What would be your response if you tuned into the radio – a respectable radio like ABC Radio National – and you heard a leading researcher being interviewed and he was excited about the fact that they are very close to developing a vaccine that would desensitise you to a poison??
Well, this happened to me today, and I was stumped to know what to really think, especially because:
The poison is gluten and the disease is coeliac.
An article in SA’s Wednesday Advertiser reports that despite popularity of TV show Masterchef and its influence on culinary passion, Australians’ favourite is still a meat based dinner with either salad or veges. In my opinion this is one of the healthiest choices we could be making, as it is nutritionally sound while relatively low in carbohydrates. This will lead to decreased insulin levels and hence fat storage.
For a more indepth discussion on this check out our post on diet and fat loss at http://informhealth.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/so-what-to-eat-to-lose-weight-especially-body-fat/
While this eating tradition can be criticised for its blandness, it can be really spiced up and flavoured, with no need to increase its caloric value significantly. My encouragement would be to now follow that trend with lunch, and eventually breakfast!
I’d love to hear your suggestions for low carb and higher protein breakfast options, as this is often one of the stumbling blocks for people, especially if they don’t like eggs, or have cholesterol issues.
In our last post we left off with a recommendation to increase vegetable intake as a means of reducing total carbohydrate intake, and to also improve the ratio between 0mega-3s and omega-6s. This is very important as this ratio is totally unbalanced by our common western diets, which, among other things will also increase the level of inflammation that we are under.
Chronic inflammation can occur when your body is constantly fighting a disease or condition that is putting undue stress on a particular area. It is relatively common in people suffering from cancer, arthritis, lower back pain, asthma and depression. In extreme cases this inflammation creates a breakdown of muscle tissue with associated weight loss, which is known as cachexia.
While the exact cause of this chronic inflammation is poorly understood, what is known is that specific messenger cells called cytokines are released which act to amplify the inflammation process in the body. Under most circumstances this is a very important process because this pro-inflammatory mechanism is very important in the healing process when the body’s tissues and organs are damaged and also act to help trigger our white blood cells to action when we have a virus or infection.
However, when this process is unable to be “switched off” this amplification process builds on itself and creates a breakdown of muscle tissue and we get associated loss of strength and a decreased quality of life. In this case it is beneficial for us to break the inflammation cycle as under these chronic inflammation conditions it is very hard for us to build muscle.
We also know that the inflammatory cytokines are mediated through messengers called eicosanoids. Depending on the eicosanoids involved there may be a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory response. The pro-inflammatory eicosanoids are the by products of omega-6 fatty acids while omega-3 fatty acids create anti-inflammatory eicosanoids.
These essential fatty acids (our body cannot produce these), are gained from our diet. A general rule is that the brown things that we eat (grains, bread etc) have a high amount of omega-6 (pro-inflammation) while the green things that we eat have high amounts of omega-3 (anti-inflammation). It is not a wonder then that our western diet has moved from approximately a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3’s, to approximately a 15+:1 ratio!
How do we break this chronic inflammation cycle?
Obviously for us to break the inflammation cycle we need to alter our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in favour of the anti-inflammatory process. Research has shown that by supplementing with fish oil, which has high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA & DHA, we can decrease the amount of inflammation in the body.
However, the dosage required is quite high (approximately 1kg of oily fish per day!) for someone in a cachexic state and the only safe way to get this amount without the risk of mercury poisoning is with a practitioner grade fish oil supplement.
It should be noted that large dosages of fish oil may cause gastrointestinal problems, and there is also a risk of blood thinning at very high dosages (above 6g of fish oil per day).
Other benefits of fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to be beneficial for other health conditions including: hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke prevention, atherosclerosis, angina, cancer prevention, brain/eye development in infants, Crohn’s disease, Lupus, psoriasis, eczema, asthma, depression and mental illnesses.
For more information on fish oil or the inflammation process talk to one of our Exercise Physiologists.
Now we are getting onto the meaty (pardon the pun!) end of the discussion. What do we do from a dietary perspective to lose weight?? Research seems to be supporting dietary approaches different to the traditional ‘low-fat’ approach so widely publicised. There’s very strong support for the notion that the our ‘trusted’ food pyramid is not the most effective way towards health and leanness. The argument has more to do with insulin responses than with fat intake per se, and points us towards diets aiming for lower insulin releases, and hence lower in carbohydrates.
What the research tells us about low carbohydrate diets
Low carbohydrate (low CHO) diets in the past have been looked upon unfavorably mostly due to the bad press associated with the Atkins Diet which places no limitation on fat consumption. Another allegation made against low CHO diets is that they are not proven long term. There is strong research to indicate that low CHO diets reduce weight more so that low FAT diets over three and six month duration, and until recently only one study that tracked weight loss over 12 months. While in this study weight loss was greater (5.1kg vs 3.1 kg) in the low CHO diet, it didn’t reach statistical significance (Stern et al., 2004). There was also a large dropout rate, and because of this many argue that low CHO diets cannot be adhered to.
However, the same argument could be made for low FAT diets and this has been the mainstream dietary modification suggested by many peak health bodies.
A publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 2008), may force mainstream organisations to change their perceptions of low CHO diets. In this publication Shai et al (2008) followed 322 individuals for two years who were either on a low CHO diet, Mediterranean diet (higher in monounsaturated fats) or low FAT diet. It was found that both the low CHO diet and Mediterranean diet had greater weight loss over the two year period. Furthermore it was found that cholesterol profile improved more so with the low CHO diet and insulin and glucose levels were more favourable with the Mediterranean diet as compared to the low FAT diet.
It seems consistent findings such as these (albeit over shorter study durations) have lead to peak bodies such as the American Diabetic Association (ADA) changing their recommendation from 60-70% CHO to 45-60%.
So what is the explanation behind this? its all about the insulin response to carbohydrate rich foods, which make up the bulk of tradidional low-fat diets, such as the ‘food-pyramid’.
Insulin is responsible for lowering blood sugar levels when they rise as a result of consuming sugar. now, all carbohydrates that we eat, be they in the form of ‘complex’/low glycemic options or simple/sugary/HI GI options, are broken down to glucose to be absorbed by the intestines and enter the blood stream. Insulin regulates the increased blood sugar levels in two ways.
- The most commonly known is by ‘driving’ glucose into muscles to be absorbed for energy production.
- Insulin also acts on fat cells to decrease their release of fat into the blood stream, and encourages them to uptake/store more fat. The aim of this is to prioritise glucose metabolism (burning)
It is this second mechanism that is of greatest interest to us. If and when you eat carbohydrate dense foods, especially grains-based foods (breads, pasta, rice, etc), your body will enter into a fat storing mode, as it needs to maintain blood sugar/glucose levels constant.
So what is the take home message? aim to balance the amount of carbs and proteins that you eat during th day.
- decrease the amount of grains that you consume
- increase the amount of vegetables you eat. while most of the energy in vegetables comes from carbs, they contain very small amounts of it.
- Vegetables will also provide you with an adequate amount of vitamins and fibre
- an increased amount of protein intake will decrease the likelyhood of losing muscle mass as a result of decreasing your energy intake – resistance training (weights will also play a huge role in this).
- Eating more ‘green’ and less ‘brown’ will change your ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in your diet, but more about this next week!
hope this helps. again, if you would like more information, detail, or clarification, please do not heistate to ASK!