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The Impact of sugar on Mental Health

Important Points:

  • Sugar
  • Mental Health
  • Dopamine
  • Inflammation
  • Brain

The Impact of sugar on Mental Health

When enjoying your tasty donut, the last thing on your mind is your long-term mental health. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that you should be thinking of just that. Most of us know the harm of too much sugar on our physical health in recognizing that it can cause obesity, wide-spread inflammation, and poor dental health and lead to diabetes, but few understand the significant impact of a high sugar diet on our mental health. In this article, we will at how a diet filled with too many sweeteners, such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and molasses can have a detrimental impact on mental well-being.

Sugar and mental health: A toxic combination?

We all know how diet affects your physical health, but did you know that it can also have lasting effects on your mental health?  Regular consumption of meals high in sugar can affect your brain, increasing your risk of developing mental illnesses and mood disorders like depression.

The science of sugar

Sugars are simple, soluble carbohydrates essential for cell and organ functioning. Our bodies have the ability to break complex carbohydrate molecules into simple sugars so it is not necessary to take in sugar in its simple form.

Taking in excess sugar

Neurons are very sensitive cells and are not well prepared for sugar level spikes. A study by researchers from the Department of Neurobiology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, performed on diabetic rats showed that high blood glucose, a simple sugar, led to inflammation and neuronal damage and death in the brain which suggests that people with diabetes are at risk for neuronal damage.

What is the link between sugar consumption and mental health?

1. Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural process which helps the body protect itself from damage and also aids in the healing process. Regular consumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars triggers inflammatory responses that can cause inflammation in the brain and lead to depression.

2. Stress responses

After consumption of a high sugar meal, the hormone insulin is produced to regulate the high blood sugar level and in removing the excess sugar to the cell can actually lower the blood sugar level to below normal. This is called hypoglycemia. A lower than normal blood sugar level will trigger the hunger signal which sets one up for a cycle of sugar addiction. Hypoglycemia may show itself by triggering several stress responses including a feeling of instability (“having the shakes”) confusion, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

High insulin levels can also cause an imbalance of hormone estrogen and progesterone, the balance of which is important in keeping us happy and calm.

3. Obesity and depression

High consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar is associated with excess body weight and obesity. Overweight and obese people are more likely than people with a healthy weight to suffer depression as obesity can cause poor self-image, low self-esteem and social isolation, all known contributors of depression.

4. High release of dopamine

Due to the powerful impact sugar has on mesolimbic dopamine system — the brain’s reward system — sweet foods are highly desirable. Just like drugs, sugar can activate this reward system causing release of dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure center making you crave for more sugar to keep you feeling good. Short term surges in dopamine can be pleasurable, but high concentrations can cause depression and attention deficit disorder.

5. Increased risk of mental illnesses

Brain derived neurotrophic factor is a protein that promotes survival of nerve cells and cognitive function. A diet rich in fats and refined sugar is associated with a low brain derived neurotrophic factor increasing the risk of psychiatric disorders and depression.

6. Starving the Brain

When you consume excessive sugar, a lot of insulin is produced to push this sugar into cells for energy production. The resultant dip in blood sugar can alarm the body and the adrenal glands, making them work over time.  These glands are charged with producing cortisol and fight or flight chemicals that can get your heart racing, and rev up anxiety, and cortisol can promote insulin resistance.  This will make you consume more sugar, which will inflict more suffering on your brain and potentially even putting you at risk for Alzheimer’s dementia down the line.

7. Disrupting Hormones

When cortisol is in demand for its blood-sugar balancing effects, or because of other psychological or bodily stressors, the body “shunts” the production of progesterone to support further cortisol output. This makes evolutionary sense because if we are under stressful circumstances, preserving progesterone, our “pro-gestational” reproductive hormone, becomes secondary. Insulin can also stimulate production of DHEA and sex hormones including testosterone, which can drive the pathology we see with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Sugars have also been demonstrated to reduce liver production of sex hormone binding globulin, freeing up testosterone and estrogen in ways that may promote symptoms of estrogen dominance including premenstrual moodiness and irritability.

What effect does sugar have on mental conditions?

  • Depression & Schizophrenia: The rapid fluctuation of blood sugar can worsen mood disorders. Research has shown that high sugar can lead to an increased risk of depression and even worse outcomes in patients with schizophrenia. Interestingly, countries with high sugar intake also have correspondingly high rates of depression.
  • Anxiety: Although sugar does not increase your risk of anxiety, it can worsen your symptoms and weaken the body’s ability to respond to stress. By minimizing sugar, you can lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms, improve mood and improve the body’s ability to cope with stress.
  • Addiction: There’s a growing evidence of sugar’s addictive potential. Drugs and sugar both flood the brain with the “feel-good” chemical dopamine. In studies, rats have been shown to prefer sugar-water over cocaine, and they also display classic signs of addiction including tolerance and withdrawal when the sugary products are removed.
  • Learning & Memory: Sugar can affect how and how much we learn and remember. After six weeks of drinking a fructose solution, much like soda, rats “forgot” how to find their way out of a maze. Insulin resistance from a high sugar diet can damage communications between brain cells involved in learning and memory formation.

How do we avoid the pitfalls of sugar?

How easy is it to avoid sugar? We are bombarded with advertisements for convenience foods and tasty treats. But even seemingly healthful foods can have high levels of hidden sugars. Breakfast cereals, sauces (including ketchup and pasta sauce), flavored milks, whole-meal bread, and many products labeled as low fat, such as fruit yogurts are such culprits.

Smoothies and fruit juices for children were in the spotlight last year in an article published in BMJ Open. It was noted that over 40 percent of products surveyed contained at least 19 grams of sugar – a child’s entire maximum daily amount of free sugars. High sugar levels have also been reported in baby and toddler food products.

Always remember to check the nutritional labels. While the list of ingredients might claim no added sugars, the nutrition facts panel will show the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in the product.

What is the evidence that cutting down on sugars will have health benefits? Studies have shown that individuals who experience depression benefit from eating a healthful diet. The next time a low mood threatens to spoil your day, remember where sugar is hidden in plain sight and look to other tasty treats to lift you out of the doldrums.

Do we need to limit our sugar?      

Our bodies and minds were not designed to take in such immense amounts of sugar that has become the norm in American society. Thanks to ongoing research, we are more and more aware of the intricate link between diet and wellness. It has a significant role to play in both physical and mental health. Grappling with mental illness is difficult enough without having additional obstacles in your way. Make sure sugar isn’t making your situation harder than it needs to be.

Additionally, choosing foods that are low in refined ingredients, such as sugar, but high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals can relieve the symptoms of depression. Scientists think that the power of these foods lies in promoting good brain health.

References:

  1. Everhealth (2012): The Impact of Sugar on Mental Health. Retrieved from

http://everhealth.net/patient-education/the-impact-of-sugar-on-mental-health

  • Medical News Today (2017):Sugar and mental health: A toxic combination? Retrieved from

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318818.php

  • Kelly Brogan:3 Ways Sugar Is Ruining Your Mental Health. Retrieved from
https://kellybroganmd.com/3-ways-sugar-ruining-mental-health/
  • Neuroscience (2017):Sugar is Not So Sweet For Mental Health. Retrieved from

https://neurosciencenews.com/sugar-mental-health-7194/

  • Standard Media (2018):The link between sugar and mental illnesses. Retrieved from

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001282656/link-between-sugar-and-mental-illnesses

  • NCBI (2014):Nod-like receptor protein 1 inflammasome mediates neuron injury under high glucose. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24014157

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The carnivore diet and your pocket: How costly is it?

Important Points:

  • Carnivore diet
  • Meat
  • Affordable
  • Grass fed beef

The carnivore diet and your pocket: How costly is it?

You’re ready to go on the Carnivore Diet but you think it may be too expensive! Dollar signs flash before your eyes and you almost toss the idea out the window. Is the carnivore diet really that expensive? Is being on a more conventional diet less costly? In this article, we will look at the cost impact of eating all meat….all the time.

  1. What exactly comprises the carnivore diet?

What precisely can you eat on the carnivore diet? The diet stresses the importance of leaning heavily on red meat, particularly on fatty cuts that will help you meet your daily calorie needs. Foods that are on the green list of the carnivore diet include:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Organ meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Lard
  • Bone marrow
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Bone broth

If your plan is to adhere to the strictest version of the carnivore diet, you’ll eat only what’s on the above list; however, some people choose to be more flexible and may include some foods that come from animals indirectly, like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Others still take coffee and tea.

How much food does one consume under the Carnivore diet?

The perception is that a meat diet is exorbitantly expensive and can put one in the poor house. In reality, when compared to other diets or eating lifestyles,  it is surprisingly one of the more affordable options.

Can a Carnivore diet be more affordable that being Vegan or going Keto?

Without a doubt! The generalization aside, look at all the extra ingredients you end up purchasing on the other diets. For example, you are buying expensive avocados, cashew and almond butters, cacao products, oils, teas, herbs, seasonings, kombucha, raw vegetables, occasionally, some very costly supplements.

Supplementation can really add up at the till…consider the vitamins, mushroom teas, elixirs, MCT oils, protein powders, and the rest of the stuff you find in the health food store or supplement aisle. As a carnivore diet generally does not include all these additives, it ends up being quite affordable.

  • Buy Cheaper Cuts

When you are new to the carnivore diet, you might need to take leaner and choosier cuts as your body is not yet accustomed to this diet and in order for you avoid digestion issues and minimize keto flu symptoms. As your tolerance increases, you can step down to fattier cuts and ground beef and you’ll find that these are much cheaper options.

Another way to approach this is by starting with the different ratios of fat in ground beef. For instance, start off with a 90/10 for a week, then an 85/15, 80/20, and 70/30 for a week each and so on.

Also of note is that fattier cuts make you more satiated and sometimes you just end up eating less meat based on pounds. You will see that you will get full quickly on a 70/30 burger as compared to a 90/10.

  • Buy what’s on sale

Lots of grocery stores have a weekly ad. Look out for which stores have meat offers. You could find that you save greatly this way.

  • Buy your meat online

Online meat shopping has major benefits. You have a large variety, you can order the less prominent meat selections like organ meat and liverwurst, and you can double down on coupons or buy in bulk.

  • Buy the whole animal

The ultimate way to go carnivore and to save money in the long run is to purchase a full cow or pig. The savings are tremendous and if you have a non-defrost freezer, you could potentially have meat for half to a full year, naturally depending on how much you consume.

  • Buy sections

You could also buy sections of an animal such as ½ or a ¼.

Here is a very general breakdown of a grass fed organic certified ranch costs for a full cow. Average hanging weight of a full cow is 500 pounds. (Hanging weight is basically all the meat minus blood, head, etc.)

A whole cow with butcher fees approximately costs $3200 to $4400. We are looking at total costs of 8.80 per pound on the high end and $6.40 per pound on the low end. (You can get even cheaper if you purchase from an uncertified organic farm or ranch or buy meat not labeled grass-fed.) Non grass-fed beef is fattier but they are usually fed grain and soy which depending on who you talk is controversial from a health and environmental perspective.

When you buy the full cow, you are given the choice of cuts you want and how thick you want your steaks, so there is a certain amount of customization. Depending on your cut selection you end up with around 100 to 150 pounds of ground beef too. This is by far the best deal because you are getting all the cuts like ribeye steaks, filets, flanks, strips and briskets.

How much freezer space do you need?

The general rule of thumb is one cubic foot of space per every 35-40 pounds of packaged meat so a quarter of a cow will fit into a standard freezer chest that has five to seven cubic feet.

Auto Defrost or Not?

Be careful what type of freezer you use to store your packaged meat. There is a huge difference between an auto-defrost freezer, most likely like the one in your kitchen, and a non- defrost freezer. The auto defrost actually has heating coils in its walls which are used to heat up, thaw the ice and then freeze again. This is not ideal because if you have meat next to the walls it’s basically doing the same thing. Your meat is thawing and defrosting over and over again which means it will not last as long and if not eaten within 3 or so months it may spoil.

If you are going big and getting that full cow and expect to keep it frozen through the year, you will need to invest in a non-defrosting chest style freezer which are very affordable. Investing in a non-defrosting freezer will pay for itself over time.

How else can you keep meat longer?

At the point of purchase, the butcher will generally give you the option of standard paper style packaging or vacuum sealed. The vacuum sealed will last longer but there is an increase in price due to material and the time it takes to vacuum seal everything. It will therefore be up to you to decide whether you can afford the extra and have your meat last longer or keep your meat for a shorter period at a cheaper cost.

Another fun way to purchase your meat is by going to a livestock auction. You will get to see the quality of the cow, pig, goat or chickens you are buying and bid up to where you are comfortable. A lot of the auctions help support programs like 4H which in turn help ranchers and their children with education and best practices. Plus it’s a fun and exciting experience.

So, is a carnivore diet affordable?

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to reduce your meat costs, even if it won’t be quite possible to cut it down to the bare minimum. For anyone attempting to lose weight on this diet, it is advisable to stock up on eggs and cheese as they are great fillers to keep you going.

The Carnivore Diet is definitely a lifestyle that is affordable! You will find yourself eating out a lot less and have no need to snack on anything at all. Think about the health care costs associated with poor health. Can you afford not to go carnivore?

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The Carnivore Diet: 8 Reasons Why It Works

Important Points:

  • Carnivore Diet
  • Weight Loss
  • Insulin resistance
  • Blood glucose
  • Leaky Gut

 The Carnivore Diet: 8 Reasons Why It Works

The carnivore diet is considered a controversial diet by some, yet its followers expound the immense benefits it brings to their health and wellbeing. What about it makes it work? This article looks at its key components in an attempt to find out why it is effective where some other diets have failed.

What is the Carnivore Diet?

The Carnivore Diet is a restrictive diet that only includes meat, fish, and other animal foods like eggs and certain dairy products. In its strictest forms, it excludes all other foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Its proponents also recommend eliminating or limiting dairy intake to foods that are low in lactose — a sugar found in milk and dairy products — such as butter and hard cheeses.

The Carnivore Diet stems from the belief that human ancestral populations ate mostly meat and fish and that high-carb diets are to blame for today’s high rates of chronic disease.  Other popular low-carb diets, like the keto and paleo diets, limit but don’t exclude carb intake, but the Carnivore Diet aims for near zero carbs.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

The Carnivore Diet has been touted to cure the incurable. Health sites like Meatheals.com, World Carnivore Tribe and ZeroCarb are overflowing with tens of thousands of people who have reversed serious health conditions.

It seems almost too good to be true, right?  We will delve into the reasons why the carnivore diet works so well. 

Why does the carnivore diet work?

1. The Carnivore Diet cuts out all added sugar

Sugar is one of the most controversial topics. To sum it up, sugar is bad for you. Here’s why:

  • It can stick to cholesterol particles in a process called glycation which can lead to atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.
  • It’s highly glycemic. Sugar spikes insulin and can lead to insulin resistance over time.
  • When metabolized, it produces AGEs which lead to aging, chronic disease and diabetes.
  • Glucose is oxidatively stressful, causes inflammation, and can produce reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress plays a role in almost every disease.

In a study conducted, it was found that from consuming just 40 grams of added sugar, people had an increase in inflammation, insulin resistance and weight gain.

Glucose is also speculated to feed tumor growth. The Warburg Effect explains that cancer cells depend on glucose to grow. Very unlike normal cells, cancer cells cannot use Ketones.

While glucose is considered to be bad, fructose is considered to be even worse as it goes directly to the liver where it’s converted to fat. It is twenty times more likely to cause fatty liver than glucose alone.A fatty liver can lead directly to insulin resistance.

2. The Carnivore Diet can cure leaky gut

Leaky gut is a condition when the tight junctions of the small intestine open and allow proteins and toxins into the bloodstream.So far, the carnivore diet has been one of the few clinically shown ways to reverse intestinal permeability and the attendant consequences.

How does the carnivore diet cure leaky gut? Three main ways:

  • It reduces inflammation, which reverses gut microbiome imbalances
  • It is the most nutrient rich diet on earth, which heals the gut.
  • It removes foods that pry the tight junctions in the small intestine open like Lectins and Gluten

3. The Carnivore Diet eliminates refined carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in your body (sugar). Here are some of the negative effects of consuming refined carbs:

  • Because all the fiber has been removed, refined carbs are digested very rapidly and cause major blood sugar spikes. This can lead to insulin resistance over time especially when consumed with fat.
  • Refined carbohydrates also damage the gut. Sugar and carbohydrates are fermented by the gut and colon which can exacerbate GI issues and lead to leaky gut. This is why a well-established treatment for IBS, recommends low carbohydrates to starve your bacteria.
  • Over time, refined carbohydrate consumption has been linked to inflammation and obesity.
  • Refined carbohydrates also increase blood triglyceride levels, which is a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease . Fat hanging out in your bloodstream is a sign that something is seriously off.

Eating refined carbs such as pasta are no different than eating straight sugar. Seven ounces of cooked spaghetti has the same amount of sugar as 4 12 oz cans of Pepsi.

4. The Carnivore Diet cuts out most carbohydrates

Carbohydrates range from simple sugars to complex carbohydrates. But even unrefined carbohydrates can be bad for you. Many forms of starch, for example, raise blood sugar as much as eating glucose.

Below are some reasons why cutting out all carbohydrates may be beneficial (yes, even the “healthy ones”):

  • High carbohydrate diets can lead to insulin resistance especially if combined with fat
  • Many whole grains are loaded with anti-nutrients, like lectins
  • Carbohydrates halt fat burning because of the insulin response; the more carbohydrates you eat the less body fat you burn.
  • Getting to < 50g a day allows you to burn fat and enter ketosis. Ketosis has a number of health benefits.
  • All carbohydrates break down into glucose, which can produce some of the negative effects mentioned above: AGEs, glycated LDL particles, insulin resistance, etc.
  • Carbohydrates and fiber are fermented by the gut, which can exacerbate gut issues like IBS

5. The Carnivore Diet is the very effective in reducing insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is related to almost every chronic disease. Though it might not cause all the conditions, its presence exacerbates them. Some of these conditions are: Heart disease, 62% higher cancer mortality, 160% higher gastrointestinal cancer mortality, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, aging, inflammation from elevated CRP and IL-6, and acne.

The good news is that you can reverse insulin resistance. The carnivore diet is the most effective way to reverse insulin resistance with these actions:

  • Cutting out the highly glycemic carbohydrates powers your body off of ketones and increases insulin sensitivity
  • Cutting out fructose increases insulin sensitivity
  • Certain plant antinutrients like lectins can bind to insulin receptors and make you more insulin resistant
  • Vegetable oils cause insulin resistance
  • Protein is satiating and high protein diets burn body fat, which reduces insulin resistance
  • People generally intermittent fast on the carnivore diet, which increases insulin sensitivity

If you want to live longer, you need to lower fasting insulin levels.

6. Carnivore Diet Increases Natural Saturated Fat Consumption

Despite the prevailing dogma, saturated fats are associated with longevity.

Saturated fats are highly beneficial to health. Your body cannot function without them. Diets high in natural saturated fats are associated with longevity. Hong Kong, for example, consumes more meat per capita than any other nation in the world, but they actually have the world’s longest life expectancy at 84.5 years.

Studies continue to debunk the myth that saturated fat causes heart disease. A review from 2014 looking at 76 studies, found no link at all between saturated fat and heart disease

7. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting isn’t a pivotal part of the carnivore diet. Nor is it prescribed. But people naturally tend to find themselves eating in a shorter window, which brings tremendous health benefits.

Intermittent fasting is restricting your feeding to a window less than or equal to 8 hours. This is a direct contradiction to what many American’s do today.

Fasting is extremely beneficial. It has been shown to:

  • Reduce inflammation 
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
  • Promote fat loss
  • Increase cognition, memory and focus
  • Increase autophagy, the natural cellular cleansing process
  • Increase BDNF, which upregulates neuronal creation and maintenance
  • Improve immune system
  • Starve bad gut bacteria
  • Improve autoimmune symptoms like RA and Crohn’s

8. The Carnivore Diet puts you into ketosis

Your body can use two types of fuels: glucose (from carbs) and ketones (from fat).

Everybody on the carnivore diet is in ketosis to some extent. When you stop fueling your brain and body with glucose, fat needs to take its place.

Here are some major benefits of going into ketosis:

  1. Upregulates FOXO genes which regulate oxidative stress and insulin sensitivity and influences longevity. 
  2. Ketones improve mood and have antidepressant like effects
  3. BHB reduces oxidative stress in the brain and may be beneficial in preventing neurodegenerative disease
  4. BHB lowers inflammation and blocks NLPR3 inflammasome
  5. Increases endogenous antioxidant production
  6. Ketones improve insulin sensitivity
  7. Increased fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass and performance
  8. Ketones can slow tumor growth by starving them of their preferred fuel, glucose, and lowering IGF-1

9. The Carnivore Diet is Simple

In the complexity of life, food doesn’t need to be complicated. The carnivore diet involves just eating meat, meat, and more meat. This makes it easier to stick to as there are no meal plans and measurements.

The Carnivore diet works…

If you have tried everything to in an attempt to stay in shape and manage any chronic conditions you might have, maybe it’s time you tried the carnivore diet. Its basic mechanisms make sense and are likely to cause some positive effects in your health. If you do have a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor before trying an extreme diet like this one. Do not follow the carnivore diet if you have any level of kidney disease.

References

  1. Healthline (2019): All You Need to Know About the Carnivore (All-Meat) Diet. Retrieved from

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/carnivore-diet

  • Every day Health (2018):On the Carnivore Diet, People Are Eating Only Meat: Here’s What to Know. Retrieved from

https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/carnivore-diet-benefits-risks-food-list-more/

  • Carnivore Aurelius (2019): 16 Reasons why the Carnivore Diet Works. Retrieved from
https://carnivoreaurelius.com/carnivore-diet/
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Sugar, Inflammation, and Health

Important Points:

  • Inflammation
  • Fructose
  • Natural sugar
  • Added sugar
  • Lifestyle change

Sugar, Inflammation, and Health

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for you. It spoils your teeth, packs on pounds around your belly, and provides zero nutrition. Unfortunately, these are the least of sugars crimes. The biggest reason why you should stop eating sugar is that it is one of the most pro-inflammatory foods, and current research suggests that chronic, body-wide inflammation is associated with many modern diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. So what role does a high-sugar diet play in chronic inflammation? In this article, we’ll delve into this and much more.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process.

Acute inflammation develops rapidly in response to an injury or infection. This type of inflammation tends to be good: It’s your body’s way of trying to fight off further damage while jump starting healing. It usually lasts a few days to a few weeks.

Chronic inflammation is long-term inflammation that occurs over months or years, and can increase your risk for serious diseases. It’s usually caused by unhealthy lifestyle factors like diet.

Some foods, like sugar can also cause inflammation in the body, which in small amounts is not too detrimental, but eating too many inflammatory foods or too much of any one such food may cause chronic low-grade inflammation which can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 

How does added sugar affect your body?

People who take diets rich in refined sugar may be increasing their risk of chronic inflammation. Research suggests that when people eat and drink less sugar, inflammatory markers in their blood decrease.

A high sugar diet can have harmful effects on health, such as increasing the risk of chronic diseases, weight gain, and tooth decay, and it can also result in chronic inflammation causing the body’s immune system to activate resulting in damage to healthy cells. Inflammation as a result of lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, and a sedentary existence can contribute to a range of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.

When you consume excess added sugar and refined carbohydrates there will be a few changes in your body which help explain why a diet high in sugar can lead to chronic, low-grade inflammation.

  • Excess production of AGEs: Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are harmful compounds that form when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. Too many AGEs lead to oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Increased gut permeability: Bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles can more easily move out of the gut and into the bloodstream, potentially leading to inflammation.
  • Higher “bad” LDL cholesterol: Excess LDL cholesterol has been associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation.
  • Weight gain: A diet rich in added sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to weight gain. Excess body fat has been linked to inflammation especially when exacerbated by insulin resistance.

It is important to note that inflammation is unlikely to be caused by sugar alone, so other factors like stress, medication, smoking, and excess fat intake need to be monitored or mitigated too.

Is added sugar linked to inflammation?

A lot of research has been carried out to determine how sugar causes inflammation.  Diets high in added sugar are thought to signal the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body which, over time can create an environment of chronic, low-grade inflammation and lead to trouble in the future. Sugar also stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. When the body digests these free fatty acids, the resulting compounds can trigger inflammatory processes.

Different kinds of sugar may contribute more or less to inflammation. For instance, some research has suggested that fructose may cause more inflammation than glucose. However, a systematic review found no difference in inflammation from fructose and glucose, so more research is needed.

Also, the researchers saw no differences in inflammatory factors between the groups that consumed high fructose corn syrup versus table sugar (sucrose). The sample sizes were small, and the quality of the studies was low, so more research is necessary to confirm these findings too.

Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation:

People with chronic inflammation may have an increased risk of diabetes, depression, and dementia, and in older adults, chronic inflammation may also be linked to a higher risk of death. Doctors are working on how to reduce chronic inflammation.

Is natural sugar linked to inflammation?

It’s important to note that there is a difference between added sugar and natural sugar. Added sugar is removed from its original source and added to foods and drinks to serve as a sweetener or increase shelf life. Added sugar comes from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sucrose or “table sugar”, fructose, glucose and corn sugar and is found mostly in processed foods and drinks.

Among US adults, around 13% of total calories come from added sugar. This is high, considering that government guidelines advise that no more than 5% to 15% of calories should come from both solid fats and added sugar.

Sugar found naturally in food, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk and dairy products, has not been linked to inflammation. In fact, foods with natural sugars, such as fruits and vegetables, may be anti-inflammatory, but adding processing to them is the equivalent of drinking sugar sweetened beverages, such as soda. For example, experts caution against processing fruit into juices because it removes the fiber and concentrates the sugar to a higher level per serving.

Does sugar cause inflammation?

Inflammation is a critical component of metabolic syndrome and can lead to diseases like type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, non-alcoholic liver diseases and gout. Research suggests that eating excess sugar can lead to chronic inflammation.

In the United States, the amount of high fructose corn syrup people consume increased from 1978 to 1998 and then stabilized according to the  Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys . With greater awareness of the risks of added sugar, sugar intake in the U.S. has been declining; nonetheless, people are still consuming too much sugar.

There are definitely changes you can make to minimize your inflammation risk which would include reducing your sugar intake. Here is our list to guide you to a healthier lifestyle.

Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Inflammation

  • Adopt a low glycemic diet: High sugar intake links to chronic inflammation, stroke risk, coronary heart disease risk, and type 2 diabetes risk, and examples of these are soda, refined carbohydrates, and foods containing high fructose corn syrup.
  • Read food labels: If you are unsure about certain products, get into the habit of reading food labels; look out for ingredients like sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose and dextrose.
  • Choose whole-grain carbs: These include oats, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa and barley which have a lot of fiber and antioxidants that your body uses to help control blood sugar and protect against inflammation.
  • Eat more vegetables: Vegetables contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which can protect against and reduce inflammation in the body.  (Fruits are not included here because modern fruits contain tremendous amounts of carbohydrates).
  • Eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods: Fill your plate with foods rich in antioxidants to naturally help counteract inflammation; some examples include nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish and olive oil.
  • Keep active: Regular physical activity, including both aerobic and resistance exercise can help protect against weight gain and inflammation.
  • Manage stress levels: Learning to manage stress levels through relaxation techniques and even exercise can help reduce inflammation.
  • Add curcumin to food:A component in turmeric called curcumin improves several inflammatory diseases.
  • Get enough fiber:Researchers have shown an association between high fiber diets and lower inflammatory factors, such as TNF-alpha and interleukin-6.
  • Drink green and black teas:Scientists have associated compounds found in green and black teas with lower C-reactive protein in the blood.
  • Eat more nuts: Almonds and other nuts may help to lower the risk of pro-inflammatory states (cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis) and chronic inflammatory diseases (diabetes).
  • Add fish oil to the diet: Omega-3 fatty acids positively affect lower levels of inflammatory factors in the blood, such as C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha.

References

  1. Medical News Today (2017):Everything you need to know about inflammation. Retrieved from

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php

  • Healthline (2017): Does Sugar Cause Inflammation in the Body? Retrieved from

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sugar-and-inflammation

  • Medical News Today (2019): Does sugar cause inflammation in the body? Retrieved from

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326386.php

  • Mindbodygreene (2019): The Real Reason You Should Quit Sugar + How To Cut It Out Of Your Life For Good. Retrieved from

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-24763/the-real-reason-you-should-quit-sugar-how-to-cut-it-out-of-your-life-for-good.html

  • NCBI (2014):Chronic inflammatory disorders and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, and stroke: a population-based cohort study. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24970784

  • NCBI (2019): Chronic Inflammation. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

  • Greatist (2019):Does Sugar Actually Cause Inflammation? Retrieved from

https://greatist.com/health/sugar-and-inflammation

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Sugar: Is it bad for kids’ learning and behavior?

Important Points:

  • Sugar
  • Behavior
  • Learning
  • Brain
  • Memory

Sugar: Is it bad for kids’ learning and behavior?

The effect of sugar intake on children’s behavior is a hotly debated topic in pediatrics. Parents and educators often contend that sugar and other carbohydrate ingestion can dramatically impact children’s behavior, particularly their activity levels. Physicians, on the other hand, have looked at controlled studies of sugar intake and have not found hypoglycemia or other blood sugar abnormalities in the children who are consuming large amounts of sugar. So how do sugar and behavior go together?

What effects of sugar make it harmful?

Diets high in refined sugar and saturated fat not only contribute to weight gain and associated health issues, but also have a profoundly detrimental impact on brain function.

It is known that excessive consumption of sugar damages areas of the brain essential for learning and memory processes. Neurons in brain regions, including the hippocampus, that encode memories no longer work efficiently leading to poorer learning.

Recent research in rodents has shown the adolescent brain is at an increased risk of developing diet-induced cognitive dysfunction. Teenage rats that drank sugary beverages were less able to remember a specific location leading to an escape hatch. This was compared to adult rats drinking sugary beverages, and teenage rats that had low-sugar diets.

The brains of the adolescent sugar-diet rats also showed increased levels of inflammation in the hippocampus, disrupting learning and memory function. Inflammation in the brain can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.

What effect does sugar have on learning?

  • Sugar slows down the brain

2012 study on rats, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that a diet high in fructose (that’s just another word for sugar) hinders learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain. The researchers found that rats who over-consumed fructose had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, meaning that communication among brain cells was impaired.

Heavy sugar intake caused the rats to develop a resistance to insulin — a hormone that controls blood sugar levels and also regulates the function of brain cells. Insulin strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells, helping them to communicate better and thereby form stronger memories. So when insulin levels in the brain are lowered as the result of excess sugar consumption, cognition can be impaired.

  • Sugar Decreases Attention Span and Memory

It’s been well documented that sugar activates the brain’s pleasure response, but scientists are discovering that it impacts the brain in a variety of other ways.

When people consume a lot of sugar and then attempt challenging tasks, like math problems, the brain’s hypothalamus allows the body to release a lot of cortisol, or stress hormone, which impedes memory. When children’s bodies are flooded with cortisol at school, they struggle to pay attention to their lessons and find it difficult to sit quietly. When their attention is elsewhere, they find it difficult to retain information they’re taught.

  • Chronic Sugar Consumption Might Permanently Impair Memory Functions

In the short term, sugar consumption will only impair memory temporarily, so if children reduce their consumption, they should find that they can reach their actual academic potential. Some studies suggest that overindulging in sugar early may have a long-lasting effect.

Researchers from the University of Southern California fed adult and adolescent rats beverages with sugar levels comparable to that found in ordinary sodas. After a month, the adults showed normal brain function. However, the adolescent rats showed reduced memory and learning capacity. In addition to reduced memory levels, these rats also had inflamed hippocampi. This part of the brain is crucial for forming memories and organizing and storing memories.

If sugar can impact young rats in this way, what’s it doing to your child?

  • Sugary Foods Crowd Out Brain Food

When sugar moves into the digestive tract, it sends a signal to the brain to tell the body that it’s full. So it makes sense that researchers from Pennsylvania State University have found that the more added sugar children consume, the less likely they are to eat healthy brain foods like grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products.

Sugar and moods in children

Extreme levels of sugar in children can cause interference with neurotransmitters responsible for keeping moods stable. This often leads to depression and anxiety in children. Moreover, high sugar levels can cause inflammation of cells in an area of the brain known as hippocampus. This area plays a critical role in organizing and storing memories as well as connecting senses and emotions to those memories.

While this is a topic that’s still controversial, sugar has an addictive effect on children and adults alike. Like drugs, sugar floods the brain with dopamine, a feel good chemical, thus interfering with normal functioning of the brain. A study conducted at Yale University found that simple sight of a milkshake activated the same reward centers of the brain as cocaine does with addicts. In fact, another study conducted in 2007 found that study subjects (rats) preferred sugar water to cocaine.

If you notice behavior changes or mood swings in your child, consider keeping a food journal. Track what they eat and when they exhibit concerning behavior. Try eliminating suspicious foods to see if the behavior changes. While food isn’t the cause of all behavioral issues and conditions, it’s important to make sure that your child is not suffering from something that can be easily remedied.

The teenage brain and sugar

The teenage brain undergoes major developmental changes in terms of structure and function. Brain-imaging studies show that the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully mature until the early 20s. A major role of the prefrontal cortex is performing executive functions which encompasses behavioral control, attention and decision-making.

Excessive consumption of sugar during adolescence could derail normal brain maturation processes, and may alter normal development trajectories, leading to enduring behavioral predispositions.

Poor regulation of the prefrontal cortex during adolescence can explain the increased risk taking behaviors in teenagers, including dangerous driving, drug use, and binge drinking.

Changes in the brain caused by overconsumption of sugary foods during adolescence can manifest in later life as difficulty in experiencing reward. Research has shown male rats that drank sugar water during adolescence showed reduced motivation and enjoyment of rewards when they were adults. These behaviors are core features of mood disorders including depression. Importantly, this shows that how we eat during adolescence can impact brain function as adults.

How much sugar is OK?

Limiting your child’s sugar intake is essential for helping them achieve their academic potential. The American Heart Association recommends that children have no more than four teaspoons of sugar a day. Children younger than 2 years should have no sugar at all.

While calculating sugar intake, it’s important to note that every 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. Also, be aware of the hidden sugars hiding in unexpected places like sauces, dried fruits, and flavored yogurts.

A recent study supports the idea that a breakfast with a lower sugar load may improve short-term memory and attention span at school. Giving your child a breakfast which contains fiber (oatmeal, shredded wheat, berries, bananas, whole-grain pancakes, etc.) instead of loads of refined sugar should keep adrenaline levels more constant and make the school day a more wondrous and productive experience. Packing her/his lunch box with delicious fiber-containing treats (whole-grain breads, peaches, grapes, a myriad of other fresh fruits, etc.) may turn afternoons at home into a delight.

References

  1. The Conversation (2016):  Why sugar is so much worse for teenagers’ brains. Retrieved from

https://theconversation.com/why-sugar-is-so-much-worse-for-teenagers-brains-67238

  • Arizona Ob Gyn Associates (2015):  How Sugar Affects a Childs Brain. Retrieved from
http://www.aoafamily.com/blog/how-sugar-affects-a-childs-brain/
  • The Centre for Parenting Education (2019): Sugar and our children…What’s the deal? Retrieved from

https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/nutrition-and-healthy-lifestyle/sugar-and-our-childrenwhats-the-deal/

  • Huffpost (2015): This Is What Sugar Does To Your Brain. Retrieved from

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sugar-brain-mental-health_n_6904778?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cDovL2FudGlvY2hzY2hvb2wub3JnL2pvb21sYV9hbnRpb2NoL2luZGV4LnBocC9hYm91dC9lZHVjYXRpb25hbC1pbnNpZ2h0cy1ibG9nLzE0OS1zdWdhci1zLWltcGFjdC1vbi1sZWFybmluZw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAFsBtTnbZx3d2NGKWFe4eDqZpvjkcB9wb96aSnLjPfMT6VH1AGCwzu2qaKdtkVDkck1UD_6OJLtAn3lHcXurunUS7Sc3SbRwPKuTSHQ-iTY17CjcRKvvXCTIkWL73Tl3QgiOm-o6YSkt9yOGkps6rCVM7YYIjMudAdW3agIqhrCp

  • Verywell Mind (2017):  Negative Impact of Sugar on the Brain. Retrieved from

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-4065218

  • Learning Liftoff (2016): The Effects of Sugar on a Child’s Academic Performance. Retrieved from

https://www.learningliftoff.com/the-effects-of-sugar-on-a-childs-academic-performance/

  • Dr Greene (2018):  The Relationship between Sugar and Behavior in Children. Retrieved from

https://www.drgreene.com/relationship-sugar-behavior-children/

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The Carnivore Diet: Starting Pointers

Important Points:

  • Carnivore diet
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Cravings
  • Adapting
  • Meat

The Carnivore Diet: Starting Pointers

The carnivore diet – also known as the all meat diet or the carnivorous diet – entails eating almost nothing but meat for every meal, every day. That means a lot of protein, a lot of fat, and almost zero carbs. This rather drastic shift in eating patterns is bound to leave your body reeling, so let’s talk about whether there are adverse symptoms or not? How can you manage them? In this article we’ll take you through what you need to expect and the tips and tricks that will get you through them.

The Carnivore Diet Symptoms

You may experience significant symptoms when getting adapted to The Carnivore Diet.

Nearly everyone experiences adverse symptoms and side effects when they start the Carnivore Diet. The symptoms you experience are your body’s natural response to carbohydrate restriction and the elimination of addictive agents and chemicals.

Common Symptoms Include:

  • Brain fog
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Digestive issues
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Bad breath/smells
  • Bad taste in mouth (metallic)
  • Dry mouth
  • Cravings (sugar!)
  • Muscle soreness
  • Jaw soreness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Decreased performance, energy, and drive
  • Cramping
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Nocturia (peeing a lot at night)
  • Feeling hot or cold

If you are coming from a ketogenic (keto) or high fat/low carb diet (HFLC), the transition is generally easier (but there are still symptoms you need to understand!) than someone coming from a Standard American Diet that is high in carbohydrates. These symptoms are a result of your body undergoing significant metabolic and hormonal changes.

The 3 Major Adaptations

If you decide to start The Carnivore Diet, there are three major adaptations that your body is going to go through.

1. Fluid Rebalancing: Because you are eating fewer carbs, your insulin levels drop which sends a signal to the kidneys to release sodium from the body. Losing 10 lbs. of water in a couple days is not uncommon as water follows sodium out of the body.

Glycogen is then converted to glucose as the last energy usage before switching to mainly fatty acids.

2. Transitioning from Sugar to Fat for Energy

Your body will start switching from burning mainly sugar to fat for energy. Depending on your metabolic flexibility, you might have milder or more severe symptoms. Your metabolic flexibility is your body’s ability to adapt to different fuel sources, which depends on a number of factors including genetics, and especially your diet prior to this change. If you have been accustomed to eating a lot of high carbohydrate foods, it can feel a lot like going into withdrawal.

3. Hormone Response and Rebalancing

Some hormones in your body will respond to the diet by rebalancing, let’s look at thyroid and cortisol hormones. T3 thyroid hormone levels may decrease as T3, a hormone produced by the thyroid, is closely connected with dietary carbohydrates. It plays a major role in regulation of body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate.

Cures for the Carnivore Adaptation Symptoms

You can dramatically lessen and perhaps even eliminate most of the suffering in the “trough” by using some tricks to help bridge your body to the adapted state of bliss. Here are some tricks:

1. Eat more meat.

Under-eating is the number one reason people unnecessarily suffer.

Early on, it’s common to feel extremely hungry. As your body is getting used to the diet, eat, eat, and eat again. Do not try to restrict calories or track macros. Don’t worry about gaining fat.

2. Hydrate

Make sure you are drinking water. Do not overdo it as you will make the situation worse, but you need to stay hydrated. After adapting, you drink to thirst (no need to measure/monitor) but if you are feeling like crap during adaptation – make sure you are hydrating.

3. Electrolytes

Replenish your electrolytes. As you lose a lot of excess water, you also lose a lot of electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride. Salt, used generously on your meat, is the first step. For some people, this may be adequate; other people need some help in the potassium and magnesium department as well though…

These are tricks that can help you replenish potassium and magnesium:

  1. Drink Meaty Bone Broth – In addition to water and sodium, this will give you some potassium which will offset some of the discomfort caused at a cellular level.
  2. It’s important that the bones have some meat on them because that’s where the potassium is.
  3. Supplement 
  4. Potassium K+: 500 – 3500 mg/day (start with 1g – K+ chloride)
  5. Magnesium Mg: 250-500 mg/day (magnesium citrate)
  6. Sodium Na: 2-7g/day (5g is a good starting point – I like this brand)

Solving GI Problems

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are extremely common, especially if you are coming from a low-fat diet.

Your gallbladder and pancreas might not be ready to handle the increased fat intake, even if you are. When first starting, you may have inadequate bile and lipase to digest the increased fat intake leading to diarrhea and other kinds of GI distress.

To help manage this, you can reduce how much fat you’re eating by choosing leaner cuts of meat. A better solution is to supplement for 2-4 weeks. You could take some lipase supplement a few minutes before meals. You can start with one tablet and if you still have some discomfort take two.

If still having GI issues, especially, if they are GERD/acid reflux related, take a Betaine HCl supplement. Many people produce inadequate stomach acid to facilitate digestion and proper metabolic signaling. This is a main cause of GERD, Heartburn, Acid Reflux. Don’t take this supplement with anti-inflammatories as it could result in ulcers. It should automatically include pepsin in it, but check to make sure. Common dosage range between 3-5g/meal.

Important note: Supplements are a bridging strategy and not designed for long term use; the goal is to be off all of these after the first month. They are intended to allow your body catch up.

It might also be important to eliminate rendered fats as they could exacerbate the problem. It is normal to notice less frequent bowel movements as your body absorbs and uses meat very efficiently and not a lot goes to waste.

Sleep

Insomnia is common during adaptation, and since you are purging water, nocturia is also an interrupter. A few hacks that help:

Keep your room pitch black (blackout curtains, cover LEDs) and COOL

Start winding down 2 hours before bed (no screens or at the least put them in night mode)

  • Don’t eat within a few hours of sleep if you can help it
  • Be conscious how much you are drinking later in the day
  • Be asleep before 11 (a cortisol spike happens if you are not asleep around this time)

Sweat

Sweating is a natural detox mechanism. Since you are finally giving your body the nutrition it has been craving, you give it the opportunity to expel toxins. Give your body a hand and help it detox by getting some exercise and sweating.

Killing cravings and addictions – “Brain Changes”

Besides the metabolic and hormonal changes mentioned, you may also experience alterations in what I call “Brain Changes” that occur along the “brain-body highway”, a signaling control system between the gut and the brain.

This communication highway influences everything from hormones to neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA that play huge roles in mood, cravings, and addiction. Not unlike many drug addictions, you may go through withdrawal symptoms from foods or other substances (especially sugar) which you have become physically and neurologically addicted.

Cravings are common and the best solution is to make sure you are eating enough fatty meat. Not eating enough meat and eating meat that is too lean are the top mistakes.

You’re Ready to Start

Most people experience adaptation symptoms which can range from annoying to a certainty that you are going to die. I’ll be the first to admit that they aren’t all that pleasant, but with the above information to help identify and deal with them, your first attempt should be much easier. Yes, your bowel movements will change, and you will have some initial fatigue and brain fog, but in my opinion, the benefits certainly outweigh these temporary symptoms, especially if your goal is to lose weight fast.

Be committed, don’t let them deter you and give it a try.

References

  • Meat Health (2018):The Carnivore Diet – Symptoms and Cures. Retrieved from
https://meat.health/knowledge-base/carnivore-diet-symptoms-and-cures/
  • Mike Fishbein(2019):The Carnivore Diet: How to Survive the First Month. Retrieved from
https://mfishbein.com/carnivore-diet/
  • Carnivore Style (2018): Carnivore Diet Side Effects
    What Are the Symptoms, Risks & Dangers? Retrieved from
https://carnivorestyle.com/carnivore-diet/side-effects/
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Should people with diabetes try the Carnivore diet?

Important Points:

  • Carnivore diet
  • Meat
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Side effects
  • Weight loss

Should people with diabetes try the Carnivore diet?

The diabetes state of affairs has taken the world by storm. With easy to access processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle, obesity has become all too common, and we would all like a cure. Though many diabetics are often under treatment, it is well understood that conventional medicine only manages the diabetic condition but does not offer any hope for reversal or a cure. Is the carnivore diet the missing piece in this puzzle?  How can adapting the carnivore diet start reversing the effects of this disease? In this article we will look at the possibilities in these questions and shed some light on how the carnivore diet can actually help.

Facets of the Carnivore Diet Making It Ideal for Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

The carnivore diet is very effective in achieving the two common aims of diabetes control: lowering blood glucose levels and reducing weight.

The all meat diet, also known as the carnivore diet, is exactly what its name suggests: a diet that consists 100% of meat. Think of the keto diet without any salads or low carb vegetables.

The carnivore diet has been claimed to have a variety of benefits including:

  • lower blood pressure
  • improved insulin sensitivity
  • reduced dependency on medication
  • reduction in weight
  • improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, without adding to low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol
  • a drop in insulin

Proponents of the diet tout its ability to aid in weight loss, cure autoimmune diseases, decrease digestive issues, and improve heart health. The total elimination of carbohydrates as part of this diet results in more consistent insulin levels.

The carnivore diet should consist of the following types of food:

  • Meats: Fatty meats are acceptable, but should be eaten in moderation to be mindful of heart health. Also, be mindful of consuming too much protein. Combining a high level of protein with low levels of carbohydrates may cause the liver to convert the protein into glucose. This would raise blood sugar levels.
  • Eggs: Eggs are low in carbohydrates, as well as being an excellent source of protein.
  • Fish: This is a good source of protein.
  • Poultry: Also a good source of protein
  • Organ parts: A good source for nutrients besides protein
  • Cheese: Not everyone on a carnivore diet takes cheese but it can be included.

There has been anecdotal evidence that people with diabetes have been able to stabilize their blood sugar using this diet. From a biochemistry standpoint, if you’re eating only meat, you’re largely not taking in glucose, so your blood glucose levels are likely to be stable.

Effects of Carbohydrates on a Diabetic

Foods containing carbohydrates, such as bread, rice, pasta, milk, and fruit, are the main fuel source for many bodily processes. The body uses insulin to help bring glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. As Type 2 Diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance, people suffering from this condition produce too much insulin because their receptors don’t work. This disrupts the body’s ability to use carbohydrates effectively and, in turn, causes high blood sugar levels. When a person with Type 2 Diabetes eats a high-carb meal, this can lead to a spike in blood glucose.

Because the carnivore diet totally eliminates carbohydrates, glucose spikes are avoided. In fact, the body starts using the stored up fat for energy. This leads to weight loss and stable sugars.

In a nutshell the carnivore diet might:

  • reduce the risk of diabetes in people who do not yet have it
  • improve glycemic control in people with diabetes
  • help people to lose excess weight

Impact of the Carnivore Diet on Diabetics’ Medication

The carnivore diet may help reduce blood sugar levels. As such, some people with type 2 diabetes who start this diet may be able to reduce their need for medication. One should have their blood glucose levels constantly monitored so as to adjust medication accordingly.

Impact of a Carnivore Diet on Weight Loss?

People on a carnivore diet tend to lose weight because:

  • They totally eliminate carbohydrates and sugar, which are readily converted to fat.
  • Their bodies start burning fat for energy. Naturally, this leads to reduced weight.

Diabetes has been linked to obesity and one of the factors that help in the prevention and management of this disease is keeping one’s weight within the recommended guidelines. As such, this aspect of the carnivore diet can go a long way in managing, and even reversing Type 2 Diabetes.

Side Effects of the Carnivore Diet

The Carnivore diet may be a viable glucose management option for some people with type 2 diabetes, however, as the it involves switching to a different source of energy, it’s not right for everyone.

Short-term side effects

The dietary change might cause symptoms that resemble withdrawal from a substance, such as caffeine.

These symptoms may include:

  • keto-flu, a short-term group of symptoms that resemble those of flu
  • noticeable changes in bowel habits, such as a running stomach
  • uncomfortable leg cramps
  • a noticeable loss of energy
  • mental fogginess
  • frequent urination
  • headaches
  • loss of salts

In most instances, the side effects are temporary. People often experience no long-term health problems.

Long term side effects

Measuring blood sugar looks at the short-term, immediate effect of food. But over time, eating a diet of mostly or only meat can have long-term health consequences.

Long-term effects might include the development of kidney stones and an increased risk of bone fractures due to acidosis. Other complications include the risk of dyslipidemia (buildup of fats in the blood) and a possible increase in hypoglycemic (below normal blood sugar level) episodes.

Some animal studies have suggested that, since a low-carb diet often involves additional fat, there might be a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), due to a buildup of fats in the arteries. People with diabetes already have an increased risk of CVD.

There is a lack of evidence about the long-term safety and effectiveness of the carnivore diet, and researchers have called for more primary studies and more evidence before recommending this diet.

Alternatives to the Carnivore Diet

A doctor may recommend a specific meal plan rather than suggesting a diet. The carnivore diet is one of many eating plans that might help people manage their weight. A majority of health professionals do not recommend the carnivore diet for managing diabetes because there are many other nutrient-dense diets available that aim to balance carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake, control body weight, and keep blood sugar within a healthful range.

Criticisms of the Carnivore Diet

Critics of the carnivore diet focus on the adverse effects, including the possibility of kidney damage, CVD, and hypoglycemic episodes while noting that there is no evidence to support the long-term benefits of the carnivore diet.

Maintaining this type of diet can also be difficult on a long-term basis, as it is highly restrictive. This may lead to weight gain later on, particularly if an individual starts to eat unbalanced levels of carbohydrates once they switch back to a regular diet.

So, is it advisable for a diabetic to go on a carnivore diet?

Unlike the other diets, the carnivore diet is easy to track and maintain because it involves eating all kinds of meat in any quantities. It is thus easier to follow and much harder to fall off the wagon than being on diets such as the keto diet and others that need careful monitoring and measuring in some.

Much remains to be discovered about how this way of eating impacts our health, but it’s certainly worth a try if you’re struggling with autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes or psychiatric issues. Going on a carnivore diet as a short-term experiment is reasonable and safe, albeit socially challenging.

Therefore, at this point in time, without scientific studies to back the safety of this diet, and without substantial anecdotal evidence about long-term success, there isn’t really any way to say for certain if the all meat diet is good for people with diabetes. One thing it won’t do, however, is raise blood sugar levels. And that’s a good thing!

References:

  1. A sweet life (2018): Is the All Meat Diet Good for People With Diabetes? Retrieved from
https://asweetlife.org/is-the-all-meat-diet-good-for-people-with-diabetes/
  • Nutrita (2019): The ultimate guide to the carnivore diet. Retrieved from

https://nutrita.app/guide-to-the-carnivore-diet/

  • Healthline (2019):All Meat, All the Time: Should People with Diabetes Try the Carnivore Diet? Retrieved from

https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/carnivore-diet-for-diabetes#1

  • NCBI (2017):Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452247/

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Saturated Fats Unpuzzled

Important Points:

  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Cardiovascular risk
  • Fatty acids

Saturated Fats Unpuzzled

In the last decade, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding saturated fats. In case the news hasn’t caught up with you, scientists are rethinking the bad label attached to saturated fats. While this does not dispel the negative vibe attached to fatty meat and cheese, it seeks to clarify some broad generalizations that have been misleading.

For starters, saturated fats are not a single nutrient but a varied group of fatty acids that have different effects on the body. This means that while some saturated fats may be downright unhealthy for you, others are not and may even offer some health benefits.

This article examines some of the most common saturated fats, their health effects and what foods contain them.

What are Saturated Fats?

Fats can be divided into two broad categories: Saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature while unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. This is the most general way to differentiate the two groups. For a long time, it has been believed that saturated fats are unhealthy while unsaturated fats are healthy. This is why the advice has always been to opt for liquid oils such as canola, safflower or sunflower oil which are unsaturated oils and not coconut or palm oils which are saturated.

Examples of saturated fats include fatty meat, lard, tallow, cheese, cream, coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. All fats are made up of fatty acids. There are a number of saturated fats which can be distinguished by the length of their carbon chains. Here is an example of how this looks like:

Saturated fatty acid Number of carbon atoms
Stearic acid 18
Palmitic acid 16
Myristic acid 14
Lauric acid: 12
Capric acid: 10
Caproic acid 10

Saturated fats can either be a short-chain, medium-chain or long-chain fatty acids. Those with less than six carbon atoms are referred to as short-chain while those with more are referred to as long-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are produced in the gut through the fermentation process. They may also be found in some fermented foods. Long-chain fatty acids are like the ones in the chart above which are found in dietary sources.

Do Saturated Fats Make Us Sick?

As mentioned above, saturated fats were slowly becoming taboo in health circles. As cardiovascular diseases took over a large chunk of the modern burden of disease, saturated fats were pushed to the sidelines as a strong risk factor. People switched to the heart-friendly mono- and polyunsaturated fats as they abandoned saturated fatty acids.

However, recent research has disputed the earlier beliefs that saturated fats are the main cause of cardiovascular diseases. This has not ruled out the fact that there is a link between the two, however, the exact role they play is still being debated. Also, it has emerged that not all saturated fats are created equal and hence some may be beneficial for your health.

Stearic acid

Stearic acid is a common saturated fatty acid with 18 carbon atoms. It is a major component of various animal and plant fats as well as cocoa butter. Research has shown that it may lower bad cholesterol levels or have no effect. The body converts some of the stearic acids into oleic acid which is a healthy unsaturated fat. This means that as compared to some saturated fats that are bad for the heart, stearic acid may be a safer option. It appears that stearic acid has neutral effects on the lipid profile. The main dietary sources of stearic acid are animal fat, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and palm kernel oil.

Palmitic acid

Palmitic acid is the most common saturated fat in plants and animals, and it makes up over 50% of the total amount of saturated fat consumed in the US. Palmitic acid is mostly found in palm oil and red meat. It raises bad cholesterol levels and has no effect on good cholesterol levels. This means that it may predispose one to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Palmitic acid has also been associated with low moods lack of motivation to engage in physical activities, and weight gain.  Consuming linoleic acid, an unsaturated fat, together with palmitic acid can help to offset some of the negative effects of palmitic acid.

Myristic acid

Myristic acid raises total cholesterol levels as well as bad cholesterols levels, and most likely means that it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Myristic acid is a rare fatty acid found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

Lauric acid

Lauric acid has 1 carbon atoms It increases good cholesterol levels as well as total cholesterol levels. This means that it reduces the amount of total cholesterol relative to HDL cholesterol. A study published in NCBI in 1996 concluded that “Lauric acid raises total cholesterol concentrations more than palmitic acid, which is partly due to a stronger rise in HDL cholesterol.” It may be beneficial for heart health.

Caproic, caprylic, and capric acid

The above fatty acids are abundant in goat milk; Capra actually means “female goat” in Latin. If you’ve heard of the benefits of goat milk, you may know it has to do with these fatty acids. These medium chain (having less than 12 carbon atoms) fatty acids are easily absorbed by the body and rapidly metabolized and aid in weight loss, increase insulin sensitivity as well as offer anti-seizure benefits. Consequently, these fatty acids are commonly sold as supplements which consist primarily of capric acid and caprylic acid.

Butyric Acid, Propionic Acid, and Acetic Acid

These three are short-chain fatty acids containing fewer than six carbon atoms, and are created through a fermentation process of fiber in the gut. They may be found in small amounts in dairy fat and some fermented foods. These are usually beneficial fatty acids.

Are Saturated Fats Good For You?

The jury is still out on this. Recent science is refuting earlier evidence that saturated fats are responsible for atherosclerosis. What is clear is that some types of saturated fats are either neutral or have some beneficial effects on the heart.

The key is likely the quality of the fat source, so we urge our patients to avoid vegetable oil and stick to natural fats found in real food.

References

1.   NCBI (2010): Cardiovascular disease risk of dietary stearic acid compared with trans, other saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids: a systematic review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19939984

2.  NCBI (2010): Cardiovascular disease risk of dietary stearic acid compared with trans, other saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids: a systematic review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19939984

3.  NCBI (1994): Impact of myristic acid versus palmitic acid on serum lipid and lipoprotein levels in healthy women and men. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8148355

4.  NCBI (1996): Comparison of the effects of diets enriched in lauric, palmitic, or oleic acids on serum lipids and lipoproteins in healthy women and men. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8644684

5.  NCBI (2016): Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26925050

 

 

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Reversing Diabetes: What Does and Doesn’t Work

Important Points:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Weight loss
  • Diabetes reversal
  • Diabetes remission

Reversing Diabetes: What Does and Doesn’t Work

About 30 million people in the US have diabetes, and of these, about 8 million don’t know that they have it. Early diagnosis of diabetes can help in the treatment and possible reversal of diabetes. But what is diabetes reversal?

Diabetes reversal is similar to long-term diabetes remission. It is not a definite cure for diabetes but a return to normal blood sugar levels without having to take diabetic medication hopefully for a number of years. This can be achieved through a number of factors which we shall discuss below. Before getting there, let’s shed some light on type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes type 2 Reversal

Type 2 Diabetes used to be a disease of the elderly, but with the adoption of a modern lifestyle, even young children are being plagued by this debilitating disease. Genetics and ethnicity play a role in the acquisition of type 2 diabetes, but diet and lifestyle factors are great contributors as well. By controlling the latter, a person predisposed to the disease is able to avoid it in some cases.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when there is a gradual build-up of insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that removes sugar from the bloodstream and stores it in cells. Over time, a person becomes less sensitive to the effects of insulin leading to a buildup of sugar in the blood, beta cells are further stimulated to produce more and more insulin until eventually they are exhausted and depleted.

Reversal of type 2 diabetes targets the restoration of insulin sensitivity and in some cases the regeneration of beta cells such that a person with diabetes reversal should be able to maintain normal blood sugar levels without the use of diabetes medication. Research has shown that weight loss is one of the most effective approaches to achieving diabetes reversal.

Here are four ways to achieve healthy weight loss and diabetes reversal:

1.    Very Low-Calorie Diet

Several studies have looked at the effects of a very low-calorie diet on diabetes. In one study, two people followed a mostly liquid diet of 625-850 calories a day for 2-5 months, followed by a less restricted diet designed to help them keep off the weight they lost. Results showed that a low-calorie diet helps to reduce weight and improve insulin sensitivity. In another study, seven obese patients with type 2 diabetes were put on a very low-calorie diet of 900kcal and 115g of protein. This led to significant improvement in blood sugar control that was mainly attributed to improvements in insulin sensitivity.

Note that these types of diets are extreme. You have to work with a professional who will assess your fitness for undertaking such a drastic approach. Most people who have had success in reversing diabetes with this approach are those who have not had diabetes or a long time; to achieve this, it’s important to start the weight loss journey as soon as possible after you’re diagnosed.

2.    Exercise

Regular exercise is another way of improving diabetes but must be combined with diet and other measures in order to achieve diabetes reversal. Exercise needs commitment and dedication in order to bear fruit.

Regular exercise is associated with decreased demand for insulin as well as increased sensitivity to insulin. A 2015 study published showed that 67% of participants were able to achieve partial remission by taking part in a 6-month diet and exercise regimen. All the study participants were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

3.    Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery helps one achieve weight loss by reducing their food intake. This, in the long run, has helped type 2 diabetes patients achieve reversal as evidenced by a 2010 study. A 2013 study reported that 24% of participants with type 2 diabetes achieved remission six years after receiving gastric bypass surgery. The study concluded that:

“Bariatric surgery can induce a significant and sustainable remission and improvement of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic risk factors in severely obese patients. Surgical intervention within 5 years of diagnosis is associated with a high rate of long-term remission.”

Bariatric surgery is suitable only when your BMI is 35 or higher. It works best for people who’ve had diabetes for less than 5 years and are not on insulin. For newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics who are obese, this can be a suitable option to help them reverse diabetes.

4.    Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent means going without any food or drink with calories for a given amount of time. For example, you can restrict your eating to eight hours each day and you starve for the remaining sixteen hours. Caution: you need to consult with your doctor before embarking on a fast, even if it’s partial and for medical reasons.

A small study looked at three men between the ages of 40 and 67 who tried intermittent fasting for approximately 10 months. All were able to stop insulin treatment within a month of the study period. According to the author of the study Jason Fung, this showed that intermittent fasting could be effective in reversing type 2 diabetes. This result should only be used as anecdotal. Larger clinical trials need to be conducted to determine the clear effectiveness of this approach.

What Doesn’t Work?

There is a lot of hype when it comes to diabetes reversal. Shrewd businessmen have tried to exploit vulnerable patients by selling magic pills that they purport to cure diabetes. They come in all forms of preparations such as:

  • Over-the-counter pills
  • Herbs
  • Supplements
  • Alternative medicines
  • Homeopathic products
  • Prescription drugs

If you or a loved one is living with type 2 diabetes, it is important that you consult with your healthcare provider before embarking on any diabetes reversal program. As much as diabetes reversal is achievable, you need to be wary of greedy scammers eager to make a dishonest buck.

References

1.   Healthline: Type 2 Diabetes Statistics and Facts. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/statistics#1

2.   NCBI (2019): Reversing Type 2 Diabetes: A Narrative Review of the Evidence. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520897/

3.   NCBI (1998): Early and long-term effects of acute caloric deprivation in obese diabetic patients. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3291612

4.   Diabetes UK: Reversing Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.co.uk/reversing-diabetes.html

5.   NCBI (2013): Can diabetes be surgically cured? Long-term metabolic effects of bariatric surgery in obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24018646

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Refined Grains: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Important Points:

  • whole grains
  • refined grains
  • Western dietary pattern
  • diabetes
  • obesity

Refined Grains: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Flour is all around us and a temptation at every meal. Breakfast toast, bagels, cereal, and pancakes fill our tables. Lunch revolves around sandwiches, wraps, pasta and pizza. Refined grains have been vilified as one of the leadings causes of ill health. Is there any truth to this? Should we toss all refined grain products off our tables? We will have an in-depth look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of refined flour to give you a better understanding of the goodies on your plate.

What are Refined Grains?

Refined grain is the term used to refer to grains that are not whole, because they are missing one or more of their three key parts (bran, germ, or endosperm). White flour and white rice are refined grains, for instance, because both have had their bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. Refining a grain removes about a quarter of the protein in a grain and half to two thirds or more of a score of nutrients, leaving the grain a mere shadow of its original self.

Further refining includes mixing, bleaching, and brominating; additionally, thiamin, riboflavinniacin, and iron are often added back in to nutritionally enrich the product. Because the added nutrients represent a fraction of the nutrients removed, refined grains are considered nutritionally inferior to whole grains. However, for some grains the removal of fiber coupled with fine grinding results in a slightly higher availability of grain energy for use by the body.

Grain refining led to disastrous and widespread nutritional problems, like the deficiency diseases pelagra and beri-beri. In response, many governments recommended or required that refined grains be “enriched.”

The Good

The federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half your daily grain intake be from high-fiber whole-grain sources, foods like brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread. Nutritionists often exhort people to choose whole grains over refined ones whenever they can.

But according to one leading nutrition researcher, Julie Miller Jones, a professor emeritus at St. Catherine University, we shouldn’t be so eager to throw out refined grains altogether. Refined grains do have some benefits — namely, nutrients added to refined flours.

Since folic acid was added to bread, cereal and other grains in 1999, the rate of newborns with neural tube defects — a known consequence of folic acid deficiency — has decreased 46%. Additionally, important nutrients like copper and iron are more easily absorbed when eaten with refined grains. Whole grains are healthy because they’re so high in fiber, which Americans don’t get enough of, but that fiber also fast-tracks food through the digestive system, absorbing nutrients along the way.

The Bad

As our national appetite for flour has inched up, so has the incidence of diet-related ills, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Coincidence? Many nutrition experts don’t think so. When they weigh the evidence linking food choices and disease, they see the white, dusty fingerprints of flour everywhere.

Flour started out as an ingenious fix to a vexing problem. Grass seeds were plentiful, but the tough outer shell (the husk) made the seeds difficult to chew and digest. Early humans outsmarted the seeds by grinding them between stones, crushing the outer layers to get at the goodness inside. The result — a coarse powder — was the first whole-grain flour.

The downside was spoilage. Crushing the germ released its oils, which quickly turned rancid when exposed to air. With the advent of industrial milling in the late 1800s, machines began filtering out the germ and pulverized the remaining endosperm into a fine, white powder that lasted on the shelf for months. And so all-purpose white flour was born — along with a host of health problems.

Beneath their rigid architecture, whole-kernel grains conceal an array of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. But when machines pulverize kernels into flour, even whole-grain flour, what’s left behind is a starchy powder capable of wreaking havoc on the body.

The Ugly

Overconsuming flour can lead to a number of problems in the body, including:

  • Food Allergies/Intolerances. Gluten intolerance is a term that has become synonymous with the current generation. Wheat is one of the biggest dietary triggers of food allergies and intolerances. While the exact reason is unclear, many experts blame the higher gluten content of modern wheat varieties
  • Blood-Sugar Spikes. The difference between a whole-kernel grain and a processed grain all boils down to the glycemic index, which is how quickly the body turns food into fuel, or glucose. Foods made with wheat flour are particularly damaging. A carbohydrate in wheat, called amylopectin A, is more easily converted to blood sugar than just about any other carbohydrate. Two slices of bread made with whole-wheat flour raise blood sugar higher than six teaspoons of table sugar and higher than many candy bars.
  • Food Cravings.  One of the biggest changes in modern wheat is that it contains a modified form of gliadin, a protein found in wheat gluten. Gliadin releases a feel-good effect in the brain by morphing into a substance that crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds onto the brain’s opiate receptors and makes you want to eat more.
  • Caloric Overload. A refined grain packs more calories than a whole-kernel grain because it is more concentrated, and foods that are high in grains also tend to be high in sugar and industrialized fats. These foods contribute largely to obesity and the diabetes epidemic.
  • Metabolic Slowdown. Research shows that the body may shift nutrients into fat storage and away from muscle burning in the presence of high-glycemic-index foods. In 2004, Ludwig and his colleagues at Harvard conducted a study, published in the journal Lancet, in which they fed rats diets with identical nutrients, except for the type of starch. By the end of the study, rats in both groups weighed roughly the same, but those eating a high-glycemic diet had 71 percent more fat than the low-glycemic-index group.
  • Inflammation. A diet high in grains stokes inflammation. When blood sugar spikes, glucose builds up in the blood significantly. When glucose drifts in the blood, it attaches itself to nearby proteins resulting in a chemical reaction called glycation, a pro-inflammatory process that plays a role in a host of inflammatory diseases.
  • GI Disorders. Studies show that the lectins in grains inflame the lining of the gut and create fissures between cells. Also, when whole-kernel grains are refined, 80 percent of the fiber is lost, and gut health suffers. Additionally, fiber helps sweep the gut of debris and supports the body’s critically important elimination and detoxification processes, which also play a role in keeping high cholesterol and inflammation at bay.
  • Acid-Alkaline Imbalance. The body has an elaborate system of checks and balances to keep its pH level at a steady 7.4. A diet high in acidic foods, such as grains, forces the body to pull calcium from the bones to keep things on an even keel. When researchers looked at how the diets of more than 500 women affected their bone density, they found that a diet high in refined grains, among other nutrient-poor foods, was linked to bone loss. A highly acidic diet also chips away at our cellular vitality and immunity in ways that can make us vulnerable to chronic disease. Grains are the only plant foods that generate acidic byproducts. Wheat, in particular, is among the most potent sources of sulfuric acid, a powerful substance that quickly overcomes the neutralizing effects of alkaline bases.

The Bottom Line….

Grains are not essential, and there is no nutrient in there that you can’t get from other foods.