Category Archives: diabetes

Obesity Epidemic Requires a Paradigm Shift

The obesity epidemic requires a paradigm shift. Several medical myths stand in the way of taking the most effective steps to safely help patients lose weight. The most important myth relates to saturated fat. Saturated fat consumption does not contribute to cardiovascular disease. This must be understood and accepted by the medical community so that sound advice can be given.

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.( Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):497-9. )

In fact, as early as 2004, Mozaffarian et. al. investigated the influence of diet on atherosclerotic progression in postmenopausal women with quantitative angiography and found that:

In multivariate analyses, a higher saturated fat intake was associated with a smaller decline in mean minimal coronary diameter (P = 0.001) and less progression of coronary stenosis (P = 0.002) during follow-up. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1175-84)

In addition, they further found that:

Carbohydrate intake was positively associated with atherosclerotic progression (P = 0.001), particularly when the glycemic index was high.

            Polyunsaturated fat intake was positively associated with progression when replacing other fats (P = 0.04)

These findings should come as no surprise given the basic science of atherosclerosis. Oxidized and glycated LDL stimulate macrophages to become foam cells initiating the creation of plaque. Cellular receptors that allow macrophages to ingest oxidized LDL are specific for oxidized LDL. These receptors do not recognize normal LDL to a significant degree.

Holovet et. al. studied the ability of oxidized LDL versus the Global Risk Factor Assessment Score (GRAS) to detect coronary artery disease. GRAS identified coronary artery disease 49% of the time, while oxidized LDL was correct 82% of the time.

In a large prospective study, Meisinger et al found that plasma oxidized LDL was the strongest predictor of CHD events when compared to conventional lipoprotein risk assessment and other risk factors for CHD.

Polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized, saturated fats are not. It is the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the membrane of LDL particles that become oxidized and then initiate the cascade of inflammatory events leading to atherosclerosis. The major source of these PUFA in the American diet are “vegetable oils” (corn oil, soy oil etc.)  rich in the omega-6 PUFA, linoleic acid.

So why is this important to understand relative to the obesity epidemic? Because the most effective weight loss “diet” is arguably a low carbohydrate/high fat (LCHF) diet. This approach does not require calorie counting. This approach has been demonstrated to spontaneously reduce caloric intake whereas low fat diets require calorie counting and result in persistent hunger.

When compared to low fat calorie restricted diets  the LCHF approach has been equal or superior with respect to weight loss, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure reduction, and lipid profiles whenever these parameters have been measured.

But LCHF has not been embraced by the medical community due to the perceived dangers of saturated fat consumption and a low-fat ideology that lacks legitimate scientific evidence.

Once we dispel the mythology of saturated fat, the safety and efficacy of LCHF will be more readily accepted by physicians, the media and the lay public.

The nutritional villains in our society are highly refined and easily oxidized “vegetable oils” filled with pro-inflammatory omega-6 PUFA (linoleic acid), added sugar (especially HFCS) so prevalent in most processed foods and soft drinks, and the nutrient poor wasted calories of processed flour foods. These three culprits are responsible for our epidemics of obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. These three conspire together to generate fatty liver disease, atherosclerotic plaque, and chronic inflammation.

When a LCHF approach is combined with  eating only fresh whole foods and avoiding added sugar, refined flour, and unhealthy  “vegetable oils”, we have the perfect recipe for our obesity epidemic.

The following references provide examples of studies that have demonstrated the efficacy, safety and  usual superiority of the LCHF  approach to weight loss.

Dig Dis Sci. 2007 Feb;52(2):589-93. Epub 2007 Jan 12. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a pilot study. Tendler D, Lin S, Yancy WS Jr, Mavropoulos J, Sylvestre P, Rockey DC Westman EC.

Fred Kummerow, PhD, fought the battle against Trans Fats for over 50 years.

Professor Fred Kummerow passed away on May 31 at his home in Urbana, Ill at age 102. He ate butter, red meat and eggs cooked in butter, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. He avoided margarine, french fries and other fried foods, along with cookies, cake and crackers which contained artificial trans-fats. He conducted research in his nutrition science laboratory at the University of Illinois up until his death. he authored the book Cholesterol Won’t Kill You, But Trans Fat Could: Separating Scientific Fact from Nutritional Fiction in What You Eat

Fred warned the American public and scientists in the 1950s about the dangers of artificial man-made trans fats. His research was largely ignored and criticized by the food industry and by scientists who were funded by the food industry for decades. Despite mounting evidence in both animals and humans that artificial trans fats dramatically increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and probably several forms of cancer, the FDA ignored his pleas to address the issue. In 2009 Professor Kummerow filed a petition with the FDA to ban the use of trans fats. Although federal law required that the FDA respond within 180 days to such a petition, the FDA remained silent. In 2013, approaching the age of 99, Professor Kummerow sued the FDA. Two years latter in 2015 the FDA declared that artificial trans-fats were unsafe and should be eliminated from the US food supply by 2018.

Through his lifelong work, Professor Kummerow has produced a policy change that will likely save hundreds of thousands of lives.

What are trans fats and why have they been in our food for 7 decades?

Although there are some forms of natural trans fats which are safe for consumption when consumed in whole foods, artificial trans-fats are produced by placing unsaturated fat (such as corn oil, soy oil) under high pressure and high temperature conditions and adding hydrogen in the presence of a metal catalyst. These fats were introduced to many American foods because they dramatically extend the shelf life of foods and give a pleasant mouth texture to a variety of processed foods. They remain in many foods still on the shelves today. You cannot rely on labels such as “NO TRANS FATS” OR “TRANS FAT FREE” because food companies are allowed to make this statement as long as the amount of trans fats does not exceed 0.5 grams per serving. No amount is safe!

The Institute of Medicine, on July 10, 2002 declared manufactured trans fatty acid (TFA) a serious danger to the health of our nation with a: “tolerable upper intake level of zero.”  This means there is no safe level of consumption. Despite that strong statement in 2002, it has taken the efforts of an elderly professor, including a lawsuit, to bring the FDA around to finally address the issue.

But it is not over yet, you can bet that the food industry will try to delay the implementation of the ban or possibly even argue against the overwhelming science that supports such a ban.

In the meantime read labels. If any food item contains “partially hydrogenated” oil of any kind or “hydrogenated oil” of any kind it contains trans fats. These foods are typically foods you should not be eating any way because they usually also contain added sugar, refined flour and/or refined easily oxidized inflammatory “vegetable” oils. They are not whole foods and therefore should not be consumed for many reasons. But if you want to eat cake, cookies, crackers, bread, or any other processed foods, beware and read the ingredients so as to at least avoid trans-fats.

You can read about Fred Kummerow, his life and research at these sites:

Fred A. Kummerow, scientist who raised early warnings about trans fats, dies at 102 – The Washington Post

Fred A. Kummerow, an Early Opponent of Trans Fats, Dies at 102 – The New York Times

Fred Kummerow, U. of I. professor who fought against trans fats, dies at 102 – Chicago Tribune

Fred also studied the effects of a oxysterols and oxidized low-density lipoprotein (OxLDL) both of which contribute to atherosclerosis.  In a  2013 publication Professor Kummerow stated

“levels of oxysterols and OxLDL increase primarily as a result of three diet or lifestyle factors: the consumption of oxysterols from commercially fried foods such as fried chicken, fish and french fries; oxidation of cholesterol in vivo driven by the consumption of excess polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils; and cigarette smoking.”

Yet the American Heart Association continues to recommend increased consumption of polyunsaturated fats from the likes of corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed and similar oils. I have discussed the problems with that advice here and here.

So the next time you avoid trans fats by reading food labels, think of Professor Kummerow who brought light to some very dark areas in the history of nutrition and food in the US.

Eat clean, live clean, and enjoy.

Dr. Bob

Cartoon humor: A Prescription for Health!

 

prescription-for-exercise-cropped

Hat tip to Tommy Wood MD, PhD for introducing me to this great cartoon.

So what would happen if your doctor prescribed this? Would you be shocked? Would you follow the advice? Sadly few doctors make such recommendations as explicitly as this cartoon and fewer patients follow the advice.

How important are the elements in this advice?

They are essential. We too often focus on dietary concerns at the expense of ignoring other important low hanging fruit. Early morning  outdoor exercise with exposure to natural light in a green space, even on a cloudy or rainy day, is essential for health. Why? There are many reasons. Click the link above to read fitness expert Darryl Edward’s discussion with references. In fact outdoor exercise in a greenspace is more beneficial than the same exercise indoors. The reasons are many, including but not limited to Vitamin D production.

Early daytime exposure to natural outdoor light helps to maintain our Circadian rhythm and align the biologic clock in all of our cells and organs with the central biological Circadian clock in our brain. Most folks do not know that we have a biologic clock deep within our brain and that all the organs and cells of our body also have clocks. They all need to be synchronized with each other and with the sun for optimal health. When they are not synchronized bad things happen. Night shift workers and other folks with disturbed sleep have higher rates of cancer , depressionhypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining our circadian rhythm is vital to achieving adequate high quality restorative sleep. In turn, obtaining adequate restorative sleep contributes to lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to four traditional lifestyle risk factors.

Exposure to artificial light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm and impairs the onset of sleep.

In medical school I learned that our retina has two cell types, rods and cones. But advances in science have revealed a  third cell type called retinal ganglionic cells. 

These cells are  particularly sensitive to blue light and directly connected to our central biological clock . Exposure to artificial light, especially from TV screens, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices after sunset disrupts our sleep cycle and delays the onset of sleep. That is why wearing blue light filtering glasses in the evening helps many folks to improve their sleep quality and duration.

Sleep deprivation for even one night causes elevation in interleukin 6 levels the following day. Interleukin 6 suppresses immune function and excessive levels cause bone and tissue damage (especially cardiovascular). Sleep deprivation  increases  Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin), decreases prolactin and Growth hormone , and decreases the nightly production of ATP .

Melatonin , often called the sleep hormone, is produced most abundantly during restorative sleep and essential for tissue healing, immune function, cancer prevention, and defense against tissue oxidation. These are just a few of the roles melatonin and sleep cycles play in determining our health..

So exercise outdoors in a green space daily to help synchronize your biologic clock with the sun, dim the lights in the evening and if you must watch TV or work on electronic devices before bed wear Blue Light filter glasses .

Of course eating an abundance of colorful fresh organic vegetables and fruits, and practicing some stress reduction techniques every day are equally important and essential to health and functional status.

Finally, not mentioned in the cartoon above is another healthy lifestyle choice, intermittent fasting (IF). IF will be discussed in the next post.

Until then, sleep well, exercise regularly out doors in a green space environment, eat clean, learn and practice some regular stress reduction techniques and read the next post about IF.

Bob Hansen MD

Functional Medicine: Getting to the Root Causes of Illness, A cure for Alzheimer’s

Today I watched a great TED talk by Dr. Rangan Chaterjee discussing his own journey in the discovery and implementation of a functional medicine approach to caring for his patients. The concept of using basic science and clinical science to diagnose and treat the root causes of illness, rather than treating symptoms, has been around for more than two decades.  This approach has recently started to attract more attention, especially within the community of younger physicians who have become more dissatisfied with the frustrations of traditional allopathic medicine.

Here is the talk. Dr. Chatterjee covers lots of ground in a passionate and informative talk.

Enjoy this talk. If you would like to learn about how a functional medicine approach can CURE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE then watch this video of Dr. Bredesen who gave this lecture at a meeting of the American College of Nutrition.

Doctor Bredesen, an acclaimed neuroscientist, researcher, and more recently a brilliant clinician, has been criticized by the academic research community for implementing a clinical research protocol that addresses more than one variable at a time! Unfortunately, medical science has been handcuffed by the drug-model of clinical research wherein only one variable (drug vs. placebo for example) is studied. But if an illness has many potential contributing root causes, changing only one variable is doomed to failure, as Dr. Bredesen explains in this lecture.

Sleep well, eat clean, get outdoors every morning to help keep your circadian rhythm and biological clock in order.

Bob Hansen MD

The Obesity Code, a must read book by Dr. Jason Fung.

Doctor Jason Fung just published a terrific book titled The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss: 

Dr. Fung’s genius excels at simple, direct explanations with clarity and humor. His analogies are often hilarious and through his humor and logic he communicates simple but important truths. The major message is that obesity is a hormonal problem. Obesity is not a disease of excess caloric intake, nor is it a disease of sedentary lifestyle. Dr. Fung cites study after study in which obese patients (young and old alike) consumed less calories and exercised more with dismal results. He reviews the medical literature on the effects of refined carbohydrates and sugar on insulin and other hormones. He explains how sustained high insulin levels cause insulin resistance and weight gain. He clearly and decisively explains how 100 calories of sugar or flour effects the human body in a manner immensely different from 100 calories of broccoli.

“Have you ever seen anyone get fat from eating too much broccoli?”

Most importantly, Dr. Fung provides the solution that has helped hundreds of his patients. The solution is elimination of refined carbohydrates and sugar in combination with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting (consuming only water, coffee, tea, broth) for 24 -36 hours a few to several times per month helps to reset the brain’s set point for body weight. When combined with restriction of sugar and refined carbohydrate (foods made with flour) intermittent fasting presents a powerful tool to not only lose weight but to manage diabetes and prevent the many complications of obesity and diabetes.

Intermittent fasting increases the human metabolic rate, Your body actually burns more calories at rest per hour during fasting. The effects of intermittent fasting are distinctly different from what has been referred to as the “starvation response”. The “starvation response” ironically and confusingly refers to human studies that restricted (reduced) caloric intake but continued low calorie meals throughout the day.  It is unfortunate that those studies coined the term “starvation response” which is a decrease in resting metabolic rate. Caloric restriction diets reduce the human metabolic rate and therein lies the cause for the failure of all caloric restriction diets.

The confusion of these two approaches and their effects on human metabolism have clouded the discussion of obesity for decades.

Dr. Fung’s communication skills can be enjoyed by reading his book and viewing his many talks on YouTube.

His book and lectures should be mandatory for every medical student, physician, nutritionist and public health official. His book’s exhaustive medical references document the science that supports his theory and his clinical solution.

So take a leap, click on the link above for his book and the links below for some of his videos which are free on-line.

I think that Dr. Fung’s book is the most important book published on this topic in the 21st Century. His work will have profound influence during the next few decades. I encourage you to enjoy his genius.

Bob Hansen MD

The BigFatFix, a crowd funded film that explores the proper nutritional approach to diabetes epidemic

This new film created by a GP in UK, funded by small contributions, describes how elimination of added sugar and implementation of carbohydrate restriction can cure diabetes and result in weight loss. The film also covers how the low-fat craze, based on bad science (ignoring the full data) began with Ancel Keyes and evolved into arguably the worst public health disaster experienced by the modern world.