What Regulates Body Weight?

Body weight is not under our control as much as we’d like to believe, but is a tightly regulated process that involves a variety hormones with some of the major ones being leptin (a hormone that regulates fat stores by  inhibiting hunger), ghrelin (a hormone that increase hunger when your stomach is empty) and insulin, which plays a very significant role in hunger, eating behavior and fat managementInsulin is one of the major controllers of the body’s “set point”.

What is “set point“?

Think of set point like the thermostat in your house; when the air gets too cold, the thermostat is engaged, and the furnace comes on and when the air gets a little too hot, the thermostat shuts the furnace off. Your body’s set point is maintained by a complex set of hormonal mechanisms that works to maintain your body at its current weight.  If you eat a lot more one day because it’s a special occasion, the next day you won’t feel as hungry as usual, and will eat less. When someone who normally eats a carbohydrate-based diet restricts calories, their body slows its metabolism and lowers the amount of energy (calories) it uses for vital bodily functions in order to ‘save’ the limited calories for use by their brain. In fact, the amount of energy used by your body at rest (called Basal Energy Expenditure) can decrease by as much as 30-50% in order to save those calories!

This saving of calories for essential functions is why when people who are used to eating carbs ‘fast’ or limit the number of calories they eat, they feel cold, tired and find it hard to focus.  This is the body ‘saving’ the few calories for essential body functions, such as for their brain and organs. This doesn’t happen to someone who is fat-adapted, because they use their own fat stores to maintain blood and brain glucose, and for other energy needs.

Equally part of maintaining the body’s set point, when an overweight person takes in too many calories, their body will try to get rid of them by increasing its Basal Energy Expenditure and speeding up breathing rate (respiration), increasing heart rate and generating more body heat.

So, whether we are overweight or underweight, the body will adjust its processes to maintain its ‘set point’.

This is why the so-called calorie in, calorie out model, doesn’t work – because it is not simply a matter of “eating less and moving more“. When people who are carb-dependent restrict their calories, their metabolism slows and so they burn way less calories!

Calories in and calories out are not independent of each other but inter-dependent on each other; when one is lowered (calories in), so is the other (calories out, metabolism).  When one is increased (calories in), so is the other (calories out, respiration, heat generation).

It’s really not as simple as “eating less and moving more” to lose weight, because when we both restrict calories and increase our exercise, our body responds by increasing hungerincreasing craving (especially for foods such as simple carbs that can be broken down quickly for glucose for your blood) and by decreasing the amount of energy it uses. Using the thermostat analogy, our body turns the thermostat down.

Wouldn’t you think that if it were really as simple as “eating less and moving more” that more people would be slim!

Restricting calories doesn’t work for long term weight loss because the body compensates by lowering its energy expenditure. It’s not about how many calories we take in, but about what changes ‘set point’.

It’s mainly about insulin. We have to reduce insulin.

Low-carbohydrate diets and increasing the amount of time between meals (called “intermittent fasting”) are two ways to lower insulin.

Lowering insulin, will in turn will lower blood sugar and when this lifestyle is maintained, over time, it has even shown by researchers to be able to reverse the symptoms of Diabetes. That doesn’t mean people aren’t Diabetic anymore – they are but the symptoms of Diabetes, namely high blood sugar (reflected in high fasting blood glucose and HbA1C) are in remission. Other added benefits include a lowering of blood pressure  (which is closely tied to insulin), gradual, sustainable weight loss and a normalizing of triglycerides as well as some cholesterol  markers.

When people are ‘fat-adapted‘, they have a ready supply of fuel for their bodies (their own fat stores!), and so their metabolism doesn’t slow down when they eat this way. Their bodies continue to burn calories at the usual rate!

Furthermore, they aren’t cold, tired and hungry because they have excess fat stores to serve as a constant supply of fuel for their brain, blood and muscles. Fat is broken down for ketone bodies which can be used for most body processes, and the essential glucose needed by our blood and brain is easily synthesized by the breaking down of fats. 

Thinking about adopting a low-carb or lower-carb lifestyle, but want to read more about it first? Low carb / ketogenic specific articles are located here.

Have questions? Please send me a note using the Contact Us form above.

Copyright © BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.

LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without the knowledge of your physician and regular monitoring by your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing anything  you have read or heard in our content.

What is the Anti-Inflammatory Protocol and what is it used for?

Changing how and what we eat, as well as managing stress and getting enough restful sleep has been shown in research studies to reduce pain and symptoms in people with chronic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, Celiac disease, etc.. As well, there is increasing evidence that cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke are inflammatory in nature and that lowering risk is best managed through dietary and lifestyle changes. For those with a strong family history of heart disease, the Anti-Inflammatory Protocol dove-tails perfectly with a low-carb high healthy fat diet.

Knowing which foods promote inflammation and why and which foods are evidence-based to have anti-inflammatory properties  and why is essential for those seeking to reduce pain and symptoms associated with a chronic inflammatory condition. Choosing foods that are nutrient densepromote gut healthaddress diet-related disruptions in hormone-regulation and that target immune system regulation are key in the Anti-Inflammatory Protocol.

Nutrient density – Every system in the body, including the immune system requires an array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and amino acids to function normally. Micronutrient deficiencies and imbalances are considered key players in the development and progression of autoimmune disease, therefor attention is put on consuming the most nutrient-dense foods available. A nutrient-dense diet provides the ‘building blocks’ that the body needs to heal damaged tissues. The goal is to supply the body with a surplus of micronutrients to correct both deficiencies and imbalances, supporting regulation of the immune system, hormone and neurotransmitter production.

Gut health – It is thought that ‘gut dysbiosis’ (gut microbial imbalance) and ‘leaky gut’ may be key facilitators in the development of autoimmune disease. The foods recommended on the Anti-inflammatory Protocol support the growth of healthy levels and a healthy variety of gut microorganisms. Foods that irritate or damage the lining of the gut are avoided, while foods that help restore gut barrier function and promote healing are encouraged.

Diet-related Disruptions in hormone regulation – What we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat affects a variety of hormones that interact with the immune system. Eating foods with too much sugar or ‘grazing’ throughout the day, rather than eating food at set meals spaced apart deregulate these hormones. As a result, the immune system is typically stimulated. Promoting regulation of these hormones through diet, in turn has a modulating effect on the immune system. As well, dietary hormones that impact the immune system are also profoundly affected by how much sleep we get, how much and what kinds of activity we do, and how well we reduce and manage stress, so looking at diet and lifestyle together, is key.

Immune system regulation – Our intestines are home to millions of bacteria which live in symbiotic relationship with us.  We provide food for them and when in balance, they maintain the integrity of the gut wall, which serves as a protective barrier. When our gut ‘flora’ gets out of balance, having an excess of pathogenic bacteria, this protective barrier becomes compromised, resulting in small ‘holes’ that permit exchange between the inside of our gut and the blood stream.  This is what is called “leaky gut“. Endotoxins produced by the proliferation of “bad” bacteria can get into the blood stream, stimulating the immune system, and resulting in systemic inflammation. What becomes critical is to limit the factors that contribute to excess of the “bad bacteria” and restore a healthy amount and diversity of “good” gut microorganisms, so that the gut once again functions as a protective barrier, and immune system regulation is achieved.

What is the Anti-Inflammatory Protocol?

The Anti-Inflammatory Protocol identifies foods that promote inflammation from those that research indicates have anti-inflammatory properties. It isn’t simply a list of “eat this” and “don’t eat that”, but explains what about a particular food promotes inflammation or inhibits it. It explains the role of key inflammatory -producing compounds such as lectinssaponins and protease inhibitors, and which foods they are found in, and how eating those foods contribute to “leaky gut“. Which grains can one eat?  Which should be avoided? What about beans and lentils? Are there some better than others?

The Anti-Inflammatory Protocol explains which healthy cooking and eating fats won’t contribute to the production of Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs) – and how this compound causes oxidative damage to the cells in the body. Knowing this enables people to know whether oils such as grapeseed for example, are a good choice and if not, why – as well as which other oils would be preferable.

I want people to understand in simple terms how omega 6 (ω-6) fats compete for binding sites and elongation enzymes with omega 3 (ω-3) fats, as this enables them to determine whether foods such as nuts and seeds should be included in an anti-inflammatory diet. If they understand the role of hormones such as insulin and what causes it’s release, they can determine for themselves whether products like agave syrup or coconut sugar are preferable to table sugar when following an anti-inflammatory protocol. I find that once people understand the theory as to why they should eat less of certain foods (explained in ways that don’t require an educational background in science!) and they also understand which types of foods they should aim to eat more of, they are empowered to make dietary choices that contribute to reducing inflammation, as well as symptoms, along with risk factors for other inflammation-related conditions.

I consider my primary role is as an educator. I don’t want to tell someone they need to eat this food on this day and this other food on the next day.  It is far more rewarding and helpful to them, if I help them know how to make these decisions themselves.

Want to know more?

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

To our good health,




Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read or heard in our content. 

Part 2: How is Insulin Resistance Measured?

The introduction to this article (Part 1: What is Insulin Resistance)  explains what insulin resistance is, the conventional treatment for it and the drawbacks to that treatment: https://www.bbdnutrition.com/2017/07/26/what-is-insulin-resistance/

INTRO: There are a number of tools available for measuring insulin resistance, most of which are more suited to a research setting, including the Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check Index (QUICKI) and the Matsuda Index.  Others, such as the McAuley -, Belfiore -, Cederholm -, Avignon – and Stumvoll Index are better suited for epidemiological (population) research studies and are often compared to the “gold standard” for the measurement of insulin sensitivity, the Hyperinsulinemic Euglycemic Clamp (HEC).

The homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR) method is suitable for individuals to use with their doctors or Dietitians to assess insulin resistance, and is useful for using over time to measure the impact of dietary and lifestyle changes in lowering insulin resistance.

Visualizing Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can be determined by measuring insulin response to a standard glucose load over a 5 hour period and plotting the Insulin Response curves – which is precisely what Dr. Joseph R. Kraft MD, who was Chairman of the Department of Clinical Pathology and Nuclear Medicine, St. Joseph Hospital, Chicago, until his retirement.

Dr. Kraft spent more than a quarter century devoted to the study of glucose metabolism and blood insulin levels – collecting data in almost 15,000 people, aged 3 to 90 years old. Between 1972 and 1998, Dr. Kraft measured the Insulin Response and data from 10,829 of these subjects indicated that 75% of subjects were insulin resistant.

Compiling this data, five distinct Insulin Response Patterns emerged.

Pattern I

The light green curve below, is what a normal insulin response should look like. Insulin levels should rise steadily in the first 45 minutes (in response to the standard glucose load) to no higher than ~60 mIU/L (430.5 pmol/L) and then decrease steadily until baseline by 3 hours.


People who are in the early stages of insulin resistance (Pattern II, represented by the yellow curve) release considerably more insulin in response to the exact same glucose load. Insulin levels rise to ~ 115 mIU/L (825 pmol/L) in the first hour and then take considerably longer (5 hrs) to drop back down to baseline, than the normal response.


People who have progressed in insulin resistance to Pattern III have insulin levels that keep rising for the first 2 hours and then drop off more sharply, back down to baseline.


Those with Type 2 Diabetes / very high insulin resistance (Pattern IV) release huge amounts of insulin almost immediately, reaching levels of ~ 150 mIU/L (1076 pmol/L) at 1 hour.  Then for the next 2 hours, insulin continues to climb, before it begins to decline to baseline.  Even at 5 hours, insulin levels never decrease to normal values.


Is what is seen in Type I Diabetes (T1D), when there is insufficient insulin production.

Please see Significance of Insulin Resistance for more details on Dr. Kraft's findings: https://www.bbdnutrition.com/2017/03/22/featured-significance-of-insulin-resistance/

While a 5 hour glucose tolerance test is not available at most labs, a 2 hour glucose tolerance test (2hrGTT) will indicate whether or not a person is insulin resistant or Type 2 Diabetic. 

However, once a person is already diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic, most medical plans will not cover the cost of having the test re-performed in order to determine if insulin response has changed in response to diet and lifestyle changes.

This is where the the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) comes in – a tool easily used by clinicians and relying on standard blood tests.

Homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA1-IR) – Matthew’s Equations (1985)

The homeostasis model assessment was first developed in 1985 by David Matthews et al and is method used which quantifies insulin resistance and β-cell function of the pancreas from fasting blood glucose and either fasting insulin or C-peptide concentrations.

Pancreatic β-cells are responsible for insulin secretion in response to increasing glucose concentrations, so when there is decreased function of the pancreas’ β-cells, there will be a reduced response of β-cell to glucose-stimulated insulin secretion.

In addition, glucose concentrations are regulated by insulin-mediated glucose production in the liver, so insulin resistance is reflected by reduced suppression of hepatic glucose production, stemming from the effect of insulin.

The HOMA-IR model describes this glucose-insulin homeostasis using a simple equation, based on fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin. The equation uses the product of fasting plasma insulin (FPI) x fasting plasma glucose (FPI), divided by a constant of 22.5, providing an index of hepatic insulin resistance:

HOMA1-IR = FPI (mu/I) x FBG (mmol/L) / 22.5

The “Blood Code” book is based on these 1985 equations. The problem with the Matthew’s Equations is that they underestimate Insulin Sensitivity (%S) and overestimate % β-cell function.

Homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA2-IR)

Oxford University, Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism in the UK, has designed a HOMA2-IR model (2013) that estimates β-cell function (%B) and insulin sensitivity (%S) for an individual from simultaneously measured fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and fasting plasma insulin (FPI) values. It also can be used with fasting specific insulin or C-peptide values, instead of fasting RIA insulin.

The HOMA2-IR calculator provides % β-cell function (% B ) and % Insulin Sensitivity (%S): https://www.dtu.ox.ac.uk/homacalculator/download.php.

Use of Tools

While these tools are primarily used by clinicians, knowing about them is useful in being proactive in managing one’s own health.  For example, if you have already started making the dietary and lifestyle changes to lower insulin resistance, having your fasting insulin measured along with your fasting blood glucose, will enable your doctor or myself to calculate your progress, as well as recommend adjustments in your plan.

Have questions?

Why not send me a note using the “Contact Us” form at the top of this webpage.

To our good health!



Gutch, M, Kumar, S, Razi, SM, et al,  Assessment of Insulin Sensitivity / Resistance, Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jan-Feb; 19(1): 160–164.

HOMA Calculator©, University of Oxford, Diabetes Trials Unit, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism: https://www.dtu.ox.ac.uk/homacalculator/download.php



Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read or heard in our content. 

Part 1: What is Insulin Resistance?

The hormone insulin plays a number of roles, one of which is to help move the glucose that is produced from the digestion of food – from the blood and into the cells for energy. Insulin resistance is where the body isn’t responding to insulin’s signals to take up glucose, so blood glucose remains high, despite normal or high levels of insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is essentially a state of very high insulin resistance.

Insulin normally goes up when we eat foods that contain carbohydrate (breads, pasta, rice, fruit, milk products, etc.) and acts on the liver to help store the incoming food energy – first as glycogen and when liver and muscle glycogen stores are “full”, it acts to store the excess energy as fat (de novo lipogenesis).

When we haven’t eaten for a while or are sleeping, the hormone glucagon acts to break down the glycogen in our muscles and liver (glycogenolysis) in order to supply our brain and cells with glucoseInsulin acts to inhibit glucagon‘s action, which signals the body to stop making new glucose from its glycogen stores. When our glycogen stores run out (such as when we are fasting), the body turns to non-carbohydrate sources such as fat to make the glucose it needs for essential functions (gluconeogenesis).

When we are insulin resistant, insulin continues to act on the liver to signal it to store energy. When glycogen stores are “full”, it stores the excess energy as fat. When fat stores are “full”, the body starts storing the excess fat that the liver keeps making, inside the liver itself.  There shouldn’t be fat in the liver, but when we are insulin resistant, such as in Type 2 Diabetes excess fat gets stored in the liver in a condition known as “fatty liver disease“.

In insulin resistance, the liver becomes more sensitive to insulin’s signal to make fat (and as a result keeps making more and more fat) yet at the same time, the liver becomes less sensitive to insulin’s inhibition of glucagon – resulting in more and more glucose being produced and released in the blood.

High levels of glucose remain in the blood despite adequate insulin, and it is this high level of blood glucose that is the hallmark symptom of Type 2 Diabetes. For the same quantity of insulin released, the body moves less and less glucose into the cell. 

What does the body do to compensate? It makes more insulin!

KEY POINT: Insulin resistance results in the increased production of insulin. Increasing blood sugar CAN a symptom, caused by the insulin resistance, but blood glucose can be normal and one can still be insulin resistant (see Featured Article on Insulin Resistance).

When we are insulin resistant and keep eating a carb-based diet, the body requires more and more insulin in order to move the same amount of glucose into the cell.

The main issue then becomes too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia).

Defining the Problem Defines the Treatment

In Type 2 Diabetes (which is in essence, very high insulin resistance), the symptom is high levels of glucose in the blood. That is not the cause. It is the symptom.

High levels of glucose in the blood resulting from uncontrolled Type 2 Diabetes, results in proteins in the body becoming “glycosylated“. Glucose, is a highly reactive molecule and easily accepts (or “shares”) electrons from other molecules – especially from the amino acid Lysine, which is found in virtually every protein in the body. When Lysine and glucose share an electron, it creates an irreversible chemical bond between the glucose molecule and the protein – and that protein is said to have become glycosylated. It is this glycosylation that lies behind the complications found in Diabetes.

To reduce the glucose in the blood and the glycosylation of the body’s proteins, current treatment for Type 2 Diabetes involves medications that move glucose from the blood into the cells. This doesn’t really remove the excess glucose from the body, it simply moves it to a different location in the body. While these medications can be very helpful in the short term (until people begin to address the underlying dietary causes), over time these medications become less and less effective at removing glucose from the blood. In a sense, we become “medication resistant”, so additional medications are added.  Once the various combinations of medications loose their effectiveness, people with Type 2 Diabetes are prescribed insulin as a treatment – because insulin moves excess glucose into the cells. But the cells are already overflowing with too much glucose!

Insulin is added as a treatment when the body is already producing too much insulin.  The problem is the cells aren’t responding to the signal from insulin. The body doesn’t need more insulin – it needs the cells that are sensitive to respond to insulin’s signal.

Diabetes as a “chronic, progressive disease”

Type 2 Diabetes is described as a “chronic, progressive disease” because with current medication treatment, people eventually get worse. When they no longer respond to the initial medications  prescribed that help move excess glucose from the blood into the cells, they are prescribed insulin which they take by injection – in order to force more glucose into already over-full cells.  While people’s blood glucose gets better (i.e. the symptom improves), they gain weight as a result of the insulin injections and develop complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness etc..

In the end, they don’t get better, but worse, fulfilling the belief that T2D is a chronic, progressive disease.

Redefining the Problem, Redefines the Solution

Rather than looking at the symptom (high blood glucose) as something that needs to be “fixed” with medications and later with insulin (when the medications are no longer effective), when we define insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes as a problem of excess insulin, we approach addressing the problem differently.

By changing what we eat, we can lower the amount of glucose in the body, which in turn causes the body to produce less insulin.  With less insulin being produced, the cells begin to respond to normal amounts of insulin  – reversing insulin resistance and yes, reversing the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.

Eating a low carb high fat diet and extending the amount of time between meals (intermittent fasting) lowers the production of insulin, resulting in the cells become more sensitive to its signal. Rather than addressing the symptom (which is high blood glucose) we are addressing the problem of too much insulin.

Have questions? Would like to know how I could help you?

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

To our good health!


In Part 2, I will explain how insulin resistance is measured and how we can track insulin sensitivity returning, as we continue to eat a low carb diet and increase the time between meals.



Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read or heard in our content. 




Insulin and Leptin – very different effects in lean versus overweight people

The hormone insulin (involved in storing fat) and leptin (involved in burning fat) work very differently in lean people than in overweight people. This is why excess fat such as is found in “bullet proof coffee” or “fat bombs” results in overweight (or obese) people that follow a Low Carb High Fat diet gaining weight—whereas lean people will simply burn it off. This article explains the role of these hormones and how they impact lean people and overweight people very differently.

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. Insulin is the major driver of weight gain. If we are lean, when we eat more than usual and increase our body fat stores, the body responds by increasing secretion of a hormone called leptin.  Leptin acts as a negative feedback loop on the hypothalamus area of our brain, reducing our hunger, causing us to eat less and preventing us from gaining too much fat.

The problem occurs when we become insulin resistant.

Insulin Resistance

When we eat a diet that is high in carbs and we eat every few hours (3 meals plus snacks), insulin is released each time we eat (in order to cause our cells to take in energy and store the excess as fat). If we continue to eat this way, over time our body is inundated with insulin, so it sends signals to down-regulate the insulin receptors, making our cells less sensitive to insulin signals. This is called insulin resistance. When we are insulin resistant, our body releases more and more insulin to deal with the same amount of glucose in the blood.

Leptin Resistance

Consistently having high levels of insulin, will also keep stimulating the release of leptin, which normally results in us becoming less hungry and eating less. However, when we are insulin resistantwe keep producing more and more insulin, which results in us producing more and more leptin. Over time, this consistently high leptin level will result in the same type of down-regulation of hormonal receptors that occurred with insulin, resulting in leptin resistance.

Leptin resistance interferes with the negative feed back loop on our hypothalamus which normally reduces our hunger, causing us to eat less. When we are leptin resistance, even when we’ve eaten a great deal of food, we don’t feel satiated — even when our abdomens are straining from feeling full. As a result, we just keep eating, as if there is no “off” switch.

It is this leptin resistance that results in obesity. 

Obese people aren’t obese because they lack will-power, but because their body is responding to signals from very powerful hormones produced in response to the types of foods they eat.

Difference between a High Carb Diet and a High Fat Diet

When people consume diets high in carbs it stimulates insulin to be released. In response to all the insulin, energy that is not immediately needed for activity is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells, 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.

When people eat a diet high in fat and low in carbs, the fat is absorbed in the intestines as chylomicrons and is shuttled through the lymphatic system to the thoracic duct, going directly into the blood circulation. From there, the fat is either burned for energy or goes into our fat cells, to be stored. It is important to note that the fat does NOT go to the portal circulation of the liver and as a result, fat needs no help from insulin to be absorbed

That’s good, but if excess fat gets stored in fat cells, doesn’t eating fat make one fat?

Not for lean people, because lean people are leptin sensitive and obese people are leptin resistant. When overweight or obese people eat excess fat, it is a different matter.

Lean People versus Obese People

If a lean person eats a diet high in fat and low in carbs, the excess fat will be stored in fat cells, but insulin does not go up. So a lean person does not become insulin resistant, as described above.  As their fat mass goes up, leptin also goes up. Since the lean person is sensitive to leptin, the negative feedback loop acts on the brain causing them to stop eating, allowing their body weight to go back down. Even if a lean person deliberately eats more and more fat when they aren’t hungry, what happens is their body’s metabolism goes up, and they burn off the extra calories.

If an overweight or obese person eats a diet high in fat and low in carbs with moderate amounts of protein, insulin levels don’t go up — which is good of course, however from years of eating high carb low fat diets and from eating a carb rich foods every few hours, overweight and obese people are insulin resistant. This means that their blood glucose levels remain high for long periods after they’ve eaten and as importantly, it also means that they are also leptin resistant. In this case, if they eat too much fat – such as drinking “bullet-proof coffee” or having “fat bombs”, they will respond (as the lean person does) by making more leptin, but the problem is, they are not sensitive to leptin! Their brain doesn’t respond to the signals from leptin, so when an obese or overweight person eats excess fat, beyond that which is naturally found in a low carb high fat foods, their appetite doesn’t drop – nor does their metabolism go up to burn off the excess fat being stored in fat cells. They simply get fatter.

Weight Loss

For those that are overweight or obese and insulin resistant, it is important to keep in mind that with insulin resistance comes leptin resistance. Leptin resistance by definition means that the signals to stop eating don’t work.  The “off switch” is defective.  As well, the body doesn’t respond to signals from leptin to up-regulate metabolism, so when an overweight or obese person on a low carb diet eats too much fat, they gain weight.

Since increasing carbs is not an option and increasing protein results in glucose being synthesized from the excess (gluconeogenesis), the way to lower insulin resistance (and thus leptin resistance) is by extending the amount of time between meals.  This is known as intermittent fasting – a topic that will be covered in a future article.

Have questions?  

Want to know how I can help you get started on a low carb high healthy fat diet?  Please drop me a note using the “Contact Us” form, located on the tab above.

To our good health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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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.

Tracking Carbs Instead of Counting Calories

I have found that people wanting to lose weight simply don’t want to weigh or measure food or count calories – and who can blame them! I design Meal Plans for my clients so they don’t need to. As I will explain in this article, with a Standard Meal Plan (based on a traditional macronutrient distribution), carbohydrate, protein and fat are all laid out, based on the food exchanges. With a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Meal Plan or a Hybrid Meal Plan, carbohydrate percent, protein- and fat percent are also laid out, but for those seeking to lower insulin resistance or lose weight or both, tracking carb intake is important.  In this article, I’ll explain tracking carbs.

Firstly, what is a Meal Plan?

What is a Meal Plan?

A Meal Plan isn’t a “menu” that tells you what foods you have to eat, but indicates how many servings of each category of food you should aim to eat at each meal. I explain more about what a food category is, below.

The first step in designing a person’s Meal Plan after I’ve done their assessment, is to determine their overall caloric needs based on age, gender, activity level, desired weight loss (or gain), as well as any special considerations such as growth, weight loss, pregnancy or lactation, etc.

More about calories in the next article, but suffice to say here, calories are generally not the focus in Low Carb High Healthy Fat eating, carbs are.

The next step is to set the macronutrient distribution (% of calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat) of the Meal Plan according to what would best suit the person’s clinical needs, goals and lifestyle. This is something I discuss with people during the assessment, and which is ultimately up to them.  The Standard macronutrient distribution is ~45-65% carbohydrate, ~15-20% protein and ~30% fat. Generally speaking, unless there is a compelling clinical reason for using a Standard Meal Plan, I encourage people to consider the benefits of a low carb high healthy fat eating.

The Low Carb High Healthy Fat macronutrient distribution is ~5-10% carbohydrate, ~20% protein and ~65-70% healthy fat, with the Hybrid macronutrient distribution falling somewhere in between.

In the final step, I design a person’s Meal Plan based on the foods that they’ve told me they like, avoiding those they don’t, and factoring in the time of day they either need to (for scheduling reasons) or prefer to eat. Then we meet for me to go over their Meal Plan with them, and for me to teach them how to easily and accurately estimate their portion sizes, using visual measures. More on visual measures, below.

The only thing left for them to decide is what they want to eat!

Food Categories – Standard Meal Plan

In a Standard Meal Plan or Hybrid, categories include Starchy Vegetables and Grains, Fruit, Non-Starchy vegetables, Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese, and Legumes (pulses). These categories are based on how many grams of carbs are contained in the foods in make up that category.

Take, for example, the Starchy Vegetable and Grain Category.  This group includes all the standard “carbs” such as bread, pasta, rice and cereals as well as “starchy vegetables” such as peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes / yams and winter squash (such as acorn or butternut squash). All foods in this category have 15 gm of carbs per serving (where a serving is 1/2 cup or the equivalent of 1 slice of bread).

So, 1 slice of bread has 15 gms of carb, 1/2 cup of peas has 15 gms of carb, 1/2 cup of rice has 15 gms of carb, 1/2 cup of oatmeal has 15 gms of carb, and 1/2 a hamburger bun has 15 gms of carb.

If a person’s Meal Plan indicates that they can have 2 servings from the Starchy Vegetable and Grain category, that could be 2 pieces of toast, or 1 cup of oatmeal, or 1 cup rice, etc. Their Meal Plan doesn’t tell them what food they have to eat, just how much from each category.

Here is an example of what a Standard Meal Plan looks like;



As you can see, all the calculations have been done.

In this example, this Meal Plan was for an 85 year old man who wanted to gain weight and was based on 45% of his calories coming from carbs, 21% from fat and 34% from fat.

Estimating Portion Sizes

When I’ve taught someone to accurately estimate their serving sizes using visual measures, the amount of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat and calories) they will take in following their Meal Plan will be what was planned.

What are Visual Measures?

Visual measures are easy and accurate means to estimate serving sizes. For in-person clients, this might be based on the size of their hand or fingers, such as (depending on the size of a person’s hand) a 1/2 a cup (dry measure) may be the amount of something round (like frozen peas) that could be contained in their scooped hand, without rolling out. An ounce (by weight) might be the size of two specific fingers on their hand, or a Tbsp may be the amount of the last digit on their thumb. For Distance Consultation clients, the standard used in teaching visual measures are standard size items, such as the size of a golf ball or four dice stacked up.

Tracking Carbohydrates

Where tracking carbohydrates comes into play is with Low Carb High Healthy Fat Meal Plan or a Hybrid Meal Plan – especially when lowering insulin levels or losing weight is desired. Keeping track of carbohydrates on these kind of Meal Plans is nothing like needing to count calories! It is very easy.

On a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Meal Plans, the macronutrient distribution for carbs is set quite tightly. For men, total carbs would be somewhere between 80-100 grams and for women, it may be set as low as 35 gms carb or as high as 50 gms. It depends on their needs. Naturally, Hybrid Meal Plans will have higher total daily carbs.

Since there are no Starchy Vegetables and Grains and Milk on these Meal Plans (cheese is used, just not milk due to the carb content), the Food Categories on a Low Carb Meal Plan or Hybrid are different than on a Standard (or traditional) Meal Plan).

Food Categories in a Low Carb Meal Plan include Non-Starchy Vegetables, which exclude “Starchy Vegetables” such as peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes / yams and winter squash – with some intake guidelines around root vegetables such as carrots, beets and parsnips. The Fruit category here is specified more narrowly than in a Standard Meal Plan – generally focused on berries and low sugar citrus such as lime and lemon, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers (yes, both are technically ‘fruit’).

Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese is pretty much the same as with a Standard Meal Plan, with an ounce of any of these protein foods being 1 serving and individuals being able to have several servings at each meal (based on their caloric needs, factoring in any weight loss). The fat contained in the Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese is already calculated when the Meal Plan is made, so “Fat” here means added fat. The Fat category includes everything from olive oil, avocado (both the fruit and the oil), coconut oil, butter, olives and nuts and seeds.

Foods in the Meat, Poultry, Meat and Egg or Cheese category have little or no carbs in them and Non-Starchy Vegetables are generally around 5 gm of carb per cup and berries, which are in the Fruit category are roughly 15 gm of carb for 1/2 a cup. A few berries on a salad isn’t usually a problem, but more than that can easily put us over our maximum amount of carbs for the day, which I call the “carb ceiling“.

Where it becomes particularly important to track carbohydrates when one is seeking weight loss is with foods such as nuts and seeds.  It is very easy to eat a handful of nuts and end up exceeding one’s daily maximum number of carbs.

[an article written a month earlier will provide detailed information regarding the carbohydrate content of nuts: https://www.bbdnutrition.com/2017/05/23/oh-nuts/]

Carb Creep

“Carb-creep” is when we eat more carbs than we think we are, which results in weight loss slowing, or even stopping. When one reaches a plateau  where they haven’t lost any weight for longer than a week or two, then tracking carbs to see if there is carb creep is advised.

A man’s carb limit may be set to 80-100 gms per day and a woman’s may be as low as 35 gms or as high as 50 gms.  That is not a lot and it is easy to inadvertently exceed this amount of carbs in the course of a day. A few splashes of milk in several cups of coffee, a handful of peanuts walking by the bowl near the photocopier and an ounce or two of 72% dark chocolate (for heart health, of course!) can quickly put us over our carb ceiling. This is where it’s important to evaluate food choices that may be putting your over your carb ceiling.

Want to know more about having a Meal Plan designed for you?

Please send me a note using the “Contact Us” form above and I will reply to you, usually by the next business day.

To our good health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 





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 can not only address being overweight, but new studies have found that a number of cancer cells feed exclusively on glucose.  It is thought that a ketogenic lifestyle may play a role in reducing the glucose available for some types of cancer.

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 it would seem that 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.”

We will all age and this is not preventable, but by addressing lifestyle factors including smoking, diet, overweight and physical inactivity and others, we should be able to 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!




Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 


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

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%). 

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 “dietary risks drive the most death and disability” – especially stroke and heart disease which were the two leading causes of all forms of death, of premature death and of disability in 2015.

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)

The Chinese have stated that “there have been no significant changes in dietary recommendations” (Wang et al, 2016) when compared with the previous version of the 2007 Food Pagoda and are emphasizing the following recommendations:

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


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

These “new” recommendations seem to be based on the same “calorie in / calorie out” model familiar to us in the West and that fail to take into account how the body compensates on a carbohydrate-based calorie restricted diet diet (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
  3. consume most of their calories as rice, corn, bread, noodles, crackers and potatoes 

Over the last four decades,  Americans and Canadians have 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.

Should we expect different results in China?

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!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

You can follow me at:




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!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

you can follow me at:




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

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!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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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.


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: https://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!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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Low Carb Green Tea Matcha Smoothie – role in weight and abdominal fat loss

This delicious low carb high fat Matcha Smoothie can help you lose weight & abdominal fat. The science behind it, the recipe & the nutritional info in this article.

Green tea is the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and contains a number of biologically active compounds called catechins of which epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) makes up ~ 30% of the solids in green tea [Kim et al]. Studies have found that green tea catechins, especially EGCG play a significant role in both weight loss and lower body fat composition.

Population studies and several randomized controlled studies (where one group is “treated” and the other group is not) have shown that waist circumference is smaller and levels of body fat is less the more green tea consumed   [Phung et al].  The anti-obesity effects of green tea are usually attributed to the presence of catechins [Naigle].

Several large-scale population studies have linked increased green tea consumption with significant reductions in metabolic syndrome – a cluster of clinical symptoms which include insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia (high levels of circulating insulin), Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressurecardiovascular disease including coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.

It is thought that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant catechin in green tea, mimics the actions of insulin.  This has positive health implications for people with insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes [Kao et al]. 

EGCG also lowers blood pressure  almost as effectively as the ACE-inhibitor drug, Enalapril, having significant implications for people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease [Kim et al].

Research indicates that drinking 8-10 cups of green tea per day is enough to increase blood levels of EGCG into a measurably significant range [Kim et al]. 

The most effective way to reduce the symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome is through a low carb high healthy fat diet, however the addition of green tea as a beverage – especially as matcha green tea powder, may provide a means to preferentially target abdominal weight loss. 


Catechins make up ~ 30% of green tea’s dry weight (of which 60–80% are catechins) and oolong and black tea  (which are produced from partially fermented or completely fermented tea leaves) contains approximately half the catechin content of green tea.

Matcha, a powdered green tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony and popular in cold green tea beverages contains 137 times greater concentration of EGCG than China Green Tip tea (Mao Jian) [Weiss et al]. 


A typical cup (250 ml) of brewed green tea contains 50–100 mg catechins and 30–40 mg caffeine, with the amount of tea leaves, water temperature and brewing time all affecting the green tea catechin content in each cup.

A gram (~1/3 tsp) of matcha powder contains 105 mg of catechins – of which 61 mg are EGCGs and contains 35 mg of caffeine. Most matcha drinks made at local tea and coffee houses are made and served cold and contain ~1 tsp of matcha powder which contains ~315 mg of catechins – of which ~183 mg are EGCs.   


A 2009 meta-analysis (combining the data from all studies) of 11 green tea catechin studies found that subjects consuming between 270 to 1200 mg green tea catechins / day (1 – 4 tsp of matcha powder per day) lost an average of 1.31 kg (~ 3 lbs) over 12 weeks with no other dietary or activity changes [Hursel].


The effect of green tea catechins on body composition is significant – even when the weight loss between “treated” and “untreated” groups is small (~5 lbs in 12 weeks).

Even with such small amounts of weight loss;

the total amount of abdominal fat decreased 25 times more with green tea catechin consumption than without it (−7.7 vs. −0.3%)


 total amount of subcutaneous abdominal fat (the fat just below the skin of the abdomen) decreases almost 8 times more with green tea catechin consumption than without it (−6.2 vs. 0.8%). 


The mechanisms by which green tea catechins reduce body weight  and reduce the amount of total body fat and in particular reduce the amount of abdominal fat are still being investigated.  It is currently thought that green tea catechins;

–          increased thermogenesis; i.e. increased heat production which would result in increased energy expenditure (or calorie burning)

–          increase fat oxidation i.e. using body fat as energy. For those on a low fat high fat diet, this is good!

–          decrease appetite

–          down-regulation of enzymes involved in liver fat metabolism (fat storage)  


While EGCG has also been found to be similar in its effect to etoposide anddoxorubicin, a potent anti-cancer drug used in chemotherapy [Bandele et al], high intake of polyphenolic compounds during pregnancy is suspected to increase risk of neonatal leukemia. Bioflavonoid supplements (including green tea catechins) should not be used by pregnant women [Paolini et al].

Betterbydesign’s low carb Green Tea Matcha Smoothie Recipe

Total carbs: 2.5 gm per serving – contains ~315 mg catechins


1 tsp matcha (green tea) powder * (1 tsp = 2 gm)

12 cubes ice, crushed

1/2 cup (125 ml) coconut milk  

optional: 1/2 tsp Silan (Middle Eastern date syrup) – will add an additional 3.5 g carbs to the recipe


  1. Place 1 tsp matcha powder in a small stainless steel sieve and gently press through the sieve into a small bowl with the back of a small spoon
  2. Put the sieved matcha powder into a ceramic or glass bowl (not metal, as the tannins in the tea will react and give the beverage and “off” metalic taste)
  3. With a bamboo whisk (available at Japanese and Korean grocery stores) or a plain spoon, whisk 3 Tbsp boiled and cooled water into the matcha powder, until all the lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth
  4. Place a whole tray of ice cubes (12) into a blender
  5. Pour matcha and water mixture over ice in the glass
  6. Pour coconut milk on top of ice and matcha
  7. Pulse until desired texture is achieved*

*I blend mine just fine enough to be able to drink it through a straw.


Nutritional Information

Calories 91.48
Saturated Fat 7.7 gm
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 7.5 mg
Carbohydrates 1 gm
Dietary Fiber 770 mg
Protein 1.1 gm

Calcium 8.8 mg
Vitamin A (Retinol Equivalents) 198.4 mg
B-Carotene 1.2 gm
Magnesium 4.6 mg
Vitamin B1 .12 mg
Potassium 54 mg
Vitamin B2 .027 mg
Phosphorus 7.0 mg
Vitamin B6 .018 mg
Iron .34 mg
Vitamin C .12 mg
Sodium .12 mg
Vitamin E .562 mg
Zinc .126 mg
Vitamin K 58 mcg
Copper .012 mg

Polyphenols 200 mg
Caffeine 50 mg
Theophylline 0.84 mg




Bandele, OJ, Osheroff, N. Epigallocatechin gallate, a major constituent of green tea, poisons human type II topoisomerases”.Chem Res Toxicol 21 (4): 936–43, April 2008.

Hursel R, Viechtbauer W, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. Int J Obes (Lond) 2009;33:956–61.

Kao YH, Chang MJ, Chen CL, Tea, Obesity, and Diabetes, Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 50 (2): 188–210, February 2006

Kim JA, Formoso G, Li Y, Potenza MA, Marasciulo FL, Montagnani M, Quon MJ., Epigallocatechin gallate, a green tea polyphenol, mediates NO-dependent vasodilation using signaling pathways in vascular endothelium requiring reactive oxygen species and Fyn, J Biol Chem. 2007 May 4;282(18):13736-45. Epub 2007 Mar 15.

Nagle DG, Ferreira D, Zhou YD. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG): chemical and biomedical perspective. Phytochemistry 2006;67:1849–55.

Park JH, Jin JY, Baek WK, Park SH, Sung HY, Kim YK, et al. Ambivalent role of gallated catechins in glucose tolerance in humans: a novel insight into nonabsorbable gallated catechin-derived inhibitors of glucose absorption. J Phyisiol Pharmacol 2009;60:101–9.

Phung OJ, Baker WL, Matthews LJ, Lanosa M, Thorne A, Coleman CI. Effect of green tea catechins with or without caffeine on anthropometric measures: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:73–81.

Paolini, M, Sapone, A, Valgimigli, L, “Avoidance of bioflavonoid supplements during pregnancy: a pathway to infant leukemia?”. Mutat Res 527 (1–2): 99–101. (Jun 2003)

Rains, TM, Agarwal S, Maki KC, “Antiobesity effects of green tea catechins; a mechanistic review” J or Nutr Biochem 22(2011):1-7

Weiss, DJ, Anderton CR, Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography, Journal of Chromatography A, Vol 1011(1–2):173-180, September 2003


The Limitations of Common Ways of Determining Weight Loss

People who are eating differently in an effort to lose weight often hop on the scale daily to see how they’re doing. What they fail to consider is that an average adult’s body weight can fluctuate by as much as 4  1/2 pounds per day — solely as a result of changes in the amount of water they are retaining or excreting.

The Limitations of Using a Scale to Determine Fat Loss

An 80 kg person has, on average 48 liters of water in their body. The problem with using body weight as an assessor of fat loss is that the human body does not precisely regulate body water content.

Above 49 liters of water, the kidneys of an 80 kg person will clear the excess water by causing the person to urinate more and below 47 liters of water, the 80 kg person will feel thirsty and increase their fluid intake. People’s “weight” is affected by this change in body water content of ~2 liters per day — which weighs approximately 2 kg or 4.4 pounds! Put another way, each day our “weight” can fluctuate by this amount solely due to the difference in retained or excreted water.

Since there is no way to measure this daily change in water weight in non-clinical settings, the standard scale is a very imprecise way to measure fat loss over the short-term.

Waist Circumference

Many people know that carrying excess weight around the middle increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack so they measure their waist circumference frequently. Even if waist circumference is measured halfway between the lower rib and the top of the hip bone, with a fully relaxed abdomen, their are limitations to using this as a short term measure of weight loss.

The Limitations of Using a Tape Measure to Determine Fat Loss

Since the average person’s body weight fluctuates by as much as ~4 1/2 pounds per day due only to changes in body water, a tape measure fails to capture decreases in waist circumference stemming from the kidneys excreting water.

That said, waist circumference is helpful as a long-term indicator of weight loss, just not a short-term one.

Body Fat Percent

Some people have bathroom scales that have body fat analyzers built in and think that what it is measuring is the amount of fat they are carrying, however a number of factors can influence this reading.

The Limitations of Using a Body Fat Analyzer to Determine Fat Loss

Body Fat Analyzers use electrical impedance to determine fat percentage, and this measurement is affected by a number of conditions, including environmental (room) temperature, a person’s hydration status, as well as emotional stress. Since hydration status can fluctuate by ~4 pounds per day, a body fat analyzer is no more accurate as a short-term measure than a standard bathroom scale, without it.

HOW TO Assess short-term weight loss

How one’s own clothes fit and comparative ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos are a much better short-term assessor of fat loss than a scale, a tape measure and a body fat analyzer. Since body water fluctuates considerably on a low carb high fat diet due to changes in sodium levels, I recommend that people eating a low carb high fat diet weigh themselves once every two weeks on the same day of the week, at the same time of day and measure their waist circumference at the same time. If they have a scale that assesses body fat percent once every two weeks is sufficient for taking these measurements.

None of these will provide much information on actual fat loss over the short term…so why rely on them for that, but they will be helpful measurement over the longer term.

Sodium and Body Water Content

As mentioned in a previous article, by eating only when hungry and only until no longer hungry, insulin levels have the opportunity to fall to baseline – something they do naturally after not eating for 12 hours.

On days where the time until eating is extended by a few hours (i.e. “intermittent fasting”), insulin levels stay low for an even longer period of time.  In response, our kidneys excrete sodium in a process called naturesis.

Failing to supplement sodium while eating low-carb high fat can result in intense headaches – and if sodium remains low, potassium will also be excreted to keep the necessary sodium-potassium balance. This drop in potassium often results in irregular heart beats, known as arrhythmia.

Phinney and Volek (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living) recommend that if one is eating less than 60 gms of carbs per day, that 2-3 grams of sodium should be added to the diet (provided the person is not taking any diuretics or other blood pressure medication).

A half a teaspoon of table salt or sea salt provides 1000 mg or 1 gram of sodium.

Final Thoughts

Since hopping on the scale daily or even several times a week won’t provide any useful information, nor will measuring our waist circumference or using a body fat analyzer too often – why do it? Part of ‘getting healthy’ ought to include having a healthy body self image – something that won’t be nurtured by obsessing about such “numbers”.

Short-term measures of success

Short-term success is best measured visually – with comparative photos taken from the same distance away, from the same relative height and wearing the same clothing.

How one’s clothes are fitting is another way.

A person who is insulin resistant or Type 2 Diabetic should be seeing both their fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels gradually coming down. If they aren’t then they should schedule an appointment with their Dietitian to find out why that is.

Medium-term measures of success

Medium-term measures of success in eating low carb high fat can be measured both subjectively and objectively. Subjective measures include weighing oneself and taking one’s own waist circumference once every two weeks. Objective measures include having your Dietitian weigh you on a clinical scale, having her assess your waist circumference and body fat percentage using both a device that measures electrical impedance, as well as using good old-fashioned calipers, that measure subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, in 3 or four specific locations on the body.

A person with high blood pressure should be seeing both systolic (the first number) and diastolic (the second number) blood pressure coming down and Type 2 Diabetics or those with insulin resistance should be continuing to observe lower fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels.

Longer-term measures of success

After 6 or 8 months eating low carb high fat, both subjective and objective measures should be continuing to lower in a reasonably linear fashion. Of course there will be times where a ‘plateau’ is reached, but if that lasts more than two or three weeks, then its important to check in with your Dietitian to make sure the amount of carbs you think you are eating is what your Dietitian has been determined as being best for you.

A Type 2 Diabetic should be seeing both their fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels approaching more normal levels and both Type 2 Diabetics and those with insulin resistance (“pre-diabetes”) should have their HbA1C assessed at a lab every three months, as this provides insights into one’s 3-month average blood glucose level. Fasting blood glucose provides a ‘snap-shot’ of blood sugar in the morning after not eating, and should be done twice a year by a lab, especially if one is Diabetic. Comparing lab test results to previous lab test results is an objective indicator of the effect that eating low-carb high fat is having on specific markers and provides an opportunity to determine if the amount of carbs being eaten may still be too high.

The most accurate assessor is a 2 hour glucose tolerance test, however few doctors will requisition this after one is diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic.

Finally, every year or so, it is helpful for those who have been diagnosed as Diabetic to have their fasting insulin, C-Protein and AM Cortisol levels assessed and compared to previous results. For these, your doctor may refer you to an Endocrinologist.

Remember, achieving health is a journey and takes time and like most journeys, it is best not done alone.

Have questions about how I can help or about the services I provide?

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

To your good health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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From Paleo to Present – a brief history of the human diet

Prior to the domestication of animals and the development of agriculture, the human diet centered around the ‘hunt’. They ate when they caught something, and didn’t eat until again until they either caught something else, or were successful in finding edible vegetation, berries or nuts. “Feasting” and “fasting” were normal events in the rhythm of life, and our bodies were designed to function using our fat stores for energy, as evidenced by our continued existence.

From hunter-gatherers to farmers

After the Ice Age, those that survived were left with an increasingly unpredictable climate, decreases in big-game species that were hunters’ first-choice prey, and increasing human population in the available habitats for hunting and gathering. To decrease the risk of unpredictable variation in food supply, people broadened their diets to second- and third-choice foods, which included more small game, plus plant foods which required much preparation, such as grinding, leaching and soaking. As I will demonstrate below, these plant foods, including grains were very different in carbohydrate and protein composition than they are today.

The domestication of animals and plant cultivation of ~ 13,000 years ago, forms a significant turning point in the human diet.

Humans began to transport some wild plants, including grains from their natural habitat to more productive selected habitats, and so began intentional cultivation, or farming. With the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals – the plants and animals themselves began to change.

This is important.  

The fruit of today bear little resemblance to their ancient predecessors. The grains of today don’t either. For example, wild wheat and wild barley bear their seeds on top of a stalk, and sheds its seed spontaneously – enabling it to germinate where it falls.

Once people began bringing some wild wheat or barley seeds back with them in order to intentionally plant them, some seeds would accidentally spill along the way, germinating in new places. Over time, some seed would cross-pollinate with wild grain, while others would undergo spontaneous mutations, leading to wheat and barley varieties with non-self-shattering heads. Eventually, these non-shattering grains were selected for by humans for cultivating, leading to a very different type of grain than the wild species – and one with very different nutritional content than their wild predecessors.

Similarly, domesticated animals were selected based on traits that were considered desirable to people – chickens were selected to be larger, wild cattle to be smaller, and sheep to lose their bristly outer hairs and not to shed their soft inner wool. Eventually, the land where hunter-gatherers lived was overrun and replaced by people who had become agricultural – and who were ever-expanding the amount of land they required for raising animals, as well as for growing crops.

At Tell Abu Hureyra, in the Euphrates valley of modern Syria are the remains of a civilization that lived between 13,000 and 9,000 years ago, spanning the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic periods. This site is significant because the inhabitants of Abu Hureyra started out as hunter-gatherers, but gradually moved to agriculture, making them the earliest known farmers in the world. Meals consisting of the meat of gazelle, wild goat and game birds were supplemented with wild-growing Einkorn wheat-porridge, as well as berries, nuts or fruit, if in season.  Tools such as sickles and mortars for harvesting and grinding grain, as well as pits for storing it have been found at Tell Abu Hureya and remains of harvested Einkorn wheat (which was ground by hand and eaten as porridge) have been found at Tell Aswad, Jericho, Nahal Hemar, Navali Cori and other archeological sites.

The diet of man forever changed at that point.

As previously mentioned, plants underwent change as a result of both natural cross-pollination as both underwent change as a result of intentional manipulation by man.  This occurred everywhere that man settled – from the lush valleys of the Middle East*, to Africa and Asia.

[*yes, the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East was lush and green, then.]

The grain we know today as “wheat” and “rice” is nothing like their wild ancient predecessors. Likewise with fruit. The fruit of today has been bred to be sweet – not so with the wild cultivar. A brief history of wheat will help illustrate this type of change.

Evolution of Wheat – but one example

The first wild grass that was cultivated was Einkorn wheat. As cultivation techniques improved, Einkorn eventually became an essential component of the dietreducing the need for hunting and gathering. Einkorn wheat contained only 14 chromosomes.

Shortly after the cultivation of the first Einkorn, the Emmer variety of wheat (Triticum turgidum) appeared in the Middle East; a natural offspring of Einkorn and an unrelated wild grass, calledgoatgrass(Aegilops speltoids.

Emmer wheat is what is referred to in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 9, Exodus 32, Isaiah 28, Isaiah 25) as Kes-emmet (כֻּסֶּמֶת) and both Eikorn wheat (חִטָּה) and “Emmet” (ֻּסֶּמֶת), translated in English as ‘spelt’, are referred to together as distinct species (e.g. Exodus 9:32).  It was the ancient Egyptians that are credited with the addition of wild strains of yeast in order to make bread rise – which gives an added dimension to the story of Passover, where the Jews left slavery in Egypt in “great haste”, “not having time to let their bread rise”.

Since plants do not combine genes but add (or sum) them which provides evidence of what cross-bred with what. Goatgrass added its genetic code to that of Einkorn , so Emmer wheat had 28 chromosomes.

Emmer wheat then naturally cross-bred with another wild grass called Triticum taushii, giving rise to the original cultivar of Triticum aestivum, the predecessor of modern wheat, which has 42 chromosomes. This was a higher yielding wheat variety which had many desirable baking properties that Eikorn and Emmer lacked.  This new strain remained largely unchanged until the mid-eighteenth century when Carolus Linneaus, who invented the Linnean system of categorizing species, counted only 5 species.

Today, Eikorn, Emmer and the original cultivated strains of Triticum aestivum have been replaced by almost 25,000 strains of modern human-bred wheat strains that are hundreds, if not thousands of genes apart from the original Eikorn and Emmer wheat species.

Our food is not the food of our ancestors.

Modern Triticum aestivum is on average 70% carbohydrate by weight and only 10% protein. Emmer wheat, on the other hand was 57% carbohydrate and 28% protein – and was suitable to supplement the protein of a meal.

Paleo Diet compared with the Low Carb High Healthy Fat diet

The premise of Paleo eating to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors did is understandable, however the foods that exist now are nothing like the foods our ancient ancestors ate. Fruit, for example is considered “paleo” -but the carb content of paleo fruit was substantially less than that of today.

In a low carb high healthy fat way of eating, carbs are not avoided. It is the foods that are high in carbs that are easily broken down to glucose and have little nutrient-density that are limited.

[It is hard to justify eating grain products made from varieties of wheat that were bred for no other reason than they could be grown in nutrient- poor soils in novel parts of the world.]

No justification is needed to eat carbs that come as part of fibre- and nutrient-rich non-starchy vegetables and to eat carbs found in nuts that are a good source of protein and monounsaturated fat.

A diet where 45 – 65% of calories are as carbohydrate is has us eating “carbs for carb’s sake”, but a low carb high healthy fat diet should not be about “fat for fat’s sake”.

Some people think they should eat large amounts of saturated fat “just because they can”, and I suppose that’s true. One can certainly eat a pound of bacon, but when compared  with a fat marbled grain-fed steak or a Brome Lake- or wild duck, one is more nutrient-dense than the other. The yolks of free-range egg comes as part of a nutrient-dense package, which includes good quality protein, as well as other nutrients. A pound of bacon, does not. That doesn’t mean that eating bacon is “bad”, but in comparison to grilled salmon with a large serving of non-starchy vegetables bathed in cold-pressed olive- or avocado oil, it doesn’t quite measure up. It is not just about not being hungry, but about being healthy.

A Low-Carb-High-Healthy-Fat Diet is about “nutrient density” – not just “fat density”.

Final Thoughts

In a Low-Carb-High-Healthy-Fat Diet, carbs are not “bad” and fat is not “good”.

Carbs and fat that come in nutrient-dense food and in particular ratios are what we are striving for.

As well, protein quantity is based on physiological need and not unlimited (as excess in a low carb diet will be converted and stored as fat). The source of that protein ought to be considered, as well. For example, it is well documented that fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are good for our brains and our hearts so for those that enjoy fish, eating it often is ideal.

The good thing about the Low-Carb-High-Healthy-Fat Diet is that it can be adapted to  culture- or religious restrictions. Don’t eat pork? No problem. Don’t eat beef? Not an issue. Take fast days? That is easily worked-in.

Want to know more?

Feel free to send me a note using the form on the “Contact Us” tab, above. Remember, Nutrition is BetterByDesign.

To your health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 


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Binford LF. New Perspectives in Archaeology, 1968; 313–341

David, W. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health Rodale Books, 2011; 15-32

Diamond J. Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication. Nature, 2002; 418:700-7

Flannery KV. The Domestication of Plants and Animals, 1969;73–100

Hillman GC, Davies, MS. Measured Domestication Rates in Wild Wheats and Barley under Primitive Cultivation, and their Archaeological Implications. J. World Prehistory; 1990; 4:157–222

Raeker RO, Gaines CS, Finney PL, Donelson T. Granule size distribution and chemical composition of starches from 12 soft wheat cultivars. Cereal Chem 1998;75(5):721-8

Shewry PR. Wheat. J Exp Botany 2009;60(6):1537-53

Stiner MC, Munro ND, Surovell TA. The Tortoise and the Hare: small-game use, the broad-spectrum revolution, and Paleolithic demography. Curr. Anthropol. 41, 39–73 (2000).

Zohary D, Hopf M. Domestication of Plants in the Old World 3rd edn (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2000).

Two People, Two Options: living healthy or dying prematurely

This weekend has been a challenging one, as I received two pieces of news. The first was of one client’s incredible success following the low carb high healthy fat diet and the shocked reaction of his doctor, and the other was of the death of a friend who had Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In this blog, I will share how these two events embody the two options each of us have; (1) living a healthy life to the fullest or (2) living with diet-related disease and dying prematurely of ‘natural causes’.

“JP” – a Picture of Success

Last fall, I had a reasonably fit 35-year-old client contact me wanting to lose 15 pounds. He went to the gym twice a week for an hour, and ran 10 km per week, but had put on some pounds and wanted to lose them.

As I always do, I asked for a copy of recent blood test, assessing his fasting blood glucose, HbA1C (3 month average of blood glucose), cholesterol (lipid panel) and requesting his doctor-assessed blood pressure. (Sometimes people insist that I counsel them without seeing blood work, but I explain that they ran out of crystal balls when I was graduating, so I have no choice but to get labs.)  I gave my new client a Lab Test Request form to bring his doctor.  The GP scoffed at the Lab Test Request Form asking him to requisition a lipid panel for a young, fit 35 year old whose parents are both living. That changed when the tests came back, and this man’s triglyceride level was higher than I had ever seen anyone’s, ever. His non-HDL cholesterol was very high and his HDL was very low. LDL wasn’t even available because his triglycerides levels were through the roof. His ferritin was astronomically high – not a sign of excess iron, but likely inflammation.

His doctor called him into the office immediately and wanted to put him on statin medication right away and referred him to the Lipid Clinic at a major local hospital.

My client told his doctor he wanted to wait 3 months and first follow my dietary recommendations and see what would happen to his lipids, and was advised against it by his doctor. My client was insistent, so the doctor told him that his recommendations were for him to eat “decrease saturated fat and carbohydrates, increase fruit and vegetables, increase insoluble fiber and fish, make his plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch“.

After seeing me, he agreed to limit fruit to max 1 / day, preferably a few berries on top of 2 or 3 huge salads with plenty of good quality olive oil and to have most of his carbs as vegetables. He learned that “not all vegetables are created equal” and I taught him to differentiate between those he could eat as much as he wanted at each meal and those he should limit or avoid. We talked about milk consumption, and the health benefits of eating plenty of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and fresh sardine. And we talked about carbs. We talked a lot about carbs. Carbs in fruit, carbs in milk, carbs in bread, pasta and rice, and carbs in vegetables. 

I designed an Individual Meal Plan for him, making sure he obtained sufficient macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) as well as micronutrients (especially potassium, magnesium, sodium, vitamin C and calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K) – and factoring in his desired weight loss. I explained that if he followed his Meal Plan, it is perfectly reasonable for his triglyceride levels to be <2.00 mmol/L in 2 more months. 

Three weeks later, his doctor ran his labs again.  His triglyceride level was almost a third what it was! His non-HDL was down substantially and his HDL was rising nicely. When he was seen at the Lipid Clinic, they were willing to give him 2 more months to get his lipids in the normal range before starting him on medication.

Friday, he wrote me telling me that his triglycerides we down well below 2.00 mmol/L and added;

“this amazed the doctor!”

My client left his doctor’s office without a medication prescription and with only the recommendation to keep eating the way I taught him. My client added that he was already within 2 – 3kg of his goal weight.

It’s not magic.

The doctor should not have been amazed that diet alone can be this effective – even for someone for whom high cholesterol has a genetic component. The literature documents the role of a low carb high fat diet.

But it is easier to write a prescription than educate a patient. 

My High School Friend – preventable premature death

Last night I learned that my friend since high school, died from natural causes. She had Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She and I were the same age.

Three years ago, when my friend was first diagnosed as having Diabetes, she asked my opinion about having received Diabetes counselling in her province to eat 45 gm of carbohydrates at each meal and at least 15 gm of carbohydrates at each of 3 snacks – that’s 180 gm of carbohydrates per day.  A mutual friend of ours from the same province, who had also been recently diagnosed with Diabetes confirmed that she too was advised to eat 45 gm of carbohydrates at each meal and at least 15 gm of carbohydrates at snacks. At that time, I had explained to my friend what I had been learning about the role of excess carbs in Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol. While I provide distance consultations in my practice (using a combination of phone, email and fax), as Dietitians we are advised specifically not to provide dietary counselling to family members or friends. With my ability to help directly being very limited, I recommended that she find a Dietitian near her who could teach her about managing this triad (called “metabolic syndrome“) using a low carb high fat diet. She followed the standard dietary recommendations to the letter and took her multiple medications as prescribed. Her blood sugar levels came down using medication (but that was effectively treating the symptom of high blood sugar, not the cause which is the underlying insulin resistance). Her blood pressure kept going higher and higher despite medication, so more medication was added.  She then developed high       cholesterol.      

Today, my friend is dead, in what could have been an entirely preventable, premature death.

So I am left asking myself ‘could following the standard recommendations of eating 180 gm of carbohydrate per day with Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — without treating the underlying cause (insulin resistance) have contributed to her death’?

The literature is certainly full of studies documenting the beneficial effects of a low carb high fat diet on metabolic syndrome – but she was never given that as an option.  She was prescribed medication for lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, but nothing was done to lower her insulin resistance.

A lifetime of work by the late Dr. Joseph Kraft with almost 300,000 people documents that it is the insulin resistance that underlies cardiovascular disease  not the high blood sugar. Furthermore, 65-75% of people with normal blood sugar levels still have insulin resistanceand the same elevated risk of having a heart attack. 

We keep treating the symptoms and people keep dying anyways – and those without any symptoms are walking around with elevated risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and don’t even know it.

We are told;

“Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease”

which means that once diagnosed with Diabetes, you’ll have it forever – and that eventually it will get worse, requiring medication, then more medication and finally insulin.

When people have bariatric surgery (“stomach stapling”), their blood sugars come back to normal within weeks and at the end of a year, they no longer have any of the clinical symptoms of Diabetes.  Their fasting blood glucose levels are normal and their HbA1C levels are normal. They are essentially as if they don’t have Diabetes. Their Diabetes is in remission.

So is Diabetes REALLY a “chronic, progressive disease”? No, it can be stopped.

If the reason people became Diabetic was because of how they were eating, why is it SO hard to grasp the concept that they could get well, but changing how they are eating?

At the end of the day, we have a choice.

We can do as my client above did and put everything we have into changing how we eat based on good, sound scientific studies and with medical supervision, or we can keep doing what we’ve been doing, expecting different results.

I made my choice a month ago tomorrow, and will write an update in the blog titled “A Dietitian’s Journey” tomorrow, for week four  (see Food for Thought tab, above).  Here’s a teaser; two days ago my blood sugar levels were several times at normal levels – and were overall much lower than a month ago. Last night (twice) and once this morning, my blood pressure was in the normal range.  One month!

I ask myself, what will my labs look like in 3 months or 6 months of addressing the underlying insulin resistance (instead of the symptom of high blood sugar?) What will be life be like, when I have normal blood sugar levels and normal blood pressure and normal cholesterol levels?

It will look better than the alternative.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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FEATURED: Significance of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition where your body keeps producing more and more insulin in order to transport glucose out of the blood and store the excess by converting it to fat. When cells have become resistant to insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and results in “high blood sugar”. The problem is that high blood sugar is a symptom of the problem, it is not the problem itself.  Insulin resistance is the underlying cause and is highly significant to those with completely normal blood sugar levels.

Those with high fasting blood glucose may notice symptoms that are associated with Type 2 Diabetes; including excess urination and excess thirst. This is the body’s way of trying to dilute the high levels of glucose in the blood. A very sobering fact is that 75% of people with insulin resistance have normal fasting blood glucose levels and don’t know that they are insulin resistant.

They have NO symptoms whatsoever.

They don’t know that they are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

The Silent Risk of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a risk factor for atherosclerosis* – also called “hardening of the arteries”. Atherosclerosis is where plaque builds up inside the body’s arteries and if the plaque build-up occurs in the heart, brain or kidney, it can result in in coronary heart disease, angina (chest pain) or chronic kidney disease. These diseases are normally associated with Diabetes, but it is the underlying insulin resistance of Diabetes that creates the increased risk – not the high blood sugar itself.  Worthy of note, it is being insulin resistance that increases one’s risk – whether or not one also has high blood blood sugar.

The plaque that builds up in atherosclerosis may partially block or totally block blood flow to the heart or brain and if a piece of the plaque breaks off or if a blood clot (thrombus) appears on the plaque’s surface – this can block the artery  resulting in a heart attack or a stroke (in the brain).

Three quarters of people with normal fasting blood glucose are at increased risk of atherosclerosis and as a result, to heart attack and stroke due to insulin resistance and they don’t even know it, because their blood sugar is normal!

* a few recent references (there are many more):
Pansuria M, Xi H, Li L, Yang X-F, Wang H. Insulin resistance, metabolic stress, and atherosclerosis. Frontiers in Bioscience (Scholar Edition). 2012;4:916-931. 

Santos, Itamar S. et al., Insulin resistance is associated with carotid intima-media thickness in non-diabetic subjects. A cross-sectional analysis of the ELSA-Brasil cohort baseline, Atherosclerosis 2017 Mar 10;260:34-40

Insulin Resistance with Normal Blood Glucose

Dr. Joseph R. Kraft, MD was Chairman of the Department of Clinical Pathology and Nuclear Medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, Illinois for 35 years. He spent a quarter century devoted to the study of glucose metabolism and blood insulin levels.

Between 1972 and 1998, Dr. Kraft measured the Insulin Response to a carbohydrate / glucose load in almost 15,000 people aged 3 to 90 years old using a 5-hour oral glucose tolerance test with insulin assays. Data from 10,829 of these subjects indicated that 75% of subjects were insulin resistanteven though their fasting blood sugar level was normal.

That is, having a normal fasting blood glucose level, and normal HbA1C level does not preclude someone from being insulin resistant and at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

The American Heart Association states on its web page that;

“exactly how atherosclerosis begins or what causes it isn’t known, but some theories have been proposed. Many scientists believe plaque begins to form because the inner lining of the artery, called the endothelium, becomes damaged. Three possible causes of damage to the arterial wall are (1) elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood (2) high blood pressure and (3) cigarette smoking“.

It is known that high triglycerides in the blood are largely a result of diets high in carbohydrates where excess carbohydrate that isn’t converted to glycogen and stored in muscle and liver is stored as triglyceride (three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule).

Insulin resistance in our cells, results in our bodies releasing more and more insulin in order to try to clear the same amount of glucose from our blood to store it in our liver as triglyceride (fat!). As covered in the blog post on the hormonal effect of insulin, it is the insulin which drives increased hunger and specifically increased craving for carbohydrates.  A viscous circle is created.  Diets that are 45-65% carbohydrate result in more and more insulin to handle the same carb load (that is the very nature of insulin resistance) and this increased insulin leads to even more insulin resistance, increased hunger and craving for….you guessed it: more carbs.

Since insulin’s main role is to store the excess glucose not needed immediately to fat – our bodies produce more and more triglyceride (fat!) the more carbs we eat and the more insulin resistant we are. That is, a high carb diet results in high triglycerides – which the American Heart Association recognizes as playing a role in the development of atherosclerosis. That is because triglycerides are converted to VLDLs to transport fat around the body and when their triglycerides ‘passengers’ are depleted, what is left is LDL, the “bad cholesterol” we have all heard about.  The ONLY source of LDL is VLDL, and high triglyceride is largely the result of a diet that is too high in carbohydrate.

Insulin also plays a significant role in the regulation of blood pressure through its effect on sodium transport. As insulin rises, excess sodium is retained by the kidneys, increasing blood pressure.  Insulin resistance compounds this problem, causing blood pressure to rise even more.  It has long been known that people with Diabetes develop high blood pressure – but it is the underlying insulin resistance that is driving that, not the symptom of high blood sugar.

What is alarming is that based on Kraft’s research with ~11,000 people over 20 years, potentially 75% of people are insulin resistanteven though their fasting blood sugar level is normal. This insulin resistance drives the increased triglycerides and high blood pressure that characterize what the American Heart Associations states is believed what underlies the development for atherosclerosis – and the corresponding risk of heart attack and stroke.

Could insulin resistance be a silent killer?

Kraft’s Patterns of Insulin Response

Kraft plotted the data from ~11,000 subjects and five distinct Insulin Response Patterns emerged.

Insulin Response Curves – image adapted from Dr. Ted Naiman

‘Pattern I: is a normal, healthy insulin response to a standard glucose load. Dr. Kraft called this ‘Euinsulin’.

image by Joy Y. Kiddie MSc RD
Pattern I: Normal Insulin Response Curve

Pattern II – is a hyperinsulinemic insulin response to a standard glucose. Note that Pattern II is considerably greater than the normal insulin response curve (Pattern I) and this greater insulin response is sustained for 5 hours after the ingestion of the glucose. 

image by Joy Y. Kiddie MSc RD
Pattern II hyperinsulinemia compared to normal glucose response (Pattern I)

Superimposing the hyperinsulinemic insulin response of Pattern II over the normal Pattern I insulin response curve, it is easy to see how much higher the Pattern II (yellow curve) is over the normal Pattern I (green) curve.  This is the early stages of insulin resistance.

Pattern III – is a hyperinsulinemic insulin response to a standard glucose load. Compared to the normal insulin response curve (Pattern I), it much greater during for 5 hours after taking in the glucose.

image from Joy Y. Kiddie MSc RD
Pattern III hyperinsulinemia compared to normal glucose response (Pattern I)

Superimposing Pattern III (hyperinsulinemia) insulin response curve over the normal (Pattern I) insulin response curve, its easy to see how the insulin response is delayed (skewed to the right). This results in blood glucose remaining high, as insulin is not responding as it should. Keep in mind, this is occurring in people with normal fasting blood glucose levels.

The Pattern III curve also goes so much higher than the normal Pattern I insulin response curve – which means that more insulin is released and this higher insulin release is sustained for the 5 hours after taking in the glucose.

This is “silent” pre-diabetes  delayed insulin response and much higher levels of insulin for a much longer time – but with normal fasting blood glucose!

Pattern IV – Pattern IV is what Dr. Kraft calls “Diabetes in Situ” – literally “Diabetes in Place”. Looking at the Pattern IV insulin response curve compared to Pattern I (the normal insulin response), it is apparent that it is much greater for the entire 5 hours after taking in a standard amount of glucose.

image created by Joy Y. Kiddie
DIABETES IN-SITU: Pattern IV insulin response points compared to the normal Pattern I insulin response curve (in green)
image created by Joy Y. Kiddie MSc RD
DIABETES IN-SITU: Pattern IV insulin response curve compared to the normal Pattern I insulin response curve (in green)

Surprisingly, 40% of people with a Pattern IV Insulin Resistance still had normal fasting blood glucose

75% of people displaying Pattern II, II or IV insulin responses do not know that they are at greater risk for atherosclerosis and as a result to heart attack and stroke because they have no symptoms.  Their blood sugar levels are normal.

Finally, insulin resistance is the most common cause of Type 2 Diabetes.

Normal fasting blood glucose and normal HbA1C results do not reveal whether or not a person is insulin resistant – only a 2 hr glucose tolerance test can do that. Unfortunately, a 2 hour glucose tolerance test is usually only requisitioned when fasting blood glucose and HbA1C results come back abnormal.

Potentially, up to 75% of people are insulin resistance and have NO IDEA!

They are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke and have NO SYMPTOMS.

They don’t have increased thirst or increased urination like Type 2 Diabetics, but are at the same risk.

The Good News

The good news is, we can lower insulin resistance – and as a byproduct of that, shed excess weight in the process. This is accomplished through (1) a low carbohydrate diet with or without the use of (2) stretching the amount of time between meals (sometimes called “intermittent fasting”).

When designed properly, a low carbohydrate diet can provide all of the recommended intake of vitamin and minerals – while lowering insulin resistance.

That is where I come in.

I can assess your physiological needs for energy and nutrients and design an Individual Meal Plan that will enable you to lose weight, without being hungry all the time – and that will help lower your insulin resistance and the associated risk of cardiovascular disease related to insulin resistance.

Want to know more?

Click on the “Contact Us” tab above, and send me a note.

To good health!


Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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A Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet

Client Brochure on the Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet – front

low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is a way of eating that maximizes the body’s natural ability to access one’s own fat-stores for energy. Fat takes the place of carbohydrate as the preferred source of energy, so most of the body’s energy needs comes from a wide variety of healthy fats. A low carb high healthy fat diet  minimizes carbohydrate-based foods, has a moderate amount of protein and has a high amount of healthy fats.

We use the dietary fat that we eat and our own stored fat for energy and by keeping carb intake low, insulin levels are allowed to fall, which in time makes our cells more sensitive to it. As insulin levels fall, so does hunger – so we eat meals when hungryuntil we are no longer hungry – but are no longer hungry every few hours.

The low carb high healthy fat diet

These are the categories and types of food that are available to enjoy on a low carb high healthy fat diet

Low Carb High Healthy Fat – food categories (acknowledgements: Dr. Ted Naiman)


The exact ratio of macronutrients in your diet (i.e. grams of carbs, fat and protein) will differ depending on your age, gender, activity level, current body composition as well as any health conditions or medication you may be taking.

Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea;


A low carb high healthy fat diet does not have unlimited amounts of animal protein, although some variations of this style of eating do. There is a reason for this. When carbs are reduced, the body can synthesize glucose from protein (through a process known as gluconeogenesis), so if you eat too much protein, it can slow down your body’s transition to burning fat stores, for energy. The type of low carb high healthy fat diet that I encourage, provides sufficient protein for our body’s needs based, but not excess.


One thing all low carb high fat diets have in common, is that they are lower in carbs than the conventional low fat calorie-restricted diet and high in fat.

People often ask me “isn’t saturated fat ‘bad’ for us?’, without realizing that ~80% of the saturated fat in our bodies is actually made by our body, and only 20% comes from diet. If it was that ‘bad’ for us, why would our bodies naturally manufacture it?

The questions often follow as to how much saturated fat should we eat? What about polyunsaturated fat? Monounsaturated fat?

Eating a diet that is high in carbs while eating lots of fat, including saturated fat is a concern, but eating a diet rich in saturated fat while eating low carbs is not inherently detrimental.

According to Phinney and Volek (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living), when someone is adapted to eating a low carb high healthy fat (i.e. are in “fat-burning mode”), saturated fats do not raise LDL cholesterol. That said, why eat only saturated fat? Eating a wide range of healthy fats from a variety of natural sources provides our bodies with all the essential fatty acids we can’t make, as well as provides us with foods that can reduce inflammation.

I recommend that people look mainly to plant-based fats such as those found in avocadoolive, avocado oil and coconut oil (which is largely made up of medium chain triglycerides that is processed through the lymphatic system rather than the liver), nuts and seeds as well as omega 3 fats found in fatty fish for the bulk of their fat sources, beyond the saturated fat that is found in their protein sources.

Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pistachios etc. contain carbs – ranging from ~1.5–4 grams net carbs per ounce (30g). Cashews which are actually fruit not nuts, are the highest in carbs, ~ 7 net grams per ounce (30g) but more importantly, since nuts are high in omega-6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory and compete for binding-sites with the omega-3 fats from fish) I recommend that these be eaten in portioned quantities – such as added on top of a salad or a handful with a meal.

Chia and flax seed are approximately 1–2 grams net carbs per 2 Tbsp (50 ml) and are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

All fats on the meal plan are healthy – which is why I call this approach “low carb high healthy fat”, but for a small percentage of people for whom high LDL cholesterol continues to be a concern, eating less saturated fat may be beneficial. Each person’s needs and familial risks are different, so no one low carb high healthy fat Meal Plan is the same.


Carbs are a healthy part of the low carb high healthy fat diet, but excess carb is minimized.

There are naturally-occurring carbs in non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruit (such as lemon, lime, eggplant, cucumber and tomatoes) and berries, as well as those found in nuts and seeds – and these are not restricted.

When starting a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet

Although not everyone does, some people experience some of the following symptoms, which usually subside within a couple of weeks. For each, I have offered some suggestions to minimize them:

  • headaches: often a result of eating too little salt. As insulin levels fall, so sodium is excreted by the kidney in urine. The drop in sodium results in the headache.  Taking 1-3 gms of salt per day (I prefer sea salt) will alleviate this. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.  “Bone broth” is another way to restore electrolytes that are lost as insulin levels fall. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water and also consuming enough salt/sodium.
  • sleep disruption: often a result of needing to urinate more, but sometimes experienced when people of switching from being in “carb-burning mode” to being in “fat burning mode”. Some people find taking some magnesium (with calcium) before bed helpful.
  • digestive changes: some people find they get slightly looser stools or get slightly more constipated when starting.  I can help troubleshoot this with you to get things back on track.
  • aches and pains: some people feel a little achy and almost flu-like for a few days when they are switching fuel sources.  Some people call this the “keto-flu”.  Making sure to have a balanced amount of sodium/potassium and calcium/magnesium as well as taking extra omega 3 fatty acids is helpful.

My role as a Dietitian

As a Dietitian, I make sure that you understand the effect that following a low carb high healthy fat diet can have on your body.  If you are taking medication for high blood pressure  (hypertension) or to lower blood sugar, I’ll ask you check with your doctor before starting, as blood sugar and blood pressure medications may need to be adjusted lower, as insulin levels fall.

If you aren’t taking any medication, I’ll help you transition into understanding that fat in and by itself is not ‘bad’ and that eating good quality healthy fats, nutrient-dense carbohydrate-containing foods and high quality animal protein is part of a healthy diet that will enable you to feel betterlose weight and lower insulin resistance.

I’ll design your Meal Plan so that it is adequate in macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals – especially Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, B-Vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Vitamin C) and sufficient in soluble and insoluble fiber  – suitable for your age, gender and activity level, and that factor in any diagnosed medical conditions you may have.

I’ll make sure that you are eating sufficient food in each of the food categories to meet your dietary needs, while adjusting for weight loss, if that is also a goal – so that you can just focus on eating healthy, ‘real food’.

Have questions ?

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

To your health!


Client Brochure on the Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet – inside
Note: Everyone's results following a LCHF lifestyle will differ as there is no one-size-fits-all approach and everybody's nutritional needs and health status is different. If you want to adopt this kind of lifestyle, please discuss it with your doctor, first.

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