Intermittent fasting (IF) is proven to have beneficial effects on aging, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. However, it isn’t known whether the benefits of IF are due to caloric restriction (CR), as with fasting, or whether they’re due to changes in eating pattern. Recent studies have discovered that the browning of white fat can improve insulin sensitivity and energy expenditure by producing heat. Both exercise and cold exposure have been shown to transform white fat into brown fat.
A recent study by Kim et al. from the University of Toronto looked into the mechanisms underlying intermittent fasting’s effects on health. They separated mice into 2 groups: an IF group and a control group. The IF group was not fed for 1 day and then fed for 2 days in a row whereas the control group was fed daily. This went on for 4 months. By the end of the study, both groups had been fed the same amount of calories. After 4 months, the IF mice weighed significantly less and had increased insulin sensitivity and a more stable glucose metabolism. Additionally, they had a lower proportion of white fat because it had been converted into brown fat. The IF mice had higher levels of adipose vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF helps form new blood vessels and activates adipose macrophages (white blood cells) which are critical for the browning of white fat and heat production. Interestingly, IF led to the browning of visceral white fat while cold exposure leads to the browning of subcutaneous white fat.
The authors note that health is not solely about “what and how much” we eat but also “when and how often”.
Apparently tomatoes are the 4th most mentioned trigger for gout flare-ups after seafood, alcohol and red meat. This is according to a group of researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand. They have published a new paper in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders that may have found a biological basis to substantiate the claim. The study revealed a positive association between the consumption of tomatoes and blood urate levels.
For some time, I’ve been puzzled about what constitutes a healthy diet. Surely I can’t be the only one? We’re fed so much conflicting and fluctuating advice that it’s difficult to know what to believe…and that’s without even delving into the plethora of commercial weight-losing fad diets out there! I think we can all appreciate that we are what we eat…but what should we eat?
I decided to do a little research, just because I thought someone out there must have the answer! After ploughing through a few books most of which were okayish to good I came across a book that was life changing! Incidentally, it had been on my reading list for a few years but after reading the summary, I decided I wasn’t ready to apply the changes it recommended…
The book is “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. Campbell is professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. He has been at the forefront of nutrition research for over 40 years and has authored over 300 research papers. He was program director of the China Study which was the culmination of a 20 year partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. The China Study is considered the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted! In addition, he has served on numerous panels and boards tasked with allocating research grants and providing government with nutritional guidelines.
Although medicine has progressed over the last century, we’re still woefully inadequate at dealing with diseases of affluence such as cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease. The main reason we’re struggling is that the answer lies not in medical breakthroughs but in our diet. It is possible to free ourselves from these diseases but the system has done a great job of burying the evidence. By the ‘system’ I mean: the pharmaceutical industry, food industry, medical industry, academia and government. These industries are profoundly connected and intertwined but unfortunately they prioritise their own financial profit rather than our health. The players with the most money wield the greatest influence. Sadly, for us, the truth doesn’t financially benefit the ‘system’! Campbell writes about this in depth in both “The China Study” and “Whole”.
In “Whole”, Campbell briefly explains how a whole food, plant-based diet could help decrease global warming, preserve fresh water supplies, decrease human poverty and of course, stop the animal cruelty in modern livestock farms. It turns out that a lot of our problems are linked but our reductionist view has prevented us from seeing the whole picture.
In “The China Study”, Campbell amasses and impressive, both in depth and breadth, amount of evidence in favour of the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that this diet can help us:
- Live longer
- Look and feel younger
- Have more energy
- Lose weight
- Lower our blood cholesterol
- Prevent and even reverse heart disease
- Lower our risk of prostate, breast and other cancers
- Preserve our eyesight in our later years
- Prevent and treat diabetes
- Avoid surgery in many instances
- Vastly decrease the need for pharmaceutical drugs
- Keep our bones strong
- Avoid impotence
- Avoid stroke
- Prevent kidney stones
- Keep our baby from getting Type 1 diabetes
- Alleviate constipation
- Lower our blood pressure
- Avoid Alzheimer’s
- Beat arthritis
- And more…
Campbell’s 8 principles of food and health are:
- Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
- Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health.
- There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.
- Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.
- Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.
- The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).
- Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.
- Good nutrition creates health in all areas of existence. All parts are connected.
His advice is to “consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (whole foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein.”
I know this advice may contradict certain beliefs that we hold but the evidence against animal protein and dairy is pretty damning. I can only suggest that you read “The China Study” to familiarise yourself with the mountain of evidence. Whether we act on it or not is another question but at least it will be an informed decision! Exactly how we act on it is something I hope to tackle in another post.
Last month a group of researchers from Tufts University published a fascinating article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Their objective was to determine how changes in intake of protein foods, glycemic load (GL) of carbohydrates, and the interrelationship between the two influence long-term weight gains. The GL of food is a number that estimates how much the food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after eating it. Glycemic load accounts for how much carbohydrate is in the food and how much each gram of carbohydrate in the food raises blood glucose levels.
They followed a group of over 120,000 men and women for 16 to 24 years whilst adjusting for body mass index and lifestyle changes such as smoking, physical activity, television watching and sleep duration.
- Meat, chicken (with skin) and regular cheese were positively associated with long-term weight gain
- No association for milk, legumes, peanuts, eggs
- Yogurt, peanut butter, nuts, chicken (without skin), low-fat cheese and seafood were associated with weight loss
- Increases in GL were associated with weight gain
Protein & Glycemic Load Synergy
- Changes in GL of carbohydrates affect the usual weight changing effects of protein foods; for example, increased cheese intake was associated with weight gain when GL increased, with weight stability when GL did not change, and with weight loss when GL decreased.
“Our study adds to growing new research that counting calories is not the most effective strategy for long-term weight management and prevention,” said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian. “Some foods help prevent weight gain, others make it worse. Most interestingly, the combination of foods seems to make a big difference. Our findings suggest we should not only emphasize specific protein-rich foods like fish, nuts, and yogurt to prevent weight gain, but also focus on avoiding refined grains, starches, and sugars in order to maximize the benefits of these healthful protein-rich foods, create new benefits for other foods like eggs and cheese, and reduce the weight gain associated with meats.”