A Study on Fats That Doesn’t Fit the Story Line

A Decades-Old Study, Rediscovered, Challenges Advice on Saturated Fat

There was a lot of news this week about a study, published in the medical journal BMJ, that looked at how diet affects heart health. The results were unexpected because they challenged the conventional thinking on saturated fats.
See more on the NYTimes blog page



Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

With Intermittent Fasting

April 19, 2016

Type 2 diabetes is generally categorized as a progressive, chronic lifelong condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/home/ovc-20169860 Even though this is true for Type 1 diabetes, is it true for type 2 diabetes? It is quite apparent that the answer is no.

type 2 diabetes is not a chronic and progressive disease and can in most cases be prevented as well as reversed/cured with lifestyle changes alone, with little or no medication, and in particular, with the addition of two powerful aides: intermittent fasting and high intensity interval training (HIIT). We review some of the latest scientific research on type 2 diabetes. We also analyze the benefits of intermittent fasting and how it can help with type 2 diabetes. For a better understanding of high intensity interval training and its significance to type 2 diabetes please refer to: THE BEST EXERCISE FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES PATIENTS.

Diabetes 101

In simple terms, “diabetes” refers to a condition which results in high levels of sugar in the blood. In type 1 diabetes this happens because of the body’s inability to produce sufficient insulin. In type 2 diabetes it happens because the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and eventually can not produce sufficient insulin. Even though they are very different, in both cases the body’s ability to use glucose as fuel is impacted.

Type 1 or “early onset” diabetes is caused by an autoimmune process in the body causing the immune system to destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The pancreas is unable to make sufficient insulin. Insulin allows the cells to turn the glucose in the blood into energy. Without sufficient insulin, the glucose builds up in the blood. If left untreated this condition will cause death from a hyperglycemic coma. The condition of type 1 diabetes is manageable with the use of insulinimages-3 injections, and is also known as “insulin-dependent” diabetes. There is currently no known cure.

Type 2 or “late onset” diabetes is caused because the cells in the skeletal muscle, liver and fat become resistant to insulin and are unable to use it effectively, even though the pancreas is producing generally too much insulin. The pancreas makes more and more insulin to compensate for the inefficiency, but eventually it can not keep up and the glucose builds up in your blood. This condition is both preventable and reversible.

From Prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes

Prediabetes refers to a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Almost 50 per cent of those with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes. http://www.diabetes.ca/about-diabetes/prediabetes

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes have become epidemic due to sedentary lifestyles and worsening diets that are too high in sugars and sugar-forming foods such as carbohydrates. According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of diabetes has nearly tripled: from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/

Insulin resistance occurs when there are problems with the insulin receptors on the cell or actions inside the cell; it is like a lock being defective or a door being jammed. Essentially, the insulin receptors become overwhelmed and start breaking down. Not enough glucose is shuttled into the cells, and too much glucose remains in the bloodstream.

Insulin resistance causes the pancreas to compensate by making more and insulin, which leads to hyperinsulinemia – high blood insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer compensate by secreting the large amounts of of insulin required to keep blood sugar at normal levels.

For a more in-depth discussion of type 2 diabetes, please go to TYPE 2 DIABETES: NOT A CHRONIC DISEASE.

Conventional Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

The conventional approach to treating prediabetes and type 2 diabetes involves several phases. Unfortunately, it is predicated on the mistaken belief that type 2 diabetes is a progressive, chronic lifelong condition.

Patients are first told to change their lifestyle – diet and exercise – to reduce the body’s need for insulin and to lower insulin levels. Because these lifestyle changes are extremely hard to implement and there is generally little support to help patients make the necessary changes, it seldom works.

Healthcare professionals are aware that few patients will make the necessary lifestyle changes and so, right off the bat, some will prescribe, along with lifestyle recommendations, oral medications. Other healthcare professionals will wait until the prescribed lifestyle changes have failed to prescribe the oral medications.

There are currently more than 10 classes of diabetes drugs, each of which aim to lower blood glucose in a different way. The primary goal of these drugs is not to cure/reverse the causes of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes; their goal is to mask/manage the symptoms. They are often prescribed in combination with each other or with insulin therapy. http://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/guide/treatment/

When lifestyle changes and oral medications have failed to manage the symptoms, as they quite often do, it is time for insulin therapy. According to Diabetic Living, between 30 and 40 percent of those with type 2 end up taking insulin therapy.

The primary goal of insulin therapy, like the oral medications, is to manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes by compensating for the lack of insulin production.

Neither the oral medications nor insulin therapy aim to deal with the primary problem of insulin resistance and do not tackle the underlying causes:  hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.

Side Effects of Oral Medications and Insulin Therapy

Potential side-effects of some of the most common type 2 diabetes oral medications, include:

  • Sulfonylureas: low blood sugar, upset stomach, skin rash or itching, weight gain
  • Biguanides/Metformin: sickness with alcohol, kidney complications, upset stomach, tiredness or dizziness, metal taste
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors: gas, bloating and diarrhoea
  • Thiazolidinediones: weight gain, risk of liver disease, anaemia risk, swelling of legs or ankles,
  • Meglitinides: weight gain, low blood sugar http://www.diabetes.co.uk/features/diabetes-medication-side-effects.html

The side-effects of insulin therapy are:

  • weight gain
  • low blood sugar
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea
  • sexual dysfunction


As if this was not bad enough, the newer classes of type 2 diabetes drugs, with names like GLP-1, DPP-4, SLGT2, have even scarier side-effects: pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, urinary infections, thyroid cancer, gastrointestinal issues, and renal and gallbladder problems. https://www.drugwatch.com/2014/05/12/increasing-side-effects-diabetes-drugs/
When you consider that these drugs are usually prescribed in combination, you really have something to be worried about.

The Big Gun – Weight-Loss Surgery

When drugs have failed to manage/mask the symptoms of type 2 diabetes the medical system’s last resort is weight-loss surgery. There are many types of weight-loss surgery, known collectively as bariatric surgery, with gastric bypass being the most common type. Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries make changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight by limiting how much you can eat, or by reducing the absorption of nutrients, or both. In effect, such procedures produce weight loss the way that diet and exercise, when undertaken conscientiously, would do.

The good news is that weight-loss surgery works for weight loss, and the research shows significant improvements in type 2 diabetes following the surgery. For example, a 2015 observational study which followed 5,225 bariatric patients for one year after surgery found that 62% of the gastric bypass patients improved to the point that they were able stop insulin therapy. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25573879

The bad news is that weight-loss surgery comes with lots and lots of potential risks, both of a short-term and long-term nature.
Short-term risks associated with weight-loss surgery include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Leaks in your gastrointestinal system
  • Death (rare)

Longer-term risks include:

To sum up, the healthcare system deals with type 2 diabetes with token efforts at lifestyle changes, then puts significant effort into prescribing oral drugs and insulin that aim to manage/mask symptoms. And if that fails, the last resort is surgery, which works quite well to promote weight loss, but comes with a significant risk.

Lifestyle Changes – Diet and Exerciseimages-6

Given the many risks associated with drugs and surgery, why not give lifestyle changes, diet and exercise a chance? It has been well established that lifestyle changes have a significant impact on the development of type 2 diabetes. Three large randomized controlled studies showed that individuals at risk for developing type 2 diabetes significantly improved their conditions by lifestyle changes alone. Two studies showed a 43% reduction in the development of type 2 diabetes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18502303 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17098085
and one study showed a 34% reduction http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19878986

To find out about foods & recipes that are Blood Sugar Regulators click here.

Intermittent Fasting the Secret Weapon

Given that the primary problem with calorie restriction dieting is that few people will stick with it long term, we are fortunate to have an effective alternative. Fasting in one form or another has been around for as long as humans, sometimes as a consequence of having limited access to food, and sometimes due to religious or spiritual beliefs. It is easy to see that we evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time, and it is not hard to argue that fasting may in fact be more “natural” than eating three meals a day “on a schedule”.

Until very recently in human history, sporadic or seasonal access to food was the norm. This explains why our livers and muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen for quick access, and why we can also sustain ourselves for weeks at a time by drawing from our long term reserves: fat.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting. It has been “trending” with endorsements from celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel, Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Jackman.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to help people not only lose weight as well or better than a low calorie diet, but also to help with many other health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  It is important to remember that intermittent fasting is more a pattern of eating than a diet, and that it is easier to stay on it than a “diet”.

The three most common ways to practice intermittent fasting are:

  • The 5:2 method where you fast for two days per week and eat normally during the remaining five days.
  • Alternate-day fasting where you eat normally on one day and restrict yourself to 500 calories on the alternate day.
  • The 16:8 method where you restrict your meals on a daily basis to eight hours per day by skipping either breakfast or dinner.
For a better understanding of high intensity interval training and its significance to type 2 diabetes please refer to: THE BEST EXERCISE FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES PATIENTS.

For a more detailed explanation of intermittent fasting you can go to INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS IT FOR YOU?
Intermittent fasting is easier to adhere to than standard calorie restriction diets for most people. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582559  Most diets fail because people do not follow the diet over the long term. Several studies have found that intermittent fasting is easier to follow than calorie restriction diets. As a result, more people are willing to stick with it and adapt more easily to an intermittent fasting routine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20815899

For example a 2012 observational study of 16 obese individuals found a high degree of compliance and significant weight loss. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793855

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which leads to a significant reduction in blood sugar levels. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24789008 A 2015 study of 20 healthy males found that they not only lost significant weight, but that fasting is in itself sufficient to improve insulin sensitivity in healthy individuals. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26155596

A 2014 study of individuals with chronic liver disease found that they lost weight and showed significantly improved symptoms with regard to liver disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25546434 This is important because liver disease is a leading cause of death in type 2 diabetes. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/3/734.full

Another way that Intermittent Fasting could affect type two diabetes is its potential for reducing  abdominal or visceral fat. This kind of fat is found under the abdominal muscle and around organs such as the intestines, liver and pancreas. It is different from subcutaneous fat, the kind of fat that you can pinch. A 2012 observational study of 732 obese participants concluded that abdominal fat was associated with more than a twofold increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1360863

Recently it has been shown that the primary cause of type 2 diabetes is the buildup of visceral fat in the liver and pancreas which prevents normal insulin action and secretion; both of which are reversible with weight loss. Importantly the tolerance of fat within the liver and pancreas varies widely depending on the individual and type 2 diabetes develops only when there is more fat than can be coped with. Fortunately, the reverse is also true and when the fat level drops below the individual threshold the diabetes reverses. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/magres/research/diabetes/reversal.htm

Several animal studies have shown the effectiveness of intermittent fasting for the reduction of visceral fat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582559 Some preliminary human studies have shown that both calorie restriction diets and intermittent fasting result in weight loss, but that intermittent fasting results in a greater percentage loss of visceral fat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24993615


Type 2 diabetes is both preventable and reversible. It does not have to be a chronic lifelong disease.

Oral medications and insulin therapy are effective to manage/mask the symptoms of type 2 diabetes but do little else. At best they are a stop gap measure and have numerous health risks. Weight-loss surgery helps in many cases, but also comes with numerous health risks.

Without question, lifestyle changes (diet in particular) work to prevent, reverse and cure type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately very few people are able to implement the required changes.

Intermittent fasting is helpful for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes because it reduces insulin resistance and lowers blood sugar levels. Intermittent fasting is also a powerful weight loss tool because it helps you eat fewer calories, boosts your metabolism, and as a result is effective in losing weight and particularly belly fat, which is a significant factor in reversing type 2 diabetes.

Intermittent fasting is a relatively simple strategy to lose weight and maintain muscle mass because it requires very little behavioural change. This means intermittent fasting is simple enough that you will actually do it, and effective enough that it will make a difference.

Intermittent fasting or any lifestyle change should not be undertaken without first consulting with your healthcare providers.

A “Fast” Way to Lose Weight

With Intermittent Fasting

March 23, 2016

Intermittent fasting is “trending” with endorsements from celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel, Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Jackman. It is more of a pattern of eating than a diet and it is easier than a “diet”. In addition, not only does it help you lose weight as well or better than a low calorie diet, but it also has been shown to help with many other health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

However, the main motivation to try intermittent fasting is to lose weight. And the simplest, but certainly not the only, reason that it works is due to eating fewer meals. Unless you compensate by eating much more during the remaining meals, you will consume fewer calories.

A “Fast” History of Intermittent Fasting

Until very recently in human history, sporadic or seasonal access to food was the norm. This fits in nicely with the fact that our livers and muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen for quick access, and we can also sustain ourselves for weeks at a time by drawing from our long term reserves – fat.

Fasting, in one form or another has been around for as long as humans, sometimes as a consequence of having limited access to food and sometimes due to religious or spiritual beliefs. It is easy to see that we evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time, and it is not hard to argue that fasting may in fact be more “natural” than eating three meals a day “on a schedule”.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting.

The three most common ways to practice intermittent fasting are:

  • The 5:2 method where you fast for two days per week and eat normally during the remaining five days.
  • Alternate-day fasting where you eat normally on one day and restrict yourself to 500 calories on the alternate day.
  • The 16:8 method where you restrict your meals on a daily basis to eight hours per day by skipping either breakfast or dinner.Intermittent Fasting vs Calorie Restriction Diets

For a more detailed explanation of intermittent fasting you can go to INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS IT FOR YOU?

It has been shown that intermittent fasting is easier to follow than calorie restriction diets.(1) This is important since most diets fail because they are not followed over the long term. Fortunately, more people are willing to stick with intermittent fasting and adapt more easily to it than a traditional calorie restriction diet.(2) A 2012 study of 16 obese individuals found a high degree of compliance and significant weight loss with intermittent fasting.(3)

Part of the reason that people tend to stick with intermittent fasting has to do with the fact that most experience significant weight loss, and nothing breeds compliance like success.

A large part of that success can be attributed to the fact that our body produces ghrelin and other metabolic hormones which determine blood sugar levels and do so based on our eating patterns. Therefore, if you regularly skip breakfast or dinner your body will stop telling you that you are hungry at that time. This explains why people can adapt to regular periods of fasting.(4)

What the Science Tells us About Intermittent Fasting

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting enhances hormone function, which helps with weight loss. For example, a 2013 randomized study involving 112 overweight women showed that intermittent fasting substantially improves insulin sensitivity and weight loss.(5) Another study showed that two days of fasting can quintuple human growth hormone levels.(6) These hormones are important for breaking down body fat and facilitating the use of fat for energy. As a result, intermittent fasting increases your metabolic rate by up to 3.6% which helps you burn more calories.(7)

Because intermittent fasting causes an increase in human growth hormone, it plays an important part in the maintenance of lean body mass and the decrease of body fat.(8) Raising human growth hormone levels while improving insulin sensitivity results in healthy weight loss. A 2011 review study concluded that intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, but just as importantly, results in less muscle loss than a standard calorie restriction diet.(9)

A 2012 study of 50 healthy Ramadan observers found significant improvement in body fat percentage. Another important finding was that, even though the participants had regained the weight lost during the Ramadan fast six weeks later, they did not gain any additional weight as often happens with many types of calorie-restrictive diets.(10)


Intermittent fasting works both by boosting your metabolic rate – calories out – and by generally reducing the amount of food you eat – calories in.

Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight loss tool that works better than conventional calorie restriction diets because it is easier to stick with and gives superior results.

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23591120
(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1548337
(8) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2355952

Intermittent fasting may reduce breast cancer recurrence

orange juice breakfastFindings in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology show that women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer may lower their risk of the recurrence of tumors if they extend their nighttime fasting to 13 hours or more.  “…may be a simple, non-pharmacological strategy for reducing a person’s risk of breast cancer recurrence and even other cancers” said lead author Catherine Marinac.


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This is an older study;  and an observational study.  Also, lifestyle factors have not been taken into consideration.  Promising conclusion.  Adds to a number of other studies showing the benefit as stated in our article “Intermittent Fasting”.

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Restoration & Prevention Diets

March 21, 2016

Restoration & Prevention Diets are dietary regimes meant to impact specific health issues rather than weight loss in particular.  These diets contain elements of popular dietary programs, particularly the Mediterranean Diet.

Restoration & Prevention Diets are intended to reduce symptoms that are only sometimes associated with being overweight. While they could be helpful for many people who struggle with weight, their primary goal is to alleviate or even avoid a specific health problem. People for whom extra weight is not a challenge might need to make changes in order just to maintain weight, control high blood pressure or chronic pain, or avoid difficulties with food digestion.

Given the prevalence of neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in our aging population, a proactive approach could involve adopting the MIND diet.

As with any diet, if you have any health issues and would like to see if one of these restoration and prevention diets can help you, please consult a healthcare professional before starting.

We summarize and provide references and links to the following restoration & prevention diets:

  • MIND Diet – this diet is intended to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. MIND diet is a combination of parts of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. It is promoted broadly by researchers (mostly epidemiologists), physicians, gerontologists & naturopaths.


  • DASH Diet is a group of food restrictions recommended to avoid high blood pressure (hypertension). It was designed by scientists working for the US government.


  • FODMAP Diet is designed and promoted by some specialist physicians (Gastroenterologists) and alternative practitioners (especially Naturopaths) to assist people with digestive issues that cluster around Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).


  • ANTI-INFLAMMATORY Diets are designed to avoid a wide array of symptoms associated with the inflammation process, and are especially helpful for people with autoimmune problems. Anti-inflammatory diets are promoted by a wide array of health care specialists. They may also have a beneficial impact on other symptoms and illnesses and weight.


South Beach Diet

February 22, 2016

The South Beach Diet is a weight-loss diet first popularized in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston and outlined in his best-selling book, “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss.”

It is important to understand from the outset that the South Beach Diet is a commercial weight-loss diet that makes money for those who sell its various products. There are many South Beach Diet products, including conveniently pre-packaged foods and cookbooks widely available both in stores and online. Commercial diets that provide accessible foods and are easy to follow also provide a steady profit stream to those selling its products. However, you don’t actually need to buy the products in order to follow the diet. 

The South Beach diet, which is named after a glamorous area of the city of Miami Beach, is a “modified” low-carbohydrate diet. It is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fats than is found in most typical weight loss diets of its era. However, it is not an extremely low-carbohydrate diet. And in that respect, it is actually easier to follow for protracted periods of time.

The South Beach diet employs the glycemic index of foods and glycemic load (their relative amount) to explain which carbohydrates a person should avoid.  There is some evidence that increases in blood sugar resulting from high glycemic foods can boost appetite and therefore increase both food consumption and weight gain. Over the long term, weight gain and associated insulin sensitivity can contribute to many forms of cardiovascular disease.

The South Beach Diet distinguishes those dietary fats that are said to be “good” from those that are “bad”. It also limits fats that Dr. Agatston argues are unhealthy while emphasizing foods with “healthier” (monounsaturated) fats.

The South Beach Diet also emphasizes the consumption of whole grains and increased amounts of dietary fibre. Many fruits and vegetables are also part of the South Beach Diet.images-5

The main goal of the diet is to alter the ratio of the foods most people already consume in order to encourage weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Agatston suggests that a ratio of higher protein and lower carbohydrates than is commonplace is a healthier way of eating whether you want to lose weight or not. For many people this actually may be true, but it is not true for everyone. It depends on where one starts, how active a lifestyle one already has, and many other individual factors.

One of the attractive aspects of the diet—and probably the reason it is still popular—is that people find they can adhere to it for a sustained time period, perhaps even over a lifetime.

The diet itself is a three-step program:

  1. the first phase eliminates many high glycemic items in order to reduce cravings and induce some relatively quick weight loss.
  2. the second phase slowly reintroduces some of these in smaller amounts and in an altered ratio with proteins in order to continue weight loss.
  3. the final phase is a maintenance diet designed to keep weight off. The diet emphasizes that in phase three, all kinds of foods can eventually be eaten in moderation, including some snacks and desserts which you can buy over the counter, as well as make for yourself.

Does the South Beach Diet actually work?

There are no specific long-term, randomized controlled clinical trials that we know of that are designed to measure the health outcomes of the South Beach Diet.

There have been no studies of the overall health or cardiovascular benefits of following a low-glycemic-index diet in healthy adults either. While eating foods like whole grains, unsaturated fats, vegetables and fruits could help to promote better health for many people, none of these very general items are inherently good for everyone. Some whole grains, for example, have high gluten content that can be very difficult for some people, while others do not. Some saturated fats are not a problem, and not all unsaturated ones are actually good for you. And vegetables and fruits vary greatly in their vitamin, fibre, sugar, and caloric content.

While altering the ratio of protein to carbohydrates is likely to lead to weight loss in the first phase of the diet, at least in part because that also reduces caloric intake, it is overly simplistic to suggest that this simply reduces cravings, though in some individuals it may do so.

Are there risks to the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet probably has little risk because the first phase of the diet is short, and it only alters the ratio of foods already consumed.

Severely restricted carbohydrate diets do lead to ketosis, where the body uses stored fat for energy, and in some individuals this can lead to discomforts including nausea, headache, mental fatigue, and occasionally dehydration and dizzy spells. Bad breath is also often reported when the body is in ketosis. However, the South Beach Diet is not a severely restricted carbohydrate diet so most of these problems are not likely if one is actually following the recommended three sequences of the diet.

Speaking with a knowledgeable professional before starting this (or another) diet is a good idea, especially if you have any health concerns or are taking any form of medication. And prior to beginning any diet plan it’s also a good idea to read about its limitations, then evaluate the diet and formulate your own views of its recommendations in a balanced way.

The most trenchant online critique of the South Beach Diet is probably one written by Joseph Mercola.
Mercola’s criticism is quite detailed and we recommend reviewing it on your own. However, it can be summarized as follows:

  • There are inaccuracies around carbohydrates especially with respect to normalizing insulin levels
  • toxin levels in fish are underestimated, and the costs of relying on them in a diet are exceptionally high
  • milk allergies associated with caselin are problematic
  • saturated fats from healthy sources are actually good (not bad) and we need more of them
  • artificial sweeteners (aspartame) are unhealthy
  • trans-fats are dangerous and ought to be avoided at all costs
  • carcinogenic oils such as those in peanuts containing traces, or more of afflatoxin are dangerous
  • the dangers of dependence on statins is unrecognized
  • weight loss will not occur in many individuals;
  • and finally, too little exercise is recommended.

Mediterranean Diet

March 14, 2016

The Mediterranean Diet

When people imagine the Mediterranean region, pastoral images of ancient hill towns, picturesque island fishing villages, sunshine, warm smiling people, and of course good food and wine are often part of the picture. Not surprisingly, the “Mediterranean” diet is associated with the good things in life too–and perhaps a longer life in which to enjoy them. And while some (butimages-2 not all) studies of the Mediterranean diet are indicative of longer life-spans, they are strongly associated with a healthier life, especially for people who suffer from cardiovascular disease, or are at risk of developing it.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Mainly consuming a broad range of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Using spices and herbs, especially those high in trace mineral and vitamin content rather than much salt
  • Using olive oil rather than other oils or butter
  • Consuming some lean red meat, but only two or three times a month
  • Eating fish and/or poultry several times a week
  • Drinking (mainly red wine) but always in moderation. This is entirely optional, especially if there are any problems associated with alcohol consumption–such as diabetes, alcoholism, liver problems or simply personal preference or religious belief.
  • Sharing and enjoying meals with both family and friends
  • Staying active–walking, dancing, swimming, playing sports, music, etc.

An extremely important aspect of this diet is the role that fresh vegetables, nuts and whole grains play in it. It’s abarley-kernel-germ-germinating-cereal-flakes-725x544n antioxidant rich diet where fats are mainly derived from nuts and olive oil rather than dairy products or meat. The least processed forms of olive oil contain antioxidants and help reduce LDL (low density) cholesterol associated with coronary diseases and many other illnesses. The nuts and oily types of fish in the diet also provide a regular supply of Omega-3 fatty acids that improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood sugars, decreasing blood clots, lowering blood pressure and strengthening the entire vascular system. The nuts, chicken and fish all provide a reasonable amount of high quality protein as well because they are nutrient dense. That is, it doesn’t take a lot of nuts or small oily fish to provide a solid amount of protein and healthy fats in a compact form.

3060935008_994195f247_oResearchers have noticed that in many parts of the Mediterranean, especially where people adhere to traditional diets, life expectancy is quite long. Cardiovascular diseases are also less common than in other developed countries. Many clinical studies have been conducted to understand why this is so.


One of the most widely cited recent, large cohort studies was carefully conducted over nearly 5 years. Known as the PREDIMED study, it compared a low fat control group with two different Mediterranean diet subgroups–one with additional olive oil in their diet, and the other with additional nuts. The PREDIMED study generated many specific studies of various subgroups such as diabetics, or those with heart disease, and also contained some overall large scale findings.

A recent review of 5 of the major publications [1] showed that both of the Mediterranean groups fared much better than the low-fat diet group on virtually every measure, including not dropping out of the study (which many of the low-fat diet group did).

The Mediterranean diet was statisticallyfruits & veggies in tray significant for men in many ways, but generally not so much for women. Statistical significance means that a result is highly unlikely to be due to chance. In the broadest terms, the diet with extra nuts was marginally better than the one with increased amounts of olive oil–especially for those with what is called metabolic syndrome. This is a grouping of metabolic measures that combine to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. They include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, abnormal cholesterol levels and abdominal obesity. Over the course of the five years, far fewer of those on the Mediterranean diet actually became diabetic than those on just the low fat diet. In one of the largest cohort comparisons (7,216 participants) the risk of death was significantly lower for those who consumed nuts compared to the other groups. This may be largely because those consuming Omega 3 rich diets had far fewer heart attacks than those of the other groups–and heart attacks are often fatal. The diet also has been shown to reverse metabolic syndrome markers by very large percentages in controlled comparisons.

One final factor associated with this diet is the ability of people to change their lifestyle and stay on it. In that respect, the Mediterranean diet tends to work. It is a traditional diet which emphasizes the social role that food (and moderate drink) play in helping people to lead fulfilling lives. It’s not a diet associated with denial, or dietary restriction of calories, but with lifestyle changes that improve overall health and life satisfaction through what people eat, and how they eat. It can lead to some gradual weight loss if people eat “sensibly” (not too much) and don’t drink very much (or any) alcohol, and avoid any sweets other than fresh fruits and some honey.

Overall, the Mediterranean Diet points to the simple fact that healthy eating should not be about living a dull, unfulfilling life. On the contrary, a focus on denial not only diminishes life itself, but it just doesn’t work. After reading through the comparisons, many readers may wonder why anyone actually stayed in the low-fat diet cohort during the entire course of study. Perhaimagesps someone should have invited them over for a nice Mediterranean style dinner. Given the numbers of controls who left the study, maybe that’s just what happened: they gave up, called some friends, and finally just went out “for Italian”.

[1] Gunnars, Kris https://authoritynutrition.com/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet/ November 2015

Atkins Diet

March 14, 2016

What is the Atkins Diet?

In 1972, cardiologist Roger C. Atkins, MD, published Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which was followed in later years by a series of newer versions and cookbooks. The latest updated version, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution includes the diet that people interested in this approach should follow. The Atkins diet was among the earliest of a series of diets which dramatically reduce carbohydrate intake, control calories, and also recommend some daily exercise—even moderate forms like walking—as an effective element for weight loss and control. Exercise is not required, but strongly recommended in the Atkins plan. The Atkins diet is still widely used because it is accessible and generally helps people to lose weight, relatively quickly, and if they stick to the recommendations, to keep excess weight off.

Four Phases of the Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet includes four phases beginning with the elimination of nearly all carbohydrates and anything that includes added sugar for approximately two weeks. The subsequent three phases gradually broaden the diet to inclucutting-meat-19578277de some carbohydrates at a rate of about 10 grams of carbohydrates per week in the later phases until a weight goal is reached. At that point a maintenance diet is recommend. The diet does include up to two snacks a day, which helps control some cravings. Those following the diet are expected to measure their carbohydrate and overall calorie intake, and to drink adequate amounts of water.

This diet allows for consumption of high levels of animal protein and fats, though there is a vegetarian version that includes plant protein sources—so it is not just a ‘high meat’ diet, which is an often-voiced criticism. Rapid initial weight loss is common, and is due both to calorie reduction and through ketosis, a state where the body burns fat, rather than carbohydrates and sugars. The temporary side effects of ketosis may include nausea, mental fatigue, headaches and bad breath. It is also a diet that should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. People with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, should talk with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, including this one.

Does the Atkins Diet work?leafy lettuce

Short answer: yes, if you stick with it. Diets excessively high in fat can be a worry for people who are already fat. And while care should be taken not to go overboard with the consumption of things like bacon, full-fat ice cream, etc., healthy fats are an integral part of nutrients that we all require, and so eliminating them is not wise either.

Research using carefully controlled comparisons conducted with people who are already experiencing serious health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome risks, have been conducted on many low carbohydrate diets including the Atkins diet. Many direct, controlled comparisons between low-carbohydrate diets and low fat diets have been completed and they reveal that low carbohydrate diets nearly always show weight loss well beyond that experienced by participants who are just on low fat diets.

Diets that are low in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fat usually lead to feeling satiated, so people don’t eat as much or feel hungry quite so quickly between meals. Both of these kinds of diets lead to reduced caloric intake—and weight loss. But it happens faster, and may last longer for people who reduce carbohydrate intake than for those who strictly reduce fat intake yet take in roughly the same amount of calories.

A concise review [1] of the findings published in 23 peer review journals (which included studies of the Atkin’s diet among them) concluded that when low-carbohydrate and low fat diets are compared, people not only lose significantly more weight much faster on low carbohydrate diets, but that no adverse effects were reported for either form of diet. Blood pressure tends to drop in both types of diets. In research where people actually follow the low carbohydrate diet very closely to the end of the study, blood sugars can drop well below the level that require diabetics to use medication. Slightly more people were also found to adhere to low carbohydrate diets, probably because they reduce hunger due to adequate fat and protein intake. Where diets are unsatisfying, people often abandon the study because they lose motivation to continue. On that basis, low carbohydrate diets are superior, but faster weight loss can also be highly motivational on its own.

Overall, since low carbohydrate diets (including the Atkins diet) are effective and include no serious adverse effects, they have much to recommend them for most people, most of the time.

[1] Gunnars, Kris, https://authoritynutrition.com/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets/ (July 2015)

The Culture of Eating

March 15, 2016

When we eat, much more than food goes into our mouth–culture, religion, ethics, politics, social class, tradition, family history–they all go in too. All this other stuff is quite worrying for many people. As long-time food critic John Lanchester writes:

“Food makes us anxious. The infinite range of choices and possible self-expressions means that there are so many ways to go wrong. You can make people ill, and you can make yourself look absurd. People feel judged by their food choices…”[1]

So how did we arrive at this state where food can provoke anxiety rather than pleasure? Why, for so many people, has food become more than “just food”? That is a vast topic over which much ink has been spilled, and lies far beyond the scope of a short Internet essay. But, there are some worthwhile hints and many useful lines of inquiry to pursue. There is lots of “food for thought”!

Food and Nutrients

We live in the world of other animals and plants that, like us, are busy ingesting nutrients — the things that our bodies require in order to function. Nutrients are divided into two groups:

  • macronutrients (sugars, carbohydrates, protein and fats)3060935008_994195f247_o
  • micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Food on the other hand,  is what people in any particular cultural group classify as something they can eat or should eat, chosen from the array of nutrients around them. And cultures differ a great deal around this simple classification where what are considered to be foods are carved off from what are merely nutrients.

Much of the world’s population, for example, eats insects and insect larvae. In the “west” if we find these in our food we would probably conclude that it was contaminated. We are disgusted, and likely to throw out anything the “bugs” were in contact with (a box of cereal perhaps).


Yet, many of us in the West eat eggs. In a great many cultures eggs are thought to be disgusting bits of encapsulated mucus excreted from birds and reptiles. Ick!!

Sometimes potential foods have religious connotations too—things you should eat only on certain days, or should never eat at all. The list of these differences could fill volumes. And, over the eons of our own past, humans (and even our most distant pre-human ancestors) have eaten many different things, but especially eggs and insects. These foods after all, are pretty easy to get. If our ancestors had not eaten these foods, we probably wouldn’t be here.

Animals that rely on just one thing are liable to become extinct when the environment stops producing what they require. They are superbly while living in stable environments but don’t weather changes to their diet very well. We humans on the other hand, have been surfing on environmental diversity and change for most of our evolutionary history. It’s worth asking what that could mean if humans create a much simpler environment in the future: one characterized by the extinction of many other forms of life. For most creatures (including humans) that rely on environmental complexity, that could also be a pretty certain dead end.

Humans are omnivores: we can consume many different kinds of life forms in order to perpetuate our own lives, for such is nature. Or as humorist Woody Allen once said, “Nature is…big fish eating little fish, and plants eating plants, and animals eating…It’s like an enormous restaurant…” [2]

Fortunately, we can eat almost anything from the menu of life’s big restaurant and use it to survive. But that is also what writer Michael Pollan refers to as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”[3]. What would be best to choose? Since people feel very strongly about what they (and others) order from the menu, there is a great deal of room for uninformed opinion to masquerade as some kind of “fact” about food.

What to Eat

After reviewing many kinds of diets and their recommendations we basically agree with Michael Pollan’s admonition in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”    images-1

That is probably the wisest course of action over the long term for most people, most of the time, if they want to be as healthy as possible, but that still leaves lots of room to maneuver; which plants? And which animals? What is “not too much”? And when should we eat them?

Stephen Le, in his insightful book 100 Million Years of Food refines this message somewhat by concluding that for most people a predominantly plant-based diet is best consumed when one is younger–reserving more of the animal-based foods for older age. He emphasizes that walking and eating traditional foods of one’s own culture are also helpful. Le’s message: “Eat good food, keep moving, and let your body take care of the rest” is certainly wise. But what constitutes good food and how your body deals with that if it is already been compromised in various ways is not always easy.
People who wish to lose weight over shorter periods of time usually go on specific diets to help them accomplish that. Most of these usually work, at least for a while, for the simple reason that they restrict calories. And, after people stop their diet, they usually gain back the weight they lost, and far too often a bit more than they started with. That’s a real problem. Along with meaning that most diets just don’t work, serious health issues can develop when people rebound from diets and gain even more weight over the longer term. Where there are clinical studies that evaluate both the short and long term results of specific diets, we refer to them in the sections where we describe specific diets in more detail.


At onestophealthguide.com, we provide useful information so you can make choices you can be comfortable with, and which could have potential benefits. We also point out what could be certain shortcomings of dietary choices. We are not attempting to preach one particular kind of ‘diet’. The best diet is a reasonably healthy one that you stick to because you enjoy eating it.

Most short-term diets result in temporary weight loss, mainly because they restrict foods from the calorie laden quick energy sources associated with sugars and carbohydrates that are so prevalent in contemporary Western diets. Some of those same benefits can also be obtained from short periods of fasting. Over longer periods the intake of a variety of foods is more likely to provide important micronutrients, and frankly, that’s just more interesting and pleasurable. And it’s easier to do. Shorter fasting periods are less likely to have ‘rebound’ effect.

To work over the long term, diets have to change what kinds of foods people eat, not just the amounts they eat. People also have to change their lifestyle to include more physical activity, which is difficult to do if a person on a diet has little energy. To keep weight off, change has to be transformational, not temporary.

Humans are omnivorous because of the many challenging environments in which our species has lived. Our bodies’ structures also reflect the many environments in which human beings have evolved over millions of years. Our ability to survive an inconsistent supply of foods–the equivalent of periodic fasting–also developed over long periods of time. This flexibility is an amazing asset, but it can become a liability too, particularly when people become obsessed with small parts of it at the expense of a varied diet. Our history is wrapped up with foods that we value, trade for, fight over and continue to fret over. It’s an amazing story, and so we will also provide a few references to good reading along the way. But to get us going, let’s start with some basic information, and a bit of “food for thought”.

human-digestive-system-human-body-anatomy-gastrointestinal-details-vector-illustration-isolated-white-background-36135152Humans have relatively small digestive systems for an animal their size. We can also digest plant or animal material simultaneously. So, we can eat a ham sandwich–a difficult or even impossible task for many animals.young-wolf-staring-its-pray-isolated-8178148

Classic predators usually have very large and highly acidic stomachs capable of handling large amounts of food at one time, and small intestines which are mainly for eliminating waste material.

Animals that eat almost exclusively vegetable material usually begin their digestion of carbohydrates with digestive enzymes found in their mouths. This is something humans can do along with most plant eaters. Neither do we have especially acidic stomachs (and if we do, it usually means we are uncomfortable and prone to develop an ulcer). Plant eaters have relatively smaller stomachs but very large chambers (usually large intestines) for breaking down fibre and releasing usable nutrients. For example, one of our nearest relatives, the Gorilla, consumes huge amounts of leafy plant material over the course of a day, and their large abdomens reflect that. Basically humans are a mixed bag of abilities–we can do it all, but there are tradeoffs because we can.

Another aspect of human anatomy that is related to our evolutionary history is our large brain relative to our body size. A big complex brain which is mostly fatty tissue requires a lot of energy to keep it humming along. It also requires sleep, basically to re-boot itself for the next day and to conserve a bit of that energy requirement.

Animals have to live within an energy budget in order to survive. Having one organ that requires a great deal of energy means that some other aspect of the animal’s anatomy will likely be reduced. For our size, along with a smaller than expected digestive tract, humans are relatively weakly muscled.The average Chimpanzee for example, is far stronger than any human being can ever hope to be. So, possessing a large brain sitting atop a relatively weak body with a smallish digestive tract required a relatively steady stream of high density nutrients in order to evolve. We require them today in order to be maintained. Being omnivorous definitely helps with this–it makes much more of the nutrient environment available as food. It also means that we can choose a healthy diet by eating a variety of both animal and vegetable based foods, or by carefully focussing mostly one kind or another.

human-skull-12506512Humans also have rather weak jaws and small teeth compared to other animals our size, including our closest relatives and our own ancestors. Ever since humans tamed fire and started to cook food, our jaws have been steadily declining. Cooking basically softens and pre-digests food to a certain degree, making it easier for our smaller digestive tracts. This makes most nutrients more accessible. It doesn’t mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) eat at least some raw foods. But we don’t have to, and judging from the cultural history of food traditions from around the world, mostly we don’t.

One other thing which is essentially human and is related to acquiring food, is living in highly social groups. One person may not be able to hunt, harvest or scavenge very successfully, but a cooperative group can be formidable. The sometimes exhausting task of processing food before eating it is also far better handled by a work party than by one person. Many hands make light work, as the old saying goes. Cooperation defines us most as a species–nothing we have achieved could be done alone.

We should not forget that eating is a highly social activity; that is one of its greatest pleasures. This very website is a good example of that valuable sociability too. It is a cooperative endeavour meant to maximize our collective well-being.

[1] Lanchester, John, “Shut up and Eat: A foodie repents” The New Yorker, Nov. 3, 2014.
[2] Woody Allen Quotes http://www.woodyallenquotes.com/woodyallen10.shtml
[3] Pollan, Michael, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Penguin, New York, 2006
[4] P. 223, Le, Stephen, 100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today. Harper Collins: New York, 2016.

New Section on Diets added

We have added a whole new section on diets, including information about the Paleo diet, the South Beach diet, and more. Start off with our “Introductions to Diets” and then explore the various diets. We have given definitions, specifics, background, research and studies for each one, plus our apple-rating.

Click here to go to the “Introduction to Diets” page