Sunday, March 20, 2005

Super Size Me - The movie

The other night we finally watched the movie, Super Size Me. If you haven't seen it yet, you should. Watching it from my vantage point was fascinating. The movie showed a man who hated the fast food industry doing an experiment. He decided to see what would happen if he ate all his meals at McDonald's for a Month. He had a dietitian and an MD test his blood chemistry weekly. His body became very sick and he gained 24.5lbs in that 30 day period. In fact they told him if he didn't stop doing the experiment, he would most likely die from a cardiac event. The movie tried to link saturated fats as one of the big culprits, but I know better and so did the Doctor. The doctor was shocked at how much liver damage he was seeing, and he was quoted as saying: We never see this kind of damage from eating fats alone. Interesting. He also said the mans experiment was causing him to develop Hyperinsulinism. But the movie still gave the impression that saturated fat was one of the biggest problems here. The movie also showed that his diet consisted mostly of refined, high glycemic carbohydrates, from breads and sugar containing sodas. His cholesterol and triglycerides all went through the roof, he became very tired, he developed high blood pressure and his hunger ramped up and he found himself getting addicted to the food. From my vantage point it was clear what was going on here. The very high glycemic carbohydrate diet was raising his insulin levels to dangerously high levels and the bad fats, trans fatty acids in the fried foods, were the real enemies here in the fat catagory. Insulin increases appetite, makes you tired, elevates cholesterol, raises blood pressure, triglycerides and has been shown to cause the body to store fat. The body in this situation stores all excess sugars and starches and the fats that are consumed, as stored body fat, first in the liver and then adipose tissue, fat cells. Trans Fats clog the cells of the body and stop nutrients from getting in and out of the cells efficiently. The fatty liver, therefore was getting damaged by many factors, and it was happening very fast. Adds a new meaning to "Fast Food" doesn't it.

Here is how it all happens, from my webpage on weightloss...

According to food surveys, the most commonly eaten food in the USA is white flour in the form of bread, pasta and similar foods. The runner up is white flour and sugar combinations such as pie, cake, cookies, donuts, soft drinks etc.
All carbohydrates, both starch and sugars, are converted to sugar in the digestive process. White flour is in the form of sugar by the time it reaches the blood. Carbohydrate intake causes a rise in blood sugar. A rise in blood sugar causes a rise in insulin.
The pancreas has to put out insulin to enable blood sugar to enter cells for energy production, and to keep the blood sugar level normal. In children, the insulin receptors on the cells usually respond to insulin normally, and a fairly small amount of insulin is able to keep blood sugar in the normal range in spite of large sugar and starch consumption. Some people can eat lots of starch and sugar all their lives and stay thin. Their health is not as good as it could have been, but they do not develop obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.

Many people do not inherit such good genes. The high intake of carbohydrates and resulting insulin production results in the cells becoming less and less responsive to insulin. It takes larger and larger amounts of insulin to enable cells to take in blood sugar and to keep the blood sugar level normal. This is insulin resistance. The first sign of this problem in most people is weight gain. Why is this? It is because insulin is a storage hormone. In excess amounts insulin causes the body to store both fat and blood sugar as fat. This weight gain may come at
age 10 or 30 or later. But it is a sign of insulin resistance and high levels of insulin in the blood. Some people do not gain weight as their insulin rises, but do develop high blood pressure or heart disease. Insulin is not a "bad" hormone (any more than LDL is "bad" cholesterol). You would be very ill and die without it. But in excess, it causes big problems.

The role of insulin:
Insulin lowers high blood sugar.
Insulin puts the metabolism in storage mode.
Insulin converts protein and blood sugar to fat.
Insulin causes fat in the diet to be stored in fat cells.
Insulin increases the production of cholesterol by the body.
Insulin causes the kidneys to retain water in the body.
Insulin stimulates the growth of artery wall cells.
Insulin stimulates the use of blood sugar for energy.

There is a second hormone involved in these processes. It is called Glucagon.

Glucagon works in opposition to insulin and has the opposite effects:
Glucagon raises low blood sugar.
Glucagon puts the metabolism in burning mode.
Glucagon converts protein and fat to glucose.
Glucagon causes dietary fat to be used for energy.
Glucagon releases fat from fat cells to be used for energy.
Glucagon reduces cholesterol production.
Glucagon causes the kidneys to release water from the body.
Glucagon causes artery wall cells to return to normal.
Glucagon stimulates the use of fat for energy.

It does not take a towering IQ to see that reducing insulin and raising Glucagon is in our best interests! The goal is the correct balance of both hormones. There is a cheap, safe, and effective way to do this. It is not a shot or pill. It is a matter of keeping protein intake at the correct level, and reducing carbohydrate intake to the level that is needed. The book gives instructions on how to calculate the lean body weight and protein needed. Until the calculation is made, women can start with three ounces of protein foods per meal and men can start with four ounces. The carbohydrate intake must be reduced to 15 grams three times a day if there is obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, or type II diabetes.
For a person just wanting to lose a few pounds, a reduction to 60 grams a day is a good place to start.

Carbohydrate greatly raises insulin and has no effect on Glucagon.
A high carbohydrate and low protein diet has the greatest adverse effect on the insulin-glucagon ratio.

Protein slightly raises both.

Fat has no effect on either.

A diet that is moderate in protein and low in carbohydrate is the best way to have ideal levels of both insulin and Glucagon. This is good news, but when you try reducing carbohydrate intake, you will find out just how addicted you are!

"Syndrome X": What does all this have to do with major illnesses that kill people? The medical community generally views obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and hypertension as conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated.
But these conditions all have one thing in common - elevated insulin levels. Some researchers are calling insulin resistance and the resulting problems "syndrome X". These conditions caused by high insulin are generally treated with drugs that can cause even more problems. And if dietary changes are suggested, it will almost
certainly be in the direction of decreasing fat (and thus protein because protein foods usually contain fat) and increasing carbohydrates. And what did I just say about a high carbohydrate and low protein diet? It is the worst combination in that it raises insulin and reduces Glucagon. (This is why some of us have long believed that the diet suggested by the American Heart Association, television reporters, and most of the medical community is the diet most likely to CAUSE heart disease.)

Weight gain is often the first sign that insulin levels are rising. The cells no longer respond well to insulin, so more and more must be produced to force blood sugar into cells for energy production. Insulin forces glucose, fat and protein into storage as fat.

(This mainly applies to type II diabetes, but the low carbohydrate diet also makes type I easier to treat.)
Even after insulin levels have started to rise, the blood sugar usually stays in the normal range. But as the person continues to live on a high starch and sugar diet, the insulin receptors on the cells are further damaged and eventually the pancreas can no longer make enough insulin to meet the increasing need. The blood sugar level goes up, glucose appears in the urine, and a diagnosis of "diabetes" will be made if a physician is consulted. Treatment may be oral medications to force the pancreas to make even more insulin, or injected insulin itself may be used. There may be high blood pressure, heart disease, and there will be declining health.

High blood pressure: Excess insulin causes blood pressure to go up in at least three ways: First, it causes the kidneys to retain both sodium and water in the body. Second, it causes a thickening of artery walls and makes them less elastic. And finally, excess insulin stimulates the nervous system to release other hormones which raise blood pressure.

High blood fats:
Triglycerides are a blood fat that is actually made from carbohydrates. Excess carbohydrate raises triglycerides.
Cholesterol is made in excess amounts by the liver if insulin levels are too high. You can either poison the liver into submission (my wording, not theirs) with medication, or reduce the carbohydrate intake. If you listen to the TV dietitians and try to reduce your fat and cholesterol intake, you will probably eat more carbohydrates to replace the lost calories. Things can only get worse unless your fat intake is extremely low - to a very unhealthful level.

Ancient cultures and their skeletal or mummified remains have been studied many times. Ancient Egyptians were bread eaters. Soldiers were issued five pounds of bread a day. Egyptians ate very large amounts of whole grain breads, plus fruits and vegetables. Almost no red meat. Some fish and poultry. The diet was fairly low in fat and protein, very high in complex carbohydrates. A nutritionist's dream, one might think.

It was what modern wisdom would consider the ideal. They should have been very healthy according to current thinking. But they were not. They suffered from clogged arteries, obesity, poor teeth, and other degenerative conditions. I have wondered for years why ancient Egyptians had heart disease without the benefit of factories and processed foods. Now we know. The very high starch intake produced high levels of insulin.