Nora Gedgaudas

Making the switch from Carbovore to Carnivore

Making the switch from Carbovore to Carnivore

So what are carbohydrates, anyway? Carbohydrates, as a class of dietary macronutrients basically include sugars, starches (both natural and refined), and fibrous plant foods. Although there is ample evidence that our prehistoric ancestors included a certain amount of carbohydrate in their diet as they needed or wanted in order to survive, or as climatic or seasonal conditions allowed; we make the case as to why it may not be the best idea for you and I to follow suit – at least when it comes to dietary sugars and starches. Even the natural ones. You might want to fasten your seatbelt for this one.

So what are carbohydrates, anyway? Carbohydrates, as a class of dietary macronutrients basically include sugars, starches (both natural and refined), and fibrous plant foods. Although there is ample evidence that our prehistoric […]

What kinds of foods are we talking about?

When we talk about “carbs” in this program we are mainly referring to foods that have a significant amount of sugar and/or starch content.  Some of the foods that fit this category include:

  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Corn
  • Noodles
  • Crackers
  • Muffins
  • Bagels
  • Sweets
  • Sodas/sports drinks
  • Fruits/fruit juice
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Flour products
  • Arrowroot powder
  • Chips
  • Starchy root vegetables
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Table sugar
  • Agave syrup
  • Coconut nectar sweetener

SUGARS:

  • Burn most efficiently anaerobically (in low oxygen conditions)
  • Serve as a turbo-charged form of “rocket fuel” for emergencies and profound exertion
  • The body is unable to store more than roughly 2,000 kcal of glucose (as glycogen) in the muscles and liver at any given time (sort of like a booster rocket…it won’t get you to the moon but it gives you a short burst of acceleration)
  • Need constant replenishment if you are dependent upon them as your primary source of fuel
  • May be viewed analogously as “kindling” for our metabolic fires

ALSO:

  • Glucose is the primary form of carbohydrate used for energy in the body
  • Glucose is an anaerobic fuel (burns most efficiently away from the presence of oxygen)
  • Glucose serves as a turbo-charged source of quick mental/physical energy
  • Carbohydrates comprise no more than @ 2% of human body structure (certain types of connective tissue)
  • Certain carbohydrates can provide forms of immune support (in the form of glyconutrients), which we manufacture internally
  • Starches are just long strings of sugar molecules and break down into simple sugars very quickly, once eaten, spiking your blood sugar levels often even faster than simple sugars do since starches are so concentrated.  Cereals, white potatoes and white rice spike your blood sugar the fastest.
  • What are referred to as “resistant starches” are more commonly and popularly discussed of late.  Resistant starches are basically raw, uncooked root vegetables and things like green plantains that contain starch that isn’t digestable by humans (in other words, they aren’t even food for us), but it is believed by some that these can be beneficial to your gut bacteria.  They tend not to taste very good and can create even bigger problems in those who have less a healthy gut bacteria profile—a condition called “dysbiosis”.  When bad bacteria dominate your gut (and that’s not to uncommon), then feeding those tends to cause even more problems.  Many people get bad gas, bloating and discomfort eating these “resistant starches”.  Good times.  –Hey–whatever floats your boat.
  • At any given time we don’t normally have more than about 5 grams  (that’s only about 20 kcal) of glucose—less than a teaspoonful—floating around in our bloodstream.  A small bagel or two slices of bread each might have about 6 teaspoons of sugar—that’s SIX TIMES the amount your body normally allows!  The physiological response to this is neither trivial nor benign.

It is also true that fibrous “above ground” vegetables and greens (both very low in sugar and starches) also are technically considered carbohydrates.  These members of the carbohydrate family are the “good guys”, which generally offer clear benefit to us, and no real downside.  Although there is a popular perception that Paleo-type diets are all about eating lots of meat and no vegetables, this is NOT what we are advocating as an approach in The Paleo Way program.  You will be enjoying a lot of these prepared in an enormous and delicious variety of ways.  Those adopting this way of eating will not only be allowed, but encouraged to incorporate as many non-glycemic plant-based foods as you can or want. There are no restrictions with respect to non-glycemic plant foods.  It is dietary sugars and starches–even from natural sources–that we are proposing that you to significantly limit or eliminate.

Why should we want to eliminate dietary sugars and starches? Don’t we actually need to eat them?

The answer to the last question is an emphatic NO. We do not need to eat them and never did.  Dietary sugars and starch were never something we were designed to have as a significant part of our diet.  Our access to them in Paleolithic times was quite limited and our bodies undergo a variety of unhealthy compromises when we consume them—and especially when we consume them daily.

 

“There is no evidence what so ever the human body has any dietary requirement for the nutrient class of carbohydrate (i.e. there is no defined condition associated with not consuming carbs).” Dr. Jeff Volek

Dr. Jeff Volek is Associate Professor in the #1 ranked Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut and low carbohydrate expert

Usually when you hear someone talking about a “low-carb” diet, they are almost always referring to a diet that is very low in sugars and starches (in other words, “utilizable” carbohydrates).  Fibrous vegetables and greens do contain a very small amount of sugar/starch, but in largely negligible quantities.  They are more dominated by cellulose (fiber), often together with accompanying beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants.

It is important to point out that all starchy carbohydrates are ultimately sugar once they have been digested by you and invariably hit your bloodstream.  When we consume them they typically produce what is called a glycemic response (a rapid rise in blood sugar) that stimulates the release of the hormone, insulin.

Insulin’s job is to take excess nutrients in our diet and either move them into your cells for immediate energy (as much as possible) and/or move them into some form of storage. In the case of starchy carbohydrates, once they have broken down into glucose, insulin attempts to move that into your cells for immediate, emergency energy. If you don’t happen to be in the middle of some form of emergency like being chased by a hungry lion (or some other need for heroic exertion), then insulin will move some limited amount of the remaining glucose into your muscles and liver, in the storage form of glycogen.  The rest gets converted into triglycerides in your liver (blood fats) and then moves out into your bloodstream to go store itself in places you’d probably rather not have it.

Has your doctor ever told you that you had high triglycerides?  You need to realize that having high triglycerides on your blood chemistry report is always the product of dietary sugars and starches—and not dietary fat.  It is one of the telltale signs of a “carbovore”.  Most dietary fats are absorbed through your lymphatic system and not your bloodstream.  The few that do bypass biliary digestion and get absorbed into the portal blood (like medium chain fats found in things like coconut oil or short chained fats found in things like butter and ghee) are readily converted to energy (in the form of ketones) and usually cannot be stored as body fat.

Also, Having HDL levels under about 55 mg/dL also tends to imply more of a sugary/starchy carbohydrate-based diet, as does having a Hemoglobin A1C much above 5.5.  The telltale signs are many.  –Love handles also come to mind…

Interestingly, as much as we refer to insulin in the same breath as we speak about excess blood sugar, it’s important to point out that insulin is not really a blood sugar hormone.  We weren’t designed to eat very much sugar or starch and we actually don’t even have a dietary requirement for that.  As such, our bodies tend not to deal with consuming it habitually very well at all.  Virtually every molecule of sugar you consume over and above what you need in that moment for some form of extreme anaerobic exertion or other kind of emergency is actually pretty much considered excess calories.  Your body is otherwise more or less obsessed with maintaining the lowest level of blood sugar possible or necessary at any given time, since sugar is so very damaging to our tissues.  Insulin’s job is to take excess nutrients like carbs and also excess protein and put them into storage for later use in case of a famine.

SO IF INSULIN ISN’T OUR BLOOD SUGAR HORMONE, WHAT IS?

Our actual true blood sugar hormones (we have a few of them) all have the effect of up-regulating blood sugar in case we really need it:  hormones like glucagon, adrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine), cortisol, and growth hormone stimulate the production of glucose in case it is needed for rocket fuel or anabolic (growth) purposes.  Otherwise, we only need a tiny amount of glucose to fuel our red blood cells (the only tissues in our body for which glucose is actually essential).  Also, our immune system uses certain forms of glyconutrients for it’s healthy functioning.   Less than 2% of our actual physical body structure is made up of carbohydrates, which is mostly connective tissue and cartilage (which are made up of other types of glyconutrients–glucosamine and chondroitin)—ALL of which can be manufactured without ever eating a single molecule of sugar or starch!  In fact, there is literally no thing as a human carbohydrate dietary requirement or deficiency.  –A clinically hypoglycemic person might experience some extreme symptoms when their blood sugar dips too low, but this still is not because dietary carbohydrates are foundationally required by them or anyone else—It is because that person has developed an unnatural dependence upon sugar as their primary source of fuel and they happen to physiologically handle this very poorly.  The solution is not eating more sugar (which only perpetuates the unhealthy cycle), but instead the answer lies in improving their insulin and leptin sensitivity by switching their reliance for primary fuel from sugar to fat—in the form of ketones and free fatty acids.

Assuming a state of healthy ketogenic adaptation (a process that takes about 3-6 weeks to develop–and about two months to reap the fuller benefits of), we are able to readily get all the sugar we need in our bodies from two different biochemical processes:  Glycogenolysis (which we mobilize glucose from its storage places in our livers and muscle) or Gluconeogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from fats and proteins).  Easy peasy!

WHAT ABOUT BLOOD SUGAR?

Blood sugars do damage to your blood vessels, tissues and organs throughout your body through a process known as “glycation” or “glycosylation” and/or “fructosylation”.  All of these terms basically refer to the way in which sugar molecules attach themselves to and combine with proteins and fats in the body and cause them to become sticky and misshapen in a way that causes them to start to malfunction.

Nature in Her Wisdom is eminently practical.  She didn’t design us to have to depend on just one type of fuel.  We have the ability to make use of both sugars and fats as our primary source of fuel.  We can make use of protein for energy, too—but only after it has been converted into sugar (which is not the healthiest way to get it).  We as humans are all metabolically adapted to being one of two things: we are each either primarily a fat burner or a sugar burner.  A diet that is dominated by carbohydrates—something entirely foreign to our ancient Paleolithic ancestors– generates a physiologically reluctant adaptation to becoming dependent on glucose as your primary source of fuel.

This is an unnatural state and one that is invariably damaging to your health, as you will soon understand.

Even so, you WILL crave carbohydrates if you are adapted to being dependent upon glucose as your primary source of fuel!

Only in modern times, however, have we humans ever created an emergency need to LOWER blood sugar through the chronic demand for insulin.  We are extremely poorly adapted to this modern need.  The chronic need for insulin only ages us and makes us susceptible to metabolic and degenerative illness, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer (just for starters).

An article in the Salk Institute News Release in the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in 2007 cited and described a research study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

“Insulin is very effective at lowering blood sugar, and promotes fat storage, preparing the animal for times when food may not be available,” he says. “But when the hormone [insulin] is produced at too high a level for too long, the body becomes insulin resistant and blood sugar and certain blood lipids gradually creep up, which can cause progressive damage to multiple organs.”[1]

All by itself, and even in very small quantities sugar has an inherently damaging effect on our tissues by generating a process known as “glycation”.  There is no special threshold for this, by the way. Any amount of blood sugar (even supposedly normal levels) have at least some damaging effect.

According to researchers in the peer-reviewed journal, Diabetologia in 2001, “Glycation is concentration-dependent”, basically meaning that the more sugar you have in your bloodstream, the more damage is done.  There is no “minimum safe dose” for sugar. [2]  Glycation is a process by which sugars will combine with proteins (including your DNA) and fats in our bodies and cause them to become sticky, misshapen, and start to malfunction.  What are referred to as advanced glycation end-products, or A.G.E.’s as a result of all this literally are responsible for aging us in the least desirable way– leading to inflammation and the deterioration of our joints, our organ function, our immune system and (most ominously of all) our brains and nervous systems. [3]

The development of diabetes progresses through this exact same process. Technically, all advancing glycation is part-and-parcel of the diabetic process, so definitions can start to become a bit murky.  One could even venture to say (and would not be technically wrong) that we are all at least “a little diabetic”; it’s just a matter of to what degree.  Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD, an internationally known metabolic expert also known for his groundbreaking work with diabetes sees it exactly this way:

“We are all metabolically damaged to some extent. None of us has perfect insulin and leptin sensitivity. Furthermore, there is no absolute demarcation between diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and so-called “normal, nondiabetic”. The classification of diabetes as a fasting sugar of 126 or above is arbitrary, as is the classification of impaired fasting glucose being a fasting sugar of 100 to 125. We all suffer from non-enzymatic (non-controlled) glycation and the same damage and diseases, for the same reasons, that occur in so-called diabetics. Furthermore, the diagnosis of diabetes as a disease of blood glucose is extremely archaic. It is not a disease of blood glucose, but a disease of what is directing it, namely hormones and namely insulin and leptin. And, as I stated above, none of us have perfect insulin and leptin signaling. It is for that reason that I say that we all have diabetes, some more than others, and should all be treated as such.”

Insulin’s actual biological purpose, however– and this is true in everything from yeast and microscopic worms to primates, whether they have blood sugar or not, or whether they even have blood– is the coordination of energy stores with reproduction and lifespan.  Insulin is a growth factor.  When we eat excesses of (or pretty much any) sugar it sends a message to insulin that excess (not immediately usable) calories are present and that this might be a good time to reproduce; which is something that tends to require a lot of energy.  Excess protein influences both insulin and a very specialized metabolic pathway that is sensitive to how much protein you eat called mTOR (mammalian Target of Rapamycin) that in turn winds up bolstering insulin levels for the same purpose.  Insulin and mTOR then (in either/both cases) proceed to up-regulate growth, or cellular proliferation.  If you happen to be pregnant, or an infant, child or teen and have a requirement for rapid cellular division and growth then that is fine, though there is never any need for consuming any carbohydrates for this. Sugars and starches are always much more apt to create long-term problems than they are to improve anyone’s health and wellbeing, literally ever.

All that being said, if you don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories and you are simply an adult trying to maintain or enhance your health and longevity then this insulin response runs the risk of being quite detrimental in a variety of ways.  For one thing, we live in a fairly toxic world today and are exposed, whether we know it or not, to innumerable potentially toxic and mutagenic compounds that can make unhealthy changes to our DNA.

What happens when a damaged or mutated cell gets the signal to start replicating?

You guessed it: Cancer.  And guess what cancer feeds upon and needs most in order to grow and survive?  You guessed it again:  Sugar.

Mind you, all of us regularly develop cancer cells in our bodies and rely upon a well functioning immune system to beat them back—so it stands to reason that we all must be vigilant about this issue.  –Not paranoid, mind you, but aware.

Do you really want to throw kerosene on that ember?

Healthy cells are actually healthier and do better when they are running on ketones and free fatty acids—but cancer cells absolutely require sugar in order to survive.  Sugar is cancer’s key fuel.  Cancer doesn’t even know what to do with ketones.

In a study of 33,230 men in 2010 published in the peer-reviewed journal, Metabolism, high glucose levels were independently associated with a 38% increase in digestive cancers![4]

Also, “Cancer cells metabolize glucose at elevated rates and have a higher sensitivity to glucose reduction…The altered gene expression was partly due to glucose restriction-induced DNA methylation changes…Collectively, these results provide new insights into the epigenetic mechanisms of a nutrient control strategy that may contribute to cancer therapy as well as antiaging approaches.”[5]

Again, this next research study clearly shows how glucose feeds cancer cells and prematurely ages you and how eating less of it can help turn things around.  The authors concluded:

“Cancer cells metabolize glucose at elevated rates and have a higher sensitivity to glucose reduction…The altered gene expression was partly due to glucose restriction-induced DNA methylation changes…Collectively, these results provide new insights into the epigenetic mechanisms of a nutrient control strategy that may contribute to cancer therapy as well as antiaging approaches.”[6]

Even the CBS news magazine program, “60 Minutes” took an interest in all the growing evidence of sugar’s role in the burgeoning cancer epidemic![7]

A 19-year study of 2,438 people published in 2010 shows that elevated and even supposeldy high-normal blood sugar levels markedly increase your risk of dying from cancer. [8] Those having fasting glucose levels averaging around 100 mg/dL (considered by most conventional assessments as acceptably normal) had a 49% increased cancer death risk! Those with post-prandial (following a meal) glucose above 199 mg/d had a 52% increased cancer death risk.

How’s that sweet tooth treating you?

Doesn’t it make sense in light of all the overwhelming evidence to keep your blood sugar as healthfully low as possible?

There are at least nine existing peer-reviewed studies showing a relationship between higher fasting glucose and/or some form of poor blood sugar control and significantly increased cancer risks! [9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17]

More than 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with some form of breast cancer every year and, at least according to the statistics around 41,000 women die from it[18]  It is estimated that 12% of all American women are statistically expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetimes[19]  Doesn’t it seem as though taking a preventative step or two would make sense— especially if that step could also lessen your risk of heart attack, diabetes and dementia, as well as help you lose excess fat on your body and help improve your energy levels and make you less hungry??  There is right now an abundance of published research linking high normal blood sugar levels with a significantly increased breast cancer risk[20],[21],[22],[23]!!

Adopting a high-fat, Paleo-oriented ketogenic diet that essentially eliminates all unnecessary blood sugar seems to hold considerable promise in helping to prevent the number one cause of deadly malignancy in women today!

Why wait?

WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN?  ISN’T ALL THIS JUST LIKE THE ATKINS DIET?

In a word, NO.  There are many differences between the Atkins or South Beach diets and what we are presenting here as optimal as part of The Paleo Way program.  We do not recommend unlimited protein consumption, as many other popular weight loss and Paleo-oriented approaches do.  And it isn’t about calories.  It’s about optimizing our nutrient intake for your best possible health and longevity.  THAT’S what The Paleo Way program is all about!!

Just because our Paleolithic ancestors ate lots and lots of protein every chance they got doesn’t necessarily mean that is good for us to eat lots and lots of protein, too.  Our prehistoric ancestors hunted massively sized mammals for the better part of their 2.5 million year history and lived on a feast or famine schedule.  We have a bit more wiggle room than that.

Good thing, too. But we’ll get to that.

Longevity researchers discovered years ago that there was one universal means of significantly extending the lifespan of almost any and every living organism; and that is through something called “caloric restriction”.  For a long time researchers didn’t know why it worked.  It seemed almost paradoxical, in fact.  Why would any living thing that was deprived of calories be prone to living longer?  At first it was assumed that it was simply the calories, in general that were at issue.  Numerous experiments were done reducing the caloric intake of everything from yeast to primates only to discover that there were tremendous benefits for their health/aging biomarkers and longevity, including a sharp reduction in any instance of cancer (when it came to higher organisms).

The field of human longevity research took a quantum leap forward in the last decade when it unexpectedly came to more fully recognize sugar and insulin’s central role in premature aging and death.[24]

It all started back in the 1990’s when a brilliant UCSF professor of biochemistry and biophysics by the name of Dr. Cynthia Kenyon made the research discovery of the century when she and her team managed to discover the real (and fairly startling) answer to the caloric restriction puzzle.  She was studying little tiny microscopic worms that some readers might remember from high school biology class by the name of planaria (C. elegans).  It turns out that one of these lucky little worms in her laboratory underwent an unexpected genetic mutation that—startlingly–more than doubled its lifespan! [25]  This got the attention of the entire scientific community, since this was the most impressive life extension of any organism that had been recorded to date in a laboratory.

They immediately set about (on the edges of their seats) trying to figure out what that mutation was.  They were entirely unprepared for the shocking answer:  It turns out that the mutated gene (which they affectionally dubbed DAF2) encoded an insulin receptor and had drastically reduced insulin expression in that worm.  Now, you might be asking yourself (forgetting what I just told you) “Why would a microscopic worm have a blood sugar hormone like insulin?”  It turns out that not only is insulin not a blood sugar hormone, per se, but the very ancient insulin molecule itself is actually identical in all organisms.  In other words the insulin found in a yeast cell has the same exact biochemical structure as the insulin found in you!  Blood sugar has nothing whatever to do with it.

Cynthia Kenyon stated in her conclusions that “We found that adding a small amount of glucose to the medium (0.1-2%) shortened the lifespan of C. elegans…Together these findings raise the possibility that a low-sugar diet might have beneficial effects on lifespan in higher organisms”.  (Cell Metab. 2009)

BTW, following the discoveries in her research findings Cynthia also since adopted a higher fat, very low carbohydrate diet not at all unlike the one we are talking about here.  When asked by journalists how her discovery might have changed the way she eats, she answered:  “No desserts. No sweets. No potatoes. No rice. No bread. No pasta. When I say ‘no,’ I mean ‘no, or not much,’ she notes. Instead eat green vegetables. Eat the fruits that aren’t the sweet fruits, like melon. Bananas? Bananas are a little sweet. Meat? Meat, yes, of course. Avocados. All vegetables. Nuts. Fish. Chicken. That’s what I eat. Cheese. Eggs. And one glass of red wine a day.”[26]

Also, an article in PLoS Genetics in 2009 revealed similar findings related to the effect of glucose on aging:

“…excess of glucose has been associated with several diseases, including diabetes and the less understood process of aging. On the contrary, limiting glucose (i.e., calorie restriction) slows aging and age-related diseases in most species…The pro-aging effect of glucose signaling on life span correlated with an increase in reactive oxygen species and a decrease in oxidative stress resistance and respiration rate. Likewise, the anti-aging effect of both calorie restriction and the Dgit3 mutation was accompanied by increased respiration and lower reactive oxygen species production.”[27]

The moderation of protein, however, is another key aspect of The Paleo Way program.  Allow me to explain.

We as humans are absolutely extremely well designed to make use of a large variety of animal source foods as our primary form of nourishment. There can be no rational debate about this in light of human physiological makeup and the preponderance of evidence from the human fossil record. The idea here lies in optimizing our intake of nutrients known to be of benefit to us and not just assuming that “more is better” or that “anything natural and not poisonous is good for us” simply because that happens to be the way our prehistoric ancestors behaved.  It turns out, in fact, that “more” is not better when it comes to protein intake and optimizing your health.  Protein, unlike carbohydrate, IS essential to our diets, but we nearly always do better when we simply consume what we need for our maintenance and repair but not in excess of that.   I talk about this whole subject in greater detail in my book, Primal Body, Primal Mind.  Close to 100 years of research into the benefits of caloric restriction underscores this nicely, and more recent research revealing impact of over-activated mTOR pathways (coupled with Cynthia Kenyon’s findings related to the role that insulin plays in longevity) underscores the wisdom in healthfully limiting the amount a protein we consume (from all sources).

It also happens to be that this makes eating an extremely high quality diet far more affordable!

And not only that—but including as much dietary fat as you might want or need in order to meet your essential fatty acid requirements and satisfy your appetite makes this approach entirely deprivation and craving free!  –It is literally the best of all worlds when it comes to optimizing your health and longevity through eating in a high quality way virtually anyone can afford.  Another concern with consuming protein in excess of what we need for our basic maintenance and repair and healthy lean tissue mass is that a significant amount of any excesses will actually convert to sugar and get used and stored the same way, with the same negative effects on the health of your cells and tissues as well as cancer.

This is why raw food vegan diets are so helpful initially.  They automatically down regulate the need for insulin (if fruit and fruit juice aren’t being over consumed) and it certainly down regulates that mTOR pathway, leading at first to better immune function and accelerated metabolic repair.  –All good for a month or two until your body realizes that it doesn’t know how to extract all of the available nutrition from plant-based foods (unless you happen to have four stomachs), plus the fact that plant-based foods don’t even contain every essential nutrient the human body requires.  The low-fat nature of raw food vegan diets also begins to deplete the body of critical fat-soluble nutrients, many of which can only be gotten from animal source foods.  Things eventually start to downward spiral.  Although this dietary approach is initially cleansing and detoxifying, it is important to point out that cleansing is not rebuilding.  Sooner or later those nutrient deficient chickens will come home to roost and the very part of your body that is likely is to pay the biggest price in a way that may not even be reversible past a certain point is your brain

By the way, there is no evidence whatsoever (zip. nada.) from the human evolutionary fossil record or stable isotopic analysis research to suggest that humans were ever even close to being vegetarians.

A vegetarian diet, almost by definition is a carbohydrate-based diet.  We are nowhere near designed to make the same use of plant foods that cows, sheep, goats and rabbits do.  –Or even Gorillas!  –We may be more closely related to the gorillas, but our digestive system is extremely different (even as gorillas do seem to be smarter than a few people I can think of).

Interestingly, not even an herbivore (including Gorillas) gets their actual calories from carbohydrates!  Roughly 70-80% of an herbivore’s caloric intake comes from the short-chained saturated fats synthesized by their gut bacteria.  We humans can’t derive more than about 5% of any similar caloric intake from the comparatively shorter and smaller human gut biome (and that’s even assuming that our internal wildlife population happens to be a healthy one).

We are deliberately designed by Nature both as mammals and especially as human beings to most healthfully rely upon FAT as our primary source of fuel, and NOT sugar.  Period.  Whether or not this is a common reality or not is irrelevant to the underlying truth.

WHAT ABOUT MY BRAIN?

Excess—or as it turns out even supposedly “normal” blood sugar damages the delicate endothelium that lines your arteries.  This sets the stage not just for coronary heart disease, but also cerebral vascular disease and dementia!

In fact, the human brain and nervous system maybe the most vulnerable tissues of all when it comes to the process of glycation (sugar-related damage) related to dietary sugar and starch. Our brain–made up of delicate fats and generally responding poorly to insulin, becomes a target for inflammation and neurodegeneration in the presence of even slightly elevated glucose.  According to the authors in these recently published studies,

“Higher fasting serum glucose levels in cognitively normal, non-diabetic adults may be associated with Alzheimer’s Disease pathophysiology”[28]

And:

“Our results suggest that higher glucose levels may be a risk factor for dementia, even among persons without diabetes.”[29]

And:

“High plasma glucose levels within the normal range (<6.1 mmol/L) were associated with greater atrophy of structures relevant to aging and neurodegenerative processes, the hippocampus and amygdala. These findings suggest that even in the subclinical range and in the absence of diabetes, monitoring and management of plasma glucose levels could have an impact on cerebral health. If replicated, this finding may contribute to a reevaluation of the concept of normal blood glucose levels and the definition of diabetes.”[30]

PLUS:

“It has been generally assumed that blood glucose in the normal range is not a risk factor for brain health in non-diabetics,” Cherbuin says.

“If the present results are replicated in other studies the definition of normal fasting blood glucose levels and of diabetes may need to be re-evaluated.”
Nicolas Cherbuin, PhD

Neuroscientist at Australian National University in Canberra

From: “Normal Blood Sugar Levels May Harm the Brain: Study Suggests Need to Reconsider What’s Healthy”

MORE FROM THIS ARTICLE WRITTEN ABOUT THESE STARTLING RESEARCH FINDINGS:

‘For the study, Cherbuin, a neuroscientist at Australian National University in Canberra, and his colleagues studied 249 people in their early 60s. Each of them had blood sugar levels in the normal range. At the beginning of the study, and again four years later, the researchers scanned their brains.

Comparing the before and after images, they found significant brain shrinkage among those whose blood sugar levels were high but still below the World Health Organization’s threshold for pre-diabetes. The researchers report that those high levels may account for a 6% to 10% decrease in the volume of the hippocampus and amygdala.

Cherbuin and his team then excluded people who were overweight or obese, and substituted the American Diabetes Association’s stricter normal range for that endorsed by the WHO. The results were virtually the same.’

And finally:

Chirbuin stated, “It is this chronic exposure to high glucose levels that is more likely to lead to poorer brain health.” He cautioned that these findings should not be taken “lightly,” as the association between high normal blood sugar and brain shrinkage was “robust.”[31]

Among the most dreaded and horrific forms of neurodegenerative conditions (and something I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing in my own family), Alzheimer’s disease is now being classified as “type III diabetes” in recognition of sugar’s harmful impact on the health of the human brain.  A dietary fat-based metabolic approach such as the one being presented here in this particular version of a Paleolithic dietary approach has been demonstrated to not only help prevent but even reverse (at least in part) the ravages and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.[32],[33],[34],[35]

The action of glycation on your body’s cells and tissues also attracts what is called “free radical activity” (basically, damaging inflammation), adding further compromise to an already bad situation.

Incorporating a more dietary fat-based approach, on the other hand (while eliminating sugar and starch and moderating your protein intake), actually helps reduce free radical activity and even improves antioxidant activity (which helps protect your tissues from free radicals), while also improving your brain and body’s utilization of oxygen (by up to 39%! [36]) and supplying all of it with an infinitely more stable and reliable source of energy. There is literally no downside to anyone’s long-term health if this is done properly.  In fact, no real (i.e., non-fabricated or misunderstood) “downside” to carbohydrate restriction has ever been found…which is one reason why there has never been an established dietary requirement for carbohydrates—ever.

Understand that “Ketone body metabolism” is a state in which you are utilizing FAT for your primary source of fuel and NOT sugar.  It is a state that is cultivated through a health enhancing process called “ketogenic adaptation”, which involves strict carbohydrate restriction and the predominant inclusion of calories from dietary fat rather than sugar or starch.

The research clearly shows that:

“The effects of ketone body metabolism suggests that ketosis may offer therapeutic potential in a variety of different common and rare disease states.”[37]

The large categories of disease for which ketones may have therapeutic effects are:

  1. diseases of substrate insufficiency or insulin resistance,
  2. diseases resulting from free radical damage,
  3. disease resulting from hypoxia

My question is, Why wait until you are sick to reap the many benefits of a Paleo-oriented fat-based ketogenic approach to eating?

The human brain is our single most expensive organ, with respect to metabolic needs in the human body. It occupies only 5% or less of our total mass (less if you happen to be a politician), but it literally utilizes at least 20% or more of our body’s energy supply to meet its considerable demands.  Fat provides more calories per gram (on average) of any available energy source.  It is also easy and efficient to store and draw upon in the absence of regular meals or even during a famine!  It is what the human brain in particular hungers for. Your brain was designed to be a ketone-burning machine!  Ketones (the energy units of fat) provide a much more steady, consistent, reliable and abundant source of fuel for our brains and organs to depend upon under even the harshest of circumstances!

Mainstream dietary dictocrats and medical authorities will (with a straight face, even) go on national TV or allow themselves to be quoted in news articles stating that “overly restricting carbohydrates is dangerous” (somehow).

Uh…dangerous to whom?

 

"The concept that humans 'need a certain amount of dietary carbs for proper function of the body' has no basis in science. It is a myth perpetuated by the USDA and the dietetic establishment.” Stephen D. Phinney, MD

Stephen D. Phinney, MD is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at UC-Davis, Editorial board of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The brain can and does use glucose, especially when a person consumes a diet that is dominated by carbohydrates or during an emergency, though glucose isn’t as essential to the day-to-day functioning of the brain as it is commonly presented or believed.  In fact, ketones are an abundant, stable and steady source of fuel for us around the clock, even while we are sleeping.  They don’t require constant replenishing or wake us up in the middle of the night because we don’t have enough, as commonly happens when you’re dependent on blood sugar.  All of us—even if we’re slender–have plenty of fat to burn for days, if not weeks once we’ve conditioned ourselves to make the best use of it.  It’s also the human body’s most natural primary energy source!!!

But the only way to get good at burning fat is by doing more of it.  You can’t get really good at burning fat by burning sugar all the time, any more than you can get really good at playing basketball by playing tennis or foosball all the time.  We all get good at what we do the most of!

HOW MUCH SUGAR IS TOO MUCH?

It just so happens that virtually every molecule of sugar or starch we eat is considered “excess” to our metabolism, and chronic insulin production in response to that has been associated with everything from obesity cardiovascular disease to cancer and significantly reduced life expectancy, overall.  Insulin also attracts inflammation and tends to elevate cortisol levels (our primary stress hormone), which further elevates your blood sugar.  It becomes a vicious cycle that can eventually develop into what is called “metabolic disorder” (formerly called ‘Syndrome X’). Metabolic disorder includes things like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, PCOS, low testosterone in men (via aromatization) and depressed estrogen in women (via the action of 17,20 lyase), as well as depressed immune function and other inflammatory processes.  The second most common thing to stimulate insulin production is excess dietary protein.  Interestingly, a significant percentage of excess dietary protein is actually converted to sugar and may be used the same way.  The more dependent you are on sugar as a primary source of fuel more readily your body will more efficiently convert its protein stores into sugar to meet the constant demand.  Keep in mind that your muscle tissue, including your heart– as well as your bones are all a significant source of protein that may be drawn from for this purpose.

The same basic approach to diet reflected in this program was found in a 2009 research study to improve several biomarkers of aging.  The conclusions stated: “This retrospective analysis of patients from a private clinic adhering to a high-fat, low carbohydrate, adequate protein diet demonstrated reductions in critical metabolic mediators including insulin, leptin, glucose, triglycerides, and free T3… Patients in this study demonstrated a similar directional impact on the measured parameters when compared to studies using more established models of longevity such as caloric restriction.”[38] 

It turns out that the less insulin that any of us need in the course of our lifetimes, the longer we are likely to live and healthier we are likely to be by far.  Similarly, healthfully low leptin levels, blood sugar, triglycerides and even slightly lower T3 thyroid hormone levels have shown consistently as healthy biomarkers of aging.  Seeing as dietary sugar and starch are the primary means through which excess insulin is generated by diet, and seeing is there is literally no established dietary requirement for these foods whatsoever, to me it becomes a no-brainer.  By mostly eliminating dietary sugar and starch you effectively remove a major compromise to virtually every aspect of your physical, mental and cognitive health and potentially add meaningfully to your own life expectancy and (more importantly) your quality of life.

Again–why wait??

Unfortunately, the Western diet in today’s world is overwhelmingly dominated by one particular primary macronutrient for the first time in more than 2 million years: Carbohydrates—and mainly in the form of sugars and starches.   About 35 years ago, the United States federal government revised their dietary guidelines in an effort to advise Americans to increase the amount of carbohydrates they consume to roughly 60%of their daily food intake. The objective was supposedly intended  for us to achieve a healthier lifestyle[39]

The latest guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend a daily carbohydrate intake of up to 65% of daily food intake.[40]   The result?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Buellller….?  —A catastrophic epidemic of life-threatening obesity, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity and other diseases.

The reason is simple. Starch is one of the largest dietary sources of blood sugar and dangerous after-meal blood glucose spikes![41],[42]  Even if you are eating so-called “safe starches” (an oxymoron, btw) or high fiber “complex carbohydrates” such as whole wheat, sweet potatoes/yams and brown rice, these all convert into sugar during digestion.[43]   Since one gram of starch can be readily converted by digestive enzymes into one gram of sugar, foods that are high in starch are also high in sugar.  It is as simple as that.

The USDA food pyramid in the United States–similar to dietary recommendations in other countries–tells us that we all need to eat somewhere between six and 11 servings of grains per day, placing a heavy emphasis on bread, pasta, and rice.  For good appearances they also try to advocate for a high intake of fruits and vegetables (as though fruits and vegetables were all one word).  Fruits, by the way, are mostly sugar (albeit “natural” sugar—but modern day fruits are being cultivated more for their size and sweetness than for any viable nutritional content).  Among the vegetables most commonly eaten, the one (apparently thought of as a vegetable by many) reported to be eaten the most commonly are white potatoes (almost pure, very high glycemic starch), often in the form of potato chips and French fries (typically fried in hydrogenated oils).  Bagels, English muffins, crackers, rolls, tortillas, noodles, pastries, cakes, donuts, sodas, juices, beer and wine, sweet alcoholic beverages, sports drinks and other refined carbohydrates of innumerable varieties fill the center aisles in grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, convenience stores and most home pantries.  And many of these “food-like substances” are even officially “approved” by heart associations and other government  health agencies simply by virtue of their being “low-fat”.  –Don’t get me started…

This is all very astonishing when one considers that not much more than 10,000 years ago human beings got more than 90% of their calories from the meat and fat of wild animals that they hunted and no more than about 10% of calories from plant-based foods (little to none of which were sugar, starch, grain or legume-based).  Is it any wonder our brain volume has shrunk in excess of 10% since that time and that we are facing unprecedented rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and a silent explosion of autoimmunity worldwide?

The Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA), while attempting to blindly attack and discredit Paleo dietary approaches has more recently been soundly criticized in return for much of the DAA’s corporate food industry-based funding.  In an article from an Australian news agency titled  ‘Dietitians Association of Australia attack on Pete Evans’ backed Paleo diet backfires.’[44]

DAA CEO Claire Hewat actually had the gall in this article to say:

“Some proponents of ‘paleo’ suggest we avoid all grains, legumes, certain dairy products, conventionally raised meats, non-organic produce, and genetically modified and processed foods. This simply isn’t practical for many Australians,” she said.  “Australians eat from a range of foods from the entire food supply and the reality is that includes many processed foods, so we can’t ignore this part of the food supply.”

SERIOUSLY???  She really said that??  WTF??  “Not practical” to give up the processed, freakishly genetically modified, inflammatory, metabolic and immune dysregulating garbage that is making the entire Western world sick???  Too inconvenient, is it?  Not “practical” for whom?  Kraft Foods?  Nabisco? Monsanto? The “reality”, Ms. Hewat, is that Australians have the highest rates of obesity in the entire industrialized world right now.  Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and autoimmunity are killing human beings in droves and causing untold and unnecessary suffering. –Talk about “inconvenient”!!  –Far be it from anyone to suggest the need to do things a bit differently!  And far be it to suggest a way of eating that has an over two-million year track record in creating non-obese, mentally and physically healthy bodies and brains we inherited from our far healthier forebears that modern industry has seen fit to destroy in the name of profit!

(But I’m not bitter)

WOW.  This kind of mainstream nutritional rhetoric by the dietary dictocrats of  our society is truly beyond comprehension—not to mention completely out of touch with the kind of reality that really matters.  –A reality based on the kind of quality of life that is based upon true mental and physical health, which fewer and fewer people have anymore.  It really leaves you wondering who or what it is you can trust in any position of authority or hope to turn to for help…  Unfortunately, we all need to realize that “help” from the top-down is simply not forthcoming.  It is all squarely in our own laps.  If things are going to change then it must of necessity come from a grass roots level based upon independent (i.e., non-industry funded research and science) in a way that makes these backwards thinking, health destroying mainstream mantras irrelevant.

We all have to decide:  Do we want to hear what we want to hear or do we really want to hear what’s true?   –And if you’re willing to hear the truth, then what are you willing to do about that?  Are you willing to do what it takes to break free of the mainstream-guided mold and take responsibility for and charge of your own health and wellbeing or are you going to wait around for the next generation of the same government guidelines to come along?  Or simply rationalize your addictions?  Because the interests of those that are selling you the corporate, entrenched bottom line aren’t interested one bit in your wellbeing, no matter what they tell you.  They’re only interested in profit and what is “practical” for them.  NO ONE in this world will ever care more about your health and wellbeing than YOU.

But I digress…

The sad and disturbing reality is that carbohydrates (by design) dominate the modern diet and the #1 most prevalent source of calories in the Western diet today altogether is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—mainly in the form of sugary sodas (making up about 7% of total calories in adults) plus non-carbonated sources in juice, sports drinks and others (a total of roughly 9%).  For teenagers this total number jumps up to 13%.  According to the “Center for Science in the Public Interest” soda pop provides the average 12- to 19-year-old boy with about 15 teaspoons of refined sugars a day and the average girl with about 10 teaspoons a day.  “Americans consume gargantuan quantities of carbonated soft drinks and suffer untoward health consequences. Companies annually produce enough soda pop to provide 557 12 ounce cans–52.4 gallons–to every man woman and child.”[45]

Holy cow!

All of the rather frightening aforementioned statistics have related strictly to HFCS and refined sugar intake.  They do not include additional sugars consumed by every man woman and child in the form of French fries, potato chips (i.e., potatoes), bread, pasta, rice, legumes, milk and commercial yogurts (both VERY high sugar foods), cereals, fruit and especially fruit juice, wine and beer, and–even so-called “natural” sweeteners (yes—these count, too!)–and on and on (and on).  We could easily double or triple these sugar intake numbers once everything else in the modern diet that is carbohydrate-based was tallied up.

The way I see it, the food industry and big agribusiness that has hijacked the health of the Western world (and beyond) cannot be given free reign and continue doing what they’re doing with unbridled impunity. They certainly can be allowed to make money like anyone else, but they should not be allowed to make money by destroying the health of those that consume their products (or the planet)!  How do we stop this?  –By simply not buying their products anymore!

IS THERE AN ADDICT IN THE HOUSE?

When the heavily misguided low-fat craze inspired the food industry to take the (natural) fats out of packaged foods, what they replaced it with (aside from trans-fats for better shelf life and far worse health effects) was sugar.  People rapidly got hooked and wanted more of it.  Once industry figured out how to cheaply manufacture high fructose corn syrup all bets were off.   Nowadays they add this cheap industrial (made from genetically modified corn) sugar to bread, nut butters, canned soup mixes, seasonings, condiments, sausages, burgers and frozen dinners—even chicken broth!  –All kinds of stuff you would never in a million years add to recipes like this if you were making any of it yourself at home from scratch.  But hey–sugar sells.  BOY does it sell!  It lights up opiate centers in your brain like a Christmas tree that says “YESSSSS—GIVE ME MORE!!”  The brain releases opioids and dopamine in response to sugar, impacting limbic (pleasure) centers in the brain.  This is, to say the least, addictive—and it can be extremely addictive for some people.  Your brain can essentially become as addicted to stimulating its own opiate center with sugar (or exorphins—morphine-like compounds in grains and dairy) as it would to morphine or heroin.  And not only is this a socially acceptable form of addiction, but those of us that choose to eliminate these addictions in ourselves and similarly help others are labeled as “impractical”, extreme, fringe, purveyors of some passing “fad”—or even “dangerous”!

Your brain has a specific pleasure center in it called the nucleus accumbens.  It is known to play a significant role in nearly all forms of addiction.  This pleasure center under normal circumstances is activated by positive experiences in your life to enhance the positive feelings that come from what it means to be alive.  That’s a good thing and very much part of what it means to be human. The neurotransmitter, dopamine acts on these centers to keep us interested in things that are significant and matter to us. A healthy amount of activation in these centers of the brain help make life feel worthwhile and help define the things that give us and life meaning.  But opioid drugs and certain foods like sugar, alcohol (which is basically sugar) and exorphins in grains and dairy products can also strongly activate these same centers, which in turn also releases dopamine—and feels mighty good. But when we repeatedly and habitually activate the centers over and over (and over) again constantly using substances (including these kinds of foods) then that part of your brain eventually develops a certain “tolerance” to the constant stimulus and ends up needing and demanding more and more in order to achieve the same effect.

This is how addictions form.

The hard thing about this, as I just mentioned, is the fact that most people don’t think of food as a potential drug that somebody might just need help and support recovering from.  We often see food cravings as some sort of moral weakness in ourselves (and others) and frequently blame ourselves for not being able to resist the chronic temptation.  –At least there are 12-step programs for alcohol addiction (which is at base its own extreme brand of sugar addiction), and most people are reasonably sympathetic to the need to recover from chronic alcohol abuse (unless they happen to be addicted and in denial, too), or even heroin or morphine addiction, for that matter… But people often don’t realize that the very same mechanisms pathologically driving the very same areas of the brain are involved when it comes to being addicted to sugar, as well as grains and dairy products with many people.   Unfortunately, when a person wakes up and decides to try to eliminate those foods from their diet others around them that are similarly addicted (but themselves in denial) may treat you as though you are doing something socially unacceptable.  People like this often try to shame, tempt and/or pressure you into your old way of doing things (often so that they don’t have to think about it when it comes to their own issues).   They might even go so far as to resort to emotional blackmail (“Whaddaya mean you don’t want any of MY homemade stuffing? You won’t even TRY it??  Are you mad at me??”).   –Nothing quite like family…

It is possible for an alcoholic in recovery to avoid going into bars and liquor stores.   When it comes to sugars, starches, grains, dairy and processed foods, in general–all of which contain some form of potentially highly addictive quality– these things are literally everywhere you look.  There is no way of escaping exposure and the temptation that can come with addictions to these foods.  They are in every store in every household and in every office break room.  Heck– they are even in most classrooms and school cafeterias!  To cultivate a different type of metabolism (a healthfully adapted ketogenic state) that eliminates the consumption of and that minimizes or eliminates cravings for all this garbage is the healthiest, sanest and surest approach to safeguarding your health in existence.

When Pete Evans stated publicly that he didn’t allow his children to eat candy, cakes, or pies some critics barely stopped short of trying to call this child abuse. Many insisted that this was somehow inhumane and robbing his children of a rightful “natural” childhood pleasure.  It was crazy. For the record, I know his family well and I can assure you that his children literally and simply have no such interest in these kinds of foods—mainly because Pete in his wisdom and healthy sense of priority made a point of not cultivating those interests.  His two beautiful girls are two of the happiest, sweetest and best-behaved children I have ever met.  They are funny and smart and have been taught to pay attention to the quality of what they eat in a way that truly matters to them.  These kids even read labels!  –What an extraordinary and rare gift from a truly great dad!

Babies don’t simply pop out of the womb asking for candy (in fact, human babies are essentially born in a state of active ketosis (Medina, J. M. and Tabernero, A. (2005), which is what most effectively fuels their newborn brains!  Babies and children don’t drop out of ketosis and start relying on sugar for their primary source of fuel until WE start feeding it to them!!!).  It is adults similarly addicted to these foods that introduce these substances to their children as a reward for good behavior, instilling a child’s association between sweet treats and social rewards (on top of the biochemical dopamine/opioid rush they get with it).  It’s a total set up for a lifetime of this type of pleasure seeking—to every possible detriment to a child’s health and future.

When later in life an adult politely says “no” to the dessert cart in the restaurant, there is invariably someone at the table who pipes up cajolingly to say something like “oh why nooot—just live a little!”  –As though “feeling alive” is somehow predicated upon indulging in the guilty pleasures of some junk food.  In my mind, if your definition of being alive and “living a little” is dependent on some nutrient devoid indulgence, then you need a more interesting hobby.

–Try bungee jumping out of an airplane, instead.  -It might be safer!

Some researchers speculate that the actual sweet receptors on our tongues were likely designed for instilling a natural attraction toward fruit (which rapidly puts on body fat).  Our prehistoric ancestors ate more ripe fruit in the late summer and early fall months (if they could) as a way of fattening ourselves up–just like bears do–for the long winter ahead.  Only nowadays winter isn’t coming anymore—even if you happen to live in Minnesota in February or in southern Patagonia in July.  Today, we modern humans all live in comfortable climate controlled environments.  Periodic insulin resistance isn’t something that offers us any sort of survival advantage anymore—it’s purely a massive health liability!

Excess glucose damages the delicate endothelium that lines your arteries, setting the stage for coronary and cerebral vascular disease[46].  But the issue isn’t just elevated fasting blood glucose levels, but also the danger and potentially deadly impact in response to high post-prandial (post meal) blood glucose levels!

These “sweet receptors” would have evolved during a time in our evolutionary history where sugar was actually quite scarce and hard-to-find.  When we constantly saturate these receptors with excessive reward signals from sweet foods this has the potential power to simply override what would otherwise be natural self-control mechanisms and lead us to addiction.  We all know those people who just can’t stop at one bite of chocolate, one piece of bread from the breadbasket, or just one drink.  I am not at all saying that everyone who eats a dessert here and there or enjoys a glass of wine is necessarily an addict.  By no means!  But this is far more common than anyone realizes.  The vulnerability we all potentially have to this tendency to over-indulge is very real.

Also, the consumption of sugar and starch additionally stimulates the release of serotonin–that other feel good neurotransmitter often associated with relieving depression–which on the surface sounds like a good thing.  The problem is that a carbohydrate-based diet does little if anything to actually make more serotonin and merely depletes your reserves with habitual intake, ultimately leaving you with the insatiable craving for more.  A serotonin deficiency is NOT a carbohydrate deficiency!  L-tryptophan is the amino acid from which serotonin is made.  It happens to be the single least abundant amino acid in our food supply and is virtually absent in most carbohydrate foods, including grains (you remember grains–that pile of grass seeds you see illustrated at the base of the government food pyramid you’re supposed to eat the most of every day of so Monsanto executives can pay for their private planes?).

Modern day stressors–far beyond anything our ancestors could have fathomed in their worst nightmares–keep everyone reaching for comfort foods as a way of self-medicating.  We come home from work feeling “entitled” to having a beer or ordering a pizza or eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs.  It heralds back to those childhood days when we got a sweet treat “reward” simply for being good.  As hard-working adults, we continue to justify the indulgences as a way of feeling rewarded for leading an abnormally stressful or unrewarding life (however common that sort of stress might be).  We need to be willing to see through these things in ourselves in order to find a better way.

Roughly 80% out of close to literally a million varieties of packaged foods that are sold in all grocery stores contain added sugar– and most commonly high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  As a result, daily consumption of the most damaging sugar of all–fructose–has literally doubled in the past 30 years throughout the industrialized world, and in most other nations, as well.  1970 and 1990, Americans’ consumption of high fructose corn syrup rose by more than 1,000%![47]  Agave syrup—the new (cheap to produce and high-profit) darling of the supposedly healthy “natural processed food” manufacturing industry may contain even more damaging fructose than industrial HFCS!  —Please watch out for and avoid agave syrup if you truly value your health!  According to sugar expert and medical researcher, Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist who runs a weight management clinic for children and families at the University of California, San Francisco, sugar consumption worldwide has literally tripled in the past 50 years while the population has only doubled.  –Is it any wonder there is an obesity and diabetes epidemic?  –And we’re not even counting all the other sources of starchy carbohydrates consumed by everyone on a daily basis, or all the alcohol (that other source of sugar) as a culture we wash that down with.

We have become a carbohydrate-based civilization…and let’s just say things ain’t going so well.  The growing obesity epidemic, alone, should be lending us some clues.  –Feed a culture according to a feedlot food pyramid and—voila! 

It is, after all, primarily carbohydrates in the form of sugars and starch—and NOT dietary fat—that actually make you fat.

Remember leptin?  Our body’s most important hormone that tells us when “hunting is good” (or not) and whether to eat more food, burn more fat or store more fat–and tells us whether we’ve had enough to eat?  Well too much insulin in your body—stimulated by mainly eating sugars and starches—actually blocks your leptin signal.  The urge to eat then becomes a physiologically triggered survival mechanism that can be nearly impossible to resist.

Insulin, all by itself, is known to have damaging effects on endothelial (arterial) tissue.  Insulin also contributes to inflammatory conditions and subsequent arterial plaqueing.  Insulin and leptin surges additionaly trigger “fight or flight” and can make you feel frequently anxious and/or interfere with restful sleep.  The inflammatory effects can also readily lead to depression, at which point you start reaching for those comfort foods and alcohol again, draining your body of magnesium (needed for healthy insulin signaling), B6 (needed for neurotransmitter and hemoglobin production) and serotonin—assuming you have any left.  It all becomes a vicious cycle.  And Prozac isn’t capable of making you one single molecule of serotonin.  –It solves absolutely nothing, even if it happens to actually work (and no one anywhere suffers from any sort of “Prozac deficiency”, either).

Here’s an important caveat for the slender or athletic carbovore that thinks you don’t have to worry about any of this:  You can “burn off” the sugar, but you cannot “burn off” the insulin.  It is entirely possible to be slim—AND diabetic.  And diabetes, by the way, is not a disease of blood sugar; it is a disease of insulin resistance (dysregulated hormone signaling) due to excess insulin production and receptor down-activation.

THE STATE OF AFFAIRS

Health is declining in every single country throughout the world that has adopted processed and genetically modified foods—invariably bursting with sugars in addition to other chemicals, freakish genetic material and substances that the human body was never meant to deal with.  Agriculture, alone (the prehistorically unprecedented cultivation of grains and legumes as a dietary staple) was the first major challenge to our human genome in more than 2 million years.  –Let’s just say it hasn’t gone well.  Ten thousand years later we have yet to adapt to this change (and evidence seems to suggest we are actually becoming less adapted rather than more adapted to these foods – see Gastroenterology July;137(1):88-93).  But food processing and the many ways in which our food supply is being altered daily, laced with chemical additives, herbicides, pesticides, colors, flavorings and other garbage we have otherwise never previously consumed in the earlier history of our species, plus the genetic modification of the food supply has now created a moving target.  Where it can take tens of thousands of years or more to fully adapt to a major change in and/or influence over our genome, now these modifications to our food supply are happening almost daily, making any form of genetic adaptation quite literally impossible.

And the nutrient devoid nature of the majority of these foods keeps us craving the nutrients we are constantly missing.  This sets up different kind of hunger, compelling us to starve our way into state of obesity.  And as my good friend and world-class expert on diabetes, and endocrine function/metabolism, Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD would say, obesity is your body’s way of trying to protect you from becoming diabetic, basically by continuing to store as much of the sugar as possible as fat, and not simply allowing it to build up in your bloodstream and tissues until insulin’s message is no longer able to be heard and you wind up going blind, developing Alzheimer’s and advanced cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, going on dialysis, and/or having parts of your limbs amputated.  Good times.  Roughly one in every three persons reading this is either diabetic already, knows someone close to them who is OR are pre-diabetic and don’t even know it.

And it is important to point out that any amount of sugar in our bodies is always compromising.  A study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Diabetes Care[48] asked the question (in the title of the study) “Is there a glycemic threshold for mortality risk?”  The authors ominously concluded: “…the risk of death progressively increased with increasing fasting and 2-h glucose concentrations.”  In other words, the higher your blood sugar levels go, the less healthy you are.

A study of nearly 2000 men over a period of 22 years showed a startling results that men with fasting glucose levels over 85 mg/dL had a 40% increase in risk of death from cardiovascular disease! The researchers conducting the study stated that “fasting blood glucose values in the upper normal range appeared to be an important independent predictor of cardiovascular death in non-diabetic apparently healthy middle-aged men.”[49]

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of the most dangerous and damaging (not to mention most profitable) food additives that is ever been created by an industry that has done its share of destroying the integrity of the human food supply in more ways than can be counted.  It is (along with agave syrup and fructose, in general) the most severely glycating (damaging) of all sugars in the human body and those that frequently consume it readily develop changes in the liver that can readily develop into cirrhosis[50].  HFCS has been highly correlated with the burgeoning and rapidly accelerating diabetes and obesity epidemic.

According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of diabetes diagnosed worldwide in the year 2000 numbered 171,000,000 individuals.  By the year 2030 this number is projected to climb to 366,000,000.  Today—already—347,000,000 have been diagnosed with diabetes.  The WHO projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005 and 2030.  By their definition, “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.”[51]

But make no mistake; diabetes is not a disease of blood sugar, but rather of insulin and leptin resistance or dysregulation.  The reason I make a point of saying this (yet again) is that mainstream medicine tends to treat diabetes as a disease of blood sugar through the kinds of medications it prescribes, which nearly all work to increase the activity of insulin.  This is a grave mistake.  Although sugar definitely does damage in and of itself and we really do want to lower blood sugar levels and keep them as low as possible without negative symptoms, adding more insulin is absolutely NOT the way to do it.  It literally adds to cellular resistance by doing this and deepens the problem.  It might make for prettier fasting blood glucose levels on blood chemistry labs (which almost never pay attention to fasting insulin levels, as well— which they absolutely should) but insulin is also profoundly damaging, in and of itself, and readily provides impetus for pathologically accelerated aging and increased cancer risk.  In fact, high insulin levels are associated with a 37% increase in the risk of dying from cancer—whether or not you have diabetes[52],[53].  Remember, insulin is not a blood sugar hormone but is instead a growth factor involved in reproduction mechanisms and cellular proliferation.  Excessive growth factor production in even healthy adults isn’t a good thing.  It potentially triggers cell division/replication in cells and places we don’t want it.  Growth factors like insulin (and also potentially things like growth hormone and IGF-1) have a potential role in initiating and facilitating cancer, where unregulated cellular reproduction produces deadly malignancies.[54]  Insulin is also implicated in the thickening and poor responsiveness of smooth muscle cells lining arterial walls, contributing to cardiovascular disease[55]

OH, by the way, you can also thank dietary fructose for high blood pressure[56],[57],[58],[59],[60],[61] (I even know someone personally that has destroyed their health with nothng more than honey, high in supposedly “natural” fructose) and gout, too[62],[63],[64],[65] along with aggravated lipid profiles and inflammation.[66],[67] In fact, the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages have a 20% increased risk of cardiovascular disease![68]

Convinced yet? 

 

“People are fed by the food industry which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.” Wendell Berry  

We are all metabolically adapted to being one of two things: either we are a fat burner or a sugar burner.

Which approach to health will you choose?


[1] “Insulin: In need of some restraint? “ Salk Institute article

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 07, 2007 – http://www.salk.edu/news/pressrelease_details.php?press_id=281)

[2] R. Singh, A. Barden, T. Mori, L. Beilin “Advanced Glycated End Products: a review.” Diabetologia (2001) 44: 129-146

[3] N. A. Ansari, Z. Rasheed. “Non-enzymatic glycation of proteins: From diabetes to cancer”  Biochemistry (Moscow) Supplement Series B: Biomedical Chemistry.   December 2009, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 335-342

[4] Matthews, CE, et al., “Metabolic Syndrome and Risk of Death from Cancers of the Digestive System.”  Metabolism 59, no. 8:1231-39.

[5] Glucose directly contributes to aging and feeds cancer cells:
Glucose restriction can extend normal cell lifespan and impair precancerous cell growth through epigenetic control of hTERT and p16 expression.
FASEB, December 17, 2009

[6] Li Y, Liu L, Tollefsbol TO. “Glucose restriction can extend normal cell lifespan and impair precancerous cell growth through epigenetic control of hTERT and p16 expression.”  FASEB J.  2010 May;24(5):1442-53. doi: 10.1096/fj.09-149328. Epub 2009 Dec 17

[7] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57407294/is-sugar-toxic/?tag=contentMain;contentBody. Accessed October 4, 2013.)

[8] Hirakawa Y, Ninomiya T, Mukai N, et al.  “Association between glucose tolerance level and cancer death in a general Japanese population: the Hisayama Study. “ Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Nov 15;176(10):856-64

[9] Larsson SC, Mantzuros CS, Wolk A. Diabetes mellitus and risk of breast cancer: A meta-analysis. Int J Cancer. 2007 121(4):856-62

[10] Xue F and Michels KB. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and breast cancer: a review of the current evidence. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86(4):s823-35

[11] Alokail MS, Al-Daghri NM, Al-Attas OS, Hussain T. Combined effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes contribute to increased breast cancer risk in premenopausal women. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009 Jun 23;8:33.

[12] Vona-Davis L, Howard-McNatt M, and Rose DP. “Adiposity, type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome in breast cancer.” Obes Rev. 2007; 8(5):395-408

[13] Bjorge T, Lukanova A, Jonsson H, et al. “Metabolic syndrome and breast cancer in the Me-Can (metabolic syndrome and cancer) Project. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010; 19:1737-45.

[14] Boyle P, Koechlin A, Pizot C, et al.  “Blood glucose concentrations and breast cancer risk in women without diabetes: a meta-analysis.” Eur J Nutr. 2013 Aug;52(5):1533-40.

[15] Manjer J, Kaaks R, Riboli E, et al. “Risk of breast cancer in relation to anthropometry, blood pressure, blood lipids and glucose metabolism: a prospective study within the Malmö Preventive Project. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2001; 10(1):33-42)

[16] Lawlor DA, Smith GD, and Ebrahim S. Hyperinsulinaemia and increased risk of breast cancer: findings from the British women’s heart and health study. Cancer Causes Control. 2004; 15(3):267-75.

[17] Osaki Y, Taniguchi S, Tahara A, et al. “Metabolic syndrome and incidence of liver and breast cancers in Japan.” Cancer Epidemiol. 2012; 36(2):141-7.

[18] http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/. Accessed October 4, 2013.

[19] http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/DetailedGuide/breast-cancer-key-statistics. Accessed October 4, 2013

[20] Muti P, Quattrin T, Grant BJB, et al. “Fasting glucose is a risk factor for breast cancer: A prospective study.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002 11(11):1361-8

[21] Sieri S, Muti P, Claudia A, et al. “Prospective study on the role of glucose metabolism in breast cancer occurrence.” Int J Cancer. 2011; 130(4):921-9

[22] Sieri S, Muti P, Claudia A, et al. “Prospective study on the role of glucose metabolism in breast cancer occurrence.” Int J Cancer. 2011; 130(4):921-9

[23] Liao S, Li J, Wei W, et al. “Association between diabetes mellitus and breast cancer risk: a meta-ananysis of the literature.” Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2011 12(4):1061-5

[24] Seung-Jae Lee, Coleen T. Murphy, and Cynthia Kenyon.  “Glucose Shortens the Lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans by Down-Regulating Aquaporin Gene Expression.” Cell Metab. 2009 November ; 10(5): 379–391

[25] Kenyon C, Chang J, Gensch E, Rudner A, Tabtiang R (1993). “A C. elegans mutant that lives twice as long as wild type”. Nature (journal) 366 (6454): 461–464. doi: 10.1038/366461a0. PMID 8247153

[26] O’Neill B: “In Methuselah’s Mould”, PLoS Biology Vol. 2, No. 1, e12 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020012

[27] Roux, AE., Leroux, A., Alaamery, MA, et al., “Pro-Aging Effects of Glucose Signaling through a G Protein-Coupled Glucose Receptor in Fission Yeast”
PLoS Genetics, March 2009 | Volume 5 | Issue 3

[28] Burns CM, Chen K, Kaszniak AW, et al.,  “Higher serum glucose levels are associated with cerebral hypometabolism in Alzheimer regions.”  Neurology. 2013 Apr 23;80(17):1557-64. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828f17de. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

[29] Paul K. Crane, M.D., M.P.H., Rod Walker, M.S., Rebecca A. Hubbard, Ph.D., Ge Li, M.D., Ph.D., David M. Nathan, M.D., Hui Zheng, Ph.D., Sebastien Haneuse, Ph.D., Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., Thomas J. Montine, M.D., Ph.D., Steven E. Kahn, M.B., Ch.B., Wayne McCormick, M.D., M.P.H., Susan M. McCurry, Ph.D., James D. Bowen, M.D., and Eric B. Larson, M.D., M.P.H.  “Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia.”  N Engl J Med 2013; 369:540-548 August 8, 2013 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1215740

[30] Cherbuin N, Sachdev P, Anstey KJ. “Higher normal fasting plasma glucose is associated with hippocampal atrophy: The PATH Study.” Neurology. 2012 Sep 4;79(10):1019-26.

[31] Normal Blood Sugar Levels May Harm the Brain: Study Suggests Need to Reconsider What’s Healthy (http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20120904/normal-blood-sugar-levels-may-harm-brain. Accessed October 4, 2013

[32] “The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism,” Richard L. Veech, Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 70 (2004) 309-319

[33] “Brain Fuel Metabolism, Aging, and Alzheimer’s Disease,” S. Cunnane, S Nugent, M Roy, et. al, Nutrition, Jan. 2011

[34] “Insulin, ketone bodies, and mitochondrial energy transduction,” K Sato, Y Kashiwaya, et. al., including Dr. Richard Veech, Research Communications, The FASEB Journal, Vol. 9, May 1995, p. 651-658

[35] “Ketoacids? Good Medicine?” George F. Cahill, Jr., Richard L. Veech, Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Vol. 114, 2003.

[36] -“Changes in cerebral blood flow and carbohydrate metabolism during acute hyperketonemia,” S.G. Hasselbalch, et.al, Am J Physiol, 1996, Vol. 270, E746-51

[37] Veech RL. “The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004 Mar;70(3):309-19.

[38] Rosedale, R, Westman, EC, Konhilis, JP.  “Clinical Experience of a Diet Designed to Reduce Aging.”  Journal of Applied Research, vol 9, no. 4, 2009

[39] German JB, Dillard CJ. Saturated fats: what dietary intake? Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Sep;80(3):550-9

[40] http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/HTML/G5_History.htm. Accessed April 3, 2013.)

[41] Daly ME, Vale C, Walker M, Littlefield A, Alberti KG, Mathers JC. Acute effects on insulin sensitivity and diurnal metabolic profiles of a high-sucrose compared with a high-starch diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Jun;67(6):1186-96.

[42] Raben A, Holst JJ, Madsen J, Astrup A. Diurnal metabolic profiles after 14 d of an ad libitum high-starch, high-sucrose, or high-fat diet in normal-weight never-obese and postobese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2):177-89.

[43] Brand-Miller JC, Stockmann K, Atkinson F, Petocz P, Denyer G. Glycemic index, postprandial glycemia, and the shape of the curve in healthy subjects: analysis of a database of more than 1,000 foods. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):97-105

[44] http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/dietitians-association-of-australia-attack-on-pete-evans-backed-paleo-diet-fires-up-criticism/story-fneuzkvr-1227103852383

[45] http://www.cspinet.org/sodapop/liquid_candy.htm

[46] Mäkimattila S, Virkamäki A, Groop PH, et al. Chronic hyperglycemia impairs endothelial function and insulin sensitivity via different mechanisms in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Circulation. 1996 Sep 15;94(6):1276-82

[47] Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):537-43.

[48] B Balkau, S Bertrais, P Ducimetiere and E Eschwege. “Is there a glycemic threshold for mortality risk?”  Diabetes Care May 1999 vol. 22 no. 5 696-699

[49] Bjornholt, JV, Erikssen G, Aaser E, et al.  “Fasting blood glucose: an underestimated risk factor for cardiovascular death. Results from a 22-year follow-up of healthy nondiabetic men. Diabetes Care. 1999 Jan;22(1):45-9

[50] Nomura K, Yamanouchi T. The role of fructose-enriched diets in mechanisms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Mar;23(3):203-8.

[51] http://www.who.int/diabetes/en/

[52] Jalving M, Gietema JA, Lefrandt JD, et al. Metformin: taking away the candy for cancer? Eur J Cancer. 2010 Sep;46(13):2369-80

[53] Dankner R, Shanik MH, Keinan-Boker L, Cohen C, Chetrit A. Effect of elevated basal insulin on cancer incidence and mortality in cancer incident patients: the Israel GOH 29-year follow-up study. Diabetes Care.2012 Jul;35(7):1538-43.

[54] Muhidin SO, Magan AA, Osman KA, Syed S, Ahmed MH. The relationship between nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and colorectal cancer: the future challenges and outcomes of the metabolic syndrome. J Obes.2012;2012:637538

[55] Breen DM, Giacca A. Effects of insulin on the vasculature. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2011 May;9(3):321-32

[56] Hosseini-Esfahani F, Bahadoran Z, Mirmiran P, Hosseinpour-Niazi S, Hosseinpanah F, Azizi F. Dietary fructose and risk of metabolic syndrome in adults: Tehran Lipid and Glucose study. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2011;8(1):50.

[57] Perez-Pozo SE, Schold J, Nakagawa T, Sanchez-Lozada LG, Johnson RJ, Lillo JL. Excessive fructose intake induces the features of metabolic syndrome in healthy adult men: role of uric acid in the hypertensive response. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Mar;34(3):454-61.

[58] Lanaspa MA, Tapia E, Soto V, Sautin Y, Sanchez-Lozada LG. Uric acid and fructose: potential biological mechanisms. Semin Nephrol. 2011 Sep;31(5):426-32

[59] Brown IJ, Stamler J, Van Horn L, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage, sugar intake of individuals, and their blood pressure: international study of macro/micronutrients and blood pressure. Hypertension. 2011 Apr;57(4):695-701.

[60] Rho YH, Zhu Y, Choi HK. The epidemiology of uric acid and fructose. Semin Nephrol. 2011 Sep;31(5):410-9.

[61] Trapé AA, Jacomini AM, Muniz JJ, et al. The relationship between training status, blood pressure and uric acid in adults and elderly. BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2013 Jun 21;13(1):44..

[62] Perez-Pozo SE, Schold J, Nakagawa T, Sanchez-Lozada LG, Johnson RJ, Lillo JL. Excessive fructose intake induces the features of metabolic syndrome in healthy adult men: role of uric acid in the hypertensive response. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Mar;34(3):454-61.

[63] Rho YH, Zhu Y, Choi HK. The epidemiology of uric acid and fructose. Semin Nephrol. 2011 Sep;31(5):410-9.

[64] Trapé AA, Jacomini AM, Muniz JJ, et al. The relationship between training status, blood pressure and uric acid in adults and elderly. BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2013 Jun 21;13(1):44.

[65] Soltani Z, Rasheed K, Kapusta DR, Reisin E. Potential role of uric acid in metabolic syndrome, hypertension, kidney injury, and cardiovascular diseases: Is it time for reappraisal? Curr Hypertens Rep. 2013 Apr 16.

[66] Koo HY, Wallig MA, Chung BH, Nara TY, Cho BH, Nakamura MT. Dietary fructose induces a wide range of genes with distinct shift in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in fed and fasted rat liver. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 May;1782(5):341-8.

[67] Aeberli I, Gerber PA, Hochuli M, et al. Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):479-85

[68] de Koning L, Malik VS, Kellogg MD, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease, and biomarkers of risk in men. Circulation. 2012 Apr 10;125(14):1735-41,S1.

By Nora Gedgaudas

You Might Also Like

Back to Blog Home

Unlock the secrets to a happier, healthier life

Our experts are here to share with you some enlightening thoughts and viewpoints to help you on your own personal journey to become the best version of you. Discover more with our 10 Week Activation Program.

We would love you to join the Tribe!

Join Our 10wk Program