We all know who Santa Claus is right? That jolly son of a bitch who runs the toy sweatshop up north... Well did you know Santa has diabetes?
That's right...Poor Mr. Kringle thought he was immune to the ole type 2 sugar disease because he's a fictional character... Turns out not. Anybody can develop diabetes. An estimated 387 million people on this planet have it. And that number has skyrocketed from 153 million in 1980 (holy...epidemic).
So what IS diabetes anyways?... How did Santa and the other 10% of the world get it?
Let's break it down.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease of improper insulin functioning. It is characterized by 2 main forms:
Type 1: The body cannot produce insulin.
Type 2: The body has become resistant to insulin (cells cannot use it).
90% of people with diabetes (along with Santa) have Type 2. Unlike Type 1, Type 2 is entirely preventable and mostly reversible.
So what is Santa doing wrong?
1. Santa Eats Too Much Sugar
In case you glazed over my beautifully succinct definition of diabetes; it's basically a sugar disease. And you can get it by eating too much...
The main problem with sugar is that our bodies are not evolved to metabolize it in large proportions; especially without the accompaniment of natural fibers (like you would find in whole fruits and vegetables) that slow down digestion.
2. Santa Eats Unhealthy Types of Dietary Fats
Diabetes may be a sugar disease, but the types of dietary fat a person eats also matters.
One of the ways our bodies use the fats we eat is to construct cell membranes. These are the outer layers that surround and protect our cells. They determine what nutrients get in and what waste products get out. If the membranes are made up of shoddy materials, they don't function as well (i.e. sugar is less able to enter cells).
The standard American diet is loaded with these shoddy materials in the form of highly processed vegetable and seed oils (corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, etc). These oils are pro-inflammatory and prone to oxidation.
For a more in-depth analysis of which fats to eat and which to avoid; here's a solid breakdown from Chris Kresser's blog.
3. Santa is a Gluten Junkie
Let's be honest... it's fun to make fun of people on gluten free diets. But that doesn't mean avoiding gluten and the rest of the inflammatory proteins in wheat is a bad idea. While only 1% of the population is acutely "allergic" to gluten, for the rest of us, it's simply a chronic toxin that causes inflammation and fat gain.
4. Santa caught that Obesity
Getting diabetes is a great way to get fat. But getting fat is also a great way to get diabetes. It's the wonderful cycle of metabolic syndrome...
When a person becomes insulin resistant at the cellular level, the pancreas compensates by pumping out more insulin into the bloodstream. And since insulin is in essence a storing hormone, this creates a perfect environment for fat gain.
On the other hand, when a person gains excessive amounts of fat, it put's stress on the organs and the individual cells to keep up. Our metabolic pathways start to resist and break down.
Ok, so Santa eats cookies all day long... He got fat and diabetic. What about Buddy the Elf? That cocky bastard puts maple syrup on his spaghetti and he seems pretty healthy right?...
I hate to bring down your holiday spirit, but Buddy the Elf died last year. Yeah... turns out there's no rule you have to be fat to get diabetes. While approximately 85% of the people with diabetes are indeed overweight, the rest don't often present symptoms until some major damage has been done. Buddy apparently had nerve damage and fatty liver disease and didn't even know it.
Recent studies even suggest that skinny people with diabetes are actually at a greater risk for developing commodities like heart failure and chronic kidney disease. This makes sense when you consider that the fundamental process of storing body fat is protective. The whole reason our bodies take sugar and turn it into fat is so that it doesn't hang around in the blood too long.
New Years Resolution
Alright you cotton-headed-ninny-muggins- I know that it's Christmas... And that's no time to go on a diet. But the new year is upon us. Let's all join Santa in eating a little less sugar, a little less seed oils, and a little less bread... So we can all be a little less diabetic this next year.
References and Further Reading
Tight Junctions, Intestinal Permeability, and Autoimmunity Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes Paradigms
Gliadin induces an increase in intestinal permeability and zonulin release by binding to the chemokine receptor
Amylopectin starch promotes the development of insulin resistance in rats.
What is the Cause and Cure for Type 2 Diabetes
Membrane Fatty Acid Transporters as Regulators of Lipid Metabolism: Implications for Metabolic Disease
How does Obesity cause Diabetes
Obesity Paradox: Why Being Thin with Diabetes Is a Dangerous Combo
Every time you put on sun-block, the sun wells up and sheds a salty, sizzling tear... He's just trying to share his warm, healthy rays with you. And you turn around and accuse him of plotting to give you forehead cancer. Now we've all heard about the dangers of too much UV exposure and no doubt each experienced at least one bad sun burn personally. But what if smearing on the Coppertone and hiding from the sun is actually doing us more harm than good?
Current public health advice to limit sun exposure stems from the undeniable evidence that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun is a risk factor for non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers (especially for those delicate powder snowflakes who haven't built up some natural protection). That being said, there is now a growing body of evidence to contend that people who avoid sunlight as well as those living in higher latitudes (higher latitude = lower UVR) have a higher risk of all-cause mortality. In other words... people who get more sun live longer.
Initially vitamin D (a product of sunlight) was championed as the missing link. But since correcting blood levels of vitamin D through supplementation does not appear to replicate the same effects, researchers were forced to dig deeper.
So what is this mysterious life-giving mana from the sun? Some really brainy dermatologists in Edinborgh think it's Nitric Oxide...
It turns out that human skin contains large stores of nitric oxide precursors. And when UVA* light hits our skin's surface, these precursors form active nitric oxide that is released into our blood stream. This is big news. And perhaps warrants amendments to exposure recommendations considering heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US and kills 50 times as many people every year as skin cancer (600,000 /yr vs 12,000 /yr).
*UVA = Long Wave Radiation, UVB = Short Wave Radiation
So there you have it... The sun emits UV rays. When UV rays hit our skin, nitric oxide is released into our circulation. When nitric oxide is released, our blood pressure drops and the inflammation in our blood vessels goes down. When this happens you get to live longer. So take a break from your cubes and go fill your pockets full of sunshine.
For more info, check out Richard Weller's TED Talk: Could the sun be good for your heart?
References and Further Reading:
UVA Irradiation of Human Skin Vasodilates Arterial Vasculature and Lowers Blood Pressure Independently of Nitric Oxide Synthase
Is Sunlight Good for our Heart?
Avoidance of Sun-exposure is a Risk Factor for All-cause Mortality
Sun CAN Actually Help Protect You Against Skin Cancer
Sun exposure prior to diagnosis is associated with improved survival in melanoma patients: results from a long-term follow-up study of Italian patients.
Easter is coming up and I've decided to pay homage by writing a blog post about the awesomeness of eggs. But before I get into it, I need to set the record straight about a couple things...
#1 There is no Easter Bunny. You've been lied to... It's a mutherfuckin' Easter Chicken. Chickens lay eggs folks. Rabbits are mammals. They poop out little baby bunny-rabbits... shell-less baby bunny rabbits. How that damn rabbit stole all the glory, I have no idea.
#2 There's a dirty rumor out there that eggs are bad for you. Or at least that eating the yolk causes heart problems due to it's high cholesterol content. This is also untrue. There is no research that demonstrates a direct link between egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, eating eggs is more likely protective to arteries as it has shown to improve ratios of large vs small LPLs ("low-density lipoproteins"...a type of carrier for cholesterol).
Now that we've gotten those two offensively spurious fables out of the way... I will, for the remainder of this article, make
the case that eggs are in fact a badass food. And if you want to be smarter, more jacked, and overall more bangarang, then you should probably start consuming them on the daily.
Eating Eggs makes you Smarter
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of Choline, an essential nutrient required for a long list of biological functions (cell signaling, nerve impulse transmission, other sciency words), But in short... choline is necessary for proper brain function. And since our bodies can only make very small amounts of choline, it's important to get plenty of it in the diet. Multiple studies have linked high dietary choline intake with significant increases in cognitive performance. One long-term study published in 2011 out of Boston University School of Medicine demonstrated specific improvements in verbal memory, verbal learning, visual memory and executive function.
Eating Eggs makes you Jacked
Eggs have been a staple bodybuilding food since men with old-timey mustaches started flexing in front of crowds at the turn of the 19th century. There are two main reasons:
Muscle tissue is primarily made of chains of proteins and eggs are arguabley the best food source of protein. Not only are they classed as a complete protein ("complete" meaning they contain an adequate amount of all 9 essential amino acids necessary for human functions and repair), but they are also the most bio-available whole-food source of protein. A food's "biological value" is a measure of how efficiently a protein is metabolized, absorbed, and used by the body.
In addition to providing the basic raw materials for muscle growth, eggs contain nutrients that facilitate testosterone production. These include calcium, vitamin D, cholesterol and a healthy mix of fats.
What else can eggs do for you?
What type of eggs to buy?
Unless you're buying taradactal eggs from a crazy person at a farmer's market; we eat chicken eggs (sometimes duck) in America. But not all chicken eggs are made equal. The diet and living conditions of the animal that lays an eggs will determine the healthfulness of that egg. You may find a variety of labels on egg cartons at your local supermarket. Some say "Organic." Some say "Cage-Free." Some say "GMO-Free Feed." These are all good. But the healthiest, most nutritious eggs will be labeled "Pasture Raised." This means the chickens are free to roam their "pasture" and eat a natural diet of insects, seeds, and vegetation instead of being given feed from a bag.
Of course, after reading this article; you may have the urge to forgo the supermarket, build a coop and start breeding your own feathered flock so as to have easy access to their eggletes. To that I say: Your dream is attainable.
Now go forth and harness the badass power of the egg.
References and Further Reading:
Choline-rich diet and cognitive performance
Beneficial Effects of High Protein Breakfast
Egg Yolk Lipids
High intake of cholesterol results in less atherogenic low-density lipoprotein particles in men and women independent of http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15164336
Eating Eggs Lower Total Calorie Intake
Eating Eggs for Faster Reflexes
Lutein and Zeaxanthin in Eggs
Eat Eggs to Reduce Blood Pressure
Some fat-loss pills do work... they're just usually spiked with amphetamines... The most recent case of "enhanced" weight loss aids involves those marketed with the ingredient Acacia Rigidula.
While the FDA has yet to make any public warnings, scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration published a report back in July of 2013 in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analyses stating that of 21 tested samples of Acacia Rigidula being sold in the US, 9 were found to contain the synthetic compound: beta-methylphenethylamine (a positive isomer of the drug amphetamine). The trade names of these supplements were not listed in the report and the investigation appears to be ongoing.
Unfortunately, this is just another reincarnation of a familiar story in the world of "natural" supplements. Ever since 2004, when the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing Ephedra (a highly effective and highly profitable fat-loss aid), nutriceutical companies have been searching for a worthy replacement. Every so often a pill or powder hits the market claiming to have harnessed the power of an awesome "New!!" ingredient that has also somehow been "Used in ancient Chinese medicine for over a thousand years!!"... Bottles fly off the shelves and the people cheer about their shrinking waistlines. Then somebody decides to run a lab test on the stuff and it turns out there's a very clear explanation as to why the new pills work. The supplement maker has taken a page out of Jimmy Tango's recipe book and sauced 'em up with a dash of pharmaceuticals. The pills get pulled and the formerly happy customers get to look forward to a brief episode of withdrawals.
The trend is frighteningly repetitive:
So why does this keep happening?
It really comes down to how the industry is legislated. In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was enacted, which essentially states:
While many people feel the current policies need to be tightened, there are also reasonable hesitations to make changes too quickly. New rules come with new costs that can have drastic implications on the market. Emulating the medication approval process, as has been suggested, would surely handicap small to medium sized businesses who could not absorb associated fees. It would also expectedly slow the innovation of novel products and increase prices for customers.
Whether or not new laws are passed, if you're looking to buy some supplements; especially diet pills, doing a little product research beforehand might not be a bad idea. The FDA's database is a good start. Public reviews and forums can also help. Additionally, some companies will proactively order independent labs to demonstrate safety. These will be posted on their website, but may also be linked to an external reference.
On the other hand... Jimmy did lose 180 lbs in 5 days. Pretty damn impressive. Maybe just skip the homework and take a gamble... You just might get to "ride the snake" and make out with Scott Baio.
References and Further Reading:
USA Today: Nine diet supplements contain amphetamine-like compound
Determination of selected biogenic amines in Acacia rigidula plant materials and dietary supplements using LC–MS/MS methodshttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0731708513004378
Toxic amines and alkaloids from acacia rigidula
Pre-workout supplement CRAZE contains methamphetamine-like ingredient
Methamphetamine analog identified in mainstream dietary supplement
Slim-Xtreme pleads guilty to selling products containing unapproved drugs
FDA tainted supplement database
Are you hungry right now? Are you always hungry? Does it seem like some people can eat just small amounts of food and be full and it makes you want to punch them in their unhungry face?... Perhaps you'd like to know why this is?
Our bodies need fuel to survive, so it's not surprising that humans come pre-programmed with signals that motivate us to fulfill this requirement. Once upon a stone age, when we didn't have the option to hunt and gather at Safeway, our hunger pangs told us it was time to go kill a moose or find some berries. While our basic needs have not changed; for many of us today, food is no longer scarce. Those who'd like to take back some control over their appetite can learn a lot from one hormone in particular: LEPTIN.
Cliff Notes on Leptin
Leptin is a "hunger blocking" hormone that is produced mainly by fat cells and is secreted in levels directly proportional to how much body fat a person is carrying. Circulating leptin communicates with corresponding receptors deep in the nugety core of the brain (hypothalamus) signaling a reduction in appetite and an increase in the use of body fat for energy.
Basically... your fat talks to your brain. If you have sufficient energy stored (high leptin levels), the brain is told to eat less food. As body fat is reduced (low leptin levels), the restriction on hunger is lifted and you're free to go find some grub.
Question: If fat people have higher amounts of leptin, then why are they always so hungry?...
Answer: Their leptin signaling has been damaged. Their brains can no longer hear the "stop eating" messages.
While there are some very unlucky people born deficient in genes responsible for leptin production, these cases are rare. The vast majority of leptin resistance comes in two forms:
1) Defects in leptin transport into the brain
2) Disruption of signalling at the receptor level
Both of these are highly affected by diet and lifestyle choices. Here's a list of things that will eff up your leptin signals.
1. Chronically High Insulin Levels
2. Too much Fructose (Fruit Sugar)
3. Poor Sleeping Habits
4. Chronically High Stress Levels
5. Crash Dieting/ Prolonged Calorie Restriction
Reverse the Damage
So how do you reverse the damage? Let's run down the list. Fixing the first 3 issues may not necessarily be easy to accomplish in practice, but the solutions are pretty basic: cut your carbs, especially the sugar, and get more consistent sleep.
Cracking the code on #4 (chronic stress) is going to vary for each person. We've all got different stressors in our lives so there's really no one-size fits all strategy. Maybe it's time to make a job change? Sign up for yoga? Sell off your brattiest kid? I like to blow off steam with some daily jump rope action. But hey, that's just me.
#5 on this list is calorie restriction. If weight loss is your principal goal, lowering food intake may in fact be a necessary evil. But that doesn't mean you need to count calories and eat washed lettuce every other meal in order to be successful. Forcing yourself to eat like a bird will actually just make your body think it's starving and needs to hold on to energy. The key is to focus on better quality food. Get adequate nutrients. Fix your system first. And then once your hormones are corrected, not only will hunger naturally go down (allowing you to eat less as a result), but your body will become more efficient at accessing stored fat for energy.
So get out there and make leptin your bitch.
References and Further Reading:
Leptin Signaling and Leptin Resistance
Leptin induces Lipolysis and Energy Expenditure
Insulin and Cortisol Promote Leptin Production in Cultured Human Fat Cells
Fructose-induced Leptin Resistance
Soy is marketed as a "healthy" food. But is it really? Or did the soybean just hire a good PR agent?
The reality is that most health claims regarding soy are based off of epidemiological research from Asian cultures who prepared the plant in a very different way than we do here in the US. Traditionally, the bean was subject to a long fermentation process to get rid of anti-nutrients and was consumed mainly as a condiment in small amounts. Today, in 'Merica, we like our soy genetically modified, unfermented, and laced in pretty much everything... Unfortunately, eating the new American variety could put you at risk for some unwanted side effects, including thyroid dysfunction, liver problems and infertility. But the most bizarre risk of them all pertains to the gents in particular: Man boobs (gynecomastia).
The American Way:
Most soybean crops today (which by the way are heavily subsidized by the US government) are turned into soy oil and soy meal. The manufacturing of soy oil yields a waste product that is further extracted to produce Soy Protein Isolate. This is an extremely efficient process that yields a lucrative bottom line, which is why soy additives are basically found in aisle 1 through 27 of your local supermarket. However profitable; this practice is insufficient at eliminating the naturally occurring toxins in the plant. In some cases it can produce additional hazardous byproducts like lysinoalanine (link), which is linked to kidney damage in animal models.
Toxins and anti-nutrients are concerning, but realistically a push for more rigorous processing standards would not remove the most problematic component of soybeans. I'm referring to the isoflavones. Listen up bros, because this is how the moobs attack.
Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen or “plant estrogen.” If consumed, these plant estrogens actually have the ability to mimic our naturally occurring estrogen and potentially increase receptor activation. Hormonal imbalances between estrogen and androgens at the breast tissue can cause growth of the gland. There have been a number of reported cases identifying high soy consumption as the cause of this. If you drink 3 quartz a day of soymilk like this guy (link), you might just get a sweet pair of man-chesticles.
Now I know what you're thinking... perhaps this evil substance can be wielded to do good in the hands of the opposite gender. And I like your spirit. However, there does not appear to be reported evidence of women boosting their bra size from eating soy. Life is just not fair.
I understand that ranting about subsidized GMOs and condemning popular foods put me at risk of sounding like a hypertensive conspiracist. But then, what the hell else are blogs for if you can't go on a little tirade once in a while. In my humble non-doctoral opinion, I suggest doing your darndest to lay off of soy-containing food, especially if you're of the dude variety.
And now for your viewing pleasure... the "Man Boob Bounce:"
References and Further Reading:
Reported case of Gynecomastia from Soy Consumption
The Soy Ploy
Soy consumption lowers testosterone in rats
Lysinoalanine from Soy
When I consume carbs, I prefer them fermented and poured into a pint glass… I may be a nutrition nut, but we’re grown ups here and booze are fun. If you’re a social drinker like myself, but not a fan of feeling like your frontal lobe is begging to be amputated, then maybe it’s time to invest in some Na-R-Ala.
What the heck is Na-R-Ala? Without getting too complicated, Na-R-Ala is the most stable form of something called “Alpha-Lipoic Acid.” It’s a very powerful antioxidant that is naturally produced by the body, but declines with age. It it both water soluble and fat soluble which allows it to have access to all parts of our cells including those in our brain (ALA crosses the blood brain barrier).
Why supplement with Na-R-Ala when you drink alcohol?
Alcohol causes the production of excess "reactive oxygen species," a type of "free radical." This can be toxic to our cells (especially the membranes) as well as mediate for unwanted inflammation. Alpha-Lipoic Acid will help neutralize this cascade of free radicals and additionally has been shown to restore radical-fighting vitamins such as vitamin c and vitamin e.
Basically... if your head-ball hurts from drinking alcohol, it's because you voluntarily poured poison into your face. Now your body has to get rid of it and fix the damage. Popping some Na-R-Ala will help this process and hopefully shorten the amount of time you feel like dookie.
(Quick disclaimer... This stuff is not marketed as a "hangover remedy" so there is no standard dosage/timing recommendation for this use. I am also not a licensed healthcare professional and won't have any money for you if you decide to sue me for any reason).
That being said, I have played around with dosing. I think what works best is to take 100-300mg Na-R-Ala with a full glass of water right before bed after a night of debauchery.
I've tried taking it before a few highballs instead of waiting til after and I noticed that it was actually harder to get to a buzz... Now that's just a waste of money. I've also waited until the following morning with varied success, but then why wait and risk waking up in pain?
Where to buy?
Check the interwebs. Most brick and mortar nutrition stores will only have regular Alpha-Lipoic Acid, which is not worth your greenbacks.
Remember to Drink Responsibly/ Or at least get a good story out of it...
References and Further Reading:
Summary of Benefits/Effects:
ALA enhances antioxidant defenses and the function of endothelial cells:
Na-R-Ala is more bio-available than R-Ala and racemic Ala (has both S and R isomers):
ALA reduces DNA damage and oxidative stress induced by alcohol in rats:
Anybody else notice that the lady in the green Starbucks logo is looking a little bloaty?... Coffee is a glorious elixir, but half of the drinks on the menu look like milkshakes these days. If you're anything like me, you may be inclined to feed your caffeine addiction with something high in energy, but low in obesity. Hence the "skinny latte" sounds like an appropriate compromise... The problem is that the skinny latte really isn't all that "skinny."
“Skinny latte” usually means espresso + nonfat milk + possibly sugar free syrup (ie sugar-free vanilla). While this drink is probably not going to rival the ill effects of its diabetic frappuccino cousin, it’s also not doing you any favors.
Here's the quick breakdown:
1) Greater spikes in insulin
2) Gut Inflammation
3) Changes in our brain’s ability to gauge calorie consumption leading to increases in food intake
The Real Skinny Latte(s):
Perhaps by now you're asking wtf CAN I add to my coffee? Well, technically your first option is to man-up and drink your espresso with a side of black nothingness... But if that’s too bitter, the best "skinny" alternative is actually :
Espresso + a light splash of heavy cream (as in heavy whipping cream, not whipped cream).
If you are worried about the fat content; don't. “Fatty food” and “fattening food” are not synonymous. This beverage has no carbs, no extra insulin release, and is still low in calories. Also, as an added bonus: caffeine is more lipid soluble than water soluble so you get a stronger jolt.
If you're not brave enough for heavy cream yet, you can opt for:
Unsweetened coconut milk
Unsweetened almond milk
The corporate coffee giants don't usually carry these, but your trendy local hipster spot may. Good luck.
References and Further Reading:
Video on Insulin:
Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats.
Sucralose affects glycemic and hormonal responses to an oral glucose load.
Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings