May
31
2014

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

Recently an industry sponsored study was reviewed by the media with this headline: “Diet soda helps weight loss, industry-funded study finds”. Before you get too excited about this study, let me tell you that you are being deceived. Essentially the study compared 150 overweight or obese people on water and a similar group of people on diet sodas. Both groups were counselled on the benefits of exercise and a healthier diet. At the end of 12 weeks the water group that did not drink diet sodas had lost 9 pounds, while the diet soda group that continued their former habit lost 13 pounds. The question now is why this 4 pound difference? The sponsor of the study would like you to think that the soda diet drink is healthier, because it helps you to lose weight. Let me explain to you that there are a few flaws in the study as follows.

1. Most often there are confounding errors in industry-sponsored studies. Even though it looks on the surface that the two groups were comparable, researchers should have checked out various parameters like sex distribution, other underlying illnesses, mental state (depressed or not etc.), diabetes and other factors to make sure that there is no metabolic bias between the two groups from the start of the study.

2. Deception built into study: we know from other studies that on the long-term diet sodas lead to weight gain by stimulating your appetite for sweets and their subsequent consumption. Often short-term studies show the opposite effect, so it would be false to assume that long-term results would be similar. But most readers who read this quickly would be tempted to think “so it must be OK to continue to consume diet soda drinks!” Off you go to the grocery store and buy another 6 or 12 pack. That’s exactly what the industry-sponsored study set out to do. Somewhere in the back-room of a big soft drink corporation the executives discussed among themselves that their statistics were bad; the sales of diet soft drinks were down; there was too much negative press fuelled by the health food industry. They had to do something about this, so they designed a study where the good guy was the diet soft drink. If the consumer is not buying the results, at least the study helped to confuse people and whenever there is confusion, at least part of the confused population will return to their old habits. After all the study showed “ it is OK”.

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

3. Excitotoxins are not OK. Unfortunately all artificial sweeteners are toxic to your brain, they are excitotoxins. MSG is another excitotoxin. The only exception is the natural sweetener stevia, a plant product, which is OK. Splenda is an insecticide, so this is belongs to the xenoestrogens, bad for you as it acts like a foreign estrogen and has cancer-promoting qualities when exposed to it for several decades. The rest of the artificial sweeteners are excitotoxins: they burn your brain cells very slowly and can lead to dementia. Unfortunately they are addicting and your brain will make you feel good when you drink more of it. So, the real reason why the study group on diet sodas did better than the water group is because they did not have to change that habit, there was no withdrawal to deal with and they felt fine. So they could concentrate on dieting and exercising and of course you would lose 13 pounds in 12 weeks doing that. The water group on the other hand had to cope with diet soda withdrawal and on top was challenged by an exercise and weight loss program. As there was no diet restriction, they could compensate a bit for their trouble of withdrawal and eat a few muffins or some extra bread to make up for the lack of their comfort diet drink fix (the satisfaction of consuming the excitotoxin). This slick short-term study design is what should have alarmed the publisher to ask a few hard questions.

4. There needs to be an internal logic in the study: Let’s do a thought experiment where we repeat the study and start with two comparable overweight/obese groups of people and put them on no sugar and no refined carbs for 2 weeks and also on no diet sodas for the same time. After two weeks they are both accustomed to this diet and the no diet soda habit and they have probably lost the same amount of weight from the calorie restriction. Now we start the one group on diet sodas and the other group on water, but strictly controlled for a similar calorie intake in terms of other foods or drinks as much as is humanly possible. I would predict that after 12 weeks the water group will have at least lost the same weight as the diet soda group, if not more. The diet soda group likely will have had some problems with sugar craving and may have had more dietary indiscretions (sneaking in snacks and underreporting them), but this would show up as weight gain.

You may be proud of having completed this well controlled study. The trouble is that your industry sponsor that produces the diet drinks will not like this outcome and would not allow the results to be published. In fact that kind of result would be actively suppressed.

Conclusion:

The diet soda study discussed here is a lesson in biased publishing. We are constantly bombarded by an endless string of meaningless publications that are designed to make the consumer insecure, or bias us for accepting a company’s product in the hope of achieving a certain result (like high sales). Even, if this is not accomplished the company has sold enough of their product just for giving it a try. Beware of the door-to-door sales person. This figure is very much present right in this publication. In this case it is the sales pitch of the diet soda manufacturers! You are looking at a study that was designed to make you buy more of the excitotoxin (aspartame or other artificial sweeteners), which likely contributed to your extra weight or obesity in the first place. It’s up to you to shut the door on this sales pitch. Instead of a diet soda I suggest you make your own drink: squeeze half an organic lemon and top this with mineral water of your choice. Sweeten it with a tiny amount of stevia. This has no calories and does not stimulate you to eat more sugar and starchy foods; but it quenches any thirst and you even get some water-soluble vitamins in the process.

Last edited May 31, 2014

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Apr
05
2014

Yes, There Are Healthy Sugar Substitutes

It is true that sweets are not good for you because they lead to fat accumulation and to diabetes. I explain how this works later in this blog. But who says you cannot sweeten your life with healthy ingredients? Not all sugar substitutes are the same; some are awful, some are in between and one is good (see below).

General information why sweets and starches are bad for you:

There is a triple whammy from sweets that you don’t really want:

a) First, sugar gets absorbed really fast through the gut wall and arrives in your blood stream within 15 to 20 minutes. Starches can be just as powerful in terms of blood sugar surges, but it takes perhaps 30 to 40 minutes for the peak of blood sugar to occur. The end result is the same: whether you load up with a pizza, a doughnut or drink a large, sugar-loaded soda drink, your pancreas reacts the same way. It produces a lot of extra insulin to bring the blood sugar level down. When you do this day after day your pancreas gets used to overproducing insulin and you develop insulin resistance meaning that your insulin receptors that are on every cell surface get tired and become less sensitive to insulin. Due to insulin resistance the muscle cells and the liver cells do not take up sugar (in the form of glucose) as easily as before.

b) Second, because excess sugar cannot be stored as glycogen (the storage form of glucose in the liver and the muscles), the liver converts excess glucose into triglycerides and oxidized fatty acids get taken up by white blood cells called macrophages. These attach to the inner lining of the arteries and lead to atheromatous plaques, the first stage of hardening of the arteries.

c) Third, glucose is an oxidizing agent that will oxidize LDL cholesterol. This makes the LDL particles much denser and forms the so-called very dense LDL lipoprotein fraction (VDLDL) that can be detected in special blood tests (Ref.1).

Not surprisingly people who consume sugar, sweets, soft drinks and starches on a regular basis will have very dense LDL particles (=VDLDL, also called “pattern B-LDL”). The treatment for this is to quit sugar and starchy foods.

I have explained in more detail what sugar does in this blog.

Yes, There Are Healthy Sugar Substitutes

Yes, There Are Healthy Sugar Substitutes

The food industry’s answer to low carb diet drinks and low sugar foods:

Many years back the food industry decided to offer alternative diet drinks that would not contain sugar, but instead have aspartame in it.

Dr. Blaylock has researched excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame (NutraSweet) and urges you in this link to abandon both. I agree with him. But while we are at it, don’t take other artificial sweeteners like sodium cyclamate in Canada (Sweet’N Low). Are you thinking of taking sucralose (Splenda) instead? Think again. What the industry seems to have forgotten is that it was originally developed as an insecticide. This website states that sucralose was actually discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. A researcher tasted it and found it exceedingly sweet. I have done the experiment myself in Hawaii where small ants are ubiquitous. I thought I take a package of Splenda from a coffee shop and do the experiment: In the beginning the ants were reluctant to eat it, but after a few hours they came and took it in. One day later there were only shrivelled up dead ants left in the area where Splenda had been sprinkled. Proof enough for me that Splenda was developed as an insecticide!

In the Splenda marketing scheme they decided to first introduce Splenda gradually into diabetic foods as a sweetener, then later sell it to the public at large. Don’t fall for it. It was a side product of insecticide research, and insecticides have the undesirable quality of being xenoestrogens, which block estrogen receptors in women. As a result of that estrogen can no longer access the body cells, including the heart. The final consequence for a woman is a higher risk for cardio-vascular disease. This can cause heart attacks, strokes and cancer. In men estrogen-blocking xenoestrogens can cause breast growth and cause erectile dysfunction.

The natural sweeteners:

One wonders why the food industry did not choose healthy sweeteners like stevia that has been used for decades in Japan and South America.

Other sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, and lactitol are sugar alcohols. Contrary to what many believe they have calories, but much less than sugar, so they are perceived as “safe” as a dietary supplement for weight loss. These alcoholic sugar compounds still produce partial LDL oxidization; interfere with weight loss and still lead to a certain insulin response.  Stevia, a natural sweetener from a leaf of South America is safer and without any calories.

The key is that stevia will not oxidize your LDL cholesterol and will not cause a hyperinsulinism response following a meal. It is metabolically neutral. It is the ideal sweetener for people who desire to lose some weight. It is also safe as it is no excitotoxin. The FDA has recognized stevia as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).

What about fructose, agave syrup, honey, brown rice malt syrup, fruit juice concentrates, refined fructose, maple syrup?

The problem is that they are all sugars, which cause a full insulin response leading to obesity, diabetes and hardening of the arteries. This causes heart attacks and strokes. These natural sugar products also oxidize LDL cholesterol, which initiates plaque formation as discussed above; this is the first step leading to hardening of the arteries. It took the medical profession 30 years of observing that a low fat/high carb diet makes us fat and causes heart attacks, leads to strokes and causes diabetes. Let’s not make the mistake of trusting the food industry and mindlessly swallow so-called natural other sugars and sugar substitutes like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, and lactitol. You may want to chew the odd gum with xylitol, as this will prevent cavities in your teeth. But otherwise it is much safer to just stick to Stevia to sweeten your tea, coffee or food. There are brands that are less bitter than regular stevia products, like stevia from New Roots in Canada and stevia from KAL in the US (no, this is not a commercial, it is based on my own observations).

Conclusion:

Sugar is an emotional topic that can get people caught up in heated discussions. The sugar industry and the sugar substitute industry have also powerful lobby groups that provide the Internet and the popular press with conflicting stories to convince you to buy their product. This blog was meant as a no-nonsense guide to get you removed from the high-risk group of candidates for heart attacks, strokes or diabetes. Let’s not forget the metabolism behind the various sugars and starchy foods described above, which I have explained in more detail in my recently published book (Ref.2). Forget the emotions of severing yourself from your favorite fix and stick to a tiny amount of stevia that can replace the familiar sweet taste that you have become accustomed to from childhood onward. At least this is what I do. The only alternative would be to take the plunge and cut out any sweet substance altogether, which I am not prepared to do. If you can do it, by all means go ahead.

More information on carbohydrates: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/carbohydrates/

 

Reference:

1. Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

2. Dr. Ray Schilling: “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging“, Amazon.com, 2014

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jul
06
2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

When your grandmother grew up there was very little convenience food, maybe ketchup and yes, there was processed cheese and coke. There were also bread and butter.

Now we go through a large grocery store and the center of the whole store is occupied by convenience food, row after row.

What is convenience food? It is pre-cooked or processed food that sits on a shelf waiting to be bought and consumed. You may be able to just eat it the way it is (power bars, fruit yoghurt snacks, ice cream, breakfast cereals etc.) or you just have to microwave it for a minute or two (ready made meals, pizzas). Even, if you make a fresh salad, you top it with a salad dressing that has been processed and may contain chemicals that are not necessarily healthy for you.

This blog is meant to make you think and get educated as a consumer. As a physician I am guided by what is healthy for you, but at the same time food needs to be interesting and taste good and be affordable.

As fat, carbohydrates and protein are the main food groups that we eat, I will deal with each of these categories first followed by vitamins and minerals, which we also need.

Fats and oils

Many convenience foods are full of saturated fatty acids, which contribute to the overall calorie count of the package and are one of the main reasons why we gain weight and deposit fat into our arteries in preparation for a heart attack or stroke down the road. As you may know the worst form of fat is hydrogenated fat, also known as “trans fat”.

It contains free radicals from the hydrogenation process, which damage your cells and interfere with normal body metabolism. Read labels and avoid any foods that have a long shelf life as this is due to hydrogenated fats and chemicals known as food preservatives.

This food group also contains sausages and other processed meat; I wrote a separate blog about this recently.

If you eat cheese, reduce your saturated fat intake by buying cheese with only 18% fat (such as Cantenaar cheese, Jarlsberg light, skim milk mozzarella and goat cheese). Avoid the rich 45% type cheeses. The best oil in your kitchen would be an organic cold pressed olive oil. It figures prominently in Mediterranean cooking.

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

Sugar, starch and other carbohydrates

A large portion of snacks from the mid section of the grocery store contains all forms of sugar: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.  You may think that a harmless fruit juice would be healthy until you see from the ingredient list on the label that it contains 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup (250 ml) of juice.

Unfortunately our body is not equipped to process all the sugar that the food industry wants us to consume and we develop insulin resistance; the liver converts the excess sugars into fat and deposits it into our arteries and as fat deposits between our guts (visceral fat) and as subcutaneous fat in the thighs, around the hips and the waist. It is no secret that a lot of obesity is related to overconsumption of sugar containing convenience foods (snacks and sugar-laden drinks).

Often low calorie alternatives contain aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is an excitotoxin damaging your brain cells and sucralose was developed in the 1950’s as an insecticide. We do not want to replace disease-promoting sugar with toxins as sweeteners. Safe alternatives for sugar are xylitol, mannitol, and stevia.

What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that your body digests bread, starchy foods such as potatoes, and pasta, rice and flour products like pizza or cookies within 30 minutes into sugar that is as harmful to your pancreas as plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The body reacts with the same overproduction of insulin converting the excess sugar into fat and depositing it in your body as described above. Much of the obesity wave we see in the past 3 decades is due to baked goods like bagels, bread, pasta and pizza. It is much better to enjoy your stevia-sweetened coffee without any bakery pieces to go along with it.

Protein in meats, dairy products and sausages

You would think that a healthy cut of meat from the grocery store would be a good source of protein for you. You probably did not think that it could be contaminated with a superbug when you bought it. This is especially true for ground meats like hamburger meat. If you bought a portion of organic meat you can be more certain that you are buying a qualitatively superior product. I discussed this whole issue of superbugs in meat and meat products in this blog recently.

We need to be aware of the agroindustry, the feedlots and what they fed the animals. I only buy organic meat and organic dairy products as my source of protein. I avoid sausages altogether because of the food additives that they contain, which are cancer causing.

The problem with prepared meats like chicken nuggets and others is that they contain breading and food preservatives and they have been deep fried, which makes these items an unhealthy choice.

What are some of the problems with dairy products? Despite the allegations that bovine growth hormone would be harmless to your health, your body thinks otherwise. Your body has hormone receptors that are very specific and bovine growth hormone can block them so your own human growth hormone from the pituitary gland cannot function properly. This is why I would recommend only organic milk products. You may have heard that in many European countries bovine growth hormone is banned for that reason.

Next the fat content of dairy products needs to be monitored: go for low-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. While we are talking about yoghurt, stay away from fruit yoghurts that have all kinds of sugar and food additives mixed in. Add fruit of your choice and stevia, if you need a sweet taste.

Vitamins and minerals

The more foods are processed, the less natural vitamins and minerals stay behind. Particularly vitamin C and the B complex group are affected, but also magnesium, which is an important co-factor to enzymatic reactions within our cells. Often processed foods contain too much salt with sodium displacing potassium from the cells resulting in a lack of energy and high blood pressure.

Your best prevention is to stick to as little processed food as possible and to eat organic. If you eat enough organic greens and vegetables, there is an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Prepare your own soups as canned products are high in sodium; another unwanted additive is often sodium glutamate (MSG), which comes under many disguised names. It belongs to the group of excitotoxins like aspartame and is not welcomed by your brain cells.

Public Awareness

Lately there has been more of public interest and awareness to the detrimental effects of convenience foods. Alarming reports about the increase in the obesity rates, the rise in diabetes type 2 even in children have been in the media for some time. The publications are not only North American, but also European, as can bee seen in this link.

New legislation is being introduced in many states of the US regarding school snacks and vending machines in schools.

Not all food news is bad. Recently it was reported that fish oil could protect against the effects of junk food. Omega-3-fatty acids contained in fish oil are helping to rebalance the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6-fatty acids in food, which often is disbalanced towards an overabundance of omega-6 fatty aids in processed foods. Rebalancing the omega3/omega6 ratio in food helps to normalize the metabolism of the brain and prevents hardening of arteries.

What you can do to get healthy food

It starts when you buy food. Read labels and look for calories, sugar, fat and sodium content. You may be surprised how many stores carry organic foods now. The price may not be that much more. There is a useful app for your cell phone, Buycott, that you may want to download. This way you can scan items in the store and find out what ingredients are contained in a particular food item and which company produces it.

With meats it is particularly important to buy organic (because of superbugs and also because of the aspect that feed lot animals often receive antibiotics and hormones). Stick to organics also with vegetables and greens (xenoestrogens in non-organic greens that block hormone receptors). Milk products also need to be organic because of the bovine growth hormone facts mentioned above.

When you eat out, things become more difficult unless you find an organic food restaurant. You can always prepare your own salad for lunch with organic greens and a lean protein food, which you keep refrigerated until you are ready to consume it. On weekends a portable picnic in a park can be a great way to relax and socialize, especially in summer.

More information about nutrition: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014