Thursday, September 6, 2012

We Are What We Eat

"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are].  Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826

Jean Anthelme Brillant-Savarin understood that what we eat impacts our state of mind and health.

Wishing you a happy, healthy day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Making Us Fat? These Facts Aren’t Sugar-Coated. The Comparison Between HFCS & Sugar

Guest Blogger:  I am very happy to introduce Ruby Schuler as a guest blogger.  Ruby was one of my fabulous fourth graders.  She was a superstar even at the age of nine.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can be found in various products such as cookies, sodas, crackers, and cereals.  This can make it hard to avoid when consuming processed foods and drinks.1  With all of the negative media attention HFCS gets, it is easy to think that it is not the healthiest of substances, yet it is hard to determine why HFCS is not healthy. Have you ever wondered why HFCS is in our food products instead of sugar? Is HFCS worse, health-wise, than table sugar? Is HFCS responsible for our country’s obesity epidemic? Take a look at the facts.

HFCS is now commonly used in foods in lieu of table sugar (sucrose) because it is cheaper and more stable.2,3  More than half of the sugar in the United States is derived from the sugar beet, which is grown in the cooler climates of the Midwest states.4  HFCS is made from American corn which is overly abundant and extremely cheap due to government subsidies.2  HFCS is a much more stable compound than table sugar for processed foods and beverages because it can withstand the acidic conditions these products go through when being shipped and subsequently left to sit on the shelf in a warehouse or grocery store.3  The stability of HFCS is due to its slightly different chemical composition in comparison to sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning that it is composed of two different single sugars, which are connected. These two single sugars are known as glucose and fructose. HFCS is made up of glucose and fructose as well; however, in HFCS these two molecules are not connected.1,3  The way in which HFCS is made is what makes the difference in composition. The process of making HFCS was perfected in the late 1960’s in Japan and involves a multiple-use enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of about half of the glucose in corn into fructose. HFCS is made up of an almost 50:50 ratio of glucose to fructose, the same ratio as sucrose.1,2,5 

The difference in the chemical structures between HFCS and sucrose has led some researchers to believe that HFCS is metabolized differently than sucrose by the body and therefore could be a cause for concern in its relationship to obesity in the United States.1,3,6  HFCS is made up of free––not connected, as in sucrose––glucose and fructose molecules.1,3  Glucose is important in signaling the regulating hormone insulin, which triggers either the release or inhibition of two other hormones that are important in appetite and satiety. These two hormones are ghrelin, which is responsible for telling your body when it is hungry and inhibited by insulin, and leptin, which is responsible for signaling to your body that it is full.  It is released by the presence of insulin, thus causing you to want to stop eating. Fructose, on the other hand, does not signal insulin to be secreted, so leptin will not be triggered; your body will not tell you when it is full.1,6  The lack of insulin secretion also leads to the buildup of fructose in the liver, because the fructose won’t be able to be taken up by other tissues in your body without insulin present in your bloodstream. Your body wants to use this buildup of sugar for energy before it uses the fat in your body for energy, which can lead to weight gain due to this hierarchy of oxidation. Several recent studies have shown that fructose specifically increases visceral fat, or the fat that surrounds your organs in the abdominal area.7  This may be due to the structure of fructose which allows for it to bypass an important regulating step in the liver. By bypassing this step, the liver then uses the fructose in other forms to create more fat.9  This is cause for concern due to the negative effects this belly fat can have on the body, mainly increasing risks for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.7  

Observational data is what sparked the original hypothesis that HFCS was related to the rising obesity epidemic in the United States. The frequent use of HFCS in products in the United States really took off in the late 1960’s; around the time its production method was being perfected. Obesity began to rise at approximately the same time as the increase in use of HFCS, causing some researchers to think that HFCS could be the cause of the obesity epidemic.1  Some experiments have investigated the hypothesis that HFCS could be responsible for the increase in obesity; however, their results have shown that the hormones insulin, ghrelin, and leptin are not affected any differently then they are by sucrose.6,8  Studies have been carried out showing that the consumption of sugary beverages, both increase visceral fat, whether sweetened with HFCS or sucrose.7

More research is needed in order to completely understand the effects HFCS has on the body. In recalling that HFCS and sucrose are both composed of the same molecules, glucose and fructose, it is important to remember that the unbound form of fructose found in HFCS could potentially be where the most devastating effects to the body occur due to the bypassed regulation of fructose in the liver. By consuming most sugar through whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, along with restricting the amount of processed foods in the diet, the harmful affects of sugar can be reduced. Those who wish to avoid weight gain should be more concerned with the amount of added sugars they are consuming (like those in processed foods and drinks) instead of the specific type, namely the amount of fructose, which has been shown to increase harmful belly fat.10

Ruby Schuler is a senior year at UC Berkeley, majoring in Nutritional Science, Dietetics. She is interested in helping others learn about the immense power food has on our bodies, either beneficial or detrimental.   Ruby knows that there is a lot of information about nutrition floating around in the media.  She thinks it's important to remember that decisions about your health should be made from reliable sources.  This information can be hard to come by, but she hopes to be one of the many people who can supply you with evidence to help you make better choices that can result in living a healthier and happier life!

1. Bray, G. A., Nielsen, S. J., & Popkin, B. M. (January 01, 2004). Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79, 4, 537-43. 
2. Casey, J. P. (January 01, 1977). High Fructose Corn Syrup. A Case History of Innovation. Starch - Stärke, 29, 6, 196-204.   
3. White, J. S. (January 01, 2008). Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain't. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88, 6.
4. Ali, Mir B. (October 01, 2004). Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Sugarbeet Farms. United States Department of Agriculture: Economic Research Service, 974-8
5. Bemiller, J. N. (September 23, 2009). One hundred years of commercial food carbohydrates in the United States. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57, 18, 8125-8129. 
6. Melanson, K. J., Zukley, L., Lowndes, J., Nguyen, V., Angelopoulos, T. J., & Rippe, J. M. (February 01, 2007). Effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose consumption on circulating glucose, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin and on appetite in normal-weight women. Nutrition, 23, 2, 103-112.    
7. Liebman, Bonnie (April 01, 2012). Sugar Belly: How Much Sugar is Too Much Sugar? Nutrition Action, 3-7.
8. Stanhope, K. L., Swarbrick, M. M., Havel, P. J., Bair, B. R., Griffen, S. C., & Keim, N. L. (May 01, 2008). Twenty-four-hour endocrine and metabolic profiles following consumption of high-fructose corn syrup-, sucrose-, fructose-, and glucose-sweetened beverages with meals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87, 5, 1194-1203.
9.  Elliott, S.S., Keim, N.L., Stern, J. S., Teff, K., Havel, P.J.  Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome.  Am J Clin Nutr November 2002 vol. 76 no. 5 911-922.
10.  White, J.S.  Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain't.  Am J Clin Nutr December 2008 vol. 88 no. 6 1716S-1721S.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Connection Between Celiac Disease and Infertility

Are you or anyone you know struggling with infertility?  Celiac disease is associated with infertility in both men and women. Clinically, women with celiac disease can also present with amenorrhea, delayed menarche (a delay in the onset of the first period) and menstrual irregularities, miscarriage, fewer live births, endometriosis, severe anemia during pregnancy and other pregnancy complications.1,2,3,4  Celiac disease may initially present during pregnancy or post partum.1,4  Celiac disease in men may also contribute to children born prematurely or with lower birthrates.  In pregnancy, celiac disease is associated with a high rate of miscarriage, delayed intrauterine growth, low birth weight and premature births.  "There is reasonably good evidence to suggest that the rate of adverse outcomes is reduced with early diagnosis and treatment with gluten free diet." "All women with unexplained infertility should be tested for celiac disease."4

Wishing you a happy, healthy, gluten-free day!

1 Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac Sprue.  N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8.
2 Bai J, Zeballos E, Fried M, Corazza GR, Schuppan D, Farthing MJG, Catassi C, Greco L, Cohen H, Krabshuis
3 Stephansson O, Falconer H, Ludvigsson JF. Risk of endometriosis in 11,000 women with celiac disease. Hum Reprod. 2011 Oct;26(10):2896-901. Epub 2011 Aug 12.
4  Shah S, Leffler D. Celiac disease: an underappreciated issue in women’s health. Womens Health (Lond Engl). 2010 Sep;6(5):753-66. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Who Should be tested for Celiac Disease?

Great information from Dr. Tom O'Bryan at 

Any and every person with prolonged fatigue ('tired all the time') should be tested for Celiac Disease.

                                                     ~National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feeding Disease or Fighting It

A great quote by Heather Morgan, MS, NLC about the how important it is to make healthy food choices.

"Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it." ~ Heather Morgan, MS, NLC

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Healthier Sunscreen Options

It is scary to think that the sunscreen you may be using to protect yourself from cancer, might actually contain chemicals that are putting you at risk for cancer.

Check out EWG's sunscreen guide to find the top rated sunscreens.  They also have a great phone app. 

If your goal is to protect yourself from skin cancer, it doesn't make sense to be rubbing sunscreens filled with toxic, hazardous, carcinogenic chemicals all over your body.  

Remember, your children's little bodies are much more sensitive to these chemicals, so invest in the least toxic options for your little cuties.

Don't forget to make it a priority to get some Vitamin D from the sunshine before you slather up with one of EWG's top-rated sunscreens.

Wishing you a happy, healthy day!

Friday, July 13, 2012


"Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by CHANGE."
                                                                                     ~Jim Rohn

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Could this be the Most Underappreciated and Misunderstood Anti-aging "Secret"?

Research is showing that Vitamin D, a hormone made in our skin after sun exposure, is both important and essential for our health.

Dr. Michael Holick, a professor at Boston University Medical School has been doing Vitamin D research for over 30 years. In his book The Vitamin D Solution, he says that Vitamin D may be the most underappreciated and misunderstood anti-aging “secret” and it is absolutely free.  

The trouble is, most of the U.S. population has insufficient levels.  Recent data from the Endocrine Society shows that in the pigmented population, 90% have inadequate levels of vitamin D and 75% of Caucasians have a vitamin D deficiency (>30ng/ml of 25-hydroxyvitamin D)

According to Dr. Holick, 30 ng/ml is the minimum amount needed to get vitamin D’s benefits.  Various experts recommend that optimal levels be between 50 to 100 ng/ml for disease prevention.  Dr. Holick has found that blood levels up 100 ng/ml can “be both therapeutic and preventative of chronic diseases including common cancers”. Toxicity is not usually seen until levels exceed 150 ng/ml.
During the winter months, the average American has levels between 15 to 18 ng/ml.  It's not surprising why so many people suffer from colds and flues in the winter.  Vitamin D plays a powerful role in regulating our immune systems. 

Are you at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

If you live in northern latitudes, above the 37th parallel (which in the United States, extends from San Francisco, CA over to Newport News, Virginia), the angle of the sun is so low that hardly any Vitamin D can be produced in the skin between November and February, with other experts saying that October to April, is probably more accurate.

Sunscreen is another risk factor.  A sunscreen with an SPF of 8 can reduce your skin’s ability to make Vitamin D by 90% and an SPF of 30 by about 99%.  Holick's recommendation for sun exposure varies by location and skin type.  The typical recommendation for the New England states is between 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight exposure to your arms and legs 2 to 3 times per week.  If you continue sun exposure after this amount of time, you can use sunscreen or put on more clothing to prevent the damaging effects from excessive exposure to sunlight.

Another risk factor is relying on a multiple vitamin for your daily dose of D.  Most only have 400 IU and even supplementing with 1000 IU of vitamin D a day will not raise blood levels above 30 ng/ml.   

For adults who need to take a Vitamin D3 supplement, Holick recommends 2,000 IU per day with a safe upper limit of 10,000 IU/day depending on individual need.  To consume the recommended 2,000 IU of Vitamin D in your diet, you would need to drink 20 glasses of fortified milk, eat 6 cans of sardines, 100 egg yokes, 7 oz of wild salmon or 20 bowls of fortified cereal each day.  This is clearly a nutrient we were meant to get from the sunshine.

Holick feels that vitamin D is the missing “ingredient that could apply to prevention—and treatment, in many cases—of heart disease, common cancers, stroke, infectious diseases from influenza to tuberculosis, type 1 and 2 diabetes, dementia, depression, insomnia, muscle weakness, joint pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and hypertension.”

Vitamin D has been found to reduce the risk of: 
  • Heart attacks by 50%
  • Common cancer (colon, prostate and breast) by as much as 50%
  • Infectious disease, including influenza by as much as 90% 
  • Type 1 diabetes by 78% if a child gets 2,000 IU of vitamin D/day in the first year of life. 

Vitamin D can influence if a cell will become cancerous or not.  If it does become cancerous, not only can it prevent the malignant cells from reproducing, but it can also help kill the cell or cut off the blood supply to the tumor.  Holick believes that “anytime you become vitamin D-deficient, you put yourself at increased risk of potentially developing a malignancy because you’ve lost the policing ability of vitamin D to help keep cell growth in check.”

Holick reminds us that Vitamin D is not a cure-all, but obviously we can no longer ignore the benefits of having healthy levels—and the dangers of having too little.  To find out your vitamin D status, ask your doctor to order a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test.

I highly recommend monitoring your vitamin D levels.  If you have a deficiency, I encourage you to work with a healthcare practitioner who is knowledgeable in proper dosing for restoring healthy levels.  Remember, sensible sun exposure is important for optimal health.

Wishing you a sunny day!

An excellent lecture by Dr. Michael Holick and a short clip that gives a brief overview of the book
  1. Holick, Michael F., Ph.D, M.D.  The Vitamin D Solution.  New York: Hudson Street Press, 2010.
  2. Adams, John S., Hewison, Martin.  Update in Vitamin D.  Journal of Clinical Endocrinol Metabolism.  February 2010, 95(2);471-478.
  3. Autier, Philippe MD, Gandini, Sara PhD.  Vitamin D Supplementation and Total Mortality: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled
  4. Trials.  Archives of internal Medicine. 2007;167(16):1730-1737

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Could your cheese and bread be morphing into morphine?

Gluten and casein have both been labeled exorphins, because of their morphine-like behavior in the human body.  Gluten peptides, called gluteomorphines and casein peptides, called casomorphins are formed during the digestion of gluten and casein.  In the central nervous system, they can cross the blood-brain barrier and bind as opiates to the central opiate receptors.  Opiate receptors sites can also be found in the intestinal tract, blood serum, immune system and peripheral nervous system.  These foods can mimic the effects of opiate drugs like heroin and morphine.  Researcher shows that exorphins can interfere with the neurotransmitter messaging system and contribute to central nervous system stimulation and neurological disorders.

Research has also shown casein to act as a histamine releaser.  Histamine is a chemical in the body associated with allergic reactions and can contribute to an inflammatory response.

These ingredients can be both addictive and sedating.  It is estimated that three quarters of the calories in the standard American diet (S.A.D.) come from wheat and dairy.  Casein is concentrated in the production of cheese making it very addictive and one of the most difficult foods to eliminate from the diet.  If an individual feels that they cannot give up cheese or bread, then it is likely they may be having a problem with one or both of these foods.

People who test positive for either or both of these peptides can often attest to the difficulty of withdrawing from these foods.  They often compare it to classic drug-withdrawal symptoms.  A sensitivity to either of theses foods can cause an initial high followed by moodiness, depression, fatigue, aches and pains as well as many other inflammatory conditions.

If you have health conditions such as acne, GERD, psoriasis or eczema, any GI issue, autoimmunity (see complete list here), strictly eliminate all gluten and pasteurized cow dairy for at least 2 weeks (a month is even better) and see how you feel.  

If you would like to be tested to see if you are sensitive to either dairy or gluten, Cyrex Labs offers the most comprehensive testing available for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Ask your health care practitioner to order the Cyrex Array 3 to test for gluten sensitivity and/or celiac disease.  In the case of gluten, I highly recommend testing.  A gluten-free diet can be demanding for many people and it is nice to have documentation to motivate you.  When you eliminate gluten from your diet, the antibodies decrease over time making testing less accurate.  If you are sensitive to gluten and you continue to eat it, it not only increases your risk of premature death and developing other autoimmune conditions, but it is associated with 55 other diseases and conditions.  Gluten sensitivity and/or celiac disease usually require a GI repair protocol along with a strict gluten elimination diet.
To test for dairy sensitivity, ask your healthcare practitioner to order Cyrex Array 4 for cross-reactive foods, which includes six antigens associated with dairy.

It may seem daunting at first, but if you are experiencing health issues that are negatively affecting your quality of life and you find that eliminating one or both of these dietary ingredients could relieve or greatly improve all symptoms, wouldn't you agree that it could definitely be worth it!?!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, nourished day!

1  Zioudrou C, Streaty RA, Klee WA. Opioid peptides derived from food proteins. The exorphins. J Biol Chem. 1979 Apr 10;254(7):2446-9.
2  Teschemacher H. Opioid Receptor Ligands Derived from Food Proteins. Curr Pharm Des. 2003;9(16):1331-44.
3 Artemova NV, Bumagina ZM, Kasakov AS, Shubin VV, Gurvits BY. Opioid peptides derived from food proteins suppress aggregation and promote reactivation of partly unfolded stressed proteins. Peptides. 2010 Feb;31(2):332-8. Epub 2009 Nov 30.
4 Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Høien T, Nødland M. A randomised, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Sep;5(4):251-61.
5 Kurek M, Przybilla B, Hermann K, Ring J (1992). "A naturally occurring opioid peptide from cow's milk, beta-casomorphine-7, is a direct histamine releaser in man". Int Arch Allergy Immunol 97 (2): 115–120.
6 Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac Sprue.  N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8.