Category Archives: Inflammation

Random musings…

Not every thought that bounces through my head deserves a full post… so here are 10 random thoughts about health and human performance.

1) Get your stress under control… its killing your will-power to make good nutritional decisions.  http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/how-stress-makes-you-crave-food-and-store-fat

2) Shitty bacon sources are shitty because of the health of the animals… not because of the nitrates/nitrites in them.  http://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon

3) Don’t be an askhole…

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4) If you’re going to eat rice, then eat white rice.  No, I don’t care how much fiber is in your brown rice…

5) You’re probably not sleeping enough and not spending enough time in the sun.

6) This woman is really smart, you should watch her youtube videos…  https://www.facebook.com/foundmyfitness?ref=profile

7) While you have to be smart about it… sauna’s are an amazing tool to improve your health and performance.   http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/04/10/saunas-hyperthermic-conditioning-2/

8) Non-resistant starch seems to be helpful for people with screwed up guts but doesn’t seem to provide any added health benefit for people without GI issues.

9) There are 5 superfoods that I try to eat every day:  Animal protein, sweet potatoes, avocado, coconut and kale.

10) We spend way too much time staring at computer screens… and its going to be a huge problem.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22850476

Max Adrenal review

Sometimes we are all our own worst enemy… we know how to make the right choices for our health, performance, etc but let other things get in the way.    As many of you know, I spend most of my day working for a small biotech company in New Hampshire, trying to develop drugs for cancer and autoimmunity.  I also coach multiple Crossfit classes a week, consult people nutritionally for Crossfit, marathons, weight loss, life as a Navy Seal, etc.  Needless to say it’s a lot but no more than most people deal with in reality.  We’re all busy and all have stress in our lives.  Where I become my own worst enemy is when I try to train like a freaking pro-athlete on top of all the other work.  I can handle it for a while but the overall stress has run me down a couple times in the past to the point of needing a complete break from training…

I’ve tried some supplements in the past to extend how far I can push.  BCAA’s and creatine were a big help.  Adding in dense starchy foods was another step in the right direction.  Overall, I still wasn’t feeling quite right though, so I started to play with adaptogens, which are supplements that are supposed to help correct hormonal imbalances related to stress.  Ultimately I decided to try a new supplement from Nova 3 Labs called Max Adrenal.  The purpose of Max Adrenal is to help the body maintain the appropriate response to exercise by helping the body to produce the correct hormonal response to exercise.  In a person who has pushed the gas pedal too hard for too long, the body sometimes stops making the appropriate amounts of cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, etc…  Max Adrenal’s goal is to help restore some hormonal balance OR to prevent you from getting out of whack in the first place.

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-6-57-52-am

Mike Kesthely, creator of Max Adrenal, was kind enough to send me a list of links for every single ingredient that is in his product (there are many).  I’ll list them at the bottom of this post for anyone that wants to have a look through the research.  Overall, I was pretty impressed by the background that went into the selection of supplements in the product.  Many solid studies with well controlled experiments… something that cannot be said for all products in this market.

After taking Max Adrenal solidly for 1 month solidly these are the biggest differences I’ve noticed:

1) Deeper sleep with less frequent disruptions in the last 2 hours of sleep (4am-6am).

2) Fewer days where I have absolutely zero energy to train and have to call it a day before even getting started.  It still happens, but not as often.

3) More energy from 2pm-6pm on a daily basis with less of an afternoon wall.  This generally correlates with the post workout for me as well.  I used to just be an absolute zombie after working out, but its much less of an issue now.

4) Falling asleep much more easily.

5) Improved quality and consistency in the fast lifts.  I still have days where I just cannot get myself firing correctly (like today) but overall this has been happening less than usual despite pushing harder.  Recently, I hit 5 out of 7 snatches at 215 after a solid back squat session.  I can’t give all the credit to Max Adrenal, but I do feel like it was part of the process in making progress.

Now, I’m not saying that Max Adrenal is a wonder drug.  You’ve still got to be smart and take care of the other aspects of your life; meaning  eat cleanly and the appropriate amount, take rest days and get enough sleep to recover from your workouts.  Manage the other stress in your life as best as you can.  What I will say though is that Max Adrenal has let me push that gas pedal harder and longer than I’ve been able to in the past.  I’m looking forward to getting my next shipment soon.

If you want to give it a try, you can use a 20% discount code (MOLLOY20) for the next order with NOVA3.

REFERENCE MATERIAL:

Vitamin A: required for the conversion of cholesterol to steroid hormones

1. http://www.westonaprice.org/ask-the-doctor/steroid-drugs

2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/9/4/36.abstract

Vitamin C: The highest concentrations of vitamin C reside in the eyes, brain and adrenal glands; stress,infection and intense exercise all increase the cellular demand for vitamin C, with studies showing how blood levels of ascorbic acid fall at an increased rate during these time

1. http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/1998/08000/effects_of_ascorbic_acid_on_serum_cortisol_and_the.10.aspx

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19223675

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17616774

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6668225

Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Pyridoxine (B6), Pantothenic Acid (B5): All B vitamins are essential in the Kreb’s cycle for conversion of fat, carbs and protein to energy. Specific to the adrenal cascade, pantothenic acid is required for the production of co-enzyme-A, which is essential for the creation of acetylcholine and pregnenolone. Thiamine is used in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Riboflavin, key in the citric acid cycle, is also a cofactor in the utilization of B6 in the creation of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4320823

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4060684

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10450194

Zinc: Zinc is an essential trace element required for the activity of over 300 enzymes and is involved in most major metabolic pathways. Zinc participates not only in catalytic processes, but also in the structure and stability of some regulatory proteins, as is essential for immune support and testosterone production. Training reduces levels through metabolic use and sweat loss.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17984944

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16338007

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11475319

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9812018

Adrenal/Spleen Extract: Clinical experience has long endorsed the use of glandular extracts to support the activity of the target gland. Glandulars provide peptides and nutrient cofactors which are found in the gland itself when it is healthy and fully functioning, and which are required for the gland to carry out its biological functions. A highly active mineralocorticoid, aldosterone, 19-hydroxy-11-desoxycorticosterone and a sodium-retaining substance have all been isolated from beef adrenal extract. Despite the widespread belief that such peptide cofactors would be destroyed by the digestive process, it’s now known the main route of absorption of amino acids is, in fact, by active transport in the form of peptides, rather than by totally breaking down proteins into individual amino acids. Evidence has also accumulated that many surprisingly large polypeptides and even proteins are directly absorbed by the gut.

1. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v169/n4306/abs/169795a0.html

2. http://reference.medscape.com/drug/adrenal-extract-aortic-glycosaminoglycans-gags-
glandular-products-344579#0

DL-Phenylalanine: DLPA is a depression fighting mixture that combines two forms of the amino acid, phenylalanine. The L-portion of phenylalanine, found in protein-rich foods, bolsters mood-elevating chemicals in the brain, specifically dopamine and nor-epinephrine, while The “D” form of phenylalanine is made synthetically in a laboratory. The mechanism of DL-phenylalanine’s supposed antidepressant activity may be accounted for by the precursor role of L-phenylalanine in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/335027

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2243904

L-Tyrosine: One of the 22 amino acids used in the formation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. It is also involved in the formation of thyroid hormones like triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Supplementation has shown greater efficacy to reduce perception of stress while under stress.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2736402

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7794222

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10230711

Rhodiola Rosea: is a potent adaptogen that has been the focus of much research. Rhodiola provides a buffer to stress-related mental and physical fatigue. Rhodiola contains a glycoside known as salisdroside. This component helps combat anxiety and aging, and has been investigated for use in high-altitude sickness, as it modulates EPO gene expression. Rhodiola suppresses the production of cortisol and increases levels of stress-resistant proteins. Studies have found that it restores normal patterns of eating and sleeping after stress, & combats mental and physical fatigue by affecting RPE (perception to STRESS).

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19500070

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23443221

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20378318

L-Methionine: Methionine belongs to a group of compounds called lipotropics which help the liver to process fat in the body. Once in the liver, methionine is converted into SAM(s-adenosyl methionine); SAMe is known to have a high degree of efficacy in treating various forms of depression. Methionine also converts the stronger and carcinogenic estradiol (E2) into estriol (E3) which is the “good” estrogen as compared to estradiol; imbalance is common in various form of adrenal dysfunction. Methionine supports methylation pathways, which facilitate the conversion of norepinephrine to epinephrine, essential in the adrenal cascade.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20595412

2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/76/5/1151S.abstract

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18950248

Octocasonol: The main component of policosanol, a lipophilic component derived from Cuban cane sugar. While initial studies concentrated on it’s ability to affect cholesterol levels, it also has positive neurological effects specific to reaction time and Ach (acetylcholine) release.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10094851

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754431

Schisandra Chinensis: A vine native to northern China and Eastern Russia, commonly known as Wu Wei Zi, or “Five flavor berry”. Much of the research that ahs been done on Schisandra Chinesis was done in Russia decades ago, hence the popularity with Eastern European athletes. Noted is the ability to both raise and lower cortisol in response to stressors.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21666550

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18515024

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10228607

Bacopa Monnieri: Bacopa (aka Brahmi) is an Indian Ayurvedic herb noted for its use as a nootropic, or “mental focusing & memory enhancing” agent, and also acts protectively in neurodegeneration. It appears to work through enhancing synaptic transmission, and also acts as an anti-oxidant, hence the protective effects.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23788517

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24252493

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18683852

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12093601

Eleutherococcus senticosus: Commonly known as Siberian Ginseng or in Chinese medicine Ci Wu Ju. Although it is not related to true ginseng (Panax ginseng), the name Siberian ginseng became popular based on potential properties similar to Panax ginseng. This adaptogenic herb has both properties of increasing work capacity and immunity. Increased work capacity is thought to be due to increased oxygen efficiency through FFA use. Immunomodulating polysaccharides or saponins isolated from Siberian ginseng stimulate macrophages, promoted antibody formation, activated complement, and increased T lymphocyte proliferation.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21793317

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10641044

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11798012

Magnolia Officinalis: Another herb traditional used in Chinese medicine; the bark contains the polyphenolic compounds honokiol and magnolol, which have been found to have neuroprotective and anxiolytic activity, the latter of which is due to the effect on GABA receptors and the attenuation of cortisol-induced stress perception.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16631734

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11408830

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23924268

Rehmannia Glutinosia: Also known as Yukmijihwang-tang or Chinese foxglove; it contains vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as the active component catalpol. Regarded as a tonic herb and used in TCM for centuries, current well-controlled human data is still lacking. That said, it shows promise as a neuro- protecting agent as well as a nootropic.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18407446

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15635169

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15844838

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17078935

Bupleurum Falcatum: Commonly known as Chinese Thoroughwax, it has been traditionally used to treat disorders of inflammation. One of the active components are saikosaponins; their metabolites have been shown to induce corticosterone activity, hence it use as an adrenal tonic in TCM. It also shows serotonergic and noradrenergic activity, and therefore used as an anti-depressant.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2045012

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19932727

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22450800

Panax Ginseng: Also known as Red or Korean ginseng (not to be confused with Siberian). The predominant pharmacologically active constituents of Panax are ginsenosides; at least 25 of which have been identified and are present in variable amounts and ratios, depending on the particular species. One of the most studies herbal adaptogens in history, its efficacy in treating fatigue, mood, immune system and adrenal issues is second to none.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20737519

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11842896

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16355078

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16401645

Plectranthus Barbatus (Forskolii): Better known as Coleus Forskoli, the active component tis forskolin, which stimulates the cellular production of cAMP. When cAMP increases, a wide range of signaling properties can occur because of it. While much research has ben done on upregulation of cAMP and fat loss, recent research suggests that cAMP affects the function of higher-order thinking in the prefrontal cortex through its regulation of ion channels. Much of the marketed focus has been on the ability to increase testosterone, which plays an integral role in the treatment of adrenal dysfunction.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9029414

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16129715

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1648588

Withania Somnifera: Another Ayurvedic herb, Ashwagandha, aka Indian Ginseng, rivals that of Panax. Ginseng in the amount of positive data available. It shows adaptogenic properties both in attenuating stress perception, altering cortisol, and increasing TTE (time to exhaustion) in trained athletes. The potentially active constituents of ashwagandha include alkaloids and steroidal lactones that together are called withanolides (particularly withaferin A), and preparations are often standardized to their percentage contents of withanolides.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23326093

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22987912

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10956379

Meat as bad for you as smoking???

I’ve received quite a few emails about this report which has become sensationalized by the media.

Meat as bad as smoking

Is it legit or just another piece of garbage study.  I’m going to give you my basic reasoning why I think it sucks and then link you to Mike Kesthely’s thoughts as well.  Mike’s the health/nutrition guy for Optimum Performance Training and the International Fitness Center in Arizona.  He knows his shit.

My thoughts:

1) Their result is a CORRELATION, not a CAUSATION.  There’s a big difference between the two.
2) Their statistics seem pretty suspicious at best.  I see one graph with low, medium and high protein diets with rates of cancer of 9.8, 10.1 and 9.0… there’s no difference there.  Saying that there is a difference is misleading and idiotic.
3) The use of mouse studies in their report… Look, I use mice all the time in my research.  They are very helpful for some diseases, metabolic disease is not one of them.  They are basically built to be foragers of all kinds of food, so force feeding them high levels of protein is non-physiological.  Also, there’s still some shitty statistics here…
4) What they are calling a high protein diet and what people like Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain, Mark Sisson, etc. are recommending are two different things.  Do you really think the people in this study are eating fruits, veggies, nuts seeds and high quality protein?  Or does high protein most likely involve a bunch of fast food.  The last time one of these reports came out that I analyzed, I found that “animal meat based diet” included things like meat on pizza.
 
5) Look at the affiliations of the researchers.  The SENIOR RESEARCHER is the founder and has equity in L-Nutra, a vegan based nutrition system.  Hmmm, perhaps there’s a conflict of interest there…
Anyway, here’s the opinion of a man much smarter than myself:

Dissecting coconuts… the good, the bad and the ugly.

I find the use of “coconuts” in the Paleo diet pretty amusing.  People use coconut milk, coconut oil and drink themselves silly with Coconut water but rarely actually use an actual freaking coconut unless its to hold some boozy drink at a party (not judging… they’re freaking delicious).

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the different aspects of a coconut and decide what is good for us and what we should discard.

Coconut water.

People seemingly either love or hate this stuff.  I personally enjoy the taste of the VitaCoco and Zico brands while others have a really metallic flavor to me.  The good news is that coconut water has a bunch of healthy electrolytes.  The bad news is that it also has a ton of sugar in it as well.  If you’re looking to lose body-fat then you need to stay away from this stuff.

I’ve heard people say its great for post-workout but the problem is that it actually is missing some of the necessary salts that really optimize rehydration.  So I probably wouldn’t use it for that purpose either…  In the end, we probably want to avoid it all together for health purposes.  Social purposes… well that’s another story all-together.

Coconut milk

The base of a thousand amazing different curry recipes out there, coconut milk is one of the most adaptable ingredients in my opinion.  While its creamy and has a unique flavor, it blends well with so many spices as well making it extremely useful.

Nutritionally, its fantastic as well as its loaded with healthy saturated fats like lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides (AKA the oil that people pour into their bulletproof coffee). Sounds great, right?  Well, the problem is all the other shit that goes into the commercial coconut milk that we buy.  MOST brands that you’ll find at the local store have BPA and guar gum in them as well.

The literature on BPA is a little inconclusive but there are enough studies out there linking it to everything from obesity to cancer to make me worry… especially if I was a pregenant mom.  Seriously, look at this review and find me something that isn’t terrifying. One more point, BPA isn’t just in canned coconut milk, its in many other canned products as well…

Guar gum is one of those things that some people have no problem with while others experience intestinal distress from it.  If you’re one of those people, you should avoid common canned coconut milk.

Good news though!  There are a couple of new brands of coconut milk out there that do not put BPA or GG into their products that I would highly recommend.  If you live in a city, you can probably find these at a local store.  If not, then Amazon is your place!

AROY-D and Native Forest

Also, if you have IBD or IBS, you want to avoid coconut milk for additional reasons that are a little beyond the scope of this post.  It has to do with the FODMAP diet if you’re really interesting in learning more.

Coconut Oil

I use coconut oil to cook pretty much everything from sweet potatoes to steaks with.  Why? coconut oil has all those great saturated fats like lauric acid and MCTs as well that I mentioned above.  Lauric acid in general has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

There are different qualities of coconut oil, with the higher end products having a more distinct coconut flavoring.  Overall though, most of the time, the oil itself will not overpower the rest of your food.  I usually get mine in bulk (read: 1 gallon) from Tropical traditions but there are many other great brands out there as well.  I highly recommend integrating coconut oil into your cooking going forward.

Overall, I think coconuts are amazing and extremely helpful as part of your diet.  As with most things, the higher quality products you can get, the less you have to worry about with things like BPA, etc.

Are potatoes a wonder drug for your gut and health???

So in some of the original Paleo books and sites that came out, there was this notion that potatoes should be excluded from your diet.  Most notably, Loren Cordain (THE original Paleo guy) was cited as saying that there are inflammatory aspects to potatoes and that they should be removed to help heal the gut.  He’s right to an extent in that potatoes contain relatively high amounts of glycoalkaloids, which are basically nature’s pest repellants.  What’s interesting though is that most of the glycoalkaloids are concentrated into the skin of the potato, making it easy to reduce the content by peeling them…. simple enough it seems.

The question remains though, is there a good reason even bother eating potatoes outside of taste?  Well, if you’re a very lean active person then they can be a great energy source of course… but not everyone is lean and active as we know.

However, I think there’s another reason to start getting interested in potatoes again, and its all about Resistant Starch which I’ll refer to as RS for simplicity sake.  What is RS?  Good old wikipedia defines it as “starch and starch degradation products that escape from digestion in the small intestine of healthy individuals. Resistant starch is considered the third type of dietary fiber, as it can deliver some of the benefits of insoluble fiber and some of the benefits of soluble fiber.”  Interestingly, potatoes (and to some extent rice) are loaded with resistant starch.

A little bit of background:

RS was discovered in the 80’s and since then a TON of studies have been conducted on its affects on humans and other animals.  Many of these studies correlated RS consumption with improved colon health, improved cholesterol, better glucose control, weight management, improved satiety, and better gut function as it relates to nutrient absorption.  All good things!!!

Anyway, why are there so many studies linking RS to improved health markers? Biologically, we now know that there are specific bacteria in our GI tracts, most accurately the large intestine that use RS as a fuel source.  As the bacteria grow on RS, they produce by-products.  One of the by-products that gets produced by bacteria consuming RS is a short chained fatty acid called butyrate.  Interestingly, epithelial cells of the gut use butyrate as an energy source in many of their normal processes which helps keep them healthy, which in turn keeps your gut intact.  Its absolutely critical to have an intact GI tract to prevent microbial translocation of bacteria.  To state it simply, You want to keep your poo separate from you.”

If you’ve read my author description, you know I’m an immunologist by training and at heart.  So when I came across this HIGH profile paper linking butyrate to the induction of regulatory T cells, I was ecstatic.  Regulatory T cells are one of the immune systems most important ways of preventing autoimmune disease and overt inflammatory disorders.  Remember my post from a few weeks back where I made the argument that obesity is linked to inflammation as well.  Basically, at the end of the day, inflammation is connected to almost every disease you can think of.  What this paper says is that butyrate, produced by specific bacteria in our guts is critical to the formation of these regulatory T cells which prevent inflammation…. AWESOME.

So what’s the take home message???? Having adequate levels of butyrate will likely be extremely helpful for maintaining a healthy gut and overall health.  Most of your butyrate is going to come as a result of eating RS.  I’m not convinced that this can be done with a diet using just fruits and veggies as your carbohydrate source.  Potatoes and rice appear to be a great source of RS, but they require a very specific preparation.  You have to cook them and then let them cool which is a little less than ideal so I’m going to try a couple of other options.

1) I’ve been taking a sodium butyrate supplement for the last 3 weeks or so.  I’ve noticed some subtle changes (less gas, more energy, clearer thinking).  Side note: the pills smell like butter… which isn’t surprising because butter is a great source of butyrate!  One more reason to love Grass Fed butter.

That said, the results could be better still in my opinion so…

2) I’m going to try taking 4 TBSP of Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch every day and see if I can get even better results.  I’ve read several other successful stories using this exact approach so I’m excited to see how it goes.

http://freetheanimal.com/2013/04/resistant-assimilation-resistance.html

http://www.diabetes-warrior.net/2014/01/08/omg-intense-exercise-another-resistant-starch-test/

Anybody else want to give it a try???

 

 

Fructose… what’s the big deal.

I just wrapped up another great seminar down at Crossfit Ad Finem.  Great crew of people and a lot of good questions.  One of the discussions that we had was centered around fructose… whether its evil, neutral, beneficial, etc.  As always, the answer really depends on who we are talking about and what form the fructose is coming in.

At this point, I think I can skip over why high fructose corn syrup is a pretty terrible thing for you to be eating if you’re looking to improve body composition, health and even performance.  If you want to read about it, check out this post:

http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/05/13/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/

So I think its pretty clear that processed sources of fructose, especially high fructose corn syrup are worth avoiding.

But what about fructose from other sources like fruit?  Well for a long time I was one of those people that thought you should limit your fruit intake, especially with something like bananas which are pretty big fructose bombs.  My thinking was that for the body to use the fructose as fuel, it had to be converted into other forms by the liver.  Since the liver preferentially stores fructose over glucose, and fructose cannot be used/stored by muscle tissue, foods with higher levels of fructose would be inefficient energy sources for human performance, especially in post workout conditions.

However, I’ve recently changed that viewpoint to “it depends on who you are.”  A healthy person with good body composition and a healthy liver can almost certainly deal with fructose from fruit based sources.  This was recently shown in a nice study  that fructose consumption resulted in conversion to 50% glucose, 25% lactate, 15% to glycogen and only about 2-3% ends up as fat.  Assuming you’re not going to be using fructose as a workout recovery fuel, that actually looks like a reasonable result.

What the study didn’t address and what I couldn’t find elsewhere in the scientific literature is whether or not those numbers change in a person that has metabolic disease or a less than perfectly functioning liver… and lets be clear, there are a LOT of people with less than perfect liver function.  What we do know though is that higher levels of fructose consumption correlate well with liver dysfunction.

As far as improving performance and/or body composition goes,  most of the top trainers our there are saying, “If you are lean and workout consistently, then a higher level of fructose consumption is safe and healthy… But if you’re overweight and looking to make body composition changes, then you need to limit your fructose intake to about an apple a day.”  In other words, you need to earn your carbs with hard work.

Lastly, here is an EXTREMELY comprehensive list of foods fructose values.  I think many of you would be surprised by what foods are close to the top of this list:

http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000011000000000000000.html allows quickly move

Vitamin D… the world’s easiest supplement

I’m often asked what supplements are worth taking and which ones are junk.  Like many aspects of health, the answer can be specific to each individual.  Oftentimes, people look at supplements as short cuts to improved body composition, athletic performance, etc when the reality is that there are no short cuts.  You have to eat well, get the necessary sleep and exercise appropriately.  Once those three things are in order, there are cases where adding in supplements can be beneficial.  In my opinion, one of the best and easiest supplements to start with is Vitamin D.

Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to:

Muscle weakness, bone pain, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, severe asthma in children, cancer and immune derangement, SEASONAL DEPRESSION… just to name a few.  Obviously those are some pretty serious diseases that we want to avoid.

The bad news is that recent studies indicate that anywhere from 50-75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D… YIKES!  The good news is that improving your vitamin D levels is as simple as spending some time in the sun.  Vitamin D is actually produced by cells in your skin called keratinocytes (and a few other cell types).  The vitamin D produced in your skin then travels systemically throughout the rest of the body, affecting and regulating all kinds of processes.

Sure is easy to get sun in a place like this.... Can I go back please??? Forever...
Sure is easy to get sun in a place like this…. Can I go back please??? Forever…

Of course, many of us don’t live in nice sunny places like the one above, and worse yet are forced to spend our days inside where we get zero natural sunlight.  What is a person to do???  Lets be clear, I think the number one option is to make Vitamin D the natural way by spending time outside.  Avoid getting burned of course, but its the free, safe and enjoyable to be outside.  That said, the body has adapted to other methods of Vitamin D acquisition, notably through absorption through the GI tract.  After absorbing Vitamin D, it travels to the liver where it is converted into calcidiol… the same product produced by your skin and metabolically nothing is different from that point on.

OK, so where can we get vitamin D from besides the sun?  Some foods like wild salmon, mackeral and other fishes are loaded with Vitamin D but ultimately are not going to get the job done by themselves.  An oral supplement is the way to go in my opinion.  I personally use “NowFoods 1000 IU” daily in the winter to help keep my vitamin D levels elevated.  One little pill does the trick and it is safe at that dose.  The only people that may have problems with Vitamin D are people with wool allergies due to the isolation method.  That said, its extremely rare so most people should do just fine.

Winter is coming (OK, its actually here).... so get your Vitamin D supplements.
Winter is coming (OK, its actually here)…. so get your Vitamin D supplements.

Inflammation and obesity

Over the past couple of years, there’s been a conversion in belief that the macronutrient source of food is more important than the quantity of food consumed when it comes to causing obesity.  People like Gary Taubes have basically stated that high carbohydrate diets induce changes in metabolic hormones like insulin which essentially instruct the body to store energy in the form of fat… and he’s right.  In his very popular yet incredibly boring book “Good Calories Bad Calories” Taubes cites studies showing nearly equal weight loss in people consuming high protein diets with either caloric excess or caloric deficit which is a pretty strong argument.

Other very smart people have responded by coming up with groups of people (notably the Kitavans) that eat pretty high carb diets and yet do not have signs of obesity or obesity-related diseases.  Pretty good counterpoint in my opinion as well.

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/08/kitavans-wisdom-from-pacific-islands.html

What gives????? How are these people eating high carb diets and not getting sick?  Well for one, they are relatively active compared to most Western societies.  Additionally, there may be genetic factors at work here as well that cannot be ruled out.  However, another potential explanation is starting to emerge as well.  For years now we’ve known that the human body gastrointestinal tract is literally covered in bacteria that we call “commensals.”  In fact, its estimated that the human body contains 10X the number of bacteria in the GI tract as there are human cells in the rest of the body.  These commensal bacteria grow both off of the food we consume as well as on products from the GI tissues such as mucus.  In turn, our bodies use enzymes produced by the commensal bacteria to help break down and digest the food that we eat into usable energy sources.  This symbiotic relationship is absolutely necessary for optimal health as we’ve recently learned using germ free (AKA bacteria free) studies in mice.

Well, recently we’ve learned that the bacteria that live in our GI tract are extremely responsive to the different types of foods that we eat.  More importantly, these changes in the microbiota may be directly linked to changes in metabolic hormones that are involved in obesity, insulin resistance,  etc.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=comparison+with+ancestral+diets+suggests+dense+acellular

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23768553

The diets of the world we live in appear to modify the bacterial composition of the bacteria that live within our body.  Instead of having benign commensals that really pose no threat to us or are anti-inflammatory, the modern diets induce the outgrowth of a higher percentage of inflammatory bacteria, namely gamma proteobacteria like E.coli and P.mirabilis.  These “inflammatory” bacteria cause activation of the innate immune system causing low-level systemic inflammation which has been linked to everything from autoimmune disease, to allergies, to cancer AND insulin resistance!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Innate+sensors+of+pathogen+and+stress%3A+Linking+inflammation+to+obesity 

Interestingly, the review above also cites studies showing that the innate immune system also seems to be able to sense nutrient excess as well, both through modulation of the microbiome but also through production of ligands that bind to the pattern recognition receptors that normally are built to detect pathogens.

So is it caloric excess or the quality of food that we consume which is responsible for obesity???  The answer (for now) appears to be both.  I love this answer because it fits in so accurately with personal experience with clients.  Most people do just fine by focusing on eating real foods and getting away from processed grains and artificial sweeteners.  However, there are some people that really struggle to lose weight despite eating similar high quality foods.  In my experience, these people are inadvertently eating way more calories than they thought they were… usually in the form of almonds and other nuts.  I’m not saying that ALL of the reason they struggle to lose weight is as a result of the bacterial changes/immune activation but it cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor as well.

At the end of the day, focusing on eating non-processed food  is a great place to start if you’re looking to improve your body composition and overall health.  If you hit struggle to lose weight with this approach, then understanding how many total calories you’re eating is the next step as sometimes we can unintentionally consume way more calories than we really think we are eating.