Are Xylitol, Sorbitol, and Other Sugar Alcohols Safe Replacements For Sugar?

In the last article of this series I discussed artificial sweeteners, and gave you my take on whether you should include them in your diet. This week, I want to talk about sugar alcohols, which are another popular low-calorie sugar substitute.

Xylitol is the most popular and most extensively researched, so I’ll focus my discussion on it, but the general takeaway of this article applies to other sugar alcohols as well, such as sorbitol and erythritol.

Xylitol and sorbitol are commonly used as sugar replacements, but are they safe? Here’s what you need to know!

What exactly are sugar alcohols?

Sugar alcohols are a type of ‘low-digestible carbohydrate,’ a category that also includes fiber and resistant starch. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in many fruits and are also known as ‘polyols,’ which you may recognize as a FODMAP. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols aren’t completely calorie-free, because we are able to digest and absorb them to some extent. The absorption rate varies among sugar alcohols, from about 50% for xylitol to almost 80% for sorbitol, depending on the individual. Erythritol is almost completely absorbed, but is not digested, so it provides almost no calories. 

Compared with artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols have very few safety and toxicity studies, and are generally accepted as safe. In one long-term human study, 35 participants consumed xylitol as their primary dietary sweetener for two years, and no adverse effects other than GI distress were observed, and GI symptoms dissipated after the first couple months. The amount of xylitol consumed during this trial regularly exceeded 100g per day, often going over 200g per day, depending on the participant.

Metabolic effects of sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols are a popular choice for weight loss due to their reduced calorie content, and for diabetics due to their low glycemic index. There’s not nearly as much research on the metabolic effects of sugar alcohols as there is on artificial sweeteners, but the evidence we have suggests that sugar alcohols are at least harmless, and possibly beneficial.

For the most part, sugar alcohols cause no appreciable changes in blood glucose or insulin in humans, and sorbitol and xylitol have not been found to raise blood glucose following consumption. In diabetic rats, 5 weeks of xylitol supplementation (as 10% of their drinking water) reduced body weight, blood glucose, and serum lipids, and increased glucose tolerance compared with controls. Two other rat studies also found that xylitol-supplemented rats gained less weight and fat mass compared with control rats, and had improved glucose tolerance. 

Because sweetness does not predict caloric value in sugar alcohols, one might expect that they would cause the same ‘metabolic confusion’ that is seen with noncaloric artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately there isn’t enough evidence to form a conclusion about this, but my feeling based on what I’ve read is that this isn’t a significant issue for sugar alcohols.

For one, sugar alcohols aren’t ‘intense sweeteners’ like artificial sweeteners, which are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. In fact, many are less sweet than sugar. Also, sugar alcohols do provide some calories, so there’s not as much of a discrepancy between the caloric load your body expects and the caloric load it actually gets.

Does xylitol prevent tooth decay?

The most well-known health benefit of xylitol is easily its effect on dental health, and evidence for xylitol’s ability to prevent tooth decay is pretty robust. A couple trials have found xylitol to be more effective at preventing cavities than fluoride, and benefits of xylitol consumption have even been observed in children whose mothers chewed xylitol-containing gum. Unsurprisingly, the most drastic effects are observed when xylitol replaces sucrose in either the diet or in chewing gum, but significant reductions in cavities have been observed when xylitol is simply added on top of a normal diet as well. 

Although some effects of xylitol are undoubtedly due to nonspecific factors such as increased saliva production or the replacement of sugar, it does appear to have specific properties that support dental health. Xylitol is not fermentable by common plaque-forming oral bacteria like sugar is, so it doesn’t provide a food source. Additionally, xylitol actively inhibits the growth of these bacteria. It also forms complexes with calcium, which may aid in remineralization.

Sugar alcohols and digestive health

While sugar alcohols appear to be safe and potentially therapeutic, they are also notorious for causing digestive distress. Because sugar alcohols are FODMAPs and are largely indigestible, they can cause diarrhea by pulling excess water into the large intestine. The fermentation of sugar alcohols by gut bacteria can also cause gas and bloating, and sugar alcohols may decrease fat absorption from other foods. However, most evidence indicates that people can adapt to regular sugar alcohol consumption, and the adverse GI effects reported in studies tend to fade after the first month or two.

Erythritol is probably the best-tolerated sugar alcohol, and a few human trials have found that if the amount of erythritol is gradually increased and doses are spread throughout the day, many people can tolerate large amounts (up to1g/kg of body weight) of erythritol without GI distress. The average tolerance for xylitol and sorbitol is lower; most study subjects could tolerate about 30g per day without a problem, but significant adaptation was necessary to increase xylitol content in the diet. 

A few studies indicate that sugar alcohols may have a prebiotic effect. This isn’t too surprising, considering the prebiotic effects of other low-digestible carbohydrates such as fiber and resistant starch. Animal studies have found that xylitol causes a shift from gram-negative to gram-positive bacteria, with fewer Bacteroides and increased levels of Bifidobacteria. A similar shift has been observed in humans, even after a single dose of xylitol. Additionally, the shifts observed allowed for more efficient use of the sugar alcohols by gut bacteria, which largely explains the reduction in GI symptoms after a few months of regular consumption.

In addition to the potential metabolic, dental, and prebiotic benefits already discussed, xylitol shows promise for preventing age-related decline in bone and skin health. One interesting study found that 10% xylitol supplementation over 20 months increased collagen synthesis in the skin of aged rats, resulting in thicker skin. Preliminary rat studies have also shown that xylitol can increase bone volume and mineral content and protect against bone loss. 

Overall, sugar alcohols appear to be safer than artificial sweeteners with several potentially therapeutic effects. Although the metabolic and weight loss benefits of sugar alcohols haven’t been studied as extensively, I would recommend sugar alcohols over artificial sweeteners to anyone who needs a low-calorie sweetener, although I wouldn’t recommend that anyone consume huge amounts of them. I’ll also be interested to see additional research on their ability to alter the gut microbiome and disrupt biofilms, because this could make sugar alcohols a useful tool for certain patients.

At this point, there don’t seem to be any major problems with sugar alcohols, so if it’s something you’re interested in, I would experiment with your own tolerance and see how they affect you. However, people with gut issues should be cautious.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

 

http://chriskresser.com/are-xylitol-sorbitol-and-other-sugar-alcohols-safe-replacements-for-sugar

Does It Matter If A Sweetener Is “Natural”?

The ancestral health community and other heath-conscious bloggers have increasingly embraced natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia, and maple syrup as healthier alternatives to refined sugar. But just how much healthier, really, are these natural sweeteners?

In this article, I’ll review the three major “natural” sweeteners typically used by Paleo dieters, and determine whether or not these foods belong in a healthy eating plan.

Find out if “natural” sweeteners like honey, stevia, and maple syrup belong in a #Paleo diet.

Honey

As I mentioned in the first article of this series, honey has long been an important food in the human diet. Its fructose to glucose ratio is similar to that of high fructose corn syrup, with about 38% fructose and 31% glucose (the rest being primarily water). Honey also contains enzymes and other proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols.

Although honey is “Paleo” even in the strictest sense, it can be easy to think of it as just another source of sugar; better than table sugar, perhaps, but still an indulgence that should be kept to an absolute minimum. Sugar is sugar, right? On the contrary, increasing evidence indicates that honey is a functional food with uniquely beneficial physiological effects.

For example, two human studies found that supplementing with 3-5 tbsp of honey per day (depending on body weight) increases serum antioxidant levels, including vitamin C and glutathione reductase. In another study, the same dose of honey lowered plasma prostaglandin levels by 48-63% after 15 days, signaling a reduction in inflammation.)

In overweight and obese patients, consumption of about 3.5 tbsp honey per day for a month resulted in lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein (particularly in people with elevated values), and higher HDL cholesterol. In another study, honey also reduced levels of homocysteine and blood glucose.)

Honey also has antibacterial activity, and can shorten the duration of acute bacterial diarrhea in children. Honey might even be an effective treatment in some cases of h. pylori infection. Other potential benefits of honey include antiviral, antitumor, and antimutagenic effects, and reduction of IBD-associated inflammation, but these have yet to be tested on humans. So it would appear that honey has many benefits that outweigh the potential downsides of consuming a concentrated sweetener. I recommend using raw honey, which will have the most enzymes and nutrients when destructive heat has not been used.

Stevia

Stevia continues to be a contentious topic in the ancestral health world, with some respected bloggers endorsing it heartily and others cautioning against it. Although I’ve seen good points raised by both sides, the majority of the evidence indicates that stevia, used in reasonable quantities, is a harmless (and possibly beneficial) natural sweetener.

Because stevia contains almost no calories, one potential issue with stevia is that the sweet taste without the influx of sugar might confuse our insulin response (I’ll talk about this at length when I cover artificial sweeteners). While this is an understandable concern, stevia has actually been used traditionally as a treatment for diabetics and may actually improve blood sugar control.)

In one study, participants were given a dose of either sucrose or stevia before lunch. Compared with the sucrose preload, the stevia preload resulted in lower blood sugar after the meal and a lower insulin load, even compared with aspartame. Also, even though the stevia provided fewer calories than the sucrose, participants didn’t compensate by consuming more calories at lunch.

Another small study with 16 volunteers found that 5-gram doses of stevia extract every 6 hours for three days improved glucose tolerance. In insulin-resistant and diabetic rats, stevia improved insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and liver and kidney function. Stevia has also been called into question due to its potential negative impact on fertility. Stevia was used traditionally in South America as a contraceptive, although we don’t know how effective it was, and results from animal studies have been mixed.

One study found that doses of stevioside up to 2.5g/kg bodyweight per day didn’t affect the fertility of hamsters, even after three generations. For a human, this would translate to about 0.34g/kg, so a person weighing 70 kg (about 150 lbs) would need to consume almost 24 stevia packets every single day to reach that dose. That’s far more than anyone would reasonably consume, even if they were consciously trying to maximize their stevia intake.

Although two other studies did find that stevia reduced fertility in male and female rats, those conclusions have since been refuted by studies using more reliable methods. Overall, the risk of negatively impacting fertility by consuming moderate amounts of stevia is very slim, but I would still advise people to be wary of stevia if they’re struggling with infertility.

As for other potential benefits of stevia, a 2-year RCT in Chinese adults with mild hypertension found that taking 500mg of stevioside powder 3 times per day significantly reduced blood pressure compared with baseline and placebo, from an average of 150/95 to 140/89. However, smaller doses didn’t provide the same benefit, and there isn’t enough evidence to recommend large doses of stevia as a supplement to lower blood pressure.

Finally, stevia appears to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, but thus far we don’t know whether these properties have practical significance in humans. Ultimately, I think stevia is a good sweetener to use for those who have blood sugar control issues and would prefer to use a non-caloric sweetener.

Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar, and Molasses

Maple syrup, coconut sugar, and molasses are other popular natural sweeteners, but they don’t have the modern research or the traditional background that honey and stevia do. Composition-wise, they’re all relatively similar: they’re mostly sucrose, with some free glucose and fructose. They all contain some minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron, but they’re not going to contribute all that much to your daily mineral needs. (The exception to this might be molasses, which contains 20% of the daily value for potassium, 10% DV for calcium and vitamin B6, 15% DV for iron, and 8% DV for magnesium in just a tablespoon.

All three are lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, which falls at around 65, with the award-winner being coconut sugar at 35. Maple syrup has gotten a little research attention, and preliminary analytical and in vitro studies show that it has antioxidant and anticancer properties, as well as potential for the management of type 2 diabetes. However, this isn’t anywhere near being of clinical significance for humans.

If you’re just looking for an alternative to refined sugar to use occasionally, all of these are fine sweetener choices; they’re natural, minimally processed (depending on the quality you purchase), and still contain the minerals and phytonutrients that occur naturally. They also have favorable fructose:glucose ratios, which can be an important consideration for those with gut issues or fructose intolerance. (This is one reason I don’t recommend agave nectar.)

But if you’re looking for health benefits beyond simply replacing refined sugar with something a little healthier, current research (and tradition) sides with honey and stevia.

by Chris Kresser  

http://chriskresser.com/does-it-matter-if-a-sweetener-is-natural

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

What Fats Do, and Why You Should Eat More!

Fats have a bad name, but why?

Dr. Ancel Keys was an American scientist who studied the impact of diet on health. Dr. Keys’ study, “The Seven Countries Study,” showed a strong statistical relationship between fat consumed and incidence of cardio-vascular disease in the United States and 6 other countries in Europe. The American Heart Association as a result made a public service announcement encouraging the American people to avoid eating fats. It was later discovered that the study originally included 22 countries, not only 7, and that Keys had thrown out the conflicting results. In other words, his hypothesis did not hold water in the remaining 15 countries originally studied. However, the damage was done, and ever since, the American public has been convinced that a diet high in vegetable oils and grains and low in fat was the only way to avoid heart disease. In the following article, we will describe what fats actually do, how they serve our bodies, and how you can develop a healthy relationship with fat that works for your body.

What does fat actually do?

-          Building block for cell membranes.

-          Main composition for our brains, nerves, and reproductive hormones.

-          Key contributor to strong memory.

-          Key source of energy.

-          Stabilizes insulin and glucose metabolism.

-          Prevents us from overeating. It is physically impossible to overeat fat. Sugar and carbs, yes, but not fat.

What happens without fat?

-          Without the right ratios of each type of fat, or without enough fat, there are serious health implications.

What kinds of fats are there?

Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

What do those names mean?

This is a bit of biochemistry. It is important to understand what makes each type of fat different.  They indicate how many, if any, double bonds exist in a given fat. Chemically, all fats are triglycerides, meaning they contain a glycerol and any of several different kinds of fatty acids. Therefore, the fats are differentiated by the fatty acids which they are made from. Fatty acids are composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Long chains of carbon and hydrogen raise the melting point of the fat, and also yield greater energy per molecule when metabolized. Saturated fat means that every carbon in the chain has a hydrogen pair. Unsaturated fats contain double bonds within the carbon chain, meaning the carbons bond to each other, rather than a hydrogen atom. Polyunsaturated fats are triglycerides in which the fatty acid chains contain more than a single carbon-carbon bond.

Saturated fats and unsaturated fats differ in melting point and energy yield. Unsaturated fats provide less energy because they have fewer carbon-hydrogen bonds. Saturated fats can stack themselves neatly because of the carbon-hydrogen pairing, and therefore freeze more easily. This is why at room temperature saturated fats tend to remain solid, while unsaturated fats are liquid.

3 Characteristics of Fat

1.Inert and stable: Solid at room temperature. For example, coconut oil, which is a short-chain saturated fat that rarely becomes rancid, even if exposed to air for years and years.

2. Liquid and easily oxidized: Linseed oil, a polyunsaturated fat, goes bad quickly.

3. The middle of the pack: Monounsaturated fats fall somewhere in the middle between saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats in terms of how quickly they go bad, and how inert they are at room temperature.

What Fats do What?

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats have suffered a pretty terrible reputation the past few years. In fact, they were singled out as the cause of cardio-vascular disease (CVD). Researchers have even linked them to things from cancer to neuro-degeneration to other autoimmune disorders. The truth is that saturated fats are actually quite helpful when consumed within reason. If we make sure to keep our saturated fat and carbohydrate intake within the levels consumed by our ancestors, it is unlikely that you will develop CVD.

-          Lauric Acid. Found in coconut, palm oil, and human breast milk. Boasts antiviral properties including fighting against HIV and chicken pox. It also helps heal the gut.

-          Palmitic Acid. Found in palm oil, beef, eggs, milk, poultry, and seafood, among other animal products. Palmitic Acid helps to optimize cognitive function by helping us to make new memories and store the old. However, among the saturated fats, Palmitic does actually pose the greatest risk for CVD.

-          Stearic Acid. Found in meat, eggs, and chocolate. Stearic Acid helps to decrease systemic inflammation. 

Monounsaturated Fats

Though there are many monounsaturated fats, the only that is important to discuss for the purposes of this paper is oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats were the primary fat in our ancestral diet, so eating plenty of it will help us to enhance physical performance.

-          Oleic Acid. Found in plant sources such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and even some grass-fed meat. Boosts insulin sensitivity, improves glucagon response, and decreases cholesterol levels. 

Polyunsaturated Fats

These fats could be called “the essential fats,” since we absolutely cannot make them and must get them from our diet. Without them, our bodies suffer. Our current lack of sufficient polyunsaturated fat represents one of the worst consequences of our heavily processed modern diet. We will look at two subfamilies of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) called omega-3 (abbreviated as n-3) and omega-6 (abbreviated as n-6). In general, n-3/n-6 are good for us, and found in grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish. However, n-3/n-6’s can be unhealthy when eaten out-of-balance. For example, our ancestors ate 1:1 ratios of n-3 to n-6. Our ratios of consumption today are around 1:10. Why? We eat way too much corn, soy, safflower, and vegetable oils, the source of much of our n-6 fats. This imbalance is the cause of many health-related issues.

1. Omega-3 (n-3)

-          Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA). Found in flax, hemp, and other plant sources. It supports enhanced performance, health, and longevity, but doesn’t deliver the nutritional punch that other n-3’s do.

-          Eicosapentaenoci Acid (EPA). Found in fish oil and human breast milk. EPA is a strong anti-inflammatory, helps to thin the blood, and blocks the growth of new blood vessels thereby preventing the spread of cancer. EPA is really good for us!

-          Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Found in cold-water oceanic fish, this fat is critical for fetal brain development and cognitive function throughout our lives. Low levels of DHA are detrimental both for the unborn fetus, and the mother. With low DHA levels, women more frequently suffer preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and postpartum depression. DHA also boasts antitumor and anti-inflammatory capabilities. 

2. Omega-6 (n-6)

-          Linoleic Acid (LA). Found in vegetable oils such as safflower and sunflower. LA can actually cause inflammation and block the inflammatory powers of n-3 fats such as EPA and DHA. It’s not very good for us!

-          Gamma Linolenic Acid. Found in borage, primrose, and hemp oils. GLA can act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

-          Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic Acid. DGLA is made in the body by the elongation of GLA, and very rarely traces of it are found in animal products. DGLA regulates the production of several molecular messengers that support immune function, increase inflammation, and monitor the body’s experience of pain.

-          Arachidonic Acid (AA). Found predominantly in animal products, AA regulates metabolic functions and is critical for our adaptation to exercise, muscle repair, and general brain function. AA is vital to life, but can lead to excessive inflammation if over-consumed.

Fats that we should never, ever eat.

-          Trans fat. Found in nothing our ancestors ate, ever. In fact, they’ve only existed for about 50 years. Exposing polyunsaturated fats to hydrogen gas creates trans fats, which look and act similar to saturated fats. However, trans fats have some serious flaws. They destroy liver function, ruin blood lipids, and undo our insulin sensitivity. Thankfully, trans fats are being phased out. Now even the FDA is calling for an eventual ban. 

Eat Fat: How Much, What Type, and How You’ll Feel

Now that we’ve described most of the fats we encounter in our lives at great length, we will discuss how to eat it and what the effects on your body will be.

1. How much?

While some medical practitioners have staked their careers on telling people to eat as little of fat as possible, it seems that fat intake actually has little bearing on health, disease, and even weight! The best course of action is to find what works for you through experimentation or discussing with an appropriate health practitioner.

2. What type?

-          Saturated fat is no longer the big bad wolf ready to blow down your house, or blow out your heart. The ancestral diet included 10-15% of calories from saturated fats, unless the population lived in areas near coconut, in which case the population may have eaten up to 40% of its’ calories from saturated fats such as Lauric Acid.

-          Our ancestors also tended to avoid eating much Palmitic Acid, which is a huge indicator in increasing LDL cholesterol.

-          Balanced n-3:n-6 ratios. Since omega-3’s tend to decrease inflammation and omega-6’s increase it, the fact that our ancestors ate about an equal amount of both meant that our bodies remained in balance. Our current diet skews heavily in favor of consuming omega-6’s, leading to increased inflammation throughout the body. To balance this out, eat grass-fed and wild-caught fish, and supplement with fish oil. Try to avoid most seed and grain oils, as well.

-          Coconut Oil improves heart health, boosts metabolism, promote weight loss, supports the immune system and even helps our skin look young when applied topically!

3. How will I feel and look?

Eating good, healthy fats suited to your bodies needs will help you lose fat, gain muscle, and feel amazing.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

How to Live Well: A Closer Look of the Impact of Food, Nutrition & Health

How to Live Well: A Closer Look the Impact of Food, Nutrition & Health

 

Chronic disease is a serious problem. People get sick every year with easily preventable diseases, and spend more and more money to heal. We must learn to use the incredible scientific innovation and resources in our country to better combat these issues as a nation.

 

According to the CDC: Chronic disease is a public health crisis.

-          Deadly: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women

-          No one is safe: Diabetes affects 25.8 million people (CDC)

-          Expensive: 75% of our health care dollars goes toward the treatment of chronic illness

-          Growing Problem: 65% of all men and woman over 25 are overweight or obese.

For most people health is a choice, but you need the right information to make the best decisions. In the following article we will talk about how poor nutrition leads to chronic disease and what you can do to prevent it.

 

Section A

 

The Three Basic Molecules of Nutrition: Proteins, Carbs, and Fats

No matter what you eat, this is where it ends up. Basic nutrition is all about these three main components. Staying healthy depends on eating the appropriate amount of each. To prevent disease, it’s all about managing insulin and glucose, which all gets back to eating minimal carbs.

 

1. Proteins:

Proteins are the source of life itself. They do a lot of cool things, chief among them DNA assembly. Proteins also are used for food and energy, body repair and growth. They are what make up our skin, muscle, hair, and nails, as well as neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones. To make proteins useful, our guts break them down into what’s known as amino acids. And just try to eat too much of them- it won’t happen. The body won’t let you. The body has a mechanism for making sure you never, ever overeat them. 

 

2. Carbohydrates:

Technically, carbohydrates include everything from wood to grass to apples to bread.  Depending on how you link carbohydrates together, you can have anything from a bowl of pasta to a pine tree. Our body, however, has no use for bark. Unlike the multi-tool protein, sugar is only used for energy production.

 

It all starts with what are called “monosaccharides.” The two monosaccharides, or sugars, we will follow most closely are glucose (the main sugar used for energy in our bodies) and fructose (a relative of glucose). Everything boils down to glucose. Our bodies need to break down all sugars (whether they be disaccharides or polysaccharides) into glucose, which is the only form of carbohydrate that can pass through the gut wall to be used for energy. This is why if we eat too much of it, it can tax our bodies. It takes a lot of energy to whittle those sugars down into glucose-bites.

 

Also unlike proteins, our body has no mechanism for controlling our carb consumption. This is why we can just keep eating and eating all that pizza…

 

3. Fructose

Fructose is what you really have to look out for. While it is naturally occurring in most fruit, fructose is everywhere in processed foods. And it doesn’t do a whole lot besides make us sick. Fructose actually serves zero purpose- it can’t be used for energy by your body, and as we already know, carbs (sugars) only have that one purpose anyway. Fructose can cause obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It also can feed pathogenic bacteria in the gut, make us forgetful, and damage the liver.

 

3. Fats:

Fat has a really bad reputation these days. There are a lot of fad diets out there that tell people the best way to lose weight and get healthy is by cutting out fat. Actually, a good way to lose fat is by cutting out unhealthy fats. But fat itself is really good for us. Our body is designed to run on fat as a source of energy, which it converts into ketones bodies. Scientific research shows that diets rich in monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats actually reduce instances of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

 

Just like protein, it’s impossible to overeat fat. Except the fat that you combine with, say, sugar, and chocolate flavoring to make, oh I don’t know, ice cream. It’s possible to overeat ice cream precisely because it has carbs (sugar) in it.

 

Section B

 

Hormones: Insulin, Blood Glucose, Glucagon, Leptin, Ghrelin, Adiponectin, Peptide YY, Cortisol and IGF_1

Besides the three main nutritional building blocks, our body also runs on a series of important hormones. Below are some of the most important hormones for understanding digestive function and health.

 

1. Insulin

Critical in regulating blood sugar, body fat, and aging, it’s important to keep insulin levels low by controlling carb intake and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Too much insulin can be extremely inflammatory. According to Dr. Cordain, 35% of all heart disease and blood vessel disease are related to mismanaged insulin and glucose.

 

2. Blood Glucose

Blood Glucose is basically glucose that has left the digestive tract and is now in the blood, traveling around to be utilized by the body. It’s important because red blood cells and certain parts of the brain need it and it alone to run properly. However, we are better off if we can run the body on mostly fat. Our bodies actually have the capability of making glucose from fats and proteins, so this blood glucose could come from carbs or from proteins and fats converted into glucose.

 

3. Glucagon

Released from the liver, glucagon allows us to access our body fat for energy which helps normalize blood sugar and energy levels between meals. Insulin and glucagon play complementary roles in the maintenance of energy levels by storing and releasing nutrients at the right time. While insulin facilitates the passage of nutrients into cells, glucagon releases nutrients in cells to be used or energy. Decreased blood glucose levels, among other signifiers, stimulate it. Under normal circumstances, glucagon is stored in the liver and muscle tissues for later use.

 

4. Leptin

Leptin tells us when we’re full. It regulates both appetite and metabolism. Produced by white adipose tissue (fat cells) and the cells lining the wall of the stomach, Leptin heads towards the central nervous system where it communicates directly with the brain.

 

5. Ghrelin

Ghrelin tells us when we are hungry and low on energy. It is greatly impacted by too little sleep and high levels of stress. It is produced all over the body- in the stomach lining, the pancreas, and other

tissues.

 

6. Adiponectin

Another hormone that tells us we’ve had enough to eat, Adiponectin also protects our arteries from oxidative damage. Though it is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, it has been found that people with high levels of adiponectin actually have a lower percentage of body fat.

 

7. Peptide YY (a.k.a. PYY)

Another satiety hormone. Protein and fat release a lot of PYY, whereas carbohydrates release relatively little. PYY is a gut hormone that plays a synergistic role with leptin in helping us feel satisfied after a fatty (not carb rich) meal.

 

8. Cortisol

Cortisol does a lot of things, but in relationship to the topic of this article, w’re only going to talk about what it does with blood sugar. Made in the adrenal glands, cortisol raises blood sugar levels which can lead to fat gain. Spikes in cortisol occur through lack of sleep and stress. In fact, it’s often referred to as “the stress hormone.” It increases blood pressure and lowers the activity of the immune system. It can trigger the breakdown of muscle mass by converting protein into glucose. Too much cortisol can decrease insulin sensitivity, lower the bone formation rate, and diminish skin collagen and connective tissue. However, by and large cortisol is a helpful hormone because it serves as an anti-inflammatory. To avoid developing too much cortisol, avoid: intense or prolonged physical activities, caffeine, sleep deprivation, stress, and certain contraceptives.  

 

9. Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF_1)

Just enough IGF_1 aids in physical recovery, but too much increases our likelihood for cancer and our rate of aging. IGF-1 also helps kids grow, promotes cell maintenance and stress resistance. Exercise, stress and nutrition all affect IGF-1 levels.

 

Section C

 

Comparing Healthy and Unhealthy States: The Physiology of Digestion

Now we have met all the contributing players in the digestion/endocrinology game, we will begin to understand Type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis and, of course, our bodies homeostasis: wellness.

What happens to our bodies when we eat too much, too little, and just enough? In the next section we will use what we have learned to evaluate a “normal” fed state where we eat exactly as much as we need (isocaloric), a “fasted” state (hypocaloric) and an “overfed” state (hypercaloric).

 

What happens to the body in a “normal” fed state?

You’ve decided to marinade then roast some salmon. The protein in the salmon is broken down into individual amino acids. The amino acids can now go one of two ways. Either the liver will absorb them and use them for its own functioning, or the amino acids will circulate to the blood where they will help primarily with growth, repair, and energy production.

 

You’ve also decided to make some pasta with a white wine sauce to go with the salmon. Digestion breaks down the carbs into free glucose, and the glucose makes its way from intestines to liver. Its fate can go one of a few ways, too. Free glucose releases insulin from the pancreas, which activates glucose transport molecules. These glucose transport molecules facilitate blood glucose absorption by the liver, where it is then stored as a form of starch called glucogen.

What tips the scales in an “overfed” state?

 

Some people are able to eat everything they want and never gain a pound, while others just look at food and it creeps on their wastes. The secret is not calores-in and calories-out, but rather hormones and food choice.

 

All the satiety hormones we discussed previously in this essay are complex sensors which let us know when we are “full.” This is why hormones such as leptin are so important. Food choice is also very important. Certain foods affect our sense of satiety and can wreak havoc on various physiological functions.

 

If instead of eating the amount of salmon our body needs, we instead continue to eat, the protein is still broken down into amino acids. These amino acids will also still be either converted to glucose or burned directly as fuel. While proten can add to overall caloric excess, it is virtually impossible to overeat protein due to the potent satiety signal sent to the brain. Because of our bodies strong response to excess protein, its good to base meals around protein-rich foods, which will tell us to stop eating before we eat too much.

 

Now, if we start with the pasta before we eat the salmon, we’ve got a different story. If we eat too much pasta, digestion will still break down the carbs into free glucose, and the glucose will make its way from the intestines to the liver. However, we filled up our liver with so much pasta that now excess carbohydrates are converted to fat molecules called VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) within the liver. The fat is then released from the liver and heads out to the body to be used as fuel or be stored as adipose tissue.

 

1. VLDLs skyrocket

VLDL’s are the most inflammatory of the four cholesterol particles (LDL, HDL, IDL, and VLDL). Once released, VLDL’s move all over the body, including the brain. Once inside the brain, VLDL’s can make the hypothalamus (responsible for energy regulation inside the brain) leptin resistant, destroying our normal satiety signal and leading to future over-eating.

2. Insulin Resistance

 

This process happens in waves, much like the ocean eroding a sand castle. The liver becomes insulin resistant and blood glucose drives up higher. Insulin sensitivity inour muscle tissue is finally lost when the muscles can physically store no more glycogen. They are literally drowining in glucose. The blood sugar continues to increase, insulin skyrockets, and eventually even the fat cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is considered the half-way mark to Type 2 diabetes.

 

3. Cortisol Production

Once systemic, full-body insulin resistance occurs, the liver is overwhelmed. Blood glucose is turned into fats and VLDLs so quickly that fat cannot escape into circulation, and it builds up within the liver. This is the beginning of what is known as non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease. Even though the liver is literally swimming in glucose at this point, the liver is also insulin resistant so it actually believes that the body has low blood sugar. Your body is worried about the low blood sugar, because if it falls too low you can die. So your body starts producing cortisol, the stress hormone, and it’s like throwing gasoline in a fire.

 

4. Full System Meltdown

Cortisol is released to combat the perceived low blood glucose levels, even though your body at this point clearly has way too much.  The body begins to make more glucose by cannibalizing its own tissues. Muscles and organs are “burned” to make more glucose. Remember, the muscles are where the body deals with elevated blood glucose in the first place! So not only is our body producing more glucose, its also doing so by depleting our first line of defense when it comes to lowering glucose levels in the body.

 

This is why Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance is effectively a wasting disease of the muscles, while fat cells grow exponentially. Fat is stored in the abdominal region because of the high insulin, blood sugar, and triglycerides. This waistline fat is the telltale sign of insulin resistance. The stage is now set for chronically elevated insulin levels, and all the other complications that brings such as increased cancer rates, accelerated aging, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, obesity, and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes which is characterized by insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood glucose levels.

 

5. AGE’s and Physiological Degeneration

We’ve seen above how glucose can serve as a toxic substance, even though it is critical for bodily function. Sugars can oxidize and form “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs) which damage proteins, enzymes, DNA, and hormonal receptor sites. AGEs are a major cause of the symptoms we take to be normal aging, and can also cause several degenerative diseases.

 

6. The link toHigh Cholesterol

When glucose binds to low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), it prevents the LDL from binding to receptors that tell the liver to stop manufacturing cholesterol.  As a result, the liver “thinks” there’s a shortage of cholesterol in the body and continues to produce more.  This is one reason why diabetes is almost always associated with high cholesterol levels.

 

Section D

How to Live Well: Digestive Health Ann Arbor

For most of us, health is a choice. Provided the right information and enough support, we can all achieve optimal health and wellness. If you or a loved one suffers from chronic diseases, food allergies, or wants to make sure they are living as healthfully as possible, it is important that they seek professional health. As we have pointed out in this article, following the right nutritional balance is crucial to living well. In order to find the right nutritional balance for you, you need a nutritional path tailored to meet your needs. For more information, please call Digestive Health Ann Arbor at (734) 726-0153

 

Digestive Health Ann Arbor now offers a complete Metabolic Health Assessment.  It is extremely comprehensive and provides considerably more information about the current state of your health then most doctors will provide.  If you are interested in a very detailed assessment of your health, please click here for more information. (All blood work needed for this assessment is covered by your health insurance).

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.