07 March 2016

Modern Epidemic

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is right, medicine is not needed.“ 
- Ayurvedic wisdom
Obesity and chronic diseases

Today, obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. Fat tissue growth increases our risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc. By this logic, if we lose fat tissue, we also reduce our risk for these diseases at the same time. So, what makes us fat?


The conventional wisdom of "Eat Less and Exercise More" doesn't work for fat loss over the long term. Exercise has very important health benefits, it is just not the best method to lose that extra fat.

Have you ever heard of the hormone insulin? It is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to the food we eat. When we produce too much of it, we gain fat, when insulin is lowered, we lose fat tissue. In simple terms: insulin = fat storage. Now, the question is, how to lower insulin levels. 

Everything we eat are composed of:
  • carbohydrates (rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes, oats, biscuits, sugar, pulses, fruits, etc)
  • protein (skinless chicken breast, fish fillet, etc)
  • fat (bacon, sausage, butter, cheese, cream, ghee, olive oil, lard, etc)
(Vegetables constitute a category apart, as they contain a lot of fibre, that we are not really able to digest, it doesn't really have an impact on blood sugar and insulin secretion.)

And this is the insulin response to these food categories:
  • carbohydrates: elevated
  • protein: moderate
  • fat: minimal
This means that the less carbs and the more fat we eat, the more fat tissue we lose. No, I'm not crazy.

Many years ago, there were a few things that did not really make sense to me:
  • Farmers know that animals get fat on grains (carbohydrates). Grains became the base of our food pyramid. Why wouldn't this process of "eating grains, builds fat tissue" apply to humans?
  • Why do farmers need to fatten animals if their fat tissue is discarded when we eat them? For what purpose those poor animals need to become fat? Why don't we raise lean animals?

According the NHANES data, fat consumption in the world is decreasing, carbohydrate consumption is in increase. Obesity and related diseases are also in increase. It simply does not make sense to blame our increase in obesity on something that we are eating less and less (fat). Maybe it's something that increased recently in our consumption that is to blame for our modern epidemic. That something is: refined carbohydrates and sugar.

These seemingly innocent foods elevate blood sugar and insulin. One time elevation, does not lead to fat gain and disease. Constantly high levels (for years/decades) lead to fat gain and the development of chronic diseases.


I have patients with different forms of chronic conditions: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, allergies, migraines, infertility, thyroid problems, memory problems, etc.

My goal is to give the body the opportunity to heal. Repair happens when nutrients sensors (one of them is insulin) are down-regulated, when carbohydrate consumption is very low. This is when the body starts to burn fat for energy, and this is when the internal anti-oxidant system (AMPK, autophagy) of the cells is turned on:
  • Burning carbohydrates for energy = quick aging, no repair
  • Burning fat for energy = repair
Many people ask me if it is enough to eat blueberries (anti-oxidant rich) to turn on repair. The answer is: NO. Our own anti-oxidant system (internal) is different from the anti-oxidant from food sources (external). The internal mechanism for repair is much more powerful. We all hold our own repair mechanism. The key is to know how to turn it on.

This diet is difficult at the beginning:
  • We crave carbohydrates and sugar.
  • We have side effects: headache, dizziness, irritability, muscle pain when exercising.
With time, these tend to fade and we slowly start to see the benefits. Moreover, the blood tests results are there to prove it.

Artificial sweeteners

Unfortunately, I do not have a version of this diet that includes desserts. If I had, I'd be really famous by now. Many of my patients first reaction is to ask me about the desserts they can eat. The answer is: their consumption should be limited as much as possible, even if they contain artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Artificial sweeteners elevate insulin (they do not really elevate blood sugar). The blood test results show almost no improvement when we switch to fake sugar consumption.

The sweetest thing I usually recommend, are a few berries (occasionally). In very sick patients, I restrict berries as well.

Tolerance to carbohydrates

Everybody's tolerance to carbohydrates is different. A very easy way to see how much carbohydrates you tolerate: if you gain fat tissue, the amount you are eating is too much for you. For fat tissue loss, we always work on the amount of carbohydrates consumed.

Finally, a nourishing recipe for inspiration: Beef and prawn patties

400g ground beef
5 prawns
2 egg yolks
fresh coriander
salt, pepper, cumin powder

Mix the ingredients and fry in butter.

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