only about a one day’s supply, our bodies then turn to our own fat stores as a supply of energy.

By eating a diet rich in fat and keeping protein at the level needed by the body but not in excess, dietary protein is not used to synthesize glucose, but fat is.

An added bonus is that since insulin also plays a role in appetite, as insulin falls, appetite decreases.

This is the role of a low carb high healthy fat diet, a topic covered in this article: http://www.bbdnutrition.com/2017/03/22/a-low-carb-high-healthy-fat-diet/

Have questions?

Why not send me a note, using the “Contact Us” form above?  I’d be happy to answer your questions.

To your health!

Joy