Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Good Thanksgiving

Wow, I love Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving for me is a day for enjoying good food with good friends.

I got off work at 6pm and dinner was ready shortly after I arrived home, thanks to my wife.  When it comes to the dinner, I have to admit that we cheat.  We get the Safeway turkey dinner and then add to it.  My wife prepared a dinner that I could make fit my diet pretty well and yet it still had the traditional dishes for our guests. She even made two completely separate versions of her sweet potatoes, one for me and one for everyone else.

I did break my diet a little, I enjoyed some green bean casserole and potatoes with gravy.  All in all, I think I did well.  I had a small amount of wheat in the gravy and there is some in the mushroom soup used in the casserole.  My carb intake was a little higher that normal, but not much.  I was able to enjoy the meal and not feel deprived of anything, especially since I had made a low-carb cheesecake for dessert.

So, do I feel bad about cheating on my diet?  No, not at all, and neither should you.  Stressing over little things like that will just cause more health problems.  Do your best today and forget the rest.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Lets give thanks for what we have and not stress about making diet mistakes today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

HFCS vs Sugar

Recently, on Google+, I posted a link to article called "Dr. Lustig on Sugar - the Cause of the Obesity Epidemic".  The point of Dr. Lustig's video is that fructose is the cause of the obesity epidemic.  The comments on that post indicated to me that there seems to be a number of people who believe that while High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) causes obesity, sucrose (commonly known as sugar) does not.  I think there is some confusion because HFCS has fructose in it's name and sucrose doesn't.  When studies come out incriminating fructose, the general public automatically makes the association with HFCS.

The truth is that sucrose is a molecule composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.  In humans the sucrose molecule is broken down into separate glucose and fructose molecules by enzymes in the gut.  HFCS consists of glucose and fructose as already separate molecules.  This allows manufacturers to create different ratios of fructose and glucose for use in different products.  The common formulations are HFCS 42 - 42% fructose, HFCS 55 - 55% fructose and HFCS 90 - 90% fructose.  HFCS 42 is used in most products from baked goods to fruit drinks.  HFCS 55 is generally used in soft drinks.  HFCS 90 is used to mix with HFCS 42 to create HFCS 55. 

Since both sucrose and HFCS contain similar ratios of glucose and fructose, they should act similarly in the human body.    And indeed studies seem to indicate exactly that.   Ferder et al. concludes that sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup elicit similar short term responses. In McDevitt et al. they found "There was no significant difference in fat balance during controlled overfeeding with fat, fructose, glucose, or sucrose."  The American Medical Association's study says "it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose" 

In his video lecture "Sugar: The Bitter Truth", Dr. Lustig states "High-Fructose Corn Syrup, sucrose, it's a non issue, it's a wash. They're the same." and "High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are exactly the same. They're both equally bad, okay. They're both dangerous. They're poison." and in "Dr. Lustig on Sugar - the Cause of the Obesity Epidemic" he says "High-fructose corn syrup is no worse than standard table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, the stuff you put in your coffee."

In his article "Is Sugar Toxic?" Gary Taubes says "marketing aside, the two sweeteners are effectively identical in their biological effects." and "Because each of these sugars ends up as glucose and fructose in our guts, our bodies react the same way to both, and the physiological effects are identical."

The one study, Bocarsly ME, et al., that claims to indicate otherwise has been criticised for errors in design, method, and analysis. In "HFCS Makes Rats Fat?" Marion Nestle states "the researchers did only two experiments that actually compared the effects of HFCS to sucrose on weight gain, and these gave inconsistent results. Their other experiments compared HFCS to chow alone."  Jennifer LaRue Huget says "Something about the way the study was written sounds as though researchers set out to link HFCS to obesity, not to determine whether such a link exists."  A more complete critique is given in "Is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) eviler than sugar?" in which the author makes the bold statement "This paper has an unusually rich number of errors in statistical design and analysis, selective picking of results that match what can only be a preferred outcome, and outright misrepresentation of the design and results. The senior authors, the editor handling the paper, the editor-in-chief, the reviewers, the Princeton University press release team, and any science blogs and journalists that uncritically parroted the press release should simply be ashamed."

Sucrose and HFCS are virtually identical in composition and seem to be identical in their metabolic effects.  Unless a credible study comes along to indicate otherwise, I have to think that they are equally to blame for the obesity epidemic.  I am not convinced, however, that they are the only cause, but that is a subject for a future post.

For reference, below is the approximate total fructose content of some other natural sweeteners.

  • Honey:  38%-50%
  • Maple syrup: 48%-50%
  • Agave nectar: 56%-92%

Note:
Now you might want to bring up the fact that HFCS is a product of a complex chemical process.  This does raise some genuine health concerns, like trace amounts of mercury, but that's not the subject of this post.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Avoiding The Flu

A lot of low-carb diets start by immediately cutting carbohydrates to an extremely low level.  I don't agree with this practice.  This results in what has been called the "Induction Flu", a feeling of being tired, weak and foggy headed.  This is the result of a body that is used to burning sugar being forced to switch to burning fat in too short of time.  This causes fluid loss and the body being partially starved of fuel.  It does, however, make for a rapid initial weight loss, which makes people happy and helps sell diet programs.  On the other hand, some people are completely put off by this "flu" and give up.  I don't disagree that you need to reach this low level of carbohydrate intake early on, it's necessary for the body to fully make the transition to burning fat.  I just don't think the change should be so abrupt.

My personal experience is that this "flu" can be avoided by cutting carbs gradually until this low level is achieved.  I learned this approach from by listening to several podcasts, the exact ones I can't remember now.  Before starting my low-carb journey I started a food log.  With this I learned that I was consuming more that 400g of carbohydrates every day.  I started by cutting my carbs down to 150g per day for a week.  I then made further cuts every week until I reached my low level of 30g a day.  I then started the usual process of slowly adding carbohydrates back as I approached my goal.  The result for me was no flu like symptoms at all.  My weight loss started slowly but ramped up by the second week.

I don't expect that everyone will want to do it the way I did.  As always, do your research and decide for yourself what approach is best for you.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

What Program Do I Follow?

When I tell people that I eat low-carb, they often assume that I am following the Atkins program.  That is not the case.  I invented my own program based on the books I have read and my approach constantly changes as I continue to educate myself.  I think that some of the existing programs are a good starting point for developing your own lifestyle but I don't think that any one program is right for everyone.

So what do I do?  

At this time my lifestyle is a melding of  "The Protein Power Lifeplan" Dilettante and Hedonist approaches and "The Primal Blueprint."  I avoid sugars and cereal grains, especially wheat. I try to stay below 150g of total carbs a day, but I don't count them most days.  My preference is for organic whole foods, but in reality I still eat prepackaged food as long as the ingredient list meets my approval.  I don't have a fixed exercise program at this time.  I stay active as much as possible at work and home and I try to fit in workouts from one of my Beachbody programs when I have time.

What should you do?

Educate yourself, there are a large number of books, blogs and podcasts available.  Below are some of my favorites.

Blogs:
Mark's Daily Apple
Gary Taubes Blog
Fat Head
The Blog of Michael R. Eades, M.D.
Wheat Belly Blog
Underground Wellness Blog

Books:
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
The Protein Power Lifeplan
The Primal Blueprint

Podcasts:
The Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show
Low-Carb Conversations
Carbohydrates Can Kill
Underground Wellness Podcast

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cholesterol Test

My employer was offering discounted blood tests, so I decided to take advantage of the offer.  Below are the results.  This was after about 5 months of eating a low-carb, high fat diet.


Edit:

Lipid Profile

  • Triglycerides: 45
  • Total Cholesterol: 140
  • HDL: 66
  • VLDL: 9
  • LDL: 65
  • Total/HDL ratio: 2.12
  • Triglycerides/HDL ratio: 0.65
  • LDL/HDL ratio: 0.98
I normally don't worry about my cholesterol levels.  I just wanted to show everybody that eating a high fat diet doesn't cause high cholesterol.

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog.  My name is Charles Current and I live a low-carb lifestyle.  I haven't been low-carb for too long, just since May 2011.  I've had such an improvement in my physical and mental health in that time that I decided that I needed to share it with the world.

When I was young I was one of the lucky ones that could eat anything I wanted and not gain a pound.  I graduated high school at 6'1" 165lbs.  I've had serious problems with depression and anxiety my whole life.  I was painfully shy and couldn't stand going to school and my grades reflected it.  My doctor tried anti-depressants but I hated the side effects and wouldn't keep taking them.


By 2009 I had reached 204lbs and had high blood pressure, frequent heart burn, headaches, depression, regular anxiety attacks and a variety of other minor health problems.  My doctor put me on blood pressure medications, but i couldn't handle the side effects and stopped taking them.  I started walking and climbing stairs daily and watched my portion sizes.  It helped with my weight, I lost 20lbs.  However I still felt like crap and my blood pressure wouldn't go down.  My wife and I saw the infomercial for Insanity and ordered it.  We started that program in early 2010.  We were eating healthier foods, exercising and losing weight.  I worked my way back down to 170lbs.  My blood pressure dropped to almost normal.  My depression disappeared and so did my headaches.  I felt good.  After completing the Insanity program I dropped back to working out 3 times a week and was able to maintain my weight and health.  Eventually things started to slip after our summer vacation.  I had a hard time getting back into the rhythm of working out regularly. 

At the end of 2010 I was watching a technology show and the host was publicly proclaiming his new years resolution.  He was confident that this year he was going to loose weight.  He had read a book called "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It".  I immediately dismissed it when he started talking about cutting carbohydrates.  I knew that those low-carb diets were bad for you and he was making a big mistake.  After a couple of months I could see that he looked thinner and just plain healthier.  By this time I was back up to 190lbs, my blood pressure was back up and most of my other problems had returned.  I got curious and went out to find that book.  The evidence presented in the book was compelling.  I decided that there was something to this and I needed to try it.  I started reducing the carbs in my diet.  The results were immediate, I started loosing weight.  I quickly worked my way back down to 175lbs.  I started reading more books and blogs on healthy low-carb eating.  This education eventually led up to cutting out all added sugars and wheat products.  Due to other life issues I haven't been able to work out regularly in about 4 months.  But I still lost weight.

Today I am down to 165lbs, but more importantly I feel great.  My headaches, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure are gone.  The strongest evidence of this transformation is the very existence of this blog.  Before the recent changes in my diet the very thought of creating a blog would have sent me into a panic attack.  I couldn't even take a writing class in college because I was terrified of anyone reading something I wrote.  Today I am writing this and putting it up for the world to read.