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Metabolic Syndrome

diabetes 1326964 640Managing and balancing your blood sugar is a cornerstone of health and can help manage or prevent several diseases associated with a condition called metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous condition that can lead to symptoms like high blood sugar, high blood pressure and weight gain around the middle that’s tough to lose. Metabolic syndrome can predispose people to developing conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 
 
The root cause of metabolic syndrome is insulin instability, also called insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone the body secretes to break down and assimilate sugars and carbohydrates.
 
Insulin is made by the pancreas and is the body’s main tool for managing the amount of sugar in the blood. It helps move sugar from the bloodstream into the muscles, fat cells and other body tissue, turning the sugar into useable energy to fuel body and cells. Insulin and blood sugar have a closely linked relationship. When blood sugar rises, insulin levels in the blood also rise.
 
The degree to which insulin lowers sugar in the blood stream is the marker of insulin sensitivity. The more a unit of insulin lowers blood sugar, the more sensitive you are insulin’s effects. You want to be sensitive to the effects of insulin. When insulin sensitivity goes down, it’s called insulin resistance. The body responds much less to insulin’s effects and blood sugar levels fail to decrease properly. In some cases blood sugar continues to rise.
 
Chronically eating too many simple carbohydrates is one of the primary factors that lead to insulin resistance. It is estimated that 32 percent of the U.S. population have insulin resistance. That is why lower carb diets, such as the Paleo, have been growing in popularity. This type of diet emphasizes the right kind of carbs for blood sugar management and excludes carbs that wreak havoc on blood sugar and insulin.
 
The carbohydrates emphasized by lower carb diets are also lower on the glycemic index. The glycemic index measures food by the amount they raise blood sugar in the body. Foods like bread and soda, though very different, are both high glycemic foods and have a quick, boosting effect on blood sugar and insulin.
 
To better understand this concept, let’s do a quick lesson on carbohydrates.
 
Carbohydrates are made up of sugars or molecules that break down into sugars in the body. There are two basic categories of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are categorized as monosaccharaides or disaccharides. Monosaccharaides are made from single molecules, examples are glucose, fructose and galactose. Disaccharides are two sugar molecules liked together, examples of which are lactose, maltose and sucrose.
 
Complex carbs, are made up of 3 or more sugar molecules that are linked together. For example, 3 to 10 linked sugar molecules are called oligosaccharides and 10 plus sugar molecules are called polysaccharides.
 
Both simple and complex carbs break down into their basic monosaccharide component, which is used to fuel cells. The difference is how fast each type carb is broken down and absorbed, which dictates its effect on blood sugar. The way the body breaks down carbohydrates depends on the molecules that bond the sugar cells together.
 
Starch is an example of a simple polysaccharide that is bonded together by alpha linkages. Enzymes in the digestive tract can quickly and easily break down alpha bonds, which absorb quickly and raise blood sugar levels.
 
Fiber is a type of carb that’s joined together by beta bonds, which are difficult for the body to break down and digest. This buffers the effect that complex carbs have on blood sugar, raising it more slowly and steadily versus the overwhelming effect of simple carbs. With complex carbs, that are full of fiber, insulin doesn’t have to work as hard to manage a blood sugar spike.
 
As you can see, not all carbs are bad. Healing your body and managing your blood sugar is a matter of picking the right carbs for fuel. Complex, fiber-rich carbs like fruits and veggies are the best choice. Processed, simple carbs like bread, soda and white rice can destabilize blood sugar.
 
Now you understand which carbs contribute to metabolic health and which carbs detract from it. However, making a transition to a different diet can still be hard and confusing. For example, while whole fruits and veggies have a positive effect on blood sugar, drinking a green juice with lots of fruit juice can make blood sugar rise too quickly.
 
The 21-Day Body Makeover can make your transition much easier. It emphasizes the right kind of low glycemic carbs to increase energy without increasing waist size or insulin resistance. The 21-Day Body Makeover offers meal plans and shakes that are also high in blood sugar balancing fats and proteins. Check out what eating the right kinds of lower glycemic carbs can do to your health and weight with the 21-Day Body Makeover program. You will be amazed at the results.
 
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All calories are not created equal

toast 1077881 640I’ve been vindicated after twenty years of debating other health professionals on this controversial topic.
 
Current research by Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and nutrition, David Ludwig, has shown that not all calories are equal when it comes to weight gain. His studies show that calories ingested versus calories burned is not a straight-forward math equation when it comes to the human metabolism.
 
Of course lifestyle plays an important role in weight management. Getting enough sleep, managing stress, diet and exercise are key but if you ignore hormonal issues, losing weight, even when doing “all the right things”, can be elusive and frustrating.
 
Professor Ludwig, a specialist in endocrinology and obesity, rejects the idea that over eating calories is the cause of weight gain. But rather, while seemingly counter intuitive, having more fat cells is what drives people to over eat. This is due mostly to one hormone, insulin.
 
Studying diabetics prove his point. It’s been shown that excess insulin treatment causes diabetics to gain weight. Conversely, insulin deficiency causes weight loss. Ludwig also points out that highly refined and simple carbohydrates produce the most amount of insulin in our bodies.
 
Therefore, Ludwig concludes that eating a diet that is high in simple carbs like refined sugars and baked goods can lead to insulin deregulation, which is directly connected to a yo-yo metabolism.
 
This is how it works. Eating a processed carb like white bread causes insulin levels to spike, which cause an enzyme called lipase to be turned off. Lipase is responsible for transferring triglycerides from blood lipoproteins into tissue. When lipase is off, it causes more calories to be stored in fat cells rather than in the blood, leading the brain to conclude that the body is hungry. This is the very mechanism that causes people to over eat.
 
When the fat cells take in and store too many calories, there are too few for the rest of the body. The brain compensates with cravings and hunger for additional calories to make up for it. So even though an individual may be obese with plenty of stored energy, the body believes it’s in a state of deprivation or starvation. For this reason, it also slows down metabolism to conserve calories. It’s a great survival mechanism, but totally unnecessary when calories are freely available. The body is in a state of confusion.
 
This rising hunger and slowing metabolism is the likely culprit of weight gain rather than the usual scapegoat, excess calories. This can explain why people who follow a low calorie diet in the long term, have little success in keeping weight off permanently.
 
Ludwig and colleagues published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that backs up his claims. The study followed 21 obese young adults after they lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight on low fat or low carb diets. The participants of these studies consumed the same number of calories, but the people on the low carb diet burned an extra 325 calories a day than the low fat folks.
 
These research findings back up Ludwig’s claim that the type of calories can make a huge difference. The study also observed that high carb/ low fat diets provide an energy boost for the first hour but a few hours later, those calories have been taken up into fat storage and can’t be quickly accessed for energy.
 
Ludwig does not think low fat diets are fundamentally unhealthy, but believes that dietary fat leaves less room for sugar and carbs in the diet. As fat decreases, it’s harder to not overeat grains. Grains can cause a spike in blood sugar if they’re heavily processed.
 
Despite these scientific findings, health advocates continue to promote the health benefits of low fat diets. And the outdated thinking on dietary fat encourages the food industry to produced refined, low-fat grain products instead of alternatives with healthy fat. Successful dieters should avoid refined grains and focus calorie intake on good sources of fat like nuts, avocados and olive oil.
 
Ludwig is continuing to study the effect of low fat versus low carb diets on people in a longer term, 5 month study to gain further insight in the role of the relationship of insulin, metabolism, calories and carbohydrates in weight gain. Hopefully his insights will inform the debate between low carb versus low fat with solid scientific findings.
 
To get a head start on your weight loss goals use our 21Daybodymakeover program.
 
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Labels should tell you how much exercise will burn off your food

nutrition trans fat panel 1329029 639x751Cold, hard numbers are hard to translate into real life experience, so they often lose their meaning. They are just too abstract. That’s why the calories per serving listed on food labels do not dissuade many people from eating them. Also, they can sometimes be misleading, as one small soft drink can be split into 2 or 3 servings, making the calorie count appear smaller than it actually is. 

So what if instead of the number of calories, food companies listed the amount of time it would take to burn off those calories through exercise? Walking at the reasonably brisk speed of 3 to 5 miles per hour and running at 5 miles an hour would be a great way to measure.

Just imagine. A sugary soft drink, listed at 138 calories doesn’t seem like a huge splurge. But when you take into account that you have to spend an extra half hour on the treadmill, it might give you pause before indulging.

Another example is a chicken and bacon sandwich, which rings in at 445 calories but requires one hour and 22 minutes of walking or 42 minutes of running to burn it off. And maybe you should pass up that blueberry muffin unless you plan on spending 48 minutes walking or 25 minute running to burn it off.

This sort of real-life representation might lead people to eat less in lieu of spending more time in the gym.  Because, let’s face it, we only have so much time and energy to exercise. You can’t burn off the sandwich, the soda AND the muffin you had for lunch, in just one sweaty session, without going super hard. 

We can call this innovative type of labeling, “calories with consequences”. And just maybe, it would make it harder to eat mindlessly and with ignorant bliss. Sure, this wouldn’t dissuade people who don’t watch their health or weight anyway, but for people who are concerned, it’s a much better way to communicate the consequences of what they are eating.

Of course, food companies are not too motivated to make this switch. Their aim is to sell you as much food as you can possibly eat. So if you are intrigued with this way of representing calories you can make the conversion yourself in your head. If 100 calories means 20 minutes of brisk walking or 10 minutes of running, you can do the math yourself. So next time you are eyeing that small bag of potato chips, that ring in at 171 calories, ask yourself if you are willing to spend an extra 31 minutes walking or 16 minutes running to burn it off?

Lastly, if you are interested in maintaining your health or weight loss, don’t just take calories into account. The quality of the food you eat is also very important. Eating sugary foods with fat but little protein or fiber, will stimulate your insulin response and cause your body to store more fat.

Besides, it’s all too easy to slurp down 150 calories of soda, but it’s a lot more work to eat the equivalent calories in baby carrots, as you’d have to consume 45 carrots in a sitting. That’s hard to do, even with yummy dip.

If you want to get a jump start on your nutrition check out our 21Day Complete Body Makeover Program which comes in Chocolate and our new flavor Vanilla.

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Fast food eaters show higher levels of chemicals in their bodies

Fast Food BurgerIf you are trying to eat clean and healthy it’s important to pay attention to not just the chemicals and preservatives intentionally put in your food, but also to the ones found in the food packaging and manufacturing materials used to make it.

The problems with some processed foods is that they are made in factories where they come into contact with vinyl gloves worn by workers or can run through plastic factory tubing. This exposes the food to chemicals known as phthalates, which are used to make plastics more flexible and durable. These chemicals can also be found in soaps, cosmetics, flooring, window blinds and other products.

So what’s wrong with phthalates? The health consequences are not fully known, but research in rats have shown that they can disrupt the male reproductive system. The Environmental Protection Agency is concerned about phthalates because of how pervasive they are and the evidence of their toxicity. In other words, phthalates are everywhere, so people need to make extra effort to avoid them.

The Japanese government has banned the use of vinyl gloves in their food prep factories because of their concern about DEHP, one of the common forms of phthalates. The European Union has also limited the use of these chemicals in the production of food and children’s toys.

While the U.S. also limited the use of DEHP in the production of children’s toys in 2008, no such restrictions apply to food. This is likely because agencies like the American Chemistry Council says they’ve thoroughly studies phthalates and they don’t pose risk to human health at typical exposure. But there are other studies that contradict their findings.

One such study found alarming results. This recent study looks at how fast food companies expose consumers to chemicals like phthalates. They analyzed data from 9000 people from federal nutrition surveys. The data used urine samples along with a questionnaire. They discovered that people who ate fast food in the last 24 hours had elevated levels of industrial chemicals in their bodies. The top three chemicals found in their bodies were two forms of phthalates and BPA, a chemical used to line aluminum cans.

The study can’t conclusively say that fast food exposure is responsible for the elevated levels of chemicals in their body but the correlation is strong. So for people who are interested in reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals like phthalates, it’s not enough just to avoid junk foods. They should also be more conscious of how their prepared food is processed and handled.

According to Leo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine, and population health at NYU School of Medicine, people who are concerned about phthalates should avoid eating highly processed and highly packaged foods. Canned vegetables or organic milk that’s been piped through plastic tubing could carry the same chemical risks as unhealthy foods.

Canned foods should come in BPA-free containers and it’s always best to buy organic foods that are fresh and in their original form, like the kind your great grandparents used to eat. Shopping at a farmers market guarantees your food is minimally processed. Cooking from scratch is the best bet to avoid chemical exposure. And according to the researchers of the fast food study “it’s always best to try to eat lower on the food chain.”

And if you are concerned about your past exposure to chemicals phthalates, it’s always a good idea to do a cleanse to get the toxins out of your body. The 21 Day Body Makeover is a great cleanse to start with.

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What Life Looks Like Without Sugar

sugar 1487238 639x423If you’ve experienced powerful sugar cravings in your life you know how addictive sugar can be. It may seem like an innocent addiction but when abused, sugar can cause as many health consequences as drinking or smoking. Sugar consumption has been linked to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer, to name a few.
 
Consuming sugar is a part of our culture, so there’s a social and emotional component, but the craving is also strongly physical. When sugar is consumed on a regular basis our bodies demand it and make it hard to resist. When quitting sugar, just like other drugs, you get withdrawal symptoms.
 
Below are five things that can happen when you end your sugar addiction. But you may also find additional benefits like an improved mood and reduced aches, pains and headaches.
 
Benefit #1) More stable energy throughout the day.
 
Sugar is often used to boost energy, but it’s a self-perpetuating cycle that always ends with a crash. The crash is then repaired with more sugar. When your body gets sugar from fruits and starchy veggies it strikes a metabolic balance that magically quiets the screaming sugar dragon. Getting off the refined sugar roller coaster will stabilize energy and increase stamina. Initially you may feel like you have less energy but soon you’ll discover your body is great at manufacturing it’s own energy. You won’t believe how great you feel.
 
Benefit #2) Your weight will stabilize. If you’re carrying around extra weight you can’t seem to shake, those pounds will likely melt off when you give up refined sugar. Sugar effects insulin levels, which is the hormone that signals the body to store fat. So in contrast to popular belief, it’s not fat but rather sugar that makes people gain weight.
 
Benefit #3) Your digestive system will perform better. Giving up sugar is one of the best ways to improve elimination and digestive health. Don’t be surprised if those mysterious digestive symptoms go away with your sugar habit. Sugar feeds the unhealthy bacteria in your body, while fiber feeds the good bacteria.
 
Benefit #4) You will stop wanting sugar. This is the part that people don’t believe. The first few days can be so tough that people often get discouraged. The flu-like withdrawal symptoms and massive cravings pass quickly. In two weeks your cravings will end and you’ll have more control over what you eat. Eating sugar destabilizes blood sugar, which in turn makes you hungrier and crankier. Without added sugar in your diet it’ll be much easier to eat less and choose healthier options.
 
Benefit #5) Your skin will look healthier. Who doesn’t like healthy, glowing skin? Skin health is closely tied to your diet. Sugar consumption may cause breakouts, dull skin or in severe cases, itching and other skin problems. The skin is one of the body’s largest elimination organs and when overloaded with sugar and processed foods it has trouble eliminating fast enough and may get clogged up. Clean up your diet and your skin will thank you with a beautiful, clear glow.
 
With the 21-Day Body Makeover you’ll discover how easy it is to train and tame your sugar dragon. By feeding your body with the right kinds of carbs, healthy fats, nutrients and proteins your physical sugar cravings will completely disappear in one to two weeks. In those first two weeks it’s crucial to get the right structure to support you through the tough beginning. The 21-Day Body Makeover is designed to give you the support you need to navigate the hard part with minimal discomfort. It will only get easier from there on.
 
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