A recent study suggests that high protein diets will lead to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As usual, several media outlets picked this up and ran with it shouting these new claims from the tree tops without doing their due diligence, leaving me to wonder if both good investigative journalism has gone, along with good science, to the dogs.
This new study published in Cell Metabolism dons the dubious title, “Low Protein Intake is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but not Older Population.” Sounds science-y and scary—especially when you use the “C” word-- but don’t fly into a panic with the rest of the internet until you know the full picture.
Flaw #1: Health Questionnaire, No Screening for Risk Factors, No Controls
This was an epidemiological study that collected data from a health survey. There was no accounting for risk factors such as smoking, BMI (body mass index), risk markers for heart disease, pre-existing conditions such as insulin resistance, smokers versus non-smokers, genetics, etc. The study simply collected data from another data bank of 6,381 adults over the age of 50 and looked for correlations to prove their thesis.
These types of studies can sometimes be good for looking at trends, but often lead us askew because faulty correlations are made without control groups. When there is no accounting for these major risk factors jumping to these conclusions is a major stretch. Where is the science in this “study’?
Flaw#2: The BIGGEST FLAW: THEY DID NOT STUDY HIGH PROTEIN DIETS!
Say what? Yes, you read that correctly. ALL subjects ate the following:
Understandably, reading and deciphering the language in some of these studies can be daunting. However, this bit is not rocket science. This is not a high protein diet. The percentages above would have to be reversed to be considered a high protein diet. They studied HIGH CARBOHYDRATE diets. So, if any correlation were to be made it would be that high carbohydrate diets are the culprit for diabetes, heart disease and mortality!
Flaw #3: Exactly What Were These People Eating?
Um, I don’t know and apparently neither do the scientists in the study. Was it fast-food burgers, fries and a coke? Was it grass-fed steak or wild caught salmon? What type of animal proteins and what was the quality of the proteins? What kinds of fats were they eating? The truth is, the quality and type of both proteins and fats play a huge role in our health. For example, the ratio of omega 6 to omega-3 fatty acids plays a huge role in the inflammatory process which can lead to heart disease and diabetes. Grass fed animal meats have healthier ratios than grain fed animals, and eating these higher quality proteins provides essential fatty acids that are missing in the typical standard American diet (SAD).
Flaw #4: 1800 Calories for Everyone-Across the Board.
An athlete has different caloric requirements than a sedentary couch potato. A petite business woman has different caloric needs than a pregnant mom. Who were these 6,381 subjects---were they all the same height and weight? Did they have the same exact exercise routine and same caloric needs? Doubtful. You see, nutrition is not a one-size fits all approach. Individuals have different calorie needs and this was not accounted for in this study. Moreover, a calorie is not a calorie—that is, all calories are not created equal.
For example, a small banana contains about 72 calories. A small doughnut contains 52 calories. If all calories were created equal, then it wouldn’t matter which you chose in the morning for breakfast. This is a totally illogical approach to health and wellness. Good nutrition requires one to use their noodle and an ounce of logic. The quality of the food and, thus the quality of the calorie will make or break your diet, how you feel day in and day out and the possible development of disease such as diabetes down the line.
There is little to no evidence in this study that supports its claims. Not only was the study deeply flawed, it is bewildering how this epidemiological survey even came to be published. With a few exceptions, such as NBC who vetted the research methodology with leading experts, consumers should be careful of assuming what they read is fact because the media or Doctor Google may not always have their back.
There’s a reason why Beano flies off the shelves. For those of you who have been told that beans should be a staple in the diet, the unfortunate news is that you’ve been led down a gassy, bloated path of misconception.
The Truth IS: Eating beans straight off the shelf without proper preparation will damage your gut lining, weaken your digestive system and may even inflame joints. This is because beans are virtually indigestible by humans. That is why gas, bloating and a myriad of other symptoms are par for the course when you eat them.
It is also true that many health practitioners, including famous TV personalities, parrot the health benefits of beans (aka legumes) promoting their rich source of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Undeniably, beans are a great source of folate and B vitamins, amino acids and minerals such as manganese, selenium, iron, zinc, potassium, copper and many other nutrients.
But, like all nuts, seeds and grains, the nutrients in beans are tightly locked inside the bean, protected by a toxic anti-nutrient called phytic acid found in the outer bran or seed coat. This anti-nutrient is nature’s way of protecting the bean from pests such as insects, fungi, bacteria….and maybe even you and me!
Humans do not possess sufficient levels of the enzyme, phytase, necessary to break down the phytic acid and shield us from its damaging effects. And, the problem with phytic acid is that it pulls minerals out of your tissues and blocks the release of important digestive enzymes. Phytic acid is toxic, especially at high levels.
Phytic Acid Will:
- Ø Block the availability of phosphorus (phosphorus is essential for absorption of B vitamins, the nervous system, bone formation, liver function and a variety of other biochemical processes).
- Ø Block the absorption of the key minerals, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
- Ø Block the release of digestive enzymes-- pepsin, amylase and trypsin—necessary to break down (or digest) fats, proteins, carbohydrates and sugars.
The trick to eating beans is all in the preparation. While fermenting the beans is the best method for getting the most health benefits without the negative side effects, it is the least practical in terms of time efficiency and living in the modern world.
Your next best option is soaking the beans to neutralize the phytic acid. There is a definite science to the soaking process, but it will be time well spent if it means reducing or avoiding inflammation and protecting your GI tract.
For the best explanation on how to soak your beans, visit the following website and be sure to watch the video!
MYTH: Agave is a health food and a safe alternative to sugar or other sweeteners.
FACT: Agave is a sweetener from a plant that can cause weight gain, blood sugar disorders and high blood pressure.
Oftentimes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. We see this in nature: sunshine in small amounts lifts our mood, provides essential vitamin D and gets us motivated. But it can also burn our skin, cause heat stroke and increase our risk for cancer.
There are numerous things that are beneficial to us in limited quantities, but more of it isn’t necessarily better. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been teaching this concept, called “dynamic balance,” for over 4,000 year and now modern science has confirmed this important concept, especially in regards to nutritional science.
Agave is being touted as a rock star sugar alternative with multiple health benefits. Unfortunately, there is little truth to these claims. Research shows that agave may be one more major contributor to the epidemic of blood sugar disorders and obesity striking some 86 million Americans. (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 Diabetes Fact Sheet, http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/)
Agave is roughly made up of 92% fructose, 8% glucose depending on how it is processed. Because of its chemical makeup, health advocates plug agave as having a low glycemic load. While this is true—agave is a low glycemic food—it is unfortunately very misleading.
The glycemic load refers to how a food will impact your blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels. The glycemic load does not measure fructose (fruit sugars), which are metabolized very differently than glucose. And multiple studies have found that fructose can be a major source of heart disease and diabetes.
Agave is a sweetener from a plant that has a higher fructose content than any commercial sweetener. It is roughly 70-97% higher in fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Fructose is directly absorbed into the liver from the intestines. It never hits the blood stream like glucose. And excess amounts have been found to cause the following laundry list of outcomes:
- Fatty liver disease
- High uric acid levels (as commonly seen in Gout)
- Weight gain
- Interference with essential fatty acid metabolism
- Kidney damage
- High triglycerides
- Decreased insulin sensitivity within the cells (as in Type 2 Diabetes)
- The inability of the body to regulate blood sugar properly
Johnosn RJ et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 86: 899-906.
If you are an avid researcher and not yet convinced to rethink your fructose –and especially agave—consumption, check these studies out:
FACT: Avocados are a healthy fat and have 20 essential vitamins and minerals!
4 ripe Avocados
Juice of 1 Lime
½ cup of finely chopped cilantro
1 vine ripened tomato- coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped green onion
¼ teaspoon of garlic (fresh or powdered)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon of onion powder
*Optional: A dash of red pepper or other spicy pepper
Scoop the avocado and mash with masher. Mix all the ingredients in large bowl and refrigerate for an hour. Serve with veggie sticks.
Coconut Milk Shake
FACT: Coconut should be a staple in your diet. Coconut meat, milk and oil actually help improve cholesterol ratios, regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, have immune boosting properties and are anti-microbial (meaning it can help kill infectious bugs)
8 ounces of unsweetened coconut milk
SMALL handful of organic berries of your choice OR a few slices of peach
Optional: 1/4-1/2 of a banana
*Watch your fruit portions since this is a sweet treat!
Best Coconut Milk: Wilderness Family Naturals
Fact: Eggs have taken a beating (pun-intended) over the past several years! Eggs truly are a healthy fat and will not cause a rise in "bad" cholesterol.
So, they are safe to eat and remember that the YOLK is MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL. No more egg white omelets please! The yolk contains a vital nutrient called choline that is required by the body and brain to function and regulates the heart, muscles, mood and much more.
4 large eggs, hard-boiled, cooled and peeled
3 tbsp unsalted, organic butter, softened
3 tBSP coriander or cilantro minced
2 tbsp scallions, minced (white part only)
1/4 cup ground walnuts (or other nut of your preference)
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
Preparation: In a small bowl, mash the eggs with the butter. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Serve with celery sticks and baby carrots
- Scoop out a tomato, fill with egg salad, top with a few black olives
- Add a few scoops to a chopped vegetable salad
The latest health news making headlines is a warning that calcium is bad for you and calcium supplementation could lead to heart disease. But there is more to the story than they are reporting.
These latest findings are based on a Swiss study that is fundamentally flawed. For one, the study never evaluated participants for atherosclerosis, disease of the arteries, and ran no major lab markers to assess the participants’ health prior to the study. So participants may have already had heart disease or health problems prior to taking the calcium. And, a huge number of the participants were smokers!
And while the study may be flawed, that doesn’t mean that all calcium is created equal and that the only question is whether to take or not to take a calcium supplement.
There are 5 fundamental things you need to know about calcium:
Not all calcium is created equal. Synthetic supplements made in a lab or not properly formulated may cause health issues. Whole food forms of calcium are preferable when supplementing.
To be effective and not pose health risks, calcium needs to be consumed with the right ratio to magnesium as well as potassium and vitamin D.
Most forms of calcium are not absorbed well from the GI tract and will be excreted before your body can make use of it.
Calcium is ESSENTIAL for bone, muscle, nerve, heart and even immune system health.
Getting calcium from food sources is always your best choice. This is why I only use whole-food supplements when needed; meaning all the “vitamins” are strictly derived from food sources and are not artificial (synthetically made in a lab).
If you have concerns about your calcium supplement, please call my office to set up a consult.
Here's to the truth about your health!