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Medical Research: Low Fat vs. Low Carbohydrate Diet–Which One Promotes Weight Loss?

The debate between following a low-fat, weight-loss diet and eating to lower carbohydrates and thereby lose weight appears to be settled after a large medical study. Some people, including many ketogenic and paleo dieters, believe cutting back on carbohydrates helps them lose weight. Others, including many physicians and medical centers, promote diets that cut back on saturated fats found in red meats and dairy products, as recommended by the US Department of Agriculture in its Food Pyramid.

food pyramid
The official USDA Food Pyramid

In a 600-person, year-long study, the two eating styles helped dieters drop almost exactly the same number of pounds — and there didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason as to who succeeded on which plan.

Going into the study, which was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers wanted to settle the debate but they also wanted to know if blood insulin levels or genotype had an effect on weight loss.

High blood levels of insulin are a sign of insulin resistance, which often precedes Type 2 diabetes. Many believe high serum insulin promotes storing calories as fat. Researchers looked at the genetic profile of each participant and determined which ones had particular genetic traits thought to lead to weight gain. To the researchers’ surprise, neither genetic predisposition nor high insulin levels had any effect.

Results show you can lose weight with either eating plan

People studied were between 18 and 50 years old, and all overweight or obese but otherwise healthy. They attended nutrition classes taught by a health educator. There were no calorie restrictions. Everyone was directed to minimize their intake of sugars, refined flours, and trans fats. At the same time, they were encouraged to eat vegetables and nutrient-dense foods.  Everyone was encouraged to adopt healthy habits like cooking at home and sitting down for structured meals with family members.

As you would expect, not everyone on the diets lost weight and some had dramatic losses. The outliers were one individual who gained 20 pounds and another who lost 60. However, the average weight loss in each group was almost identical: 11 pounds in the low-fat group, compared to 13 pounds in the low-carb group.

“It’s not so much about that food — it’s really about [changing] this crazy way that Americans eat.”

About 30% of people in the study had a genetic signature that, in theory, should have pointed to success on the low-fat diet, while 40% had a low-carb “profile”. But the data didn’t show any strong similarity between these genetic markers and weight loss on the corresponding diet. Neither did measures of insulin resistance, which the team also thought would be related to success.

The successful dieters, regardless of which group they were in, credited their achievement to a reframed relationship with food. They began eating more mindfully, cooking at home more often and focusing on whole foods instead of processed, packaged foodstuff.

According to the lead researcher, Christopher D. Gardner, Ph.D., “That was more powerful than differentiating between low-carb or low-fat. Just getting them to be a lot more mindful about what they were eating. It’s not so much about that food — it’s really about [changing] this crazy way that Americans eat.”

What about your diet?

These articles may also interest you.

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/maximize-nutrition/

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/a-ketogenic-diet-improves-me-cfs-symptoms/

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waterfall

Serenity for Spoonies #4

This is the fourth installment of photographs that help me relax. By publishing them I hope to give a bit of serenity to the lives of spoonies everywhere. If you don’t know what a spoonie is, here’s a brief article that explains it.

quays
Photographed by Rich Jones
waterfall
Waterfalls always calm me. Must be the supercharged oxygen they give off when you stand near them.
landscape
Stylized landscape photographed by Paxson Woelber

Let me know if there are particular themes you would like to see in these photos.

 

acetaminophen bottle

Medical Research: Pain Med Has Unexpected Effect On Sex Hormones, Blood Sugar Measurement

acetaminophen bottle
This commonly used painkiller has a hidden side.

A recent examination of patients taking acetaminophen (Tylenol ) for pain unexpectedly found that the common painkiller alters sex hormones. If taken during pregnancy it may cause male babies to be born with urogenital malformations. (Source)

Acetaminophen (APAP) has been in use for over 50 years, but researchers still don’t know all the ways it works in the body.

The effect on one sex hormone was roughly equivalent to the effect of 35 years of aging, or the normal decrease in levels seen in menopause. Fortunately, the effect only lasts for 48 hours if no additional APAP is taken

Taking APAP every day for pain causes some hormones to become menopausal–regardless of age.

Acetaminophen also causes false highs, by a rather large margin, in people with continuous glucose monitors, according to another study reported in Diabetes Care. This obviously is a concern for the many diabetics who use continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), which is swiftly becoming the standard of care for Type 1 diabetics.

Blood Sugar Measurement Also Affected

For example, three patients in the study had blood glucose meter values less than 70 mg/dL with much higher CGM readings — 63 vs 138 mg/dL, 46 vs 175 mg/dL, and 51 vs 184 mg/dL.

glucometer
New technology should eliminate false high blood sugar readings.

In 10 patients, the CGM values read higher than 180 mg/dL, but the meter reading was over 100 mg/dL lower. The effect appears to be limited to CGM since finger stick glucometer readings were used as a control.

Newer blood sugar measurement technology under development will take this consequence into account. Until then people who use CGM need to be aware of the APAP effect.

The study that found the sex hormone effect with APAP also was able to shed light on how the painkiller works in the body. People who took acetaminophen had very low levels of neurosteroids made by the brain itself, such as pregnenolone sulfate and DHEAS [dehydroepiandrosterone]. The drug also works with three distinct metabolic pathways–one of them being the endocannabinoid system, which produces marijuana-like molecules.

This may explain the calming effects experienced by some individuals and acetaminophen’s use as a mild sedative in children. The uncertainty and growing number of proposed mechanisms raise the possibility that there are further actions involving central nervous system (CNS) cell receptors. (Source)

The findings are significant because they show how the body is impacted by seemingly innocuous everyday medications. There are hundreds of other drugs that no one has done this research for.

 

 

 

A Ketogenic Diet Improves ME/CFS Symptoms

No doubt you’ve heard or read about a ketogenic diet, going keto or even just keto as the newest diet trend. Actually, a ketogenic diet is much more than a trend. “Ketogenic” is a term for a low-carb diet (like the Atkins diet). The basic idea is to get more calories from protein and fat and much less from carbohydrates. It was originally developed to use with children who had seizures many times each day. Now it is promoted for weight loss, improving athletic performance and halting inflammation.

Most of the carbs that are easy to digest, like sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread are the first to go.

These types of processed carbs start to change into sugar molecules in your mouth. Take a piece of white bread and hold it in your mouth for a few minutes. You will be surprised at how sweet the piece of bread becomes–thanks to the work of enzymes in saliva.

I’ve been half-heartedly following a sort-of keto diet for the past year or so. I started it to lose weight, but never went fully keto even after I lost 10 pounds. At this time, I was baking sourdough bread using an ancient wheat variety called Einkorn. The loaves were so healthy and tasty I didn’t want to give up bread. Also, I was concerned about following a strict keto diet when my underlying health was so poor. My conventional medical training scared me off of it.

Ketosis is a mild form of ketoacidosis

Any extremely low (20-30 grams) or no-carbohydrate diet forces the body into a state of ketosis. This occurs when people eat a low/no-carb diet and molecules called ketones build up in their bloodstream. Low carbohydrate intake causes blood sugar levels to drop. The body begins breaking down fat to use as energy. A body in ketosis is actually a mild form of ketoacidosis, the leading cause of death for people under 24 with Type 1 diabetes. I saw several patients in ketoacidosis when I worked in hospitals. It was always an emergency. Additionally, I had a patient die from ketoacidosis when I was doing home-based medical care.

I searched the literature for ketogenic diet research on this damn disease. However, no studies were done on the effects of ketogenic diets in Chronic fatigue syndrome. Some CFS clinicians recommend ketogenic diets as a management strategy[9][10] citing mitochondrial[11]immune, and neuroinflammation as pathways through which ketogenic diets could confer some benefit (Source). A ketogenic diet is well-known for the way it reduces inflammation, especially in the brain.

Char, from Chronically Hopeful, started going keto last year about this time. Here’s her story.

I often get asked what this ketogenic diet has done for me. What benefits have I had? Why should somebody give up those delicious carbs and starchy foods? Are the benefits really worth the sacrifice? In this post I’ll explain my journey so far. In short, in my opinion, the answer is yes – it’s […]

via How the ketogenic diet reduced my ME/CFS symptoms — Chronically Hopeful

In her blog, Char writes about following Dr. Sarah Myhill, a British doctor running her own specialist M.E. clinic in Wales, United Kingdom. Her website is an extensive resource of articles and information based on her treatment of patients. The website runs to 920 web pages and has had over 6 million individual visits. Dr. Myhill believes the disease is characterized by a cellular mitochondrial dysfunction and has published several studies.[1][2][3][4] She has treated in excess of 10,000 CFS/ME sufferers over her 30-year career (Source).

Tracking Protein, Carbs and Fat AKA The Macros

So, with Char’s results in mind, and a long look through Dr. Myhill’s site, I started back on a ketogenic diet, one that is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat. This time I’m using a smartphone app to track my carbs, protein and fat intake to be certain I get enough nutrition and remain in ketosis. Again, I have Char to thank for her instructions.

The thought of tracking macros scares many people into delaying their keto journey, but it’s really not as complicated at it might seem. There are some great tools available that make the whole process so easy. 40 more words

via How to set up a macro tracking app for your ketogenic diet, part 2 — Chronically Hopeful

So, with Char’s results in mind, and a long look through Dr. Myhill’s site, I started back on a ketogenic diet, one that is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat. This time I’m using a smartphone app to track my carbs, protein and fat intake to be certain I get enough nutrition and remain in ketosis. Again, I have Char to thank for her blog entry.

My lean body mass, the weight I would be at if there were no fat clogging things up is 108 pounds. I think I weighed that in grade school. 😉 That means I should shoot for 65 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbs and a whopping 132 grams of fat.

So here we are, the second day into my ketosis journey–but hopefully not ketoacidosis. I’m almost 66, overweight and have a family history of Type 2 diabetes so this is a real possibility.  However, I wasn’t diabetic the last time my blood sugar levels were tested. But I will be careful and listen to my body and its signals.

If you have questions or comments, please enter them below.

 

health check puzzle piece

Home Medicine Course Teaches Skills You Can Use To Heal Yourself

Marjory Wildcraft is famous in the permaculture/gardening/prepper niches for her no-nonsense way of approaching just about everything. She’s put together a Home Medicine video class series I want to share with you. I took the course last year. Even though I’m a nurse practitioner and natural medicine expert, there were still things I learned for the first time and a bunch that I was reminded I already knew but had forgotten.

Many of us with chronic illness rely on doctors to know what is wrong. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. If you find yourself in a situation where doctors dismiss your complaints as anxiety or some other psychological cause, you need to take this course.

woman standing next to hoop house
Marjory Wildcraft standing next to the hoop house she used for shade cover at her Texas farm.

 

Our bodies have a wonderful way of healing themselves if we don’t muck it up too bad. I’m not saying someone with chronic pain can think their way out of it, or that MS is not a real illness. What I am saying is that we need to take control of our health. The best way is to listen to your body. The second best way is to take the Home Medicine 101 course.

Here’s a post that Marjory wrote.

My teenage son coughed and spoke in a hoarse voice “Mom, have you got something for my cold?”

I felt a rush of happiness at his question. I know that seems strange – and I was deeply concerned by all the mucus and congestion – but what made me happy was his faith in my remedies.

He knew the medicines I had were ones I had either made myself…something that I pulled from the pantry…or possibly it would be something I had grown in the garden.

Over the years he had seen me heal the various troubles that come up in every family. He didn’t know the specifics himself, but he knew that I had good medicine and there wouldn’t a trace of those chemicals mentioned in such tiny print you can’t even read it on the bottle.

It didn’t used to be this way.

Like a lot of people, I had a fast-paced, high-stress life with an investment company I had created.

herbs, garlic, oil
Many medicines have ingredients found in the kitchen

When any of us got sick – and it seemed to happen often – my husband, David, or I simply ran to the nearest drugstore, picked up two or three of the various brands of syrup or capsules, and hoped for the best.

We didn’t really know any better.

My son was a small toddler when I first decided to become my family’s primary caregiver. I’ll never forget the day I was on the phone with an attorney – in a fight with a shoddy building contractor – and I saw my son crawling around and playing with his toys on the floor of our home office.

I realized that if I didn’t start changing how I lived I would miss all the joys of really being with my kids. Here I was on the phone with a lawyer, and there was my son playing without me. I would miss everything that I had signed up for when I became a parent.

Including taking care of them when they were sick

Changing my life took many steps. I wound down my financial services company and left Austin, Texas for the small rural community of Red Rock. David and I began cultivating the land and growing our own food. Over time, I became a happier, healthier individual. The good food and the daily exercise made me feel young again.

But even before that, one of the first, simple steps I took toward escaping the clutches of the system was to learn about home medicine and quit depending on pharmacy drugs.

health check puzzle piece
Using home medicine to treat yourself is best.

Fortunately, I had an excellent herbalist teacher who guided me through all the most common ailments for a family; fevers, coughs, colds, bites, stings, wounds, stomach aches, and more. She showed me how to take care of my family with simple materials and techniques; most of which I already had on hand. Through the years I’ve used all I’ve learned and kept my family healthy and happy. 

And now my grown son comes to me when he needs help.These days my family is astonishingly healthy, and this cold is a bit of a rarity. But I am so grateful that his first thoughts are to ask his family for help – and not some big pharmaceutical company.

I believe that 90% of a family’s medical needs can be taken care of at home with herbal remedies. These techniques have been used and handed down for generations because they are effective.

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is an e-course that teaches natural first aid remedies for common afflictions.

Bonuses!

✔  Live Q&A Webinar with Herbal Medicine Master Educator, Dr. Patrick Jones.February 28th, at 8pm CST

✔  Edible Flowers: Their Culinary and Medicinal Uses by Kami McBride (a digital video)

✔  Apocalypse Apothecary,by Dr. Patrick Jones (a digital video)

Here’s a link to a site that will explain all that is waiting for you in the videos.

 

 

Farmers market

How Eating Locally & Seasonally Helps My Chronic Illness

Equations were never my strength. Even before ME/CFS I couldn’t remember the common ones, like how to find an area of something. If someone looked at me funny because of it, I reminded them that Albert Einstein never memorized his phone number. He didn’t want to crowd his brain with information that could easily be found. That usually shut them up. 😉

Anyhow, here’s an equation that even I can remember.

Saving Money=Sustainable Nutrition=Healthier Body

It’s not news that we are living in a nation of quick and easy meals from a box, freezer or the bag handed through a drive-up. fast-food-pickup

It isn’t easy to eat healthily and sustainably, especially on a budget. Here’s how I manage it.

Starting with produce, I check organic prices and if there is a good conventional produce sale. Most of the time the loss-leaders are on the Dirty Dozen list, so I don’t buy them. Once in while I can snap up a great bargain–like a couple of months ago when organic avocados were selling 2/$1 because they were all ripening too fast.

You don’t know about the Dirty Dozen list (not the Steve McQueen movie)? Each year the Environmental Working Group looks at all the pesticides applied to all the crops grown for sale in the US and assigns each fruit or vegetable a rank in comparison to each other. The top 12 “winners” are called the Dirty Dozen.

Farmers market
Local Farmers Markets are the best for purchasing local produce.

Summer fruit and veggies I don’t grow myself are bought at one or more of the local Farmers Markets. Here I can talk directly with the grower and be certain no pesticides were used–especially glyphosate (RoundUp®).

While I’m at the Market, I also buy pastured pork products from a family farm where the pigs roam about and don’t receive antibiotics to grow faster. My beef is grass-fed and raised on a friend’s farm where the cattle receive excellent care.

I used to do public relations for the top crop seed breeder in the US. As part of this, we spent time in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska where a whole lot of feedlots hold a whole lot of cattle. These steers spend the final months of their lives, sometimes up to their knees in manure, in a crowded feedlot with cattle they never met before. No wonder grass-fed tastes better. Just think of the stress those feedlot animals are under!

If you want to eat better for less, these are good ways to cut your food budget:

EAT LESS MEAT

Even when bought in bulk, meat from animals that have the freedom to wander pastures is expensive. Organic is not as necessary to purchase as beef that is 100% grass fed. Why is this important? First, grass-fed cattle are on pastures all spring, summer, and fall here in Wisconsin. They can remain outdoors even during winter in many other areas of the country so you know they are as close to having a good life as it’s possible for cattle to have.

cows on meadow
Grass-fed beef is superior to conventionally raised.

Second, grass-fed beef has a very good nutritional profile compared to conventionally raised steers. This meat has less total fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more conjugated linoleic acid and more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E (Source).

Although my freezer is still full of freezer paper wrapped roasts, steaks, hamburger, we don’t have meat at every meal. You could try observing a Meatless Monday for a few weeks. Then look at the difference in your grocery budget. There are lots of vegetarian main dishes you can find online

If you are interested in some of my recipes, let me know in the comments. I was a good cook when I was working. However, I didn’t really have time for something that couldn’t go in the crockpot or on the table in less than an hour.

When I started getting better I began to change my eating habits. This inevitably leads to learning how to cook all over again. I love that I now know the most nutritious ways to prepare meals and snacks, but I know I would find it more difficult if I were still working. Soaking beans and grains, making sourdough bread, and accounting for the time my Instant Pot needs to naturally release before opening all take more planning than I was up to when working.

The obvious solution is a multi-generational home. Grandparents would be the traditional cooks and childcare providers for their children’s families. Sadly, I don’t see that happening much around me or with me. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like living with my daughter and her family (husband, 2 girls, dog) and it’s all good. Until I remember they live in the Washington DC/Baltimore Metroplex. 

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes. Here it is.

BUY IN BULK

Grocery stores are offering more and more healthy choices. Frequently, they will have a bulk foods department that may or may not contain organics. Conventional granola, trail mix and sesame sticks bought in bulk are an environmentally responsible choice even if they aren’t all that healthy. If you want to be super PC, buy from the local health food cooperative, natural foods store or buyers club. pexels-photo-458796.jpeg

I buy in bulk whenever possible because of things like steel cut oats at half the price of the imported can. For example, splitting a quarter of a cow. I have a small chest freezer, but my friend who split the purchase with me got everything from her half of a quarter into her side-by-side freezer.

EAT SEASONALLY

Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are more expensive, not to mention less sustainable, because of the fuel and other resources used in transport from other areas with different growing seasons. Buying local is, by definition, buying seasonally. It’s good for you in several areas. Traditional medicine, like Ayurveda from India and Chinese Medicine, stresses eating seasonally because of the way our bodies have evolved. When we are in tune with the environment, we can heal and then maintain our wellbeing. Most importantly, eating locally grown food in season is much less expensive at both ends of the marketplace transaction.

For example, my friend, Mary, who milks cows and raises grass-fed beef and pork, has few to no marketing expenses.  I see her at the Farmers Market where I and many others buy individual cuts and put in orders for bulk beef. Before selling directly to the consumer, Mary had to settle for what cattle futures were the day she shipped steers to the feedlot. Now she can sell at a price that keeps her profitable. Would you believe Mary sold bulk beef for the same per pound price this fall as in the autumn of 2015? (No special favors. The price was the same for everyone buying her beef.) What other food has remained the same price over the same period? pexels-photo-709817.jpeg

Fruits and vegetables reach their nutritional peak at the same time they are harvested. This, conveniently, is also when they taste best. According to the University of California-Davis, as a bell pepper progresses from green to red it gains 11 times more beta-carotene and one and a half times more vitamin C.

Once a fruit or vegetable is harvested it begins to lose nutrients and taste within the first hour. The USDA’s Table of Nutrient Retention Factors shows frozen fruit, in most cases, is more nutritious than fresh fruit that was picked before ripening and transported from who knows how far away.

If you’re not familiar with Farmers Markets, call the local reference librarian and ask. If your community has 211 phone service you can use them, too. Most often, you’ll find something if you ask around. Local Harvest is a clearinghouse for small farms raising healthy plants and animals. You pop in your zip code and nearby farmers who register with them pop back at you.

With all the new things in the produce department these days it can be hard to tell if a certain fruit or vegetable is in season. You can find a produce person at the store and ask them. And don’t forget to make room in your budget to purchase organic produce on the Dirty Dozen list. I’ve read you can break down some pesticide residue with a brief (10 min) soaking in a sink full of cold water and about a quarter cup of white vinegar.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Recipe requests? Let me know below.

Here are similar posts you may like.

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/maximize-nutrition/

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/diet-therapy/