Tag Archives: obesity

Celebrating a Practice That’s Changing Medicine

NaturopathicMedicineWeekNaturopathic Medicine Week is October 7-13th

I am a naturopathic doctor.

I represent a community of approximately 4400 practicing physicians in the United States.  We may be small in number, but what we lack in size we make up for in a passion and commitment to the philosophies we took an oath to honor:  that our bodies’ have an inherent wisdom of how to be well and our primary job as a doctor is to remove barriers to health in order to honor this ability, that at our core we are teachers and in order to truly cure, we must empower our patients to become active participants in their healing process, and that treating symptoms is not the end game, but merely clues to identify and treat the causes of disease.

When you’re small it’s often hard to be seen.  That’s why the recently passed Senate Resolution 211, establishing this week, October 7-13th, as national Naturopathic Medicine Week is such a big deal.

From the authors of the resolution,

“…naturopathic medicine provides noninvasive, holistic treatments that support the inherent self-healing capacity of the human body and encourage self-responsibility in health care”

They go on to state,

“That the Senate recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care; and encourage the people of the United States to learn about naturopathic medicine and the role that naturopathic physicians play in preventing chronic and debilitating illnesses and conditions.”

Awareness about what naturopathic medicine has to offer couldn’t come at a better time.  As a society, we’re really, really sick.  Two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, leaving us at risk for the development of serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and depression.  88 million of us have high blood pressure and 25 million have insulin resistant diabetes.  A full 75% of our national health care costs are focused on these chronic, yet largely preventable, diseases.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are specialists of diet and lifestyle-based treatments and it’s exactly these treatments that are proven to be the most effective medicine for the prevention and treatment of these chronic illnesses.  We receive an average of 70 hours of nutrition education and an additional 130 hours of training in therapeutic diets compared to an average of just 19 hours of basic nutrition education in conventional medical programs.  We look at the physical, emotional, environmental and social influences and approach each patient as the unique person that they are, using the least invasive (and often less expensive) treatment possible.  In addition, we tend to set up shop where we’re needed most, a full 50 percent of us work with underserved populations.

I believe naturopathic medicine is an essential part of the solution to our health care crisis.  We are a medicine that is changing medicine and it’s for this reason that I am celebrating Naturopathic Medicine Week.  To learn more about naturopathic medicine and find a naturopathic physician near you, please visit our national association, The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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For more from Keegan please visit her website and make sure you follow her on Twitter

The U.S. Economy? You Can’t Leave Out Body and Soul

shutterstock_20008843By Jim Clifton and Deepak Chopra

If economics aspires to be a science — “the dismal science” as it was traditionally called — it must recognize that the most relevant economic data are human. The rise and fall of GDP, mean household spending, and consumer confidence are useful statistics, but ultimately the “units” of the American economy are bodies and souls. What’s going on with them?

Even as the stock market soars, the unequal distribution of wealth, which reached an all-time U.S. high in 2012 (with the top 1% grabbing 20% of all incomes), also implies inequality in physical and mental well-being. We are breaking recent records there, too. It is well documented that the greatest burden on the economy is skyrocketing healthcare costs.

At $2.5 trillion annually, America’s healthcare bill is three times the size of the defense budget and nearly twice the size of the whole Russian economy. It is also roughly twice the size of the entire Indian economy, and India has a billion-plus population.

Graph

When you compare America’s per person health care spending to comparable societies, things look even worse. The U.S. spends more than $8,000 annually per person on healthcare, where Canada and Germany each spends roughly $4,500 per person, while the United Kingdom spends about $3,500, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Yet even as we lavishly outspend those countries, Americans have shorter life spans and generally worse health outcomes. In other words, citizens in comparable societies live longer but spend half the money we do on healthcare or less.

What’s afflicting our bodies to such an extent that the medical system may not be able to manage a turnaround? One big answer: epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes. Obesity is the primary cause of Type 2 diabetes and a major contributor to chronic disease in general, including hypertension and coronary artery disease. If the United States solved the obesity problem, its economy would arguably roar back, unburdened by unsustainable healthcare costs. The news that our obesity epidemic has stopped rising and in the case of school children may even be declining, is a start, although long overdue.

But the country can’t reliably tackle obesity, which is correlated with low income levels, or turn the economy around, if many of its citizens are depressed. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index just uncovered that being unemployed, dropping out of the workforce, or working part time while wanting full-time work are the strongest predictors of having depression. Unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like to are about twice as likely to be depressed as Americans who are employed full time.

Clearly our society has a crisis of body and soul – and often both together, since depression significantly raises a person’s risk for disease almost across the board. Economists don’t realistically figure these human factors into their predictions, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Well-being also declines from a host of things specific to America: chronic stress, uncertainty over keeping a job, anxiety over lost pensions, pressure to increase productivity (already the highest in the world but constantly pushed to rise even higher), and the longest work week in the developed world, along with the lowest vacation time.

The cure for the worst things is a full-time job. Gallup workplace data show that the ultimate job is one in which you get to do what you do best every day, your manager encourages your development, and your opinion counts. When and if every American can have this “therapy” of full-time meaningful employment, then depression, stress, and anxiety will subside, and the average person will become much more motivated to tackle chronic health problems like obesity. The human factor can never be over-emphasized if we intend to get the economy roaring again, but more importantly, if we intend to take well-being seriously and not simply raw economic data.

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Deepak Chopra, MD, is the founder of The Chopra Foundation and Co-Founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Chopra has written more than 75 books, translated into 35 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. www.deepakchopra.com

Jim Clifton is Chairman and CEO of Gallup, and author of The Coming Jobs War.

3 Ways to Rewire Your Brain and End Food Cravings

brainonstress

I’m a food addict. We all are. Our brains are biologically driven to seek and devour high-calorie, fatty foods. The difference is that I have learned how to control those primitive parts of my brain. Anyone can this if they know how. In this article, I will share 3 steps to help you counteract those primitive parts of your brain that have you chasing high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. But before you can update your brain’s biological software, you’ve got to understand why it developed in the first place.

Calories = Survival

The brain’s desire to binge on rich food is a genetic holdover from the days of hunter-gatherers. Given what scientists know today about our early ancestors, it makes sense that our brains are hardwired to fixate on high-calorie foods. It’s a survival mechanism. Eating as many calories as possible, whenever possible, allowed our ancestors to store excess calories as fat and survive lean times. That approach worked well for 2.4 million years, but today it’s making us sick and fat.

That’s because our brains haven’t evolved as fast as our food environment. The human brain evolved over 2.5 million years. And, with the exception of the last 10,000 years, people only ate animals they could hunt and wild-plants they could gather. Imagine if you could only eat what you caught or picked! The variety of foods hunter-gatherers ate paled in comparison to the 40,000 different food items we can buy in the average big-box grocery store today.(1)

No cinnamon buns for them!

And whereas we have easy access to food 24/7, drive-thru meals were not an option for hunter-gatherers. Not to mention that hunting and gathering was hard work. Early humans expended lots of calories acquiring their food, so they needed to eat high-calorie foods to offset the loss. The average hunter-gatherer got up to 60 percent of his calories from animal foods, such as muscle meat, fat, and organ meat, and the other 40 percent from plants.(2)

That balance between protein and carbohydrates in the diet is where the problem lies, but it’s not what you think. Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap, but they are the single most important nutrient for long-term health and weight loss. But I’m not talking about bagels and donuts. I’m talking about plant foods that more closely resemble what our ancestors ate. Hunter-gatherers ate fruit, tubers, seeds, and nuts. These are whole foods. They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and disease- and weight-busting colorful phytochemicals. They also take time to digest. Therefore, they raise blood sugar slowly, which balances metabolism and offers a steady stream of energy. Whole foods have all the right information and turn on all the right genes.

But the past 10,000 years saw the advent of both agriculture and industrialization. And, in the blink of an eye (by evolutionary standards), the human diet got turned upside down. Today, 60 percent of our calories come from things that hunter-gatherers wouldn’t even recognize as food. The bulk of those items—cereal grains, sugary drinks, refined oils and dressings—are simple carbohydrates.(3) The primitive brain sees an endless supply of easy energy. Left unchecked, our bodies pay the price. The result is a two-fronted epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country—what I call “diabesity.”

3 Ways to Reprogram your Brain

Luckily there are ways to rewire the primitive parts of your brain by making good food choices. Here are 3 ways to get started.

1.) Balance blood sugar.

Blood sugar highs and lows drive primitive food cravings. If you get famished between meals, that’s a sign that your blood sugar is crashing. When blood sugar is low, you’ll eat anything. To better balance blood sugar, eat a small meal or snack that includes healthy protein, like seeds or nuts, every 3 to 4 hours.

2.) Eliminate liquid calories and artificial sweeteners.

Early humans didn’t reach for soda or fruit juices when they got thirsty. Sodas are full of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Processed fruit juices are awash in sugar. Try sticking with water and green tea. Green tea contains plant chemicals that are good for your health. And, last but not least, don’t succumb to the diet-drink trap. The artificial sweeteners in diet drinks fool the body into thinking it is ingesting sugar, which creates the same insulin spike as regular sugar.

3.) Eat a high-quality protein at breakfast.

Ideally, you’re eating quality protein at every meal, but, if you need to prioritize one meal, choose breakfast. Studies show that waking up to a healthy protein, such as eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butters or a protein shake help people lose weight, reduce cravings and burn calories.

Ultimately, you may not control your genes, but you do control what and how you eat. Since taking control and changing my diet, my brain no longer caves into the cravings and urgings that seduce the reptilian brain. The most powerful tool you have to transform your health is your fork! Use it well and you will thrive.

References:
(1) “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle, p 17
(2) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L
Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71
(3) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L
Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins (Part 2)

Amor Sin Remedio Hopeless Love Hoffnungslose LiebeClick here to read Part 1!

Why Most Vitamin Studies Are Flawed

There is another important thing to understand about clinical trials that review the utility of vitamins in the treatment of disease. The studies that show harm are often designed like drugs studies. For example, a study may use a high dose of vitamin E and see what happens. This is actually a prescient example also explored in recent media.

Studies recently found that high doses of vitamin E and selenium didn’t prevent prostate cancer and may increase risk. What this study didn’t explore properly was the true biochemical nature of vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients work as antioxidants by donating an electron to protect or repair a damaged molecule or DNA. Once this has happened, the molecules become oxidants that can cause more damage if not supported by the complex family of antioxidants used in the human body. It’s sort of like passing a hot potato. If you don’t keep passing it, you will get burned. Many studies simply fail to take this into account.

Nature doesn’t work by giving you only one thing. We all agree that broccoli is good for you, but if that were all you ate, you would die in short order. The same is true of vitamins. Nutrients are not drugs, and they can’t be studied as drugs. They are part of a biological system in which all nutrients work as a team to support your biochemical processes.

Michael Jordon may have been the best basketball player in history, but he couldn’t have won six NBA titles without a team.

Obesity Is Linked To Malnutrition

The tragedy of media attention on poor studies is that they undermine possible solutions to some of the modern health epidemics we are facing today, and they point attention away from the real drivers of disease.

Take the case of obesity, for example. Paradoxically, Americans are becoming both more obese and more nutrient deficient at the same time. Obese children eating processed foods are nutrient depleted and increasingly get scurvy and rickets–diseases we thought were left behind in the 19th and 20th centuries. After treating over 15,000 patients and performing extensive nutritional testing on them, it is clear to me that Americans suffer from widespread nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, folate, and omega 3 fats. This is supported by the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on our population. In fact, 13% of our population is vitamin C deficient.

Scurvy in Americans in 2013? Really? But if all you eat is processed food–and many Americans do–then you, like the British sailors of the 17th century, will get scurvy.

Unfortunately, negative studies on vitamins get huge media attention while the fact that over 100,000 Americans die and 2.2 million suffer serious adverse reactions from medication use in hospitals when used as prescribed is quietly ignored. Did you know that anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen kill more people every year than AIDS or asthma or leukemia?

In short, these studies often confuse rather than clarify, and they only serve up doses of media frenzy and superficial analysis. They leave the consumer afraid, dazed, bewildered, and reaching for their next prescription drug.

Please, be smart; don’t stop taking your vitamins. Every American needs a good quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and omega-3 fat supplement. It is part of getting a metabolic tune-up and keeping your telomeres long!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

5 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging and Lose Weight Once and For All

Waldgeist Restaurant in Hofheim. Just make sure to take your Lipitor before bed.By Orion Talmay

The adage goes that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most. So, it would logically follow that hanging out with people who eat fatty junk food will sabotage you and your diet.

Few of us consider that one of the things preventing us from committing to our weight and fitness goals is our environment – and that includes the people around us. This is especially true in America, where fast and “super sized” are glorified. We are surrounded by a junk food friendly environment – whether it’s the muffins offered to you in your company break room or the Italian “family style” dinner with friends. Everywhere you turn, advertisers are trying to hypnotize you into buying. We are bombarded with commercials for food which show joyful anorectic models enjoying chocolates and cheeseburgers. We were taught by our mothers to dutifully finish what’s on our plates. This world full of temptation, misconceptions, and immediate gratification just might affect our ability to get back into our jeans size from high school, don’t you think?

We are drowning in a flood of false information, thanks to all this pervasive and persuasive advertising. These advertisements train our brains to link unhealthy food with pleasure. As you pass a billboard showing a hot celebrity drinking Coca Cola, subconsciously you make a connection between what he or she represents to you – namely health, happiness, athleticism, vitality and success – and drinking Coke. In reality this sugary, toxic and chemically addictive drink is the epitome of unhealthiness, addiction, and obesity. In many cases, junk food is marketed to us as “healthy,” “natural” or even “organic,” but the opposite is more true. Even TV shows about weight loss such as The Biggest Loser glorify rapid, dramatic weight loss that unfolds before our eyes in an hour. And of course it doesn’t tell the whole story; we are spared the gory details, the high risk of injury, and the non-sustainability and unhealthy methods they use on the contestants. The TV magic and the glaring omissions give legitimacy to extreme rapid weight loss and create unrealistic expectations for the audience.

As I alluded to earlier, your peer group can also alter your decision-making. In general, people like people who are like them. For example, heavy drinkers prefer to hang out with heavy drinkers, and overeaters prefer feasting with fellow gluttons. The unspoken (or sometimes spoken) pressure is on, to fit in and be liked. Most social gatherings center around food and alcohol, so if you are dieting, you will need premeditated strategy and willpower if you don’t want to sabotage your diet.

Friends and family tend to appease each other when they fall off the wagon. When you look for consolation, they will tell you “It’s okay, it’s not that bad to take a day off; come on and live a little!” People become very forgiving because they want you to like them. They don’t hold you to a higher standard, in part because that’s not what you want to hear.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants you to be successful. Sometimes it can even be someone close to you like a spouse, family member, or friend who will try to talk you out of your goal. They might be afraid that if you feel better about yourself, you will neglect them or leave them. They might be afraid of “new competition” they will have when you accomplish your weight goals. Or, they may feel in competition with your “gym time” or even with your trainer. Bottom line is that most of the time they do it not because they don’t love you but precisely because they do. For instance, spouses may worry a “new you” may be less attracted to them. Sometimes, simply reassuring them of your love and friendship, keeping open communication and involving them in your health journey can solve these issues.

So, if you agree that the environment that surrounds you can sabotage your progress, what do you do? Well, since living on a mountaintop in Tibet is (probably) not an option, the best way to deal with misinformation or saboteurs is to plan for your success. When your mindset is stronger, achieving your outcome will be your priority. Nothing and no one will deter you. When you are prepared for success, you will win.

How do you prepare for success?

1. Surround yourself with supportive people. If your loved ones aren’t supportive of your health and fitness goals, convince them to change and be a part of your team or find some supportive peers to cheer you on. Succeed regardless.

2. Make sure you have accurate information about fitness and nutrition. Consult with a personal trainer and/or nutritionist. Nothing beats having a coach who can guide you to win the game the right way.

3. Plan your food shopping, plan your meals and plan your exercise time.  Don’t let anyone or anything distract you or steal your time.

4. Watch less TV. The number of commercials for garbage processed food is mind-boggling. These companies are paying a lot of money to sell to you and have mastered the art of influence. They (mis)use popular words like “healthy” and “natural,” but one glance at the label reveals how supposedly healthy, low fat, and natural it really is. Put your TV watching on a diet too, and it will facilitate your dieting and help you avoid unnecessary temptations.

5. Remember that you are a rock star. You can do it regardless of what anyone tells you, including your own inner critic. I believe in you. You put your mind to it and you will succeed.

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picOrion Talmay is a fitness expert and life coach who helps her clients transform their bodies and their lives. Her fitness skills include yoga, weight training, kick boxing, Aikido, MMA (mixed martial arts) and Krav Maga. Orion completed the Tough Mudder, a 12-mile extreme obstacle course with an ice pool, electric wires, buttered monkey bars, and more. She’s not all hard-core though; she is also a woman of the arts — loves to dance and sing, went to acting school, and speaks three languages. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Personal Training and is AAFA, AAPT, KBA, and Zumba certified. She is currently working on an online coaching program for weight loss and self development, designed to empower people across all aspects of their lives: physical, mental, social and spiritual. Orion is also working on her first book, about transformational change. Originally from Israel, she currently lives in sunny Santa Monica, California.

10 Ways To Ditch Your Cravings for Sugar, Salt, and Fats

medusa

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor,” Big Food companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and even fast food giants like Taco Bell, are changing their ways in response to the increasing public demand for healthier food options. To improve their image as healthy food manufacturers, Big Food corporations have called upon top chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers, infusing real, fresh, whole food into old recipe favorites.

Why is this happening now? Intense pressure brought on by politicians and their constituents (you and me!) has given these food manufacturers no choice but to respond to the public outcry for healthier food. It’s no longer enough for these companies to earn a profit by selling food that tastes good. People are beginning to use the power of the pocketbook to show these companies that the food they sell must also be nutritious.

That’s because people everywhere are waking up. They are beginning to see the dangers of genetically modified ingredients and all the sugar, salt, and fats hidden in our food supply. From fancy restaurants to fast food chains, chefs are catching on that people want their food to make them feel good, not just while they are eating it but hours, days, and years afterward.

Really, this news shouldn’t make the headlines. This is common sense! Paying for food that makes us sick is as crazy as shooting ourselves in the foot. It just doesn’t make sense.

Big Food is finally getting the message and getting on board.

But remember, no processed or fast food option will ever be better than a healthy home-cooked meal. The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. We are all chefs. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little knowledge, some imagination, and a sense of adventure.

A desire for real food is a fundamental part of our basic biological blueprint. Given the chance, our taste receptors will naturally gravitate toward the inherent sweetness found in vegetables, fruits, and even nuts and seeds.

So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab.

Here are 10 more tips to get you excited about ditching the sugar, salt, and fats:

  1. Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out the inherent sweetness by way of the Maillard reaction. This is a fancy name for what happens when you create that nice, brown crust on your meat. Want more cooking tips like this? Check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  2. Play with herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
  3. Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods. See for yourself just how healthy and tasty desserts can be by trying my Dark Chocolate Silk Pudding from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  4. Try creating a savory, umami (Japanese for “delicious”) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, umeboshi plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
  5. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
  6. Befriend some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. Or use common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
  7. For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the succulence of a fresh piece of locally grown fruit.
  8. Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
  9. Check your medications. Believe it or not, most medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Wondering how you might decrease the number of pills you take? Learn more about functional medicine.
  10. Got nutrition? Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral. Try the recipe for Hearty Lentil Soup from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. If you are deficient, you might also need to take a zinc supplement. Work with one of my nutrition coaches to ensure your nutrition status is up to par.

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For more ways to use your kitchen to take back your health, check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Get tips and tricks for making healthy and tasty meals. Learn what foods you should eat to boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar, and lose weight. Try more than 175 tasty recipes that appeal to a variety of budgets, taste preferences, health goals, and lifestyles.

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

This 12-Year-Old is Seriously Fed Up with Unhealthy School Lunches

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 11.24.43 AMIf your child came to you and asked if he could starting bringing lunch to school instead of eating cafeteria food, what would you say? What if the school lunches were free and the school district promoted them as “healthy and delicious” with mouth-watering photos and descriptions?

Zachary Maxwell was in 4th grade when he decided his days of school lunches were coming to an end, but his parents weren’t convinced. “It’s free! And it looks pretty good on the online menu.” Zachary would not back down, though, and went undercover to expose the inconsistencies in his school’s lunch menu as compared to the actual food that was served.

Oh, and Zachary is hilarious and so smart. Check it out!

“Yuck” is right! Would you eat that food?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more that one third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Though there may be some genetic factors associated with weight, nutrition and physical activity play a major role in maintaining a healthy weight and cardiovascular health. No matter how you look at it, pizza and cheese sticks do little to help kids stay healthy, let alone give them the nutrients and energy needed to get through a demanding school day.

Do Zachary’s school lunches look like something you’d want to feed to your kids? Is it really too expensive or inconvenient to offer children healthy eating options? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Weight Loss Tip: Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast

GirlEatingDinnerFor many years, I operated a private practice as a naturopathic doctor in Southern California, specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases and side-effects of cancer treatment. Although weight loss support was never a service that I proactively marketed, it was an all too common issue that I found myself needing to address with my patient population. Really, this wasn’t a surprise to me, given that close to 70% of all adults in this country are overweight or obese. Every doctor, no matter their specialization, can likely relate to my experience – given the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, the need to treat these diseases is fundamental to successfully addressing the vast majority of other symptoms and illnesses plaguing our society today.

The weight loss protocol that I created was conceptually quite simple and consisted of two basic recommendations:

  1. Decrease reliance on packaged and fast foods and increase consumption of whole foods
  2. Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, lunch the next largest and dinner the smallest

I consciously avoided complicated rules and trends such as those found in diets like “The Zone” or “Atkins”.  My goal was to create a mental shift in my patients from seeing a diet as a temporary thing to do to lose weight to a life-long way of approaching food in a healthy manner. Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to count calories, weigh my meals or eat the same frozen dinners over and over. Perhaps it was my own irritation with these trendy plans that played the biggest role in the advice I ultimately shared with patients.

To get started, I would often suggest a patient make one simple change: eat their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner. So, if they typically ate a chicken breast, green salad and slice of bread with butter for dinner and a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they’d just switch them up, simple as that. Although the idea of eating chicken breast and salad for breakfast was often a bit of a mental struggle, it was about as easy a change as you could make…no modifications to your grocery shopping list, no new recipes, no calorie counting.

More times than not, when I would see them at their next appointment, they had lost weight…amazing but true. With the idea planted (and some nice weight loss results as motivator), I would then work with them to find more suitable meal ideas grounded in whole food ingredients that followed the same approach of eating the largest meal at breakfast and the smallest meal at dinner.

Last week when I came across a study recently published in the journal Obesity that followed this same approach I was incredibly excited. I was even more excited when I read the results of the study that found significant weight loss as well as other improvements in fasting glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in the treatment group. How wonderful it was to see this approach studied and to see it demonstrate such positive and measurable results.

I have often joked that I discovered the next diet fad and have even come up with a few potential names, “The Dinner-Fast Diet”, “Eat Steak but Only at Breakfast Diet” or maybe, “The Upside Down Diet”. Too bad I don’t have a publishing deal…it seems like I really may be on to something!

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Can Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer? (Part 2)

Pills vitamin supplementsClick here for Part 1!

Consider the Japanese

If it is true that taking fish oil or raising your blood levels of omega-3 phospholipids increases risk for prostate cancer, then why hasn’t this been a problem for Japanese men? They certainly eat their fair share of fatty fish and have done so for generations! The Japanese (and other fish-loving cultures) have been studied many times to test this hypothesis, and guess what? Males in Japan, while having some of the highest levels of EPA and DHA, also have some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer. Only in the most recent studies have Japanese men been shown to have an increase in prostate cancer. Could it be that, as the Japanese begin to abandon their traditional diet of fish, seaweed, and other sea vegetables for the typical SAD (standard American diet, high in saturated fat and linoleic fatty acids), their risk of prostate cancer rises?

It seems that for every claim against fish and fish oil, there are several studies that confirm their benefits. One study, Consumption of Fish Products Across the Lifespan and Prostate Cancer Risk, showed that high blood plasma phospholipids was protective against prostate cancer when fish oil was consumed. Another study showed that omega-3 fatty acids protect against death caused by prostate cancer. And what about the effect of fish oils on the outcome of prostate cancer in men with elevated PSA levels? Again, the literature shows that EPA and DHA have no negative effect.

Personalized Medicine

It’s important to stop and remember that each person has a unique inner ecology and external environment. Contributing factors, such as exposure to environmental toxicity, poor nutrition, and other lifestyle variables, as well as genetics, all play a role in the development of cancer. It’s a complicated disease, and it would be a good idea to pause and look at the whole picture before drawing any major conclusions.

The simple fact is that countless studies have proven the health benefits of eating a diet rich in antioxidants and fiber from fruits and vegetables. And just as we all know that eating your veggies is good for your health, we are now beginning to prove similar health benefits from including healthy fats in your diet. (For more information on how to increase your intake of healthy fats, please see my discussion here). We also know that limiting omega-6 fatty acids and increasing omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce the risk of diabesity in Western cultures.

So, before we toss good medicine aside, we need to examine carefully the factors that contribute to imbalances in the body. We need to assess what we do know and keep asking questions about what we don’t.

We know that a whole foods-based diet, rich in fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein, does make a positive difference in health outcomes. We know that high-quality, purified fish oils are best. We know that a balanced and varied diet is key for maintaining good health. And we know that moderation is the key to a healthy and sensible relationship to food. Any diet or program promoting an extreme is not realistic, sustainable, or even remotely healthy. Remember, the “dose makes the poison,” so just the right amount—and not too much—will allow you to reap the intended benefits. In the case of fish oil, 1-2 grams daily is appropriate for most people, though some of you may need more. I strongly suggest you work with a trained functional medicine practitioner to help you determine the appropriate doses you need, not only for fish oil but for all supplements. My nutrition coaches are here to help you transform general guidelines into personalized solutions.

So, where do I stand on whether fish oil causes prostate cancer?  I’ll be eating sardines in my salad for lunch tomorrow, and I’ll be taking my daily fish oil supplement with my dinner tonight. And I hope you will be too!

Now, I’d like to hear from you…

Have you been swayed by recent reports to feel that omega-3s can cause prostate cancer?

Will you limit the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you consume?

What are some of your favorite ways to include fatty fish in your diet?

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Can Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer? (Part 1)

SalmonWhenever a newly published health study challenges current thinking, you can bet it won’t be long before the news media starts ratcheting up the drama and jumping to conclusions. This is true of a recent study called “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial,” published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This study suggests a higher risk of prostate cancer among men who eat omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish like sardines and salmon or in fish oil supplements.

Because I encourage my patients and readers to get plenty of omega-3s, I want to respond to these reports and offer my answer to the question they’ve raised: can fish oil cause prostate cancer? But first, let’s examine the findings.

What the Study Found

The study, which was conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, claims a link between increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and increased incidence of prostate cancer. The highest blood plasma levels of these polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically EPA, DHA and DPA, were associated with the highest risk. The research also showed that higher levels of linoleic acid (or omega-6 fatty acids, which most Americans eat too much of) were actually associated with a lowered risk. This would suggest that the more fish or fish oil a man included in his diet, the greater the chances he would develop prostate cancer. It would also mean that increasing his omega-6 fatty acid intake would be a good idea.

So, have I led you astray by telling you to eat your fatty fish and limit your intake of processed vegetable oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids? Should I warn you against taking fish oil and instead tell you to eat more cottonseed and sunflower seed oils? Let’s look at the facts and decide.

A Closer Look at the Study 

This study used what is called a retrospective case controlled cohort design. Simply put, to make their conclusions, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center used data from a previous study conducted in 2011 called the SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial). It’s important to note that the original SELECT study did not have the same objective as this current one.  It wasn’t designed to determine whether fish oil led to prostate cancer. The fact that both studies didn’t have the same goal calls into question whether the old data is even relevant to the new study.

What we can be sure of is that association does not prove cause and effect. If this had been an intervention design study, where half the participants got fish oil and half didn’t and they were followed for 20 years to see if they got prostate cancer, then you can say pretty definitively that they are connected. Bottom line, this type of study does not prove cause and effect. If I did a study on sunrise and humans waking up, I would find 100% correlation, but that doesn’t mean that the sun came up because you woke up. Correlation, yes; causation, no.

Another problem with the study is that the researchers did not address whether the men who were studied got their omega-3 fatty acids from eating fatty fish or from taking supplements. Also, there was no regard for their health status before starting the study. Did they start using fish oil as a therapy once diagnosed with prostate cancer or had they been taking it all along?

And what about the myriad other factors that can lead to the onset and progression of cancer, such as how lifestyle affects genetics? Smoking, nutrition, exercise, environmental toxicity, stress: none of these things were taken into account. It is too simplistic to reduce a disease as complex as cancer down to one trigger. In fact, perhaps we should be asking if these men were exposed to toxins and heavy metals from eating mercury-containing fish, which can cause cancer. Or did the men smoke or drink to excess? Was there a history of cancer in the family? What was their personal health history prior to diagnosis? Were they overweight or obese, and did they have other symptoms of diabesity?

Another major flaw with this study’s design involves the way the researchers got their data. They analyzed blood plasma instead of red blood cells. And they did so with one single blood draw! The conclusions would have been stronger and more reliable had they used red blood cell samples, because those provide a more accurate assessment over the long term (plasma tends to provide only a short-term picture). Because the research was based only on samples of a single blood draw, the red blood cell analysis would have given a better picture of long-term omega-3 intake (a couple months of eating salmon, for example, instead of what happens in the body after a single meal). That’s why I suggest people use the omega-3 index test, which measures levels from within the red blood cells.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

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