I follow Dr. David Perlmutter and Dr. David Ludwig online. Both are front-line as it relates to the benefits of nutrition – not only for achieving an optimum weight, but optimum health.
If you aren’t familiar with either of the two physicians: Dr. Perlmutter in a neurologist and Dr. Ludwig is an endocrinologist.
Dr. Ludwig’s recent book “Always Hungry” talks about how our diets impact our hormones. Quite an interesting read – I would suggest getting it.
Dr. Perlmutter has two books worthy of high praise “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker“. Both provide incredible insight as to our nutritional patterns and brain health (even going past just the brain).
And, both find similarities as it relates to brain health and our obesity epidemic.
The overall discussion was fascinating – but, I want to summarize what I think are the take-home points. If you are interested in more information – please read the conversation – OR, better yet – read the books. So here goes.
First off, most medical students aren’t educated to understand how the ‘human system’ works. That is not how they are trained. They are trained as to ‘What drug to use’. Except…
We ‘evolved’ or ‘were designed’ to respond to our hormones – not drugs.
Every time we eat – our hormones, our metabolism, and our gene expression changes.
So, if we choose our food wisely, it has a broad range of positive physiological effects.
“It seems that the only thing we truly know about the standard obesity treatment is that it fails.”
Their point is valid – the caloric model of weight control does NOT work in the long term since no one is that precise as to calories in / calories out. It is more the ‘nutritional make-up’ of the food that matters.
When we were hunter-gatherers, we had access to simple sugars in late summer and early autumn. They didn’t have access to the highly processed carbohydrates that inundate the Standard American Diet (or SAD). If they had – and they had the weight and health issues that we are currently facing – sabre-tooth tigers would rule the world!!!!
So, what is going on?
As I mentioned, when we eat highly processed carbs (which is a staple in our low-fat diet) – it forces insulin to rise (to even higher levels than our bodies were historically used to). So, let’s walk through this (and, look at the graph below).
When you eat a meal full of sugar and processed carbs – your insulin level goes up. Insulin shuttles the sugar either into glycogen stores (limited storage capacity) – or fat stores (abundant storage capacity).
Also, consistently elevated insulin stops the ability for the body to tap into stored fat – which is a GREAT energy source.
The brain, which is highly dependent on assuring that it gets the calories it needs starts panicking and stress hormones are released – so, you become hungry. So, you eat another high carb meal and start a vicious cycle.
This is why low calorie dieting doesn’t work in the long run.
So, according to Dr. Ludwig – there are two troublemakers.
- Too much insulin from two many carbs. I love this – “Insulin is the ultimate fat cell fertilizer“.
- Chronic inflammation. Let’s move onto this one next.
As fat cells start to grow and continue to grow – they need a blood source. But, if we gain weight rapidly – these fat cells grow too fast and the blood supply can’t keep up. This causes inflammation which is a stress trigger for your body.
“The key is to lower insulin levels (which decreases fat storage) and calm chronic inflammation. Your body will do the rest.”
Here is the reason why inflammation is also important.
As I stated before, when fat cells are starved of a blood supply – the fat becomes ‘inflamed’ as our body’s natural defense mechanism (white cells) comes into play. The fat then releases numerous ‘inflammation compound’s which impact so many of our body’s systems – so, pictorially – it goes like this.
So, there it is. Besides not being able to really precisely count calories in vs calories out. Our hormones wreak havoc when we eat a lousy diet.
This is why low-calorie, low fat diets will not work and, actually is harmful.
One more point before I close and I found this interesting…
So, let’s use artificial sweeteners! Do you know the inception of artificial sweeteners? It was an accident. Now, my story strays a bit from Dr. Ludwig’s – but, I think that you will get the point.
A German scientist was trying to find a way to make ‘coal-tar’ more profitable. One evening, he worked late and forgot about eating until much later. Starved at the time – he didn’t wash his hands and ate a piece of bread – it was remarkably sweet. The story goes on – but, in short – he developed saccharin.
Now, I know that you will say that the science of making ‘healthier’ artificial sweeteners has improved beyond coal tar. But, here is the thing – irrespective of the artificial sweetener you use.
We don’t just have “sweet” receptors on our tongues. These receptors reside in our gastrointestinal tract and more, worrisome – our fat cells.
What does this mean? When artificial sweeteners get into our blood stream and interact with the “sweet” receptors on our fat cells – it promotes fat storage (even when you had ZERO calories to eat).
Isn’t that a reason to pause before you take a sip – or, put that fork in your mouth?
Next, let’s learn what it means to eat REAL FOOD!