Why diets fail.

Most diets advocate; to lose weight you reduce calories and you will, but, only for a limited time. Reducing calories, drops your nutrients. Your metabolism slows to match the lower incoming calorie and nutrient level.

Your body chooses where to distribute the reduced available nutrients. Your brain gets priority. Your hair, skin and nails can probably function without the best nutrition for a while. These areas gradually lose their sparkle and energy. However, alarm bells will be going off in your brain with a strong message to upload more nutrients. This can make you hungry, tired and grumpy. Weight loss slows down and to maintain weight loss, requires further calorie reduction.

Few people can withstand this, eventually succumbing to their body’s demands for more food.

During WW II, the US Government commissioned a starvation study. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment. 36 male volunteers spent 6 months on 1600 calories per day. They ate mainly potatoes, turnips, bread and macaroni. A high carbohydrate diet.

They became depressed, lost concentration, became preoccupied with food and very distressed. Some ended up hospitalized, yet most weight loss programs use this type of approach to diet.

There is a better way. In the 1970’s, 2 researchers, Blackburn and Bistrian at Harvard Medical School developed a “protein-sparing modified fast” to treat obesity: 650 to 800 calories a day of nothing but fish and meat. Effectively no carbohydrates, making it a low-calorie keto diet. One publication highlighted the average weight loss of 700 people was nearly fifty pounds in four months. The patients felt little hunger. “They loved it,” Bistrian said. “It was an extraordinarily safe way to lose weight.” Sadly they stopped, because they mistakenly thought that low carbohydrate levels were unhealthy.

The difference between these diets is the carbohydrates. High carbohydrate diets with low calories, force your body into starvation mode because the resulting high insulin level prevents the body from accessing fat reserves. But if you become fat adapted, eating higher fats and very low carbohydrates, the body can use stored body fat to replace missing calories.

A successful way to get fat adapted is to severely reduce carbohydrates in your diet. Replacing most carbohydrates with good fats. Carbohydrates are not essential because your liver will make glucose from fat if needed.

I have eaten this way for 3 years. No weighing food or counting calories. I seldom feel hungry. Do I need carbs for exercise and energy? No way. I run, swim, use the gym, or kayak with no shortage of energy. Fat adapted people claim increased energy. My weight is down 11 kgs and blood pressure is back to normal.

Reducing calories does reduce weight, but unless done right, is unlikely to be sustainable.

Seek professional medical advice before any changes, particularly if you are on medication or have any underlying health problems.

Read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com

You will find a link to my book.

Good health, George Elder, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition.

What is Metabolic Health?

In these days of COVID-19 we hear that people with poor metabolic health usually suffer a much worse outcome from getting infected with the virus. In 99% of the deaths in Italy from COVID-19, poor metabolic health was identified. Prateek Lohia, MD, MHA, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wayne State University, said. “Patients with metabolic syndrome had a 40% increase in all-cause mortality, 68% increase in the need for critical care services and a 90% increase in the need for mechanical ventilation compared to the patients without metabolic syndrome.”

But what is poor metabolic health?
If we look at crowd photos from the 1950’s and 1960’s, we are fascinated at the number of slim people. It can often be difficult to spot a person in the crowd who looks fat. The people look positively skinny in comparison with crowd photos taken these days. In most cases, that difference is metabolic syndrome, or poor metabolic health.


When a person has metabolic syndrome, a major indicator is excess fat around their middle. They might be called apple shaped, sometimes referred to in males, as having a beer belly. Often the major indication is a belly that hangs over the belt.
The excess fat accumulated around the center of a body is adipose fat, and it packs all around the body’s critical organs such as the heart, pancreas, stomach, liver etc. It can make bending over to tie shoelaces difficult, and can compress the lungs requiring more effort for breathing. To know if this is a concern for you, just take your waist measurement in the morning and compare it with your height. The waist measurement should be less than half your height measurement.
Not all people who have poor metabolic health are apple shaped. Some can be very thin and we refer to these people as TOFI’s. Thin outside, fat inside. They can still have excess adipose fat around their organs impacting their health.


What has happened to these people?
When their body has too much energy usually from eating excess carbohydrates, it could become toxic in the blood, so it has to go somewhere else. Their body converts this energy into a storable form and deposits it in the central area. This can be stored in the liver which can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which over time, expands the liver putting more bulk into the central area and can eventually lead to cirrhosis or permanent scarring damage to the liver. Sometimes this excess energy is converted into Triglycerides (fat) and stored in the central area, increasing adipose fat around the organs, and pushing out the belly.
A major driver for this, is eating food that has too high energy but a low level of nutrients. It is common to think this is a result of a person just over eating, but it often comes from their body reacting to the type of food they are eating and continuing to send “hungry” messages. So, the wrong food can make you feel hungry, even if you have just eaten. For example, many processed foods and sweetened beverages are full of calories, have almost zero protein, but zero nutrition. If these are dominant in your diet, your body will keep you feeling hungry until you have satisfied your protein or nutrition requirements.


What are the health impacts of this condition?
This central adipose fat releases hormones such as leptin, some cytokines and others, to such an extent that it is now considered a major endocrine organ influencing a number of internal processes. These can help drive up obesity which is now known to increase cancer risk. The high glucose levels driving metabolic syndrome also increase insulin levels ultimately creating insulin resistance and this drives a wide range of diseases. Some examples of these diseases are Type 2 diabetes, PCOS, macular degeneration, kidney disease, liver diseases, heart disease, obesity and many other diseases that are only just being recognized as caused by insulin resistance.
Why is a person with metabolic syndrome more susceptible to a poor COVID-19 outcome? It seems that their immune system is compromised, that nutrition levels are lower, that these people have a delayed response by the immune system. Chronic inflammation seems to be a factor, as it is common in obese people. It seems that COVID-19 can create an excessive inflammatory response called a cytokine storm. This can cause severe lung damage and multi organ failure.


Is there anything that can be done?
Yes, there is and you can get results quite quickly. The really good news is that when you focus on this problem, the body seems to reduce the worst adipose fat level first. In just one week with a significantly reduced dietary glucose level, research has found that liver function can recover by as much as 30%. In just three weeks, the adipose tissue can begin to shrink and health markers can begin to improve.
For many people, the route to improved health involves heavily reducing dietary carbohydrates which lowers insulin, reduces sugars in the blood and switches the body to consume stored fat. When this is done, the first fat store that is targeted is the central area adipose fat. Great news.


A paleo diet can help and even a vegan diet may help. Grains, sugar sweetened drinks, HFCS, starchy vegetables and sugar must be eliminated. This means no corn, rice, potatoes, parsnips, almost no fruit and no flour or corn-based products like pasta, cereals, bread, pretzels, cakes buns etc. So very difficult but not impossible for a vegan to still get all their required nutrition.
A keto or low carbohydrate style diet is my easy way to do this because it mostly eliminates any feeling of hunger. Increase the level of meat, eggs, dairy, and eat lots of green vegetables every day. You are replacing most carbohydrates with additional protein, and fat. If the overall calories are kept just a little under daily requirements, then the body will begin to use stored fat to make up the energy shortfall. Intermittent fasting can also help.


Take a look at this report from Dr. Maryanne Demasi for more detailed medical information: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111451
For more information, I invite you to download my e-book.George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Available on Amazonwww.takebackyrhealth.com

Changing what’s in the Mirror

A message to those of you who don’t like what you see in the mirror, particularly to young women.

You are bombarded by messages about body shape and size which may create feelings of inadequacy.  What to do?  One option is to ignore these completely and be yourself so long as your health is not being compromised.  However, if 2x your waist size is a number that exceeds your height then prioritizing your health might be a good move.

If you listen to the so-called “experts” parroting the standard advice, they will likely be telling you to eat less, get more exercise and avoid dietary fat.  They might even have gone as far as suggesting a plant-based diet.  While they will all firmly believe they are giving you great advice, unfortunately while it is well meaning it can be very misguided.

Modern science has uncovered lots of new information about what is healthy and unfortunately much of this does little to sell more food, drugs or supplements and because of this is ignored or lost amongst the thousands of articles, podcasts and medical reports that are newly published every day.  Because of what is known as “confirmation bias”, published articles are often only printed when they agree with the majority of readers views and therefore the conventional, out of date even discredited information is reprinted over and over despite the fact that we can clearly see it is not working.

Here are some things that you need to know:

  • Exercise is good for you and it can help build strength and flexibility which is very valuable, but it is unlikely to help much to lose weight.  Muscle weighs more than fat so it may even put weight on.  The tape measure can show you if it is working for you.
  • If you decide to just eat much less, your body will adjust for a lower level of available energy and it does so by restricting the amount of energy you use internally for body repair and maintenance until it matches the level available.  Your metabolism slows down.  Thus, vital body management functions are minimized, body temperature may reduce in your extremities, and you will feel lethargic because there is less energy available. Your body will adapt to this lower energy level over time (weeks), and once adapted, any loss of fat will stop.  This can happen with a relatively modest fat loss.  It also signals to your brain to get more food on board urgently making you feel very very hungry.  The result can be stiffness, brittle nails, hair loss, slower healing of wounds, more sickness etc. This is usually unsustainable for very long.
  • A danger is that your level of nutrition will also fall. You don’t just eat to fill your tummy; you need to ensure that you are getting all the nutrition including the vitamins and minerals you need to remain healthy.  Although you are getting food, the goodness may not be high enough.  Your immune system can become weaker, your body will get even less value from food due to poor digestion and you may find you have more brain fog, headaches, gastro intestinal problems, tiredness and many other issues.  If you avoid eating animal foods then this can be even more extreme because the level of nutrition in plants is lower due to lower starting levels and the impact of anti-nutrients.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K2 need fat with the food for absorption and vitamin B12 and Zinc come primarily from animal foods and a low level of these will definitely impact your health. Poor nutrition can have a devastating impact on a baby’s growth and development, particularly brain development and some of this can be irreversible, whether still in the womb or a toddler.
  • To reduce body fat, you need to put your body in a state where it will use some of your existing body fat stores every day.  This is surprisingly simple once you understand what is happening.  First you need to adjust your body so that the level of glucose goes low regularly and when this happens it will switch over to consuming body fat. By eating more protein, up to 1.5 grams for each Kg of body weight, a little more fat, and cutting down on carbohydrates from processed foods, sugar and grains you will train your body to use up stored fat reserves.  Carbohydrates are sugars and it is these that convert to fat in your body.
  • While you are making these changes, a very healthy change is to minimize the use of vegetable oils and replace these with olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil or avocado oils.  If you are happy to eat animal sourced food then anima fats, eggs, liver, chicken, red meat etc.  are all excellent sources of nutrients.  Most food outlets fry in vegetable oils so best to avoid these if you can as they can be toxic long term.  If you thought that meat could increase your risk of cancer then be aware that this is another myth spread by people who want to change your diet for their benefit, not for your health. Research shows that colon cancer is actually higher in vegetarians than meat eaters.
  • Over a short time you will find that you no longer feel hungry between meals.  You should adapt to this by only eating when you are hungry and stop once you feel full.  At this stage you might like to consider intermittent fasting with my recommendation being to give up breakfast and switch to only 2 meals a day and don’t have any snacks between meals.  This can result in you eating lunch and dinner then having about 16-18 hours of evening, night and next morning when you only drink water or similar. 
  • You don’t need to really change much about your diet except to avoid those sugars, grains and processed food.  A good meal might consist of a steak, some vegetables and a small piece of fruit for dessert.  Don’t have fruit juices of smoothies as they push up the sugars, but one whole piece of fruit each day should be OK.
  • Only check the scales occasionally as they are more impacted short term by the level of liquids in your body.  Stay hydrated preferably with water and definitely avoid the sweetened sodas.
  • If you want a name for eating this way you can call it low carb, Atkins, Keto or Paleo as they all have very similar approaches.  A cookbook or two can help with planning your new meals.

George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, 
Available on Amazon eBook US$ 3.99, or Paperback US$ 7.99
now at http://www.eldergeo.com

My e-book is now online

After a long journey, my shortened e-book has made it onto the Kindle bookstore on Amazon.

You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Take-Back-Your-Health-medicine-ebook/dp/B08LKW42BJ/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=take+back+your+health&qid=1603614924&s=books&sr=1-8

Wow! What a fascinating revelation on what I eat and why I have dietary issues. A great summary of many complex nutritional issues and better still, provides references to research plus a way forward. It will be a challenge for me to be disciplined to apply the lessons learnt from this book but by taking it in stages, I am sure I will become more healthy. What a valuable find and so cheap buy! Unbelievably valuable.

Eric, one of my book editors.

My List of Kitchen Staples

To help you manage a transition to a Keto / Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle I have had a look about the kitchen and here is my list of kitchen staples.

Almond flour

Coconut flour

Green banana flour, (expensive but only used as a fish coating)

Ground Psyllium Husk

Sesame seeds

Flax seed or ground flax seed

Baking powder

Pink Himalayan salt

Iodised salt

White salt in grinder

Black pepper in grinder

Oregano

Onion powder

Garlic powder

Apple cider vinegar

Balsamic vinegar (low sugar)

Mayonnaise (low sugar, low omega 6)

Tartare sauce (low sugar, low omega-6)

Butter

Camembert cheese or Brie

Cottage cheese

Cream (full)

Cream cheese

Eggs

Sour cream

Thickened or double cream

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt

Unsweetened tartare sauce (ideally)

Coconut oil

Avocado oil

Olive oil, (extra virgin)

Lemon juice

Lime juice

Cheddar

Mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

Bacon

Mince (fatty)

Pork rinds (can be ground to use as a coating on chicken)

Pork sausages

Steak

Sardines in olive oil

Tuna in olive oil

Tomato paste, (low sugar)

Almonds (Tamari)

Cashew nuts

Macadamia nuts

Dark chocolate, > 70%

Stevia or

Erythritol or

Monk fruit sweetener

George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Amazon $3.99.
Now at http://www.eldergeo.com

My Cracker Recipe

I searched the supermarket aisles, reading the nutrition information of many crackers, looking for something that could be used as a base for a snack. All crackers seem to be full of Industrial seed oils, sugars and wheat flour so I went looking for a recipe instead and here it is. You can have these topped with cheese, tuna, salami, egg, sardines, dip or huge numbers of other options to replace a meal or for an easy snack.

George’s Crackers.

Ingredients:

– 6 Tbsp of ground flax seed.

– Unground flax seed passes directly through the gut without digestion.

– Ground flax seed must be stored airtight in a refrigerator as it goes rancid quickly.

– 2 tsp of salt. (+ Extra grinding salt for topping).

– 4 cups of almond flour.

– 12 – 13 Tbsp of water.

– 4 Tbsp of fine grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:

Grind flaxseeds in coffee grinder. If necessary.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, then mix in fine grated cheese if desired

Add water and hand mix until the dry mix turns into dough.

Place dough between baking paper layers and press or roll out to about 3mm (1/8 inch) or less.

I divide my dough between multiple mixes to suit the available oven tray sizes

Keep thickness very even to prevent the edges from burning during baking

Remove top baking paper layer.

Use a pizza cutter to cut cracker size squares. I make mine about 30mm (1-1/2 inch) squares.

Wetting the pizza cutter helps prevent the dough from sticking to the cutter wheel.

Don’t separate the crackers.

Grind a fine layer of extra salt over the dough and gently pat down.

At this point you could experiment with other toppings such as sesame seeds. I don’t bother as we like them without.

Bake in oven at 150 deg C for 40-50 minutes. Adjust baking time until they are golden brown.

When done, immediately slide off the baking paper onto a wire rack to air cool and crisp up.

Store in a biscuit tin once completely cold.

George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Amazon $3.99.
Now at http://www.eldergeo.com

Getting Started on Keto

Getting started:

If you decide that keto / low carb choice is for you, then I offer the following tips. Prepare to find your refrigerator full and your pantry with less in it, because you are eating real food.

First, what carbohydrate level should you be aiming to eat? There seems to be a magic number of grams of carbohydrates for each individual. If you are below this number you will most likely be losing weight. As the level of carbs rises your weight loss will slow. When you reach your magic number weight loss will stop and if you eat more carbs per day than the magic number, you will put on weight. So a good plan is to start with 20 grams or less carbohydrates per day and after you have fully fat adapted (maybe 3-4 weeks) add a few grams back each week, to manage your weight loss to stop losing weight when you get to your goal weight. Keep the carbohydrate level low if you have heaps to lose, but don’t get bored by the lack of food diversity. Add those carbs back gradually, but drop back if you start to put weight back on.

Make sure you eat plenty of good fat so that you are not feeling hungry. The aim is not to eat less calories, or you may kick your body into starvation mode and your metabolism will slow. So keep up your calories, ensure you are eating plenty of fat, but do not snack between meals. Remember your goal is to keep insulin levels low. Eating the required level of fat is quite difficult at first as it goes against all past conditioning.

However if you are trying to lose body fat, you should still eat plenty but not overdo the fat, allow for some of your calories to come from body fat daily. This is done by eating slightly less that you need and once fat adapted, the body will burn body fat to make up the difference once insulin is low. In my case I never had excess butter or bulletproof coffee as I never felt the need, and the extra fat just gradually melted away. Awesome. Remember that the Keto diet is very good at enabling you to eat less without getting hungry.

Plan your meals because there is generally more preparation required due to less off the shelf items available. An easy way to plan meals is to cook larger meals each dinner time and refrigerate the excess for the next days breakfast or lunch. This helps, as you are adjusting to a higher level of home cooked food. If on removing it from the refrigerator you can see it has set (like fat sets when cold) then this is a sign you are getting plenty of fat.

When you realise one day that you completely missed a meal without noticing, then you are ready to think about eating windows and 16:8 fasting. Maybe dropping breakfast and only having two meals per day.

Keeping hydration up is critical and you may need to supplement salt, magnesium and possibly potassium as the reduction in carbohydrates increases the water loss and with this you will also lose those essential minerals. Leg cramps can be a signal that you need more sodium. Drinking a huge glass of water as soon as I get out of bed each morning works for me.

Go easy on the exercise for the first 2-3 weeks as your body adapts particularly if you are not used to regular exercise, give yourself a good 6 weeks of adaption before starting. By then you may find that it is all much easier and you are chomping at the bit to start.

The early changes in your gut can result in mild constipation, so keep hydration up and if you are concerned, taking some psyllium husk in water (teaspoon in a glass) may help the transition. This can also be an indication of insufficient fat in the diet, so add more butter to the vegetables and olive oil to the salads. I expect you have already stopped trimming the fat off meat and are buying the cheapest and fattiest mince (hamburger). In my experience your body will soon settle down to a new regular.

If you slip up and have too many carbs, just double down and it will come right, but can take 2-3 days in the early stages. If you need something sweet, try eating one square of chocolate with above 70% cocoa solids. Check out my cracker recipe at the end of the book. These can be great when you have a craving or when you need a quick lunch.

When I want a real treat I take 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries, cover with cream and leave a few minutes for the cream to freeze. Then eat with a spoon. Yum. Like ice cream but without the sugar.

For traveling food, I suggest some boiled eggs in the shell, cheese, salami slices, ham slices, canned tuna or sardines, some nuts, cold sausages and some of my crackers. Green salad with some vinegar and olive oil dressing is a good option.

George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Amazon $3.99.
Now at http://www.eldergeo.com

Insulin Resistance

Have you heard of Insulin resistance? It is a condition where excess insulin gradually eats away at your body without showing much in the way of symptoms until one day your pancreas gives up and you end up with full blown Type 2 diabetes because your glucose is now out of control. It is caused by a persistent high level of insulin which gradually causes insulin receptors in cells to become less sensitive to the hormone’s signal. This reduction in sensitivity forces the pancreas to manufacture ever higher insulin levels, to get the signal to work, which then reduces sensitivity further, and the cycle repeats.

This typically shows with some of the symptoms below:

1. Increased body fat levels, particularly in the central area.

2. Waist measurement greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

3. Increased levels of facial and body hair for women.

4. Acanthosis Nigricans, which is a darkening of skin in folds and under arms.

5. Difficulty getting pregnant, (applies to women only of course).

6. Tendency to oily skin and hair.

7. Cravings for sweet or salty foods.

8. Skin tags.

9. Fatigue.

10. Increased hunger or thirst.

11. Erectile dysfunction.

A series of tests by the doctor can confirm IR, but it can be missed as there is a high proportion of the population which show these symptoms and the doctor may only be looking for elevated glucose. My study also highlights that most doctors tend to only treat what you complain about, rather than being proactive about your health. I have begun to realise that you need to do that yourself. If you have any concerns9, Insulin resistance itself should be tested with both a glucose tolerance test and fasting insulin test, because of the ability of the excess insulin to keep glucose levels down, hiding the real problem and causing fasting glucose levels to appear to be OK.

One often failing of current medical testing for insulin resistance is that it focuses on your inability to get glucose into cells rather than how much insulin you are producing. The result is that people can be sent away from the doctor after being told all is okay, because the massive level of insulin in their body manages glucose down and hides the real problem. Unfortunately for them the doctor only realises there is a problem when the “end stage” symptoms show up. Because serious micro-vascular damage is being done during this undiagnosed period by excess insulin, much of the damage to your body may be irreversible by the end-stage. If you have any concerns, you need to take a look at other signals yourself and insist on insulin resistance testing to avoid this disaster.

Family history can also be a clue. Check out direct relatives on both parents sides of your family tree, because some people are much more sensitive to this than others. Also don’t assume that because you are slim, you are in the clear. There is a body type known as TOFI (thin outside, fat inside) which presents as slim, but is still impacted by significant visceral fat around the organs.

If this is not reversed or treated in some way, your future health can be seriously impacted.

Here are some of the problems directly related to this condition:

1. Significantly reduced chance of getting pregnant, even with IVF treatment.

2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

3. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

4. Metabolic syndrome.

5. Type 2 diabetes.

6. Kidney disease.

7. Cardio vascular (heart) disease.

8. Blindness due to damage in small eye blood vessels.

9. Nerve ending damage that can lead to amputations particularly in extremities.

10. Alzheimer’s (brain) disease.

People with Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes are at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance doubles your risk for heart attack and stroke – and triples the odds that a heart attack or ‘brain attack’ (Stroke) will be deadly, according to the International Diabetes Federation. One single extra kilogram of visceral fat in a female is linked to a 4X greater risk for type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are also linked with higher risk for cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, cervix, pancreas, prostate and uterus.  The connection: High insulin levels early in insulin resistance seem to fuel the growth of tumors and to suppress the body’s ability to protect itself by killing off malignant cancer cells.

The longer that the condition goes untreated the less the ability to reverse it in the future. It used to be believed that Type 2 Diabetes was not reversible and in fact many doctors still believe this because they have no understanding of the capability of a low carbohydrate diet to counter this. I have read that doctors are not really taught about nutrition at medical school as the current medical model instead focuses on drug prescribing and surgery.

How to reduce insulin resistance? A most effective way is to dramatically reduce the level of carbohydrates in the diet. In other words, cut out sugars, grains and starches , replacing these calories with healthy fat and low carb vegetables. For proof, ask your doctor for a continuous glucose monitor and watch to see what foods raise glucose in your body, remembering that when glucose rises, insulin will then rise to manage the glucose level in your blood. Before making any changes, consult your medical professional and take the tests.

George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Amazon $3.99.
Now at http://www.eldergeo.com