Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

7 Mar

Why the Atkins Diet Works

No doubt you’ve seen the major news out today that the Atkins diet is significantly more effective for weight loss than higher-carb diets promoted by the likes of Dr. Dean Ornish and Barry Sears. As you’d expect, Ornish says the study is flawed. Sears says the study is bad science. That’s fine, boys. The Atkins followers not only lost weight, they were healthier by the end of the year.

Both Sears and Ornish take issue with the fact that compliance in the study was, at best, half-hearted (meaning the ladies who participated didn’t exactly follow the various plans to the letter).

My response to that is: all the more evidence that upping your protein and fat intake is a wise idea. If you can lose weight, lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and you don’t even have to follow your diet perfectly…where’s the problem?

A year-long study compared four different diets – Atkins, LEARN (Uncle Sam’s feel-good acronym will not leave you feeling good), the Zone, and Ornish’s bread-buffet regimen. At the end of the year, Atkins followers lost about twice the weight of the other participants. This is no big surprise – it’s yet another study that proves what I’ve been saying for years: cut the carbs.

Critics – mainly, Sears and Ornish – are, as I expected, getting lost in the details and ignoring the big, fat elephant in the room. They point out that ten pounds of weight loss instead of five pounds of weight loss is no big deal.

Well, okay, but that depends on your perspective – I’m willing to bet good money that had the results of the study gone in their favor, they’d be singing a different tune. Instead of “10 pounds is no big deal,” we’d hear: “Double the weight loss – this is huge!” Instead of a “flawed” study, we’d hear: “We’re talking about a long-term, year-long, significant study!” And instead of splitting hairs about the lack of 100% compliance, my guess is that Ornish and Co. would say “This is a realistic study that looks at how people actually follow diets, rather than perfect, artificial conditions in a lab.”

So, while the pasta-and-bread fans are crying to Uncle Sam, here’s the question the rest of us are smart enough to ask:

Why are doctors so afraid of fat?

The overwhelming majority of studies – of all shapes, sizes and ulterior motives – supports, again and again, the case for a high-fat, high-protein diet for humans. And if the weight loss isn’t enough, those who enjoy bacon and butter also lower their cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors.

Doesn’t anyone in the carb camp ever stop and think – wait a minute, why are we subscribing to the low-fat, low-cholesterol dietary model to begin with? (People more cynical than me will note that the corn and wheat industries are among the most powerful lobbies, and the most heavily subsidized industries, in the world.)

How much more evidence is it going to take? Is their low-fat, high-grain diet working for them? After 50-odd years of various high-grain versions of the Prudent Diet, has the approach proven efficacious? Or are we worse off than ever? Come on, guys.

A caveat: I am not in favor of living exclusively on processed bacon and copious amounts of butter. And I am absolutely not saying that vegetarians are misguided (well, maybe a little), or that eating processed meats high in sodium, refined fats and nitrites is a good nutrition plan.

But Bob Atkins was certainly on to something, and study after study proves: reducing sugar and increasing fat and protein will not only make you slimmer, it’ll make you healthier. Check out my buddy Jimmy Moore’s story over at Livin La Vida Low Carb. Jimmy lost a whopping 200 pounds and has experienced a new lease on life since going low-carb. And he’s healthier for it.

I don’t think the question, with all we now know, should be “Does Atkins work”? Obviously, it does. The question we ought to be asking is, “Clearly, fat and protein aren’t so bad. Clearly Bob was on to something. How do we do it the right way?”

Reducing carbohydrates produces appreciable results. Blood sugar drops. HDL increases. Blood pressure drops. Weight falls off. The heart benefits. Why?

Dr. Mary Enig, a terrific researcher, has been challenging the Prudent Diet and the famous “lipid hypothesis” (the theory that fat = high cholesterol = heart disease) for years. She’s been ridiculed. Harassed. Ignored. She’s also been right this entire time.

It’s not cholesterol that is causing the problem here. It’s inflammation. Inflammation is a factor in diabetes, heart disease, arthritis – in fact, most of the major health problems Americans face in skyrocketing numbers. Do you know what causes inflammation?

Sugar. (And refined fats – anything that creates oxidation or triggers an inflammatory response.) Make no mistake: sugar is a toxin. The human body will burn only so much glucose – when we get too much, sugar moves to fat cells. It ravages the bloodstream, attacks the pancreas and thyroid and liver, and sets off a chain reaction that inflammation attempts to correct. Sugar, rather than being the base of the American diet (remember, grains – even whole grains – are metabolized, ultimately, as sugar), ought to be at the very top of the pyramid in the section we reserve for “toxins”, right up there with alcohol and cigarettes. Grains – sugar – create a toxic inflammatory environment very similar to what you see with alcoholics. A little inflammation from time to time can be beneficial – it’s the body’s natural healing mechanism.

Trouble is, the inflammatory benefit quickly disappears, because the body keeps getting inundated with sugar. A little inflammation – like the swelling and redness that you get if you stub your toe – is a beneficial thing. But persistent inflammation is a body on fire.

By this point, the human body is literally “freaking out”, as my kids would say. If you’re a typical American, your body has been flooded for years now with a double-whammy oxidative assault of sugar and refined fats (trans fat). The inflammatory response has set you up for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Your body has one last way to attempt to correct this persistent inflammation.

That’s cholesterol. Cholesterol is literally analogous to the scab that forms when you cut yourself. Cholesterol attempts to “scab” over the inflammation going on all over your body. It’s the body’s desperate attempt to extinguish the fire.

Ironically, a low-fat, high-carb diet only worsens the problem.

Imagine that all this is true. If I’m right, what would happen to a body in this state? Why, aside from likely diabetes, obesity and other problems, you’d have higher cholesterol, too. The more inflamed your insides become, the more cholesterol your body produces as it desperately tries to quell the abuse to your system.

Doctors like Ornish and guys like Sears drive me nuts. A basic understanding of the human body (which I know they possess), along with (more important) a willingness to be open-minded and accept the evidence that the lipid hypothesis was probably wrong, would go a long way towards explaining the “perplexing” results of studies like this one. I’d like to pry open their brains and yell: guys, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…it’s probably sugar.

Tomorrow, I’ll be bringing you my suggestions for doing “low carb” the right way – sausage and bacon ain’t it. Later this week, be sure to catch my posts on why variety isn’t necessary, why longevity misses the boat, and more thoughts guaranteed to piss off your HMO, your doctor, and your government.

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6 Mar

Yeah, But What Is It?

Lolla rossa and so much more.

6 Mar

When Life Hands You Lemons… Squeeze Them Over Your Lolla Rossa

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

All the news, none of the trans fat!

Except for #1 and #4, That Is

Here are 9 – mostly – great ways to get a healthier heart. #1 is Big Moo baloney (for our readers just joining, Mark and the Bees frequently rant about Big Moo marketing deception). #4 is fine, but sometimes an antioxidant supplement is a better bet than relying on a sugary juice. If you’re wanting to lose weight or lower your blood sugar, we recommend eating whole pomegranates or taking a supplement instead of downing the juice.

Thanks, podchef!

Flickr fun: thanks to Podchef!

Low-carb lovers: 1; Bran fans: 0

Mark has been invited to join in a conference about this hot study. The scientists will be debating whether or not low-carb is a smart way to go, in light of two new powerful studies that indicate a grain-based diet is not healthy for humans. We’ll keep you updated on the developments!

Moms of America Roll Their Eyes: This Is News?

Yeah, yeah. Three proven ways to get better sleep tonight: journal your worries, eat a tablespoon of peanut butter (just avoid the Peter Pan for goodness’ sakes!), and drink a cup of warm organic milk or chamomile tea. Oh, and send the kids to the grandparents’ house.

Chamomile is not actually a tea leaf. Who knew?

Web it out:

Parents, here’s a great review of an important resource for raising resilient children.

Random obesity fact still manages to startle.

6 Mar

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

The Tuesday 10

It can be frustrating to stick with a healthy diet when factors like cost and kids enter into the equation. Junior Apple Kathy Lee faces a challenge many moms are familiar with: how do you provide kid-friendly fare that is both nutritious and inexpensive?

10. Switch snacks to veggies

A large part of your grocery bill can be eliminated by avoiding the processed snacks and treats kids love. Parents know that Pop Tarts and Gushers are unhealthy, but there are plenty of seemingly healthy snacks – things that promise nutrition like “nutri-grain” crackers and “vitamin-enriched” gummy treats – that really rack up the total bill. The truth is, most of these processed “healthy” items are no better than candy, so as a parent, you don’t have to feel guilty for steering clear of them and heading for carrot sticks, apple slices and celery instead. An entire bag of fresh apples costs less than a single box of crackers, and is much healthier. Make the switch from boxed snacks to fruit and vegetables.

9. Eliminate soda, sports drinks and juice

These items are expensive and unhealthy (though they almost always carry tricky health claims). Many moms are tempted to buy juice – and 100% real juice is often the most expensive of all. But even “real” juice is really just sugar water. Have the kids drink water instead. They can have juice when they go to Grandma’s.

8. Going organic?

We all think of organic food as being more healthy – and generally, that’s true. But organic products are also much more pricey. Mark recommends making a choice to save yourself cash. While organic produce is a nice idea, it’s not the end of the world if you buy the regular tomatoes. Animal products like meat and cheese, however, are better when they’re organic. If you are going to spend a little extra money, spend it on the organic animal products and don’t worry about the lettuce. If you can’t afford organic foods, look for food that is at least produced in-state. Or, try to find out if there are local farms or butchers (bonus: they are often less expensive, too!).

7. Freeze!

Frozen berries, vegetables and meats are generally much cheaper than fresh foods, and the irony is that many times, these frozen items are actually “fresher” than the fresh stuff! At least one frozen vegetable is always on sale, and they tend to rotate, so your family can eat healthy and enjoy a nice variety for just a few bucks a day! Cooking for a family day in, day out can get tiresome, so whipping up nightly stir-fries or stews with varying veggies is a simple, cheap way to keep things healthy and interesting.


6. Watch the sales

Even that expensive European salad blend goes on sale at some point. Grocery stores tend to rotate the sales on spinach, romaine and other lettuce blends. Why pay 4 dollars for a bag of mesclun when you can get 2 bags of spinach for 5 bucks? Just keep an eye on the sales, and be sure to eat the greens within a few days so you’re staying fresh.

5. Avoid the middle aisles

Anything found in the middle aisles of the market – from crackers to cookies to cereal – is generally processed and unhealthy, not to mention outrageously expensive. The trick to watch for is the marketing: you’ll see “nutri-grain” and “whole grain” and “reduces heart disease” plastered on many sugary products. Don’t fall for the hype. Save your health and your bank account by sticking to the frozen and fresh sections as much as possible.

4. Check out the farmer’s market

Many towns have farmer’s markets on Saturday or Sunday, where you can purchase fresh, local produce for pennies on the dollar. Ask around!

3. Buy bone-in meat

An easy way to save money on chicken, a great lean protein source? Buy bone-in. It’s a little less convenient but will save you quite a bit of change. Tuna fish with oil instead of water is cheaper, and ironically, much healthier than the expensive white version.

2. Buy off-label or store brand

Olive oil, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, peanut butter and other healthy staples are just as healthy in the no-name variety.

1. Give beans a chance

Legumes are an incredibly cheap protein source. Even the pickiest kids love split pea soup and chickpeas on their salads. A typical bag of beans is under a dollar, and makes a perfect base for a soup, stew or vegetable bake. And kids typically enjoy beans.

Sponsor note:

This post was brought to you by the Damage Control Master Formula, independently proven as the most comprehensive high-potency antioxidant multivitamin available anywhere. With the highest antioxidant per dollar value and a complete anti-aging, stress, and cognition profile, the Master Formula is truly the only multivitamin supplement you will ever need. Toss out the drawers full of dozens of different supplements with questionable potency and efficacy and experience the proven Damage Control difference!

6 Mar

The Buckler Brief

Happy Tuesday, Apples. I’m back with a new format for the Buckler Brief that I think you will enjoy. Each week, I’ll be bringing you a quick wrap-up of the latest clinical studies on the natural health benefits (and sometimes bogus claims) of things like supplements, antioxidants and foods. Get healthy: know your nutrients!

This week:

Controlling both blood sugar and oxidative stress may be more effective for those with type 1 diabetes than controlling blood sugar alone. In this study, antioxidant vitamin C was shown to help.

Moderation really is the key to good health. In a study on caffeine, scientists found that a little daily dose of caffeine is good for you. Like wine, you can get too much of a good thing, so stick to one or two cups of coffee or tea per day. This is great news for Starbucks.

“The Dish on Fish”. I enjoyed this thoroughly-researched medical article on Omega-3 fatty acids. Though it’s not available for free, the findings are: the scientists concluded that the benefits of fish far outweigh the risks. Benefits include reduced bad cholesterol, increased good cholesterol, and reduced risk of heart disease. I recommend taking a daily Omega-3 supplement if you are  concerned about consuming fish too frequently. And remember, when you eat fish, don’t go for the breaded, fried kind! Stick with grilled or baked fish.

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple

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