Healthier and Better Looking Than a Suntan!

A healthy diet and a healthy cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tem can give your face a healthy glow that looks bet­ter than a sun­tan. When you eat plen­ty of dark leafy green and dark yel­low or orange veg­eta­bles, their col­or­ful carotene pig­ments tend to build up in your skin. Not only do these nat­ur­al antiox­i­dants help to pro­tect your skin from sun dam­age, they give you a gold­en glow that is more attrac­tive than an ordi­nary sun­tan. The bright red col­or of oxy­genat­ed blood flow­ing through your skin also adds a healthy-look­ing rosy glow.

Sci­en­tists have found that a mild case of caroteno­sis actu­al­ly makes a light-skinned per­son look health­i­er and more attrac­tive.  A sci­en­tif­ic study found that this gold­en glow is more attrac­tive than an ordi­nary sun­tan.

You can also get a slight­ly orange blush if you drink huge amounts of toma­to juice, which con­tains the red pig­ment lycopene. Like caroteno­sis, this con­di­tion is harm­less and will go away by itself.

A healthy cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tem also gives your skin a healthy glow. As you’ve prob­a­bly noticed, peo­ple who have ane­mia or a cir­cu­la­to­ry prob­lem typ­i­cal­ly have an unat­trac­tive pale or blue-gray com­plex­ion. In some­one with healthy cir­cu­la­tion, the bright red col­or of oxy­genat­ed blood shines through the skin to pro­duce a healthy glow. It’s all the more rea­son to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet and get plen­ty of exer­cise!

The effects of carotene and blood cir­cu­la­tion are more obvi­ous in a light-skinned per­son. How­ev­er, a healthy diet and exer­cise are no less impor­tant for the health and appear­ance of a dark-skinned per­son!

Don’t Buy the Snake Oil, Or the Butterfat!

I wrote this as a let­ter to the edi­tor of Moth­er Earth News, which is a gen­er­al­ly good pub­li­ca­tion that some­times pub­lish­es bad dietary advice:

In The Fats You Need for a Healthy Diet (August/September 2011 of Moth­er Earth News), Oscar H. Will, III, pro­vides dan­ger­ous­ly mis­lead­ing dietary advice. Sat­u­rat­ed fat does not “do a body good.” You don’t need to get any sat­u­rat­ed, monoun­sat­u­rat­ed, or trans fat­ty acids what­so­ev­er from the diet. Only two fat­ty acids are essen­tial, which means that they must come from the food. One is an omega-6 fat­ty acid called linole­ic acid. The oth­er is an omega-3 fat­ty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. How­ev­er, the dietary require­ment for these fat­ty acids is so small that you can find true cas­es of defi­cien­cy only in extreme sit­u­a­tions, such as peo­ple who were being fed noth­ing but sug­ar intra­venous­ly. For those patients, the require­ment for essen­tial fat­ty acids could be met by rub­bing a small amount of veg­etable oil on the skin. Fat defi­cien­cy is prac­ti­cal­ly nonex­is­tent because even a diet based on low-fat grains and veg­eta­bles pro­vides enough of the essen­tial fat­ty acids

The usu­al prob­lem is that the per­son is eat­ing too much fat. Excess fat of any kind pro­motes obe­si­ty, ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, dia­betes, and oth­er chron­ic dis­eases. The omega-3 fat­ty acids tend to have a blood-thin­ning effect, which off­sets some of the effect of their con­tri­bu­tion to ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis. An excess of the polyun­sat­u­rat­ed fat­ty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) has been linked to an increased risk of can­cer, pos­si­bly because of their effect on the immune sys­tem.

Even veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans often eat too much fat, and they tend to eat a dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly large amount of omega-6 rel­a­tive to omega-3 fat­ty acids because of a large intake of nuts and oils. The obvi­ous solu­tion to this prob­lem is to restrict the over­all fat intake and add a small amount of ground flaxseed to the diet. Flaxseed is an excel­lent source of the rel­a­tive­ly scarce omega-3 fat­ty acids.

Con­ju­gat­ed linolenic acid is found almost exclu­sive­ly in foods of ani­mal ori­gin. Yet nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gy stud­ies show that those foods pro­mote the sorts of dis­eases that the dairy indus­try is claim­ing that con­ju­gat­ed linolenic acid is sup­posed to help pre­vent.


Frying Onions Without Oil

Near­ly every time I cook a meal, the first step is to fry some onions. When peo­ple hear that I cook with­out fat, they want to know how I fry my onions. Believe it or not, I fry onions in a dry pan. Some­times, I even fry onions in a plain stain­less steel fry­ing pan or pres­sure cook­er. You don’t even need a non­stick coat­ing or any of that oil-in-a-can stuff.

The secret is to keep a cup of water handy. When the onions start to stick, I add a splash of water, which boils off almost instant­ly. Some­times, I keep on fry­ing the onions until they are nice­ly browned. This caramelizes the sug­ars and gives a rich fla­vor. If you want to cook some­thing fan­cy, you can also fry things in a splash of wine!

Michele Bachmann’s Migraines

Dear Michele Bach­mann:

I’m not one of your fans, but my heart goes out to you if you real­ly do suf­fer from migraine headaches. Michele, I can­not say that I have felt your pain. But I have felt pain that was prob­a­bly sim­i­lar to yours. Some reporters are call­ing migraine a stress-relat­ed dis­or­der. In many cas­es, how­ev­er, it’s real­ly a food-relat­ed dis­or­der. You might be able to end your suf­fer­ing just by iden­ti­fy­ing and avoid­ing the foods that trig­ger your headaches. Anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty is that your headaches are being caused by the very med­ica­tions that you are using to treat them.

Although migraine pain can be unbe­liev­ably severe, the pain isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the worst part of a migraine episode. I’ve known peo­ple who go prac­ti­cal­ly blind from the migraine aura, some­times while they are dri­ving. One of my friends would speak gib­ber­ish dur­ing her migraine auras. Some peo­ple get par­a­lyzed on one side of the body. And then, there’s the nau­sea and vom­it­ing and inabil­i­ty to tol­er­ate light and noise. Some­times, the migraine will start while you’re sleep­ing. I’d wake up and think, “Holy crap, am I hung over!” Then, the hor­ri­ble real­iza­tion would dawn on me that I don’t drink and that the liv­ing hell could last for days.

Migraine can be a dis­abling con­di­tion. How­ev­er, most migraineurs just put on their sun­glass­es, stick close to some­place where they can vom­it, and just some­how man­age to drag them­selves through their day. Med­ica­tions can help a lot. Some peo­ple can get relief from an over-the-counter com­bi­na­tion of aspirin, aceta­minophen, and caf­feine if they take it at the ear­li­est sign of a migraine attack. Oth­er peo­ple need a pre­scrip­tion tablet. Some peo­ple with severe migraines need to keep a suma­trip­tan injec­tor with them at all times.

The good news is that many peo­ple can get sub­stan­tial relief from their migraine attacks if they make some sim­ple changes in diet. The good news is that most patients can elim­i­nate their migraines if they sim­ply elim­i­nate the dietary trig­gers of their migraines from their diet. I went from hav­ing about one migraine attack per week to hav­ing maybe one mild attack per year, sim­ply by elim­i­nat­ing gluten-con­tain­ing prod­ucts (wheat, rye, and bar­ley) from my diet. Oth­er peo­ple can eat wheat with no prob­lem but get migraines from some oth­er trig­ger.

If your doc­tor can’t stop your headaches, talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian to help you work out an elim­i­na­tion diet. The dietit­ian will give you a plan that elim­i­nates ani­mal prod­ucts and fat­ty foods and the foods that are most like­ly to trig­ger aller­gic reac­tions. Once you are headache-free, you can rein­tro­duce sus­pi­cious foods one at a time to see if they were respon­si­ble for trig­ger­ing your headaches.

Remem­ber also that you can get into a pat­tern of chron­ic headaches from the drugs that are used to treat headaches. Any kind of pre­scrip­tion or non­pre­scrip­tion headache rem­e­dy could be respon­si­ble. The only solu­tion to that prob­lem is to stop tak­ing the med­ica­tion com­plete­ly and suf­fer through the with­draw­al phase.

I hope that this infor­ma­tion deliv­ers you from the evil of migraine. If it does, you owe me a favor, and I’d like to call it in. I’d like you and your hus­band to stop being mean to gay peo­ple.

Note: Since I wrote this post, an excit­ing new way to deliv­er a tra­di­tion­al treat­ment for migraine headaches and oth­er face-pain syn­dromes has become avail­able. It involves a safe and easy way to deliv­er a dose of top­i­cal anes­thet­ic to a spot far back in the nasal pas­sages. Under­neath that spot is an impor­tant bun­dle of nerve cells, called the sphenopala­tine gan­glion. The tech­nique is quick, easy, and com­fort­able and does not involve a nee­dle. The effects can be pro­longed:

Sev­er­al brands of catheter are avail­able to do this treat­ment.

Pho­to by Gage Skid­more

Type 2 Diabetes Keeps Fat People From Getting Even Fatter

Most peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes are at least pleas­ant­ly plump, so why do so many severe­ly obese peo­ple have no trou­ble with their blood sug­ar? I’ve known for decades that unex­plained weight loss is a com­mon sign of dia­betes. A few years ago, I began to sus­pect that type 2 dia­betes is what hap­pens when one of the body’s nat­ur­al defens­es against fur­ther weight gain gets out of con­trol. These sus­pi­cions were deep­ened when I real­ized that the drugs that are used to treat type 2 dia­betes often cause weight gain as a side effect. The drugs are dis­abling the body’s nat­ur­al resis­tance to fur­ther weight gain!

This inter­est­ing arti­cle from Endocrine Reviews argues that in type 2 dia­betes, the prob­lems with fat metab­o­lism start long before the per­son starts hav­ing abnor­mal blood sug­ar lev­els. It explains how too much fat in the body and too much fat from the diet could end up caus­ing type 2 dia­betes. It explains how eat­ing less and exer­cis­ing more could solve the under­ly­ing prob­lem.

The idea that type 2 dia­betes starts off as a prob­lem with fat metab­o­lism makes a lot of sense. It helps to explain some­thing that sci­en­tists have known since the 1930s: that you can cause insulin resis­tance in healthy vol­un­teers by feed­ing them a high-fat diet for a week. You can restore their insulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty by feed­ing them a starchy diet for a week. A switch to a low-fat, high-fiber, high-car­bo­hy­drate, pure­ly plant-based diet pro­duces a dra­mat­ic improve­ment in peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes, even before they have had a chance to lose much weight.

The tra­di­tion­al cure for type 2 dia­betes was to eat less and exer­cise more. A more sen­si­ble approach is to start off by eat­ing as much high-fiber, low-fat, plant-based food as you feel like eat­ing. This kind of diet will rapid­ly cor­rect your insulin resis­tance. As your insulin resis­tance improves, you’ll feel more like exer­cis­ing.

Of course, if you have any major health prob­lem or are tak­ing pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tions, you need to talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian and your pre­scriber before mak­ing any major change in diet. You may need to have your dosages adjust­ed, and you may be able to stop tak­ing some of your pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion.

Note: I explain this top­ic in more detail in my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2

Behind Barbed Wire_Print

Pho­to by 95Berlin

The “Three Sides” Diet

Back when I worked at a com­pa­ny that had a cafe­te­ria, I didn’t have to pack my lunch. I could put togeth­er a tasty, low-fat sal­ad from the sal­ad bar. If I felt like eat­ing a hot meal, I could get a big plate of food from the “hot” por­tion of the cafe­te­ria line. The “main dish­es” usu­al­ly includ­ed some sort of meat or dairy prod­uct, so I’d get the “side dish­es” instead.

My usu­al lunch con­sist­ed of “three sides”: usu­al­ly a starchy side dish such as rice plus two veg­eta­bles. I got a big plate­ful of tasty, zero-cho­les­terol, low-fat food, and I spent less than the peo­ple who ordered the main dish. I can find a sat­is­fy­ing meal at near­ly any restau­rant, just by ignor­ing the main dish­es and order­ing the side dish­es instead.

Pho­to by mack reed (fac­toid)

Meat, But Not Sugar, Increased the Risk of Type 2 diabetes

Most of the peo­ple I talk to seem to think that they’d be health­i­er if they ate less car­bo­hy­drate. Most of them seem con­vinced that a high-car­bo­hy­drate diet makes peo­ple fat. They know that if you eat starch, it gets bro­ken down into sug­ar. They know that when sug­ar flows into your blood­stream, your pan­creas is sup­posed to release insulin to enable the sug­ar to enter your cells, where it can be burned for ener­gy. That part’s true. How­ev­er, they think that if you eat a lot of sug­ar or starch, you’ll some­how wear out your body’s abil­i­ty to make or respond to insulin and thus you’ll end up dia­bet­ic. They couldn’t be more wrong. In real­i­ty, a high-carb, low-fat diet cures the most com­mon type of dia­betes.

If eat­ing a starchy, low-fat diet made peo­ple fat and caused dia­betes, then we’d see lots of fat, dia­bet­ic peo­ple in pop­u­la­tions that eat a starchy, low-fat diet. We don’t. Instead, we see that the peo­ple of Chi­na and Japan, whose diet is based heav­i­ly on rice and veg­eta­bles, tend to be slim and remark­ably free of dia­betes and heart dis­ease. We see the same thing in oth­er pop­u­la­tions that base their diets on oth­er starchy sta­ples. For exam­ple, the indige­nous peo­ple of Peru eat a diet based heav­i­ly on pota­toes. The Tarahu­mara of Mex­i­co eat main­ly corn and beans. The peo­ple in the New Guinea High­lands eat prac­ti­cal­ly noth­ing but sweet pota­toes. The sto­ry is the same wher­ev­er we look. In real­i­ty, the pop­u­la­tions that eat low-fat, starchy, high-fiber diets are thin and healthy. The peo­ple who eat lots of fat­ty ani­mal-based foods are the ones at risk for obe­si­ty, dia­betes, and heart dis­ease.

If eat­ing a lot of sug­ar caused dia­betes, then the peo­ple who eat the most sug­ar would be more like­ly than the aver­age per­son to devel­op dia­betes. On the con­trary, a study of near­ly 40,000 women age 45 and old­er in the Unit­ed States found that the women who were eat­ing the most sug­ar were no more like­ly to get dia­betes than the ones who were eat­ing the least sug­ar [1]. The women who were most like­ly to get dia­betes were the ones who were eat­ing the most meat! [2]

Ref­er­ence List

  1. Jan­ket SJ, Man­son JE, Ses­so H, Bur­ing JE, Liu S. A prospec­tive study of sug­ar intake and risk of type 2 dia­betes in women. Dia­betes Care 2003;26:1008–1015.
  2. Song Y, Man­son JE, Bur­ing JE, Liu S. A prospec­tive study of red meat con­sump­tion and type 2 dia­betes in mid­dle-aged and elder­ly women: the women’s health study. Dia­betes Care 2004;27:2108–2115.

For more infor­ma­tion about dia­betes, see my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

Thin Diabetes, Fat Diabetes: Prevent Type 1, Cure Type 2

Stop Worrying About Calcium Deficiency

The com­mit­tee that put togeth­er the Dietary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans, 2010 were try­ing to solve a nonex­is­tent prob­lem: cal­ci­um defi­cien­cy. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, their sug­gest­ed solu­tion to this nonex­is­tent prob­lem would make some of our most seri­ous real prob­lems worse. If peo­ple fol­low these guide­lines and eat more dairy foods, they will actu­al­ly increase their risk for osteo­poro­sis and sev­er­al oth­er com­mon, seri­ous health prob­lems.

The human body is sur­pris­ing­ly good at main­tain­ing cal­ci­um bal­ance on a low-cal­ci­um diet. To find cas­es of true dietary defi­cien­cy of cal­ci­um, you have to look at peo­ple who were con­sum­ing extreme­ly abnor­mal diets. Most cas­es involved babies who were being fed some bizarre sub­sti­tute for breast milk. In real­i­ty, cas­es of rick­ets (soft bones) in chil­dren are near­ly always due to a short­age of vit­a­min D, the sun­shine vit­a­min.

When you think about it, most of the world’s large land ani­mals man­age to get enough cal­ci­um from their plant-based diet to grow an enor­mous skele­ton. Nor does any species oth­er than our own con­sume the milk of anoth­er species, or any milk at all after infan­cy. So why should we expect human beings to need dairy foods, or to need a cal­ci­um intake that can be achieved only through eat­ing dairy foods or tak­ing sup­ple­ments? It makes no sense.

Sci­en­tists have known for decades that osteo­poro­sis occurs main­ly in coun­tries where peo­ple eat a lot of dairy prod­ucts and have a rel­a­tive­ly high cal­ci­um intake. In fact, there’s rea­son to believe that eat­ing too much ani­mal pro­tein and too much cal­ci­um actu­al­ly caus­es osteo­poro­sis.

The pop­u­la­tions with a high risk for osteo­poro­sis also have high rates of death from coro­nary artery dis­ease. For­tu­nate­ly, the same kind of diet that pre­vents heart attacks also helps to keep the bones strong. That means eat­ing a low-fat, plant-based diet that includes plen­ty of fruits and veg­eta­bles.

It’s also impor­tant to get enough vit­a­min D. A few min­utes of expo­sure to mid­day sun on the face and arms dur­ing the spring, sum­mer, and fall should pro­vide enough vit­a­min D for most light-skinned peo­ple in the Unit­ed States. If you are dark-skinned, live in the far North, or have some oth­er rea­son why you can’t go out in the sun­shine, your doc­tor, physi­cian assis­tant, or nurse prac­ti­tion­er can mon­i­tor your vit­a­min D lev­els and advise you about vit­a­min D sup­ple­ments.

The Glycemic Index Won’t Help You Lose Weight

Late­ly, many nutri­tion gurus have been try­ing to tell me that eat­ing a diet with a low glycemic index is the secret to los­ing weight. But if that were true, then car­rots would be more fat­ten­ing than fudge is.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the glycemic index is being used to steer peo­ple away from the sort of food that can real­ly help them lose weight and con­trol their blood sug­ar: unre­fined starch­es and veg­eta­bles. If you sur­vey the world’s pop­u­la­tions, you’ll find that the peo­ple who are eat­ing diets based on unre­fined starch­es and veg­eta­bles have low risks of obe­si­ty, heart dis­ease, dia­betes, and breast cancer—even though the glycemic index of their diet is high. In con­trast, the peo­ple who are eat­ing the most fat and protein—both of which tend to decrease the glycemic index of a meal—are the ones who are get­ting fat and sick.

The glycemic index was orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped to fine-tune the sys­tem of car­bo­hy­drate exchanges that peo­ple with type 1 dia­betes use to cal­cu­late how much insulin they will need to inject after a meal [1]. The glycemic index mea­sures the effect that 50 grams of carbs from any giv­en food has on your blood sug­ar. For exam­ple, if you ate 50 grams of car­bo­hy­drate from beans, your blood sug­ar wouldn’t go as high as if you ate 50 grams of car­bo­hy­drate from pota­toes instead. In oth­er words, beans have a low­er glycemic index than pota­toes do.

Like pota­toes, car­rots have a high glycemic index. How­ev­er, you’d have to eat about 4 cups of shred­ded car­rot to get 50 grams of car­bo­hy­drate. Thus, if you ate just one car­rot, it would have only a small effect on your blood sug­ar. To cor­rect for this prob­lem, some peo­ple use the glycemic load, which is the glycemic index mul­ti­plied by the total amount of car­bo­hy­drate in the food.

The glycemic index and glycemic load are of sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle val­ue to dieters. One rea­son is that the glycemic index of any giv­en food is so hard to pre­dict. For exam­ple, you could increase the glycemic index of a pota­to by mash­ing it. Then, you could decrease the glycemic index of the mashed pota­to by adding milk and but­ter. Fats and pro­teins tend to decrease the glycemic index of a food. Although adding but­ter to a food decreas­es the food’s glycemic index, the but­ter does not make the food less fat­ten­ing!

Even if you eat a meal that has a high glycemic load, that doesn’t mean that your blood sug­ar is going to go dan­ger­ous­ly high. It all depends on your insulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty. Peo­ple who habit­u­al­ly eat a low-fat, starchy diet tend to have much small­er blood sug­ar swings than peo­ple who eat a high-fat, low-carb diet. Sci­en­tists have known that fact since the 1930s! In fact, a diet based on high-glycemic-load veg­eta­bles and unre­fined starch­es can restore the body’s insulin sen­si­tiv­i­ty, thus cur­ing type 2 dia­betes, with­in a mat­ter of weeks.

Ref­er­ence List

  1. Jenk­ins DJ, Wolever TM, Tay­lor RH et al. Glycemic index of foods: a phys­i­o­log­i­cal basis for car­bo­hy­drate exchange. Am J Clin Nutr 1981;34:362–366.

Note: For more infor­ma­tion about the con­trol of weight and blood sug­ar, see my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

Behind Barbed Wire_Print

How Low Should Your Cholesterol Levels Be?

Ide­al­ly, your total cho­les­terol should be below 150 mg/dL. Accord­ing to William Castel­li, who was the med­ical direc­tor of the Fram­ing­ham Heart Study for many years, peo­ple with a total cho­les­terol val­ue of less than 150 mg/dL sim­ply don’t get heart attacks. And once someone’s total cho­les­terol is that low, the ratio between the “good” and “bad” cho­les­terol sim­ply doesn’t mat­ter.

The total cho­les­terol val­ue is the sin­gle most impor­tant clue to a person’s risk of heart attack. Once the cho­les­terol lev­els in the blood rise to, say, the mid-160s, then the ratio of good ver­sus bad cho­les­terol (HDL ver­sus LDL) real­ly starts to mat­ter.

William Castel­li once explained, “Four out of five peo­ple on this earth can’t get their cho­les­terol over 150; they don’t get heart attacks. One out of five peo­ple can’t get their cho­les­terol down to 150. They do get heart attacks. And almost all of them live in afflu­ent coun­tries.” The “four out of five peo­ple” Castel­li meant live in soci­eties that eat a low-fat, high-fiber, large­ly plant-based diet. That kind of diet keeps blood cho­les­terol lev­els nat­u­ral­ly low.