UNDERSTANDING DIETING METHODS AND FAT LOSS

July 17th, 2014

[extract: 'Fat or Fiction']

Use your intellect and you won’t need willpower!

How to detect a ‘rip off’ weight loss plan

If a weight loss program prescribes a reduction in calories below your BMR together with:

  • no exercise or physical effort
  • unrealistic promises of fast weight loss or
  • sales of the latest cream, pill or potion,

you can be confident that it is a scam! Such ‘magical’ programs will not only disappoint you through lack of promised results, but they may also harm your health, not to mention burning a hole in your pocket.

Some side-effects of such programs may include:

  • loss of lean tissue (predominantly muscle), causing your BMR to decrease.  In short, this mean that fat gain occurs when normal calorie intake is resumed (remember the twins) … hence the so-called yo-yo syndrome
  • loss of vital nutrition
  • a lack of energy and endurance, which automatically reduces fat-burning activity

Many commercial programs actually discourage exercise, particularly weight training.  The reason behind this is that they teach you to measure your progress by the scales.  They want you to see quick results, therefore, loss of muscle tissue is going to show a greater reduction in total body weight – very deceiving!  If you were to retain your lean tissue (muscle) and lose only stored body fat, this would hinder their desired outcome on the scales!

Even if these magic diet plans do not appear to be focusing on calorie restriction, they usually are.  Low fat means low calorie, plain and simple.  Fat has the highest value of calories of all the nutrients we consume.  One gram of fat has nine calories, one gram of protein or carbohydrates has four calories.  You may automatically reduce your total calorie intake when you begin to eat the types of food that your body requires for optimal nourishment.  When the body is satisfied with a balanced, daily intake of vitamins, minerals and all essential nutrients, your volume of food may be greater, however, the caloric value is quite often less and you lose food cravings.  It is still important, however, not to drop below your basal metabolic requirement.

The human body is a remarkable machine.  It will adapt and adjust its system to preserve life.  I t will continue to fine-tune all systems and functions as we try to trick and out-smart it.  If your main focus is on the bathroom scales, you are probably quite proud of yourself for exhibiting the willpower to diligently adhere to your latest calorie restrictions.

As many of us have discovered, it takes incredible willpower to voluntarily sustain feelings of hunger for prolonged periods of time.  Restricting calories is like holding your breath … when you begin to breathe again, you gasp for copious amounts of oxygen; after calorie deprivation you are desperate to feast!

With the lower metabolic rate you have created by losing valuable muscle tissue, that fat will be cascading down those thighs again in no time!  I think that most of us, men and women alike, would like to re-shape our bodies, as opposed to keeping the same shape and just getting a little smaller.  If you do not focus your efforts on changing your body composition, but instead on weight loss, at best, you will become a smaller version of the shape you are now and probably not permanently.  Generally, after several attempts at this spasmodic ritual, our bodies look and feel in worse shape than when we began!

Perhaps this explains why the latest research has proven that 95% of all weight loss clinic clientele regain lost weight.

It is usually at this point that we begin to search for blame.  Age is one reason I hear repeatedly.  As we age we become less active, full stop!  Picture a family get-together.  What are the children doing and what are the adults doing?  Well, I immediately see the image of adults lazing around the food area, eating, drinking and catching up on the latest gossip … probably complaining about how they have just eaten too much food! The children, however, are running, playing and are far too busy to even think about food, until their parents force them to sit still for long enough to eat something!

And, you must have heard this:  ‘It gets harder and harder to lose weight as you get older and, anyway, you are more susceptible to injuries if you exercise too much’.

Obviously, as we get older, we have more responsibilities, less time, perhaps a sedentary job, a vehicle to take us everywhere – excuses, excuses, excuses!  We create these habits, so therefore it is completely within our power to make changes, at the very least, to modify our lifestyle, without great time commitments, to allow for a healthier and more active existence.

Changing the nutritional composition of your diet in ways that are compatible with your lifestyle, and increasing your daily activity and therefore the calories burned, combine to give you a sustainable, logical and healthy method of losing stored body fat … forever!

Protein powders explained…

June 5th, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is not going to make you ‘bulk up’ and athleticism is not a prerequisite for its consumption.  Having said this, not all protein powders are created equal. Firstly, let’s understand what it is….

The curd in dairy is used for making cheese, while the liquid component, known as whey, is separated from the curd and is put through a micro-filter to remove the lactose and casein – two things many of us don’t digest well – and you’re left with the valuable amino acids and calcium. Whey Protein is possesses the highest biological value of all known Foods (the biological value of well-manufactured Whey Protein is 110-159 on a scale of 1-100). It has many immune-boosting properties, it can slow the process of sarcopenia (muscle loss as we age – see the chart below), lower triglycerides (fats in our blood), boost glutathione levels (powerful antioxidant), boost calcium intake, help to control our weight and keep us feeling fuller for longer.

Far from trying to turn you into a muscle-bound Schwartzneggar, most of us are struggling to maintain ‘normal’ muscle density. They say a picture tells a thousand words, so I’ll let the images below do the talking! This is a very real and common issue. It is not inevitable, but it will happen if we don’t feed our bodies what they need and we neglect regular exercise…

This muscle wasting is thought to underline a number of serious age-related health issues. While it is ‘common’, it is not ‘normal’. Slowing or reversing this process is dependent on exercise and nutrition-based strategies designed to build a reservoir of muscle mass as early as possible. Even very elderly individuals are still able to respond to both resistance training and the anabolic signals provided by protein ingestion, provided the right balance of amino acids (such as those found in WPI) are present.

Here is a list of some of the potential health benefits of WPI:

  • Whey Protein may lower Blood Pressure in Hypertension patients (due to the Alpha-Lactalbumin and Beta-Lactoglobulin content of Whey Protein inhibiting Angiotenson Converting Enzyme (ACE)).
  • Whey Protein is speculated to help prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) (due to its ability to increase the Glutathione content of the Retina).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent Cataracts (by supplying the Lens with additional Cysteine, the precursor of Glutathione, itself the precursor for Glutathione Peroxidase).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent various types of Bacterial & Viral Diseases:

- Whey Protein is a valuable treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – it significantly improves the function of the Immune System in AIDS patients.

- Whey Protein may enhance the ability of Antibodies to counteract the Antigens that cause Bacterial & Viral Diseases.

  • Whey Protein may increase the body’s resistance to some types of Detrimental Bacteria including Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella and Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Whey Protein (20 – 30 grams per day) may counteract the ability of Hydrazines and some other carcinogens to initiate Cancer and may cause the regression of tumors in some Cancer patients:

- Whey Protein may enhance the effectiveness of Radiation Therapy in Cancer patients and may reduce the toxic effects of Radiation Therapy to normal cells (by depleting the Glutathione content of Cancer cells and increasing the Glutathione content of normal cells).

- Whey Protein (30 grams per day) may inhibit the growth of Breast Cancer cells and may cause the regression of some existing Breast Cancer tumours and may reduce the risk of Colon Cancer.

  • Whey Protein may enhance the function of the Immune System:

- Whey Protein may counteract the suppression of the Immune System encountered by people who engage in excessive Exercise.

- Whey Protein may enhance the function of Neutrophils.

  • Whey Protein possesses Antioxidant properties (due to the Lactoferrin and Lactoperoxidase content of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein inhibits the ability of Iron to generate Free Radicals (due to the Lactoferrin and Lactoperoxidase content of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein may improve Athletic Performance.
  • Whey Protein may lower total Cholesterol levels.
  • Whey Protein may counteract the suppression of the Immune System encountered by people who engage in excessive Exercise.
  • Whey Protein may be useful for the treatment of Hemochromatosis (due to its ability to reduce the excessive generation of Free Radicals caused by the increased Iron levels of Hemochromatosis patients).
  • Whey Protein (30 – 60 grams per day) may increase levels of Glutathione in the Liver in Hepatitis C patients (Hepatitis C patients have severe depletion of Liver Glutathione levels).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent/treat Insulin Resistance and stablise blood sugar levels
  • Whey Protein may reduce weight in persons afflicted with Obesity by stimulating the production/release of Cholecystokinin (CCK), the Hormone responsible for satiety (i.e. reduced Appetite).
  • Whey Protein may increase Stamina.  In a 2010 study, WPI decreased blood tryglycerides by up to 27%. In another 2011 study, overweight women given 60g of WPI per day for 4 weeks decreased their fasting triglycerides by 15%.
  • Whey Protein may facilitate Muscle Growth by increasing the body’s retention of Nitrogen – Nitrogen retention from Whey Protein is believed to be sixteen times that of free Amino Acids and twice that of whole food.
  • Whey Protein may increase Muscle Strength.
  • Whey Protein may retard the Muscular Atrophy (Sarcopenia) that occurs as a consequence of the Aging Process.
  • Whey Protein may activate Osteoblasts (and may thereby facilitate the formation of Bones).
  • Whey Protein may help to prevent and treat Osteoporosis (by activating Osteoblasts).
  • Whey Protein may help to alleviate Pain (the Tetrapeptides content of Whey Protein have Opioid-like activity).
  • Whey Protein may counteract some of the negative effects associated with excessive Stress (specifically the Tryptophan content of the Alpha-Lactalbumin component of Whey Protein may increase the Brain’s Serotonin levels – excessive Stress often causes Serotonin depletion and this depletion of Serotonin is one of the causes of the cognitive impairment experienced during Stress).
  • Whey Protein may inhibit bronchoconstriction in (exercise-induced) Asthma patients.
  • Whey Protein may alleviate (atopic) Eczema.
  • Whey Protein may reduce the severity of Psoriasis (possibly due to the Transforming Growth Factor-beta2 content of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein may accelerate the healing of Wounds.
  • Whey Protein may stimulate the endogenous production of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1).
  • Whey Protein may facilitate the production of Serotonin (due to the Tryptophan content of the Alpha-Lactalbumin component of Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein (when correctly processed) may cause sustained increases in the body’s Glutathione levels (due to the high content of Cysteine (a precursor of Glutathione) in Whey Protein).
  • Whey Protein may lower elevated Cortisol levels.
  • Whey Protein may inhibit increases in Ghrelin (hunger hormone).
  • Whey Protein contains approximately 24% Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs, i.e. Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine) – this is the highest concentration of BCAAs of any single Protein.

Making sure you’re getting the real deal…

“Proprietary Blends” of Whey Proteins

The term “proprietary blend” is not listed on these brands of Whey Protein as an indication of any special benefits attributable to them.  The term usually disguises the requirement to reveal the percentage of each of the various Proteins in the product.  Some “proprietary blends” contain as little as 10% of “desirable” Proteins.  They usually contain many non-Protein additives and the Whey Protein constituent is “denatured”.

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

Whey Protein Concentrate contains 25% – 89% Protein (most commonly it contains 80% Protein) which is less than the percentage of Protein present in Whey Protein Isolate.  The remaining non-Protein constituents are mainly Carbohydrates (predominantly Lactose) and Lipids.

Whey Protein Concentrate contains several micronutrients not present in Whey Protein Isolate including: IGF-1, TGFb-1 and TGFb-2. Whey Protein Concentrate contains higher levels of the following nutrients compared with Whey Protein Isolate: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), Immunoglobulins and Lactoferrin.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

Whey Protein Isolates contain 90% – 96% Protein.

Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate

The manufacturing process for Ion Exchange Whey Protein involves charging the Whey Protein solution with static electricity which charges the ions in the Whey Protein.  The Protein can then be separated from the Lactose and Water. It contains almost zero fats and little, if any, of the micronutrients present in Whey Protein Concentrate.

Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate (as used in Donna Aston’s PURE Protein Supreme)

The manufacturing process for Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate involves the physical separation of the Proteins in Whey from Whey’s other constituents by the use of a microscopic filter. Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate is likely to be superior to Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate on the basis that key micronutrients (subfractions) are not lost during the manufacturing process. Our PURE Protein Supreme is, as the name suggests, pure – without additives. It is fructose and gluten-free and contains only a trace of lactose, making it suitable for those with various food intolerances.

http://www.donnaaston.com/store/index.php?category=3

Let Food Be Thy Medicine!

June 4th, 2014

While we know that our food choices can have an impact on our weight and energy levels, you may not realise that they can also have a significant impact on inflammation. With inflammation at the source of many disease processes, it’s important to be aware of what is driving the inflammatory process and what can reduce/reverse it.

Surprisingly, the human body contains over 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells. This fine balance of bacteria, known as our microbiome, is now understood to have a significant impact on human health. The human microbiome may be implicated in numerous auto-immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes and some cancers. Not only is the flora in our gut the foundation of our immune system (>70 percent is housed in our gut wall), obesity may also be exacerbated by a poor mix of gut microbes. These microbes control many functions essential to health, such as synthesis of nutritional compounds, for immune modulation and for inflammatory signalling.

PRO-INFLAMMATORY ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
sugar Flavonoid-rich berries (fresh or frozen)
fructose Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy)
Trans fats/processed vegetable oils Citrus fruits  (lemons, limes, grapefruit)
Flour/processed carbohydrates High-carotene vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, orange peppers)
Baked goods (trans fats/sugars) Lycopene sources (tomatoes, watermelon, strawberry, papaya, pink grapefruit)
Excessive alcohol consumption Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, bok choy)
Excessive Omega 6 fats (vegetable oils, nuts and associated products) & low Omega 3 fats (fish, flaxseed, etc) Herbs & spices (turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, rosemary, capsicum, dill)
MSG Wild salmon
Low fibre diet Proteolytic enzymes (pineapple, kiwi fruit, papaya, miso)
excessive additives and artificial ingredients Adequate quantity & variety of dietary fibre (see list below)

Optimum for men: 30-35g/day , women 25-30g/day

So where does fibre come into it?

Fibre represents a group of carbohydrate-containing compounds that are neither digested nor absorbed in the small intestine. What most people don’t realize is the relevance of the different types of dietary fibres as well as the optimal daily intake. I’d suggest that the vast majority of us are not consuming anywhere close to the quantity and variety necessary for optimum health. Structural classifications have been developed based on either the water solubility or the susceptibility to large intestinal bacterial degradation (fermentation). Although fibre in general is an important source of energy for intestinal microflora, various fibres show different fermentation potentials.

An anti-inflammatory effect of fibre is of special interest because higher fibre intake has been linked to a decreased overall mortality in older adults including mortality due to infectious, inflammatory, and respiratory diseases. High fibre intake has also been associated with lower BMI, likely at least partly due to the low energy density of fibre-rich foods. Researchers are now also considering the alteration fibre causes to the intestinal microbiome and how this may directly affect our weight.

While the adequate intake (AI) of dietary fibre has long been established (25+g/day for women and 30g+ for men), the ideal ratio of the two types of fibre may still require further investigation. Animal studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects with the ratio 1:1 or 2:1 in favour of fermentable fibres. Fermentable fibres are usually soluble, whereas insoluble fibres usually have poor fermentability.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a thick gel in your intestines, slowing digestion. This can help to stabilise blood glucose levels and may help to lower LDL cholesterol levels. By slowing down digestion, soluble fibre helps people feel full for longer after eating. Foods higher in soluble fibre include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • rolled oats (also contain insoluble fibre)

Insoluble fibre, adds bulk and helps to keep the bowels regular. It is the hard outer skins and surfaces of roots, grains and seeds which are not as easily digested. Insoluble fibre is also very filling. Foods higher in insoluble fibre include:

  • whole grains
  • the outer skins of fruit and vegetables
  • nuts and seeds

Both types of fibre are beneficial to the body and most plant foods contain a mixture of both types. Are you getting enough fibre each day?

FOOD SOURCE TOTAL FIBRE (g) INSOLUBLE (g) SOLUBLE (g)
Raw almonds – 1 cup 15.9 14.3 1.6
Apple – med with skin 3.7 2.7 1.0
Banana – 1 med 2.8 2.1 0.7
Tomato – 1 cup 2.0 1.8 0.2
Green beans – 1 cup 3.7 2.1 1.6
Raspberries – 1 cup 8.4 7.5 0.9
Cabbage – 1 cup ckd 3.4 1.9 1.5
Carrot – 1 cup raw 3.3 1.7 1.6
Muesli, raw – 1 cup 10.0 7.3 2.7
Kiwi fruit – 1 med 2.6 2.0 0.6
Mandarin – 1 cup 4.5 2.7 1.8
Oat bran – 1 cup 4.8 2.8 2.0
Rolled oats – 1 cup 4.0 2.1 1.9

Antioxidants

One of the most powerful (internal) antioxidants in our body is glutathione. Glutathione is different from other antioxidants in that it is intracellular. It has the unique ability of maximizing the activity of all the other antioxidants. It removes toxins from your cells and protects you from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants.

Your body is quite poor at getting glutathione from your digestive system into your blood. Most oral glutathione supplements have been shown to be poorly absorbed and, quite frankly, a waste of money. In fact, some glutathione supplements may interfere with your own internal production of glutathione.

The best way to boost your glutathione levels by consuming foods (and potentially supplements) which enhance your own production. Some of these foods are listed below:

BOOSTING GLUTATHIONE

NUTRIENT TO INCREASE FOOD SOURCES
Glutathione Asparagus, spinach garlic, avocado, zucchini, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches
Selenium Brazil nuts, meat, seafood
Cyanohydroxybutene Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage
Alpha lipoic acid Red meat, organ meats, brewers yeast
Riboflavin Sunflower seeds, spinach, avocado
Cysteine Eggs, garlic, whey protein
Flavonoids A wide variety of colourful plant foods, including berries, citrus fruits, vegetables, spices and tea

Coping with peer pressure

May 29th, 2014

It’s one thing to change your own psychology when embarking on a new eating and exercise regime but watch in wonder at how all of your friends react too. It’s quite an eye opener.

Often the people you think will be most supportive, turn out to be the most threatened. They start to notice you are choosing different foods from a menu, bringing lunch to work from home instead of the local sandwich bar and all the questions begin. Curiosity develops into lectures or challenges on the subject because there is always one friend or colleague who knows better.

Others will always try to sabotage your efforts to change. Often it’s your overweight friend who bonded with you over chocolate cake and cappuccino. Removing the sweets from the relationship leaves the relationship in crumbs.

These people often make themselves feel better by ensuring that you are not going to outshine them. They feel guilty eating that sugar-laden dessert after dinner when you have no intention of joining them. They pressure you in the name of encouragement: ‘Go on, just have a little bit’ or ‘One won’t do you any harm’ or my personal favourite ‘You only live once.’ Agreed, but you’d prefer to do it without being obese and crippled with disease!

You may already be feeling self-conscious about the changes you’re making and become tense at any extra attention. You may also be bursting to tell everyone of your new-found diet answers and want to bring the world on board.

Here is my advice to fight the peer pressure:
- Be strong – don’t allow others’ insecurities to hinder your ability to make positive changes.

- Be a leader, not a follower. Don’t be afraid to be different. You don’t have to behave in the same way as everyone else just to ‘fit in.’

-Try not to be evangelistic. If you try to ‘convert’ others because you are so enthusiastic about your new regime, no matter how genuine your intentions, this is asking for peer pressure. When the results are evident for all to see you will be fighting off the hoards begging for your ‘secret’. This is your cue to discuss your dietary changes if you wish. At this point, they can no longer tell you it doesn’t work as they’ve just admitted that it does!

-Be patient with yourself.

Above all else, make the commitment and stick with it. The results will be more than worth it.

THE POWERFUL CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR MENTAL HEALTH & YOUR DIET

May 5th, 2014

You can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper without reading about the latest studies linking diet and nutrition to all manner of disease, such as sugar and diabetes, folate and spina bifida or obesity and heart disease…but what about our mental health? You may be surprised to learn just a few of the following facts. Yet a few more reasons to ‘nourish’ your body with food!

Your brain

  • The brain is the largest organ in our body and it consumes 20% of our energy
  • Like other organs, the brain is affected by what we eat and drink
  • Unlike other organs, the link between diet and the brain is not as well recognised
  • The brain is lipid (fat) rich tissue and develops in size in the first year of life. It is very susceptible to nutritional deprivation (such as iodine, iron and omega 3) and insult (methyl mercury poisoning)
  • Disability-adjusted life years (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, or the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death. Of the major diseases and conditions in the world, mental illness ranks #1 with a staggering 193,278,495 billion, leaps and bounds ahead of cardiovascular disease, HIV and cancer
  • 27% of years of ‘healthy’ life lost due to poor health or disability
  • Mental illness affects 1 in 5 Australians at some stage of their life
  • Rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are greater in this population:
  • 42% with schizophrenia are obese versus 27% of the general population

Depression

  • The blood supply to the brain is very extensive, therefore the delivery of nutrients and energy depends on brain blood vessel function and blood flow
  • In patients suffering from depression, studies have shown a reduction in blood flow to the brain and a reduction in glucose metabolism
  • About 20% of women and 10% of men have one episode of depression in their lives
  • There has been a 20-fold increase in incidence of depression since 1945
  • Symptoms: depressed mood, inability to concentrate, fatigue, sense of worthlessness or guilt, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, reduced libido, suicidal thoughts
  • “The one disorder that is most responsive to diet” – Larry Christensen, Diet-Behaviour Relationships – Focus on Depression. American Psychological Association, 1996.
  • Causes of depression: increased stress & anxiety, genetics, a link to changes in diet since 1945 – less fruit and vegetables, fewer whole grains, very little oily fish.
  • This type of diet is fuelling not only obesity, CVD, diabetes and some cancers, but it may also contribute to rising rates of mental illness
  • Omega 3 (especially EPA) may influence/enhance blood flow to the brain
  • EPA and DHA found in fish oil have a positive influence on the production of eicosanoids (powerful regulating hormones), which are also known to be affected by the drugs used to treat depression
  • Omega 3 reduces the production of inflammation
  • 60% of our brain matter is lipids (fats), 1/6 of which are the essential fatty acids

Micronutrients and Behaviour

  • An experimental study of 3399 imprisoned juveniles found that replacement of refined sugary foods with unsweetened foods was associated with 21% fewer antisocial acts, a 25% reduction in assaults, a 100% reduction in suicides and a 75% reduction in the use of restraints!
  • The combination of nutrients most commonly associated with good mental health include Omega 3 (found in oily fish), the minerals zinc, magnesium and iron and vitamins B (incl. folate), C and E
  • Diets lacking in the above-mentioned nutrients are generally at higher risk of:
  • A range of depressive disorders, ADHD, Schizophrenia, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Studies show DHA improved memory and learning in healthy adults aged 55 and over (Alzheimer’s & Demential, May 6th 2010 – The MIDAS study)

Iodine

  • Iodine is required for production of thyroid hormones which are essential for growth and development of the brain during foetal and early postnatal life
  • Iodine deficiency results in a global loss of 10-15 intellectual quotient points at a population level and constitutes the world’s greatest single cause of preventable and irreversible brain damage and mental retardation
  • Insufficient iodine intake can result in poor school performance and impaired work capacity
  • Food sources are seafood and seaweed and from some plant foods grown in iodine-rich soil
  • Australian soils/food chain is very low in iodine. Many decades ago, milk bottles were sterilized with iodine but they no longer exist. Since this time iodine intake has plummeted
  • In recent years, it has been made compulsory in Australia to fortify bread with iodized salt in an attempt to boost the nations iodine intake. While this may help, bread alone is not sufficient during pregnancy

Diet soft drinks – friend of foe?

April 3rd, 2014

Diet soft drinks began way back in 1952, when a New York-based company launched a sugar-free ginger ale called No-Cal. This was created with Diabetics in mind, not dieters. Over the next few decades, several other companies began to compete in this arena and, in 1963, the Coca-Cola Company joined in with the launch of the cyclamate and saccharin sweetened ‘Tab’. In 1982 our very own Elle Macpherson strutted her stuff on the very famous TV commercial. This was closely followed by the release of Diet Pepsi in the 1960’s. Over the years there have been numerous reformulations of these diet drinks due to the banning of certain sweetening agents and their links to ill health and disease (in the case of cyclamates, the FDA banned them on evidence they caused cancer in lab rats). These days most are still sweetened with aspartame (Nutrasweet) or a combination of several different artificial sweeteners.

It’s interesting … while there have been rumblings about the potential health risks of diet soft drinks for many years now (regular drinkers have a 43% increased risk of stroke and heart attack and other vascular problems), it’s not until you hear that your risk of gaining weight is increased by 54.5% with just 1-2 cans a day that the majority of the soda drinking population prick their ears up! Let’s explore this further…

What are we drinking?

The primary ingredient is carbonated water. After this the ingredients vary, commonly a cocktail of artificial flavours, sweeteners, colours, acidifying and buffering agents, viscosity-producing and foaming agents and preservatives.

Sweeteners: Whilst those used in these drinks are ‘approved’ by the governing authorities, many other health practitioners caution against their consumption due to numerous complaints of side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, mood swings, nausea, seizures and abdominal pain.

Phosphoric Acid: This ingredient stops soft drinks from going flat.  Unfortunately it also leaches calcium from your bones and teeth in an attempt to restore your bodys delicate balance of phosphorus and calcium. It also neutralizes hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which is needed for digestion.

Potassium and sodium benzoate: These are preservatives that fend off mold and bacteria. When mixed with vitamin C the reaction forms benzene – a chemical which has been linked to leukemia and other cancers (according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest). Benzene is the same chemical which is released into the air from car emissions, burning coal and oil. It’s also used extensively in production of dyes, detergents, synthetic fibres, solvents, rubber and plastics. The US FDA conducted a food testing program between 1995 and 2000 and found that 79% of the soft drinks were found to have benzene above safe levels.

Artificial colouring: Various colouring, such as blue 1, caramel, red 40 and yellow 5 are common in soft drinks. Caramel colouring has recently been the topic of interest with studies showing these brown-coloured soft drinks contain a dose of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-Mel, commonly referred to on labels simply as ‘caramel colouring’. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer say the chemical may cause cancer and is concerned about exposure above 29 micrograms/day. Many soft drinks tested contained amounts of 4-Mel above this level.

The low down

The perception that diet sodas are a healthier alternative to sugary soft drinks might be very wrong, according to the results of the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, which were reported at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 2011 Scientific Sessions.

This study, conducted over a 9 year period, showed that overall consumers of diet soft drinks experienced a 70% greater increase in waist circumference than non-consumers.

This is not the first study to associate weight gain with the consumption of diet soft drinks. In 2005, another study found that those who consumed 1-2 cans per day of diet soft drink had a 54.5% greater chance of being overweight or obese, plus for each can consumed per day, a persons risk of obesity increased by 41%!

So how can this be so when there is no sugar and almost no calories in diet drinks?

There are several possibilities…

-       the sweet taste has an effect on the appetite control centre in our brain

-       the sweet taste may stimulate an insulin response, just as it would when sugar is consumed. Insulin is a ‘fat storage’ hormone

-       it’s possible there is no effect at all, except that overweight people may tend to drink more diet drinks (it’s a chicken & egg situation!)

Conclusion

At this stage, there is no conclusive evidence to indicate which of these may be most plausible, however, the fact remains that, for whatever reason/s, diet sodas increase your risk of gaining excess body fat and, the more you consume the greater your risk.

Given the ingredients outlined above and the fact that these drinks may also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, weight gain and possibly even cancer, I really can’t think of a good reason to partake…

THE FACTS ON ACID-ALKALINE DIETS

March 26th, 2014

There is much hype in recent years about balancing the pH of your dietary intake to promote good health. I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain a few facts about this theory and hopefully help to further clarify the subject.

What are these acid-alkaline diets based on?

These diets are based on a theory that each food we eat leaves a residue (acidic or alkaline) in the body following digestion. This is not related directly to whether the food itself is acidic (such as a lemon). In fact, lemons leave an alkaline residue. Some people believe that if we consume too many of these acid-forming foods our blood and tissues become acidic, which they believe causes disease. Based on this theory, these diets promote more alkaline-residue foods to enhance health and wellbeing.

So which foods are acid-forming and which are alkaline?

The answer to this question is complex and often contradictory, however, as a general rule, fruits and vegetables are considered alkaline-forming foods, whilst meats and grains are acid-forming. The problem is, much of the available information is contradictory and I am yet to see any evidence of how these food lists are compiled – nor have I seen any reputable study citing proof of this theory.  There are studies on almost every diet theory ever created, so it seems no researchers have found the acid-alkaline diet theory worthy of further investigation.

Why? Well it’s true that if your blood became even slightly over-acidic or alkaline and remained this way for even a couple of minutes, you’d likely find yourself in a coma. Where this theory really falls down is that, thankfully, the food we consume has very little effect on our bloods pH. If mother nature had allowed us to be entirely responsible for such a delicate balance in our diet, mankind would have ceased to exist a very long time ago!

Many of these acid-alkaline diet advocates will suggest you prove the effect diet has on your bodys pH by peeing on pH sticks which can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy. If you’ve tried this, you will know that what you eat can indeed change the pH of your urine, however, this has nothing to do with your blood or tissues. Your kidneys excrete varying levels of acidity and alkalinity in your urine as this is part of their function. They are responsible for maintaining a constant pH in your body.

Is there any merit to this theory?

As always, diet boils down to balance. Not ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ of anything. If you eat too many acid-forming foods, the effort of maintaining pH will deplete your body’s resources, leaving you vulnerable to disease. For example, another way that your body balances pH is to pull calcium from the bones. So, this suggests that eating too many acid-forming foods might promote bone loss.

Again, I’ll just point out that the long-term consequences of a so-called acidic diet are purely hypothetical. They have never been confirmed by any direct research that links the acid-alkaline residue of the diet with health outcomes. But we do have some indirect research. For example, the effects of high-protein diets, which are presumably high in acid-forming foods, have been studied.

For example, high-protein diets can increase bone loss—but only in people who are calcium deficient. In other words, if you are getting enough calcium in your diet (a balanced diet), you’ll have more than enough to maintain your bone mass and safeguard any effects of acid-forming foods.

So what’s the conclusion?

Regardless of what you call your diet, it’s important to ensure you’re consuming a good balance of lean protein, fibre, colourful plant foods and essential fatty acids…all the while limiting or avoiding processed foods such as processed meats, flour, sugar and trans fats.

There is a Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for each and every essential nutrient. This is not our optimal amount, it’s the amount that will prevent 97% of the population from contracting a nutritional deficiency. The majority of diets I analyse on a daily basis do not even come close to covering the RDI, let alone the optimal amount. Whether you label it acid-alkaline or something else, if you aim to include the following in your daily diet, you’ll be well on your way to optimum nourishment and health.

-        25-35 grams of fibre/day (women: 8-10g/meal, men: 10-12g/meal)

-        1000mg calcium/day (1 cup of milk is only 300mg. women over 50 require 1300mg)

-        minimum of 7 serves of colourful fresh vegetables/day (1 serve = ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw)

-        a serve of lean protein in each of your 3 main meals (variety of meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy)

-        Omega 3 daily ( daily fish oil capsules, flaxseed oil in salads and fresh fish twice/week)

-        Fresh water – divide your weight in kilos by 28 to estimate your required intake

Media Headline: “High protein diet raises cancer risk as much as smoking”

March 8th, 2014

Dozens of worldwide media outlets are reporting on the same study recently published in the Journal of Cell Metabolism. Let’s take a look at the facts…

The study:

The researchers conducted a 24-hour dietary recall (known to be highly inaccurate) and measured nutrient intake (protein, carbohydrates, fats, and calories) of 6,000 participants. These participants were categorised into three groups (low, medium and high protein intake) based on their consumption in one 24 hour period.

Eighteen years later they measured causes of death (cancer, diabetes, heart disease and all-cause mortality). The researchers theory was that protein increases IGF-1, which may increase the rate of growth in tumours already present in mice. In addition to this, 2,200 participants were tested for IGF-1 levels, although no information on how this testing was done was detailed in the study.

Their “findings”:

This was an observational study.  This means they are looking for relationships between two or more phenomena and commenting on this association, however, this method of research cannot prove causation.

For example, you may look at the association between the increased presence of umbrellas in wet weather. Although umbrellas are often present when it rains, it doesn’t prove that they cause it to rain!

Unfortunately, claiming causation based off of an association is exactly what these researchers have done. Hence the sensationalism of the headlines.

Overall, our human and animal studies indicate that a low protein diet during middle age is likely to be beneficial for the prevention of cancer, overall mortality, and possibly diabetes through a process that may involve, at least in part, regulation of circulating IGF-1. Having said this, is it the low-protein component or is it due to the possibility that those who consume ‘high’ protein generally lead a relatively unhealthy lifestyle. After all, protein can be a Big Mac or a piece of steamed fish. Big difference.

In short, there are many influencing factors that have been ignored in this study. For example, those who eat more meat are typically not living healthy lifestyles. They may be inactive, consume less fruits/vegetables, smoke, consume high amounts of added sugar, alcohol, chemicals and preservatives, etc. They likely live the typical Western life. Despite the ability to control statistically for these factors in an equation, you cannot control physiologically for the interactions, and you certainly cannot pick one factor out of the myriad and claim it is the main cause.

Findings of many studies to date also indicate that it may be important to avoid low protein intake and gradually adopt a moderate to high protein to allow the maintenance of a healthy weight and protection from frailty.

In addition, the authors claim a benefit of increasing the consumption of plant proteins, however, the results from the mice studies where animal protein was actually replaced with plant proteins do not support these statements. There was no effect on tumor growth regardless of type of protein consumed. Not to mention the fact that mice, unlike humans, do not consume very much of their natural diet from protein sources (primarily herbivores).

Despite the very similar rate of cancer death per group, the authors described this as a 70% increase in cancer mortality with higher protein consumption, triggering a media sensation, despite the absence of these statistics (it seems they have calculated this figure over the entire cohort, rather than the categorised groups).

Next the authors claim that protein consumption increases the release of insulin and IGF-1, which increases the growth of existing cancer cells.

It does not cause the development of cancer.  If IGF-1 and insulin caused the development of cancer then we should all avoid exercising (as it’s a powerful stimulator of IGF-1) and eating as every time we eat (especially carbohydrates) insulin is released to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

It’s also worth noting that the author (who supervised this study) is Victor D. Longo (VDL), the founder of the company, VDL. VDL, designed the study and obtained funding from the Nation Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, or the writing or and publishing of the manuscript. VDL has an equity interest in L-Nutra, a company that develops medical food. L-Nutra’s products are a “formulation of natural nutrients with the ability to provide nourishment and allow subjects to enjoy a combination of good and mostly organically grown and plant-based food.”

In summary, there appears to be a vested interest from the author of this study and some exaggerated and unfounded claims, which have eventuated in a sensational media storm. I know we all aim to do the best we can for our health and sensational claims, such as this, don’t make our decisions any easier. I felt compelled to write this blog to clarify a few things.

At the end of the day, a balanced diet containing lean protein (beef, fish, chicken, dairy, eggs) and loads of colourful, fresh plant foods will cover all bases. I don’t advocate “high” or “low” anything as “high” is more than your body can use, which is useless and “low” is less than your body needs, which is also useless. Adequate amounts of lean protein, unprocessed carbs and essential unrefined oils is the best ratio for optimum health and longevity.

As I always say – you can’t believe everything you read!

Prehab

February 15th, 2014

Tight neck & shoulders? Aching lower back? Do you sit for hours a day? Do you play a sport or train regularly? Read on…prehab may be just what the doctor ordered…

What is it?
Prehab is a customised and ever-evolving exercise program designed to match your lifestyle, physical condition and goals for change and/or maintenance. It provides body-specific focused exercises and activities to best suit an individuals needs.

Used to keep high-level athletes in optimum physical condition for decades, incorporating prehab into your training regime is just as important for those of low to moderate fitness levels, if not more so. The philosophy is essentially to prevent injuries and to keep you fit to train and fit to sit! The development of postural issues, specific muscle weakness/tightness and pressure on joints is exacerbated by day-to-day life. Prolonged working hours, sitting (car, plane, desk, sofa), poor ergonomics in our work environment, stress and recreational sports/exercise can all play a role in causing a multitude of imbalances. Injuries often occur as a result of many years of repetitive strain. You’ll often hear someone say they bent down to tie a shoe lace and ‘put their back out’. The shoe lace is not the cause – it was likely the 10 years of sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day leading up to this event.

The development and execution of an effective program can be complex. The practice of prehab and its success relies greatly on an individuals ability to commit to prevention. The development of the program needs to be progressive and regularly re-evaluated to tweak and change with the individuals needs.

Who Needs it?

Individuals of all ages and fitness levels can gain great benefits from incorporating prehab into their weekly regime. The more stress your body is under, the greater the need for prehab. Too often repetitive actions and everyday stresses can have a negative effect on our body. Incomplete and limited training techniques may cause tightness in certain muscle groups, imbalances in strength, coordination and/or muscle stabilisation. It’s difficult to avoid such imbalances as they occur with most activities and are constantly reinforced. This repetition is at the core of many injuries and may predispose an individual to a greater risk of injury and joint degeneration. This is where a specific prehab program comes in.

What’s involved?

A customised prehab program takes into consideration any existing imbalances, lifestyle, posture, weaknesses and strengths. It balances and optimises your range of movement, strength, coordination and stabilisation. In designing your prehab program, your trainer will compare left to right, front to back and upper to lower. Exercises and mobility training are focused on correcting weaknesses and vulnerabilities, primarily stabilisation of the hips/glutes, and the core. This may require a combination of Clinical Pilates, specialised Personal Training and consultation with an Exercise Physiologist. Tools such as a foam roller, balance boards, Pilates Reformers and weighted balls are invaluable in such a program. A Nutritionist may also be enlisted to complete the Prehab program. It’s important to ensure your movement is not being impaired by carrying excess body fat and/or excessive inflammation, plus there needs to be focus on optimum nutrition to allow efficient muscle recovery.

Prehab programs can be as simple as adding a few exercises in a warm up or cool down or as complex as a dedicated workout focussed on correcting weaknesses.

Who can help me?

Individuals should be screened for imbalances, measuring active range of motion and strength, biomechanical observations, past medical history, overall lifestyle, goals and present health status. Such screenings can be initiated and monitored by a Certified Exercise Physiologist.

For further information, please contact Aston Fitness – info@donnaaston.com or +61 3 9827 8671

Core: what is it and how can you improve yours?

January 11th, 2014

While core training has become a bit of a fitness buzz word in recent years, many are still unsure of exactly which muscles are involved in our core stability and how to activate them. Hopefully this information will help to provide some clarity.

While most think of core as a tight six-pack or toned abs, but the most obvious abdominal muscles only form a small part of the core, which is actually group of muscles that stabilise the spine and pelvis. Therefore, a core-strengthening exercise program needs to include all of these muscles to be effective. When well-conditioned, core muscles help to distribute the stresses of weight-bearing, as well as improving our balance and posture and reducing our risk of injury.

What are the core muscles?

While the definition of this group of muscles varies between experts, the following list are the most commonly identified. Essentially core function can include additional muscles, such as the glutes (bottom), erector spinae (running from your neck to your lower back), the diaphragm and hip flexors, but for the purpose of this explanation I’ll stick with the primary group.

Deep muscles:

Multifidus – located along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine

transverse abdominus (TVA) – located under the obliques, this is the deepest of the core muscles and wraps around your spine like a girdle for protection and stability

internal obliques – located beneath the external obliques

pelvic floor – This is a sling of muscle running from back to front, from the tail bone to the front of the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles lift, while the deep abdominals draw in.

Surface muscles:

rectus abdominus – located on the front of the abdomen and referred to as a ‘six-pack’ when visible in lean individuals

external obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen

Why are these muscles important?

Strong core muscles play such an important role in all movement that without conditioning, you’re almost certain to have poor posture and/or sustain an injury. While they’re important for men and women, it’s common for most women to become acutely aware of the importance of core strength during and post-pregnancy. Weak core and pelvic floor muscles can exacerbate bladder leakage, back pain and even the prolapse of internal organs. The pelvic floor muscles work as part of the core to regulate the internal pressure in the abdominal ‘cylinder’, in conjunction with the back and breathing muscles. During exercise the internal pressure within the abdomen is constantly changing. This regulation happens automatically for most people, however, if the core or pelvic muscles become weak, this may no longer work effectively. Ideally, the core muscles should work together with the pelvic floor ‘lifting’ and the abdominal and back muscles ‘drawing in’ to support the spine. However, when this is done incorrectly (and holding your breath), it causes excessive pressure to bear down on the pelvic floor resulting on strain on the bladder and bowel. If repeated, over time this can weaken ligaments and cause leakage or pelvic organ prolapse.

How to I activate my pelvic floor/core correctly?

We used to think that drawing the belly button towards the spine would activate our core, however, the latest research now indicates that this causes some to tighten their back muscles, draw in the abdomen and hold their breath. This places pressure down on the pelvic floor. To work effectively, the core muscles need to contract and relax throughout movement. Constant bracing can lead to stiffness in these muscles and can be as much of a culprit in ‘leakage’ as weak muscles.

The most familiar function that we all use pelvic floor muscles for is stopping ourselves from going to the bathroom. To correctly activate your core and pelvic floor, it’s easiest to feel if you lie down on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers on the front of your hip bones and slide them inwards 2-3cms. To activate your pelvic floor muscles, think of stopping yourself from going to the bathroom. You should feel a slight tightening beneath your fingers and your stomach should stay flat. At the same time, think of gently drawing your navel in towards your spine until you feel the muscles tightening beneath your fingers. You should still be able to breath normally and have a conversation when these muscles are contracted correctly. Once you have mastered contracting these muscles, you can begin to practice in standing and seated positions until it becomes second nature.