20. February 2016 · Comments Off on Are You Vitamin D Deficient? · Categories: Nutrition, Wellness

Are You Vitamin D Deficient?

vitamin-d-sunlightRecently the importance of the often forgotten vitamin D have come into the spotlight. Study after study reveals thatlow levels of vitamin D enable disease progression in the body while adequate levels of this sunshine vitamin not only decrease your risk of disease but also helps to fight off diseases already in place.

(There are five known types of vitamin D. D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5. For our purposes here we are speaking of vitamins D2 and D3.)

5 Reasons You May be Deficient in Vitamin D

For a number of reasons, many people aren’t getting enough daily or weekly vitamin D, leading to vitamin D deficiency. You may not get enough vitamin D if:

  • You don’t get enough sunlight. If your body has regular exposure to the sun, it’s typically able to get the vitamin D it needs. However, many people don’t get enough sunlight simply due to the amount of time they spend indoors, whether it’s due to work, lifestyle or cold weather.
  • You wear sunscreen. If the moisturizer you use has an SPF value, it will block UVB rays and will not allow your body to produce any vitamin D. You can use a moisturizing, safe, NON-SPF cream to moisturize your skin. I personally use organic coconut oil to moisturize my skin, as this provides a host of other benefits as well. After your exposure simply stay in the shade, cover up with light weight clothes or if you still want to be in the open sun, use a non-toxic lotion with SPF15 for uncovered skin, read more about toxic sunscreens here. Be sure to stay on the safe side of burning.
  • You have darker skin. People with darker skin need more exposure to the sun to get the same amount of vitamin D as people with lighter skin.
  • You don’t take supplements. It’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D from the foods you eat alone.
  • Your body needs more vitamin D than usual if you’re obese or pregnant.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

stacked-stones-in-sunlightDetecting a vitamin D deficiency from symptoms alone is difficult because the common symptoms are vague, such astiredness or general aches and pains.

More severe symptoms of vitamin d deficiency are pain in your bones and overall weakness and difficulty getting around. Some people may get frequent infections. It’s important to remember that some people, if not most, may never get these symptoms.

This is why it’s so important to have your blood levels tested to determine your vitamin D levels.If you think you may have vitamin D deficiency, you should see your physician or have a blood test to check your vitamin D levels.

Chronic Diseases Fueled by Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Cavities
  • Cold & Flu
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes 1 and 2
  • Eczema & Psoriasis
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Infertility
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Insomnia
  • Macular degeneration
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis Crohn’s disease
  • Muscle pain
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Periodontal disease
  • Pre eclampsia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Seizures
  • Septicemia
  • Signs of aging
  • Tuberculosis

In a recent study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that leukemia patients with low levels of vitamin D at their diagnosis were twice as likely to die and progressed at a faster rate than those with adequate vitamin D levels. They also discovered trends revealing that higher levels of vitamin D matched with longer survival times and decreased progression of the disease.

D. Alexander Parker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Urology at Mayo Clinic in Florida, suggests that one-quarter of Americans suffer from low levels of Vitamin D.

In fact according to data obtained by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 7.6 million children across the USA were vitamin D deficient. This is defined as less than 15ng/ml of blood.

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone health as well as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. It is vital for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. In addition it has been found to:

  • Regulate and support the immune system
  • Maintain healthy body weight
  • Reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis
  • Maintaining brain function as you age
  • Reduce severity and frequency of asthma symptoms
  • Reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women

How Much Vitamin D Should You Get?

Check out the chart below for the recommended amounts of vitamin d. Again, it’s worth pointing out that the only way to accurately know is to test your blood.

Vitamin-D-Dose-Recomendation

How Do You Get Vitamin D?

The best source of vitamin D is from the God given sunshine.

couple-on-sunny-beach

It is recommended that you should get ten to fifteen minutes of sun on the face, arms, hands, and back at least two times a week.  Be careful to stay on the safe side of burning.

However, for some people living in areas of the world where it’s not easy to get adequate sunlight, I recommend supplementing with a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement.

If you’re struggling to get the advised amounts of sun exposure try a high quality supplement.

4 Best Food Sources for Vitamin D3

  1. Wild Caught Salmon (and other fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and sardines. Not Tilapia)
  2. Raw Dairy like cheese and yogurt
  3. Eggs
  4. Mushrooms

What’s the Best Time of Day for Vitamin D?

The best time of day to get sunlight exposure for vitamin D is noon. 

It’s essential to know and maintain healthy levels of vitamin d to protect against disease and disability later in life. For this reason, it’s important to get proper testing to know your levels of vitamin D.

How to Test Your Vitamin D levels at Home

As I mentioned earlier, having a blood tests to measure the amount of vitamin D in your blood is the only way to know if you’re getting enough vitamin D or not. The blood test you need is called a 25(OH)D Blood Test. You have a few options for testing, the two below are very easy and straightforward:

1. Order an in-home test. These tests are simple to use. Order online and a test is sent to your home. You prick your finger and put a drop of blood on to blotter paper, then you simply send the paper to a laboratory to be tested. You can order an in-home test at www.zrtlab.com.

2. Order a test online and get blood work done at a lab. Here in the U.S., you can bypass your doctor and go straight to the testing laboratory. There are a few websites that will assist you in this: mymedlab.com, healthcheckusa.com. You can buy a 25(OH)D test from all of these companies and have the test itself done at your nearest LabCorp. These tests do tend to be slightly more expensive than in-home tests.

Interpreting your test results isn’t complicated either. This chart can be used  to determine if you’re severely lacking in vitamin D (deficient), mildly lacking in vitamin D (insufficient) or if you’re already getting enough vitamin D (sufficient). Vitamin D range guidelines from various organizations:

Vitamin D range guidelines from various organizations

It’s suggested that 80-100 ng/ml is the ideal level to aim for. This is why the Vitamin D Council recommends adults take 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D supplement in order to reach and stay at this level.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Vitamin D is essential for bone health but also has been shown to help reduce the risk of numerous diseases.
  • Americans are dangerously deficient in vitamin D levels.
  • The best source of vitamin D is God’s provided sunshine.
  • The second best option is supplementing with Raw Vitamin D3.
  • Your third source is foods like salmon, raw dairy, eggs, and mushrooms.
  • Test your blood to determine accurate levels of vitamin D.

 

Sources:

27. April 2015 · Comments Off on Statins vs. the Mediterranean Diet · Categories: Latest News, Nutrition

NNT for Statins vs. the Mediterranean Diet

Shereen K. Lehman, DC, MS and James Lehman, DC

 

THE NUMBER NEEDED TO TREAT NNT represents an estimate of the number of people who need to undergo the treatment of interest in order to prevent one additional adverse outcome from occurring. For example, if an intervention has an NNT of 10, it means you’d have to treat 10 people with that specific intervention to prevent one additional bad outcome.As a measurement, the NNT is considered to be more clinically useful than sorting through relative risks, odds ratios or absolute risk reduction.1 But it’s important to understand the population that was studied and what the specific outcome of interest is. For example, a medication used to prevent heart attacks from occurring will have one NNT for people who have never had a heart attack but probably a different NNT when it’s used for people who are trying to prevent a second incident.

The NNT is typically included in the results of research studies and reviews. An organization called The NNT Group reviews various therapies and diagnostic interventions and lists the findings on its website, thennt.com.

NNTs and Statins

Time frame matters too. According to The NNT Group, statin drugs given for five years, in order to prevent heart disease in people who have no history of heart disease, is 104.2 That means that 104 people have to take statins in order to prevent one extra person from having a heart attack. The NNT Group calculates the number needed to harm (NNH) as well. According to its findings, one in 50 people on statins develops diabetes and one in ten experiences muscle damage as defined as rhabdomyolysis. Undiagnosed muscle pain, such as myalgia, wasn’t included.

The picture changes when considering patients who have a history of heart disease. In this case, according to the reviewers, the statins NNT is 83 in order to prevent an additional death from occurring and 39 for preventing a nonfatal heart attack.3 The harms are the same as in the previous instance.

In comparison, the Mediterranean diet has been studied in a large randomized trial and is included on The NNT website. When followed for five years, the Mediterranean diet has an NNT of 61 for preventing stroke, heart attack or death with no harms noted.4 So, according to The NNT, the Mediterranean diet appears to be a better choice than statins for primary prevention of stroke, heart attack or death.

When the focus is shifted to studies on patients who’ve had one heart attack and are trying to prevent a second one, the NNT for the Mediterranean diet drops even lower. In fact, the NNT for preventing that repeat heart attack is 18, and the overall NNT for preventing death or cancer in this group is 30.5

Endnotes

1. Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. Number Needed to Treat (NNT). www.cebm.net/number-needed-to-treat-nnt

2. The NNT. Statins for Heart Disease Prevention (Without Prior Heart Disease). www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-without-prior-heart-disease

3. The NNT. Statins for Heart Disease Prevention (With Known Heart Disease). www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-with-known-heart-disease

4. The NNT. Mediterranean Diet for Heart Disease Prevention (Without Known Heart Disease). www.thennt.com/nnt/mediterranean-diet-for-heart-disease-prevention-without-known-heart-disease/

5. The NNT. Mediterranean Diet for Post Heart-Attack Care. www.thennt.com/nnt/mediterranean-diet-for-post-heart-attack-care/

15. July 2014 · Comments Off on Overweight? Don’t blame it on overeating · Categories: Latest News, Nutrition

Overweight? Don’t blame it on overeating

weightlossPick up most any weight loss book and one of the first things the authors usually address is scaling back on portion sizes and reducing your calorie intake. However, Medical News Today reports that a study just published by the American Journal of Medicine now points to lack of exercise as the biggest culprit in the growing obesity crisis, potentially changing the focal point behind what it takes to get thin.

Researchers from Stanford University analyzed data from 22 years of eating, exercise, and obesity among participants involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Between 1988 and 2010, some interesting trends developed:

  • A yearly rise in body-mass index (BMI) for both males and females, approximately 37% annually for each
  • Growing waistlines for women at the rate of 0.37% and for men at the slightly lower rate of 0.27%

According to conventional weight loss wisdom, one may attribute these increases to the prevalence of fast food, super-sizing, and more emotional eating to deal with the stressors so common today, but the researchers found that daily caloric intake didn’t really change all that much in this two-decade time span. What did change, though, is the amount of exercise people were getting (or, actually, the amount that they were not getting).

When the data was examined, researchers discovered that the number of sedentary people went from just over 19% to over 50%, or, more than double. If this trend continues, by the end of the century, hardly anyone will be exercising and obesity will be almost unstoppable, raising mortality rates through the roof and depriving our children and grandchildren from living long and healthy lives. This adds to research published last year showing that 80% of Americans fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

Certainly, eating nutritious foods is still part of a healthy lifestyle, as is engaging in regular chiropractic care, but so too is getting physically active. It’s not just your health that depends on it. It’s your life.

Reference

Uri Ladabaum, et al. Obesity, abdominal obesity, physical activity, and caloric intake in US adults: 1988-2010. The American Journal of Medicine 2014.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off on Eggs Don’t Cause Heart Attacks — Sugar Does · Categories: Latest News, Nutrition

Eggs Don’t Cause Heart Attacks — Sugar Does

by

It’s over. The debate is settled.

It’s sugar, not fat, that causes heart attacks.

Oops. Fifty years of doctors’ advice and government eating guidelines have been wrong. We’ve been told to swap eggs for Cheerios. But that recommendation is dead wrong. In fact, it’s very likely that this bad advice has killed millions of Americans.

A rigorously done new study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. That’s 400%! Just one 20-ounce soda increases your risk of a heart attack by about 30%.

This study of more than 40,000 people, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, accounted for all other potential risk factors including total calories, overall diet quality, smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol.

This follows on the heels of decades of research that has been mostly ignored by the medical establishment and policy makers. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends getting no more than 25% of your total calories from added sugar. Really?? This study showed that your risk of heart attacks doubles if sugar makes up 20% of your calories.

Yet more than 70% of Americans consume 10% of their daily calories from sugar. And about 10% of Americans consume one in every four of their calories from sugar.

Failed Dietary Guidelines

U.S. Dietary Guidelines provide no limit for added sugar, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still lists sugar as a “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) substance. That classification lets the food industry add unlimited amounts of sugar to our food. At least the American Heart Association recommends that our daily diet contain no more than 5% to 7.5% added sugar. Yet most of us are eating a lot more. Most of us don’t know that a serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies, or that fruit yogurt has more sugar than a Coke, or that most breakfast cereals — even those made with whole grain — are 75% sugar. That’s not breakfast, it’s dessert!

This is a major paradigm shift. For years, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that fat causes heart attacks and raises cholesterol, and that sugar is harmless except as a source of empty calories. They are not empty calories. As it turns out, sugar calories are deadly calories. Sugar causes heart attacks, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia, and is the leading cause of liver failure in America.

The biggest culprit is sugar-sweetened beverages including sodas, juices, sports drinks, teas and coffees. They are by far the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet. In fact, more than 37% of our sugar calories come from soda. The average teenage boy consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, or about 544 calories from sugar. Even more troubling, this isn’t just putting kids at risk for heart attacks at some remote later date in their lives. It’s killing them before their 20th birthday.

This new research syncs with decades of data on how sugar causes insulin resistance, high triglycerides, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and dangerous small LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also triggers the inflammation we now know is at the root of heart disease.

And fats, including saturated fats, have been unfairly blamed. With the exception of trans fats, fats are actually protective. This includes omega-3 fats, nuts and olive oil, which was proven to reduce heart attack risk by more than 30% in a recent large randomized controlled study.

Here’s the simple fact: Sugar calories are worse than other calories. All calories are not created equal. A recent study of more than 175 countries found that increasing overall calories didn’t increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but increasing sugar calories did — dramatically.

How to Cure Our Sugar Addiction

America lags far behind the rest of the world in addressing this problem. Mexico, for example, responded after learning that when soda consumption increased to 20% of calories for the average citizen, their rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes skyrocketed. Public health officials there researched effective solutions to combat obesity and diabetes from around the world.

The key interventions they implemented included taxing soda, banning junk food television advertising, and eliminating processed foods, junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages from schools. More than 15 countries have targeted sugar-sweetened beverages by taxing them — a strategy that’s proven successful.

Another effective strategy is revamping food labeling to make it clear if a food is good, should be consumed with caution, or is bad for you. In the United States, even someone with a Ph.D. in nutrition has trouble deciphering food labels. How can the average person be expected to know?

Recent and mounting scientific evidence clearly proves that sugar — and flour, which raises blood sugar even more than table sugar — is biologically addictive. In fact, it’s as much as eight times more addictive than cocaine.

The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour a year. It’s imperative that we revamp our outdated and dangerous national dietary guidelines. And we need clear strategies and medical programs to help people understand and address the health risks and addictive nature of sugar and refined carbohydrates.

That’s how we can reverse this tsunami of obesity and chronic disease that is robbing us of our health and crippling our economy.

In my new book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, which will be released on February 25, I provide an easy, step-by-step plan to rid yourself of sugar addiction and reverse your risk of heart attacks. To download a sneak preview of this book, go to www.10daydetox.com and pre-order the book on Amazon.

Wishing you health and happiness, Mark Hyman, MD

27. March 2013 · Comments Off on Aerobic Exercise Programming for Patients With Metabolic Syndrome · Categories: Latest News, Nutrition, Wellness

Aerobic Exercise Programming for Patients With Metabolic Syndrome

By K. Jeffrey Miller, DC, DABCO

Metabolic syndrome is a multifaceted condition that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. The syndrome is made up of five conditions; hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hyperlipidemia and obesity. Individually, these conditions are significant health problems; together, their effect can be devastating.

 

 

Most health care providers understand the benefits of exercise, and often suggest patients exercise and lose weight. However, minimal (if any) instructions are typically provided with this directive. In all fairness to the doctor giving the weight-loss directive, exercise programming is not a subject taught or emphasized in school. This means there is a gap to bridge for clinicians treating patients with metabolic syndrome.

metabolic syndromeA bridge for the gap is offered here through instruction in aerobic exercise programming. Aerobic training is the easiest type of exercise to begin, and has the greatest effect on weight loss and controlling obesity. Other fitness components, such as flexibility, strength training, etc., can be added in once an aerobic base has been established.

Pre-Participation

Regardless of the patient’s physical status at the beginning of a program, a thorough physical examination is necessary. The examination should include heart, lung and blood pressure assessment. An ECG and general lab work should also be performed in order to clear the way for an aerobic conditioning plan.

Pulse rate, body weight and circumferential measurements of the neck, arms, waist, hips and thighs should also be recorded. The waist-to-hip ratio should be calculated from waist and hip measurements. (Table 1) These baseline numbers will serve as the reference for improvement throughout the program.

 

Table 1: Calculating and Interpreting Waist-to-Hip RatioWaist measurement: circumference of the body at the waist, measured midway between the lowest ribs and the crest of the ilium in inches

Hip measurement: circumference of the body at the widest point of the hips (greater trochanter area) in inches

Waist-to-hip ratio: The waist measurement is then divided by the hip measurement. The resulting number for men should be less than .90; the resulting number for women should be less than .80

Mode of Exercise

 

When most people think of aerobic exercise, they picture aerobic dance classes. There are many other choices. Table 2 lists several types of aerobic exercise readily available to most patients.

Frequency / Rest

Some modes of aerobic exercise can be performed daily. Walking is the best example. It is low impact and requires minimal training or equipment. Other modes of exercise cannot be performed daily and require a lower frequency. Running is the best example. It is high impact and requires more training. Days of exercise must be mixed with days of rest.

Strenuous aerobic exercise can be performed every other day or in patterns, such as two days of exercise followed by a day of rest, or three days of exercise followed by a day of rest. Exercise can also be recommended as a number of sessions per week. The patient can be instructed to exercise at least five days a week, with the patient selecting the days that best fit their weekly schedule.

 

Table 2: Modes of Aerobic ExerciseAerobic dance classes
Cycling (road)
Cycling (stationary)
Dancing (multiple types)
Elliptical trainers
Hiking
Jumping rope
Rowing (boat)
Rowing (machine)
Running (road)
Running (treadmill)
Ski machines
Stair climbing (actual stairs)
Stair climbing (step machine)
Swimming
Walking (outdoors)
Walk / run intervals
Walking (the mall / track)
Walking (treadmill)
Water aerobics

Patients who are also involved in other types of exercise can alternate days between those exercises and aerobic exercise. The alternation of activities provides a degree of rest for the body, even if some form of exercise is performed daily by altering activities and body regions exercised.

 

Exercise frequency must also be planned beyond weekly sessions. The number of weeks the patient should exercise before the frequency and overall exercise program are reassessed must be considered from the start. Reassessment should occur in four- to 12-week intervals depending upon the patient’s condition and goals. Patients who are just beginning a program or who are returning from an injury should be reassessed frequently (4-6 weeks). Patients who have been exercising for longer periods and are in better shape do not require reassessment as frequently (6-12 weeks).

Duration / Distance

The length of an exercise session can be measured in time or distance. Time is the most practical method. Walking 20 minutes sounds better than walking 1mile. This is more encouraging and seems more attainable to the patient, especially the novice exerciser.

Since schedules and daily activities are tracked by time, it is easier for patients to plan exercise based on time. This is especially important for patients who are not used to exercising. Patients know immediately how to plan for 30 minutes of exercise, but may not know initially how long it may take them to walk a mile or bike 5 miles.

Tracking time is also more practical when aerobic equipment does not have the capability to track distance, the tracking mechanism is broken or the mode of exercise does not result in measurable displacement (water aerobics, jumping rope).

Exercise Intensity

There are two simple rules for determining appropriate intensity. The rule for determining minimal intensity is that the patient must be sweating within the first 10 minutes of exercise. If the patient is not sweating at this point, the intensity is too low. The rule for determining maximal intensity is that the patient must be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If the patient cannot converse readily, the intensity is too high.

 

Table 3: Determining Maximum Heart Rate for Aerobic ExerciseDetermining the maximum heart rate for a 40-year-old male with a resting heart rate of 70 and an exercise goal of weight reduction and fat burning is accomplished as follows:

Resting heart rate: 70 beats per minute (bpm)

Maximum heart rate: Patient’s age subtracted from 220 (220-40) = 180 bpm

Resting heart rate subtracted from maximum heart rate (180 – 70) = 110

To find the heart rate required to burn fat, multiply 100 x .70 (70 percent) =77

The number based on the goal-percentage is then added to the resting heart rate: 77 + 70 = 147 bpm

Thus, the target heart rate during exercise for the patient in question is 147 bpm

An additional method for determining intensity is monitoring target heart rate. Monitoring target heart rate helps assure the patient that their exercise goals are being met. To determine a patient’s target heart rate, subtract the patient’s age from 220. Then subtract the patient’s resting heart rate from this number.

 

Once the above number is determined, the exercise goal can be considered. To burn fat, the number is usually multiplied by 60-70 percent. To build endurance and stamina, the number is usually multiplied by 80 percent. Then add the patient’s resting heart rate to determine the final number. (Table 3)

Record-Keeping

The final step in aerobic exercise is to keep track of activity and progress. The patient should record the dates and duration of each exercise session. The record will later serve as a reminder to the patient of how far they have progressed, and it will help the doctor track patient compliance and progress.

While these suggestions are intended to help the doctor address metabolic syndrome through aerobic exercise, the method of exercise programming recommended here can apply to almost any patient. For a sample travel card to assist with exercise programming and record-keeping, visit my website, www.examdoc.com.

 

 

Resources

  • Byrns CD, Wild SH. The Metabolic Syndrome and Primary Care. Wiley; Hoboken, NJ, 2007.
  • American Council on Exercise. ACE Personal Trainer Manual, American Council on Exercise; San Diego, CA, 1997.
  • Baechle TR, Earle RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition. National Strength and Conditioning Association; Lincoln, NE, 2008.
  • Bryant CX, Franklin BA, Conviser JM. Exercise Testing and Program Design: A Fitness Professional’s Handbook. Healthy Learning; Monterey, CA, 2002.
12. November 2012 · Comments Off on How to Rewire Your Brain to End Food Cravings · Categories: Latest News, Nutrition

How to Rewire Your Brain to End Food Cravings

by

I’m a food addict. We all are. Our brains are biologically driven to seek and devour high-calorie, fatty foods. The difference is that I have learned how to control those primitive parts of my brain. Anyone can this if they know how.

In this article, I will share three steps to help you counteract those primitive parts of your brain that have you chasing high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. But before you can update your brain’s biological software, you’ve got to understand why it developed in the first place.

Calories = Survival

The brain’s desire to binge on rich food is a genetic holdover from the days of hunter-gatherers. Given what scientists know today about our early ancestors it makes sense that our brains are hardwired to fixate on high-calorie foods.

It’s a survival mechanism. Eating as many calories as possible, whenever possible, allowed our ancestors to store excess calories as fat and survive lean times. That approach worked well for 2.4 million years, but today it’s making us sick and fat.

That’s because our brains haven’t evolved as fast as our food environment. The human brain evolved over 2.5 million years ago. And, with the exception of the last 10,000 years, people only ate animals they could hunt and wild-plants they could gather.

Imagine if you could only eat what you caught or picked! The variety of foods hunter-gatherers ate paled in comparison to the 40,000 different food items we can buy in the average big-box grocery store today.(1)

No cinnamon buns for them!

And whereas we have easy access to food 24/7, drive-thru meals were not an option for hunter-gatherers. Not to mention that hunting and gathering was hard work. Early humans expended lots of calories acquiring their food, so they needed to eat high-calorie foods to offset the loss.

The average hunter-gatherer got up to 60 percent of his calories from animal foods such as muscle meat, fat and organ meat, and the other 40 percent from plants.(2)

That balance between protein and carbohydrates in the diet is where the problem lies, but it’s not what you think. Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap, but they are the single most important nutrient for long-term health and weight loss.

But I’m not talking about bagels and donuts. I’m talking about plant foods that more closely resemble what our ancestors ate. Hunter-gatherers ate fruit, tubers, seeds, and nuts. These are whole foods. They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and disease- and weight-busting colorful phytochemicals.

They also take time to digest. Therefore, they raise blood sugar slowly, which balances metabolism and offers a steady stream of energy. Whole foods have all the right information and turn on all the right genes.

But the past 10,000 years saw the advent of both agriculture and industrialization. And, in the blink of an eye (by evolutionary standards), the human diet got turned upside down. Today, 60 percent of our calories come from things that hunter-gatherers wouldn’t even recognize as food.

The bulk of those items—cereal grains, sugary drinks, refined oils and dressings—are simple carbohydrates.(3) The primitive brain sees an endless supply of easy energy. Left unchecked, our bodies pay the price. The result is a two-fronted epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country—what I call diabesity.

The Blood Sugar Cascade

When you eat simple carbohydrates, whether as sugar or as starch, they pass almost instantaneously from the gut into the bloodstream. Within seconds blood sugar levels start to rise. To counter the increase in sugar, the body releases insulin. Insulin is the key that unlocks the cells and allows sugar to enter. As sugar enters the cells, the amount of sugar in the blood declines and the body restores homeostasis.

An abundance of simple sugars in the diet goads the body into releasing more and more insulin. Eventually, the cellular locks get worn down from overuse. Like a key that’s lost its teeth, insulin loses its ability to easily open the cellular door.

The cells become numb to the effects of insulin. As a result, the body pumps out more and more of the hormone to keep its blood sugar levels in check. Eventually, this cycle leads to a dangerous condition called insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance—at the root of diabesity—causes you to gain belly fat, raises your blood pressure, messes up your cholesterol, makes you infertile, kills your sex drive, makes you depressed, tired, and demented, and even causes cancer.

Three Ways to Reprogram your Brain

Luckily there are ways to rewire the primitive parts of your brain by making good food choices. Here are three ways to get started. For more suggestions on how to wrestle control from your reptilian brain, see Chapter 15 of The Blood Sugar Solution.

  • Balance blood sugar. Blood sugar highs and lows drive primitive food cravings. If you get famished between meals, that’s a sign that your blood sugar is crashing. When blood sugar is low, you’ll eat anything. To better balance blood sugar, eat a small meal or snack that includes healthy protein, like seeds or nuts, every 3 to 4 hours.
  • Eliminate liquid calories and artificial sweeteners. Early humans didn’t reach for soda or fruit juices when they got thirsty. Sodas are full of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Processed fruit juices are awash in sugar. Try sticking with water and green tea. Green tea contains plant chemicals that are good for your health. And, last but not least, don’t succumb to the diet-drink trap. The artificial sweeteners in diet drinks fool the body into thinking it is ingesting sugar, which creates the same insulin spike as regular sugar.
  • Eat a high-quality protein at breakfast. Ideally, you’re eating quality protein at every meal, but, if you need to prioritize one meal, choose breakfast. Studies show that waking up to a healthy protein, such as eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butters or a protein shake (see my UltraShake recipe) help people lose weight, reduce cravings, and burn calories.

Ultimately, you may not control your genes but you do control what and how you eat. Since taking control and changing my diet, my brain no longer caves in to the cravings and urgings that seduce the reptilian brain. The most powerful tool you have to transform your health is your fork! Use it well and you will thrive.

To learn more please see The Blood Sugar Solution. Get one book or get two and give one to someone you love – you might be saving their life. When you purchase the book from this link you will automatically receive access to the following special bonuses:

  • Special Report—Diabetes and Alzheimer’s: The Truth About “Type 3 Diabetes” and How You Can Avoid It.
  • More Delicious Recipes: 15 Additional Ways to Make The Blood Sugar Solution as Tasty as It’s Healthy!
  • Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Nutrition Coaching – FREE for 30 days!
  • Hour 1 of The Blood Sugar Solution Workshop DVD

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Do you binge eat?
Is your diet comprised of fast foods and sugar?
Do you drink soda and add artificial sweeteners to your beverages?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

References:
(1) “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle, p 17
(2) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71
(3) “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets,” L Cordain, et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 71

Avatar of Dr Mark Hyman

About Dr Mark Hyman

MARK HYMAN, MD is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine. He is a family physician, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in his field. Through his private practice, education efforts, writing, research, and advocacy, he empowers others to stop managing symptoms and start treating the underlying causes of illness, thereby tackling our chronic-disease epidemic. More about Dr. Hyman or on Functional Medicine. Click hereto view all Press and Media Releases