Food Is Not Your Enemy

Artificial Sweeteners Are Making You Sick and Fat

“Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes, researchers are reporting.”

So began a recent article in The New York Times that delved into why it may not be the best idea to recommend artificial sweeteners as a way to help prevent and/or manage diabetes.

The researchers, using mice and then humans in their experiments, found that Sweet’N Low, Splenda, and Equal all altered the population of bacteria in the digestive system. And this altered “microbiome” then led to changes in the metabolism of glucose—the test subjects’ blood sugar rose higher after eating and decreased more slowly than it did prior to the introduction of the artificial sweeteners into their system. After only one week, the mice given the sweeteners developed a “marked intolerance to glucose,” which is the precursor to such conditions as metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. When the scientists gave the mice antibiotics to kill much of the bacteria in their digestive systems, their glucose intolerance disappeared.

More and more research is demonstrating just how important our gut bacteria is. The right mix of bacteria leads to a stronger immune system and better digestion, for instance, while the wrong bacteria can lead to illness and obesity.

To help the good bacteria proliferate in your gut, move away from not just artificial sweeteners but also sugar, poor-quality fats, junk food, and chemical additives to food; and eat more fermented foods like plain yogurt or kefir, veggies (green veggies in particular), fruits, healthy fats, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Your intestines—and your whole body—will thank you.

Body Acceptance, or Habit Acceptance?

The U.S. is a very contradictory culture when it comes to food and weight. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to eat at every turn, and given enormous, calorie-laden portions when we eat out in restaurants. On the other, the media consistently sends us messages that we’re too fat, either by lionizing very very thin women or by pushing fad diets on us on the cover of every magazine.

And then from another direction comes the directive to “love your body.” Those behind this well-meaning message encourage us to accept that we’ll never be the size of a runway model, that being that thin is unnatural, and that instead of dieting we should just be happy with what we’ve got.

While I support the idea that we should love ourselves and that we need to stop obsessing about fitting into a size that’s unrealistic for our body type, I do want to raise this question: Should we love our body as it is, unconditionally, if our weight is jeopardizing our health?

Is the excuse “I’m just a big girl/boy” valid if you’re 50 or more pounds overweight, diabetic, not exercising, and eating candy, ice cream, and fast food every day? If you think it is, I would argue that you’re not loving your body in this case–what you’re loving and defending are your habits. When people are truly overweight by medical measures or have type 2 diabetes, it’s rarely a mystery why. I’ve worked with several clients who are diabetic and their food tells the story: When they first come to see me more often than not they eat fast food several times a week if not every day, they eat sweets a few times a day, and they don’t exercise. If you really love your body, then why not think about changing your habits, and honoring your body by providing it with healthy food and movement that will help it flourish and feel good? And if, after altering your habits for the better, you feel the best you’ve ever felt but still can’t wear Victoria or David Beckham’s clothes, then you’ll know your body is in a good place and you should let it be where it is.

So yes, love your body. But show that love by honoring it, and treating it like it deserves to be healthy. Because it does.

Fourth Graders Shocked By Sugar
January 19, 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Sweets | Tags: , , , , ,

Last week I taught all the fourth grade science classes at P.S. 321 in Brooklyn about sugar. They already knew a lot about why sugar isn’t so good for us–in every class, someone raised their hand to say that their father/uncle/grandmother has diabetes and has to give themselves shots every day. One girl said her dad lost both his legs because of diabetes. The kids also talked about rotting teeth and feeling hyper from too much sugar.

What really shocked them, though, was how much sugar is in so many of the foods they like. I measured out 30 teaspoons of sugar and put it into a cup, showing them that this is the amount of sugar that the average American eats every day. They couldn’t believe it, and shouted out things like, “I don’t eat that much sugar!” But then the science teacher and I had them measure out the amount of sugar in a bottle of Vitamin Water, a bottle of Snapple, and a bottle of Orange Crush soda. The kids’ eyes widened with surprise as they saw the hills of sugar in front of them–eight teaspoons of sugar in the supposedly healthy Vitamin Water, 13 teaspoons in the Snapple, and 21 teaspoons in the Orange Crush. Suddenly they saw just how easy it is to consume even more than 30 teaspoons of sugar a day, just from their drinks.

Many of the kids seemed to be grossed out by what they discovered. Here’s to hoping they remember that feeling next time they’re choosing a drink with their lunch.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Proves to Be Worse Than Sugar

This is big: a new study has shown that high-fructose corn syrup does in fact cause greater weight gain than sugar, and also leads to dangerous changes in the body. According to

“Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, researchers at the University of California who conducted the trial, said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.

Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat.”

Save Money by Eating Your Way to Good Health

“At first blush, the notion of eating our way out of huge public health challenges like obesity, diabetes and heart disease may seem an overly simplistic and idealistic fix for complex, multifaceted problems. But health experts say that, in fact, an apple a day does keep the doctor away, and that many studies prove it.”

Nice affirming news from The New York Times. Companies like Safeway are realizing that health care costs are getting out of control, and are now focusing on preventative care. So many of today’s “expensive” diseases–obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer–are tied to diet and lifestyle choices and are quite preventable. And so, the reasoning goes, if an employer can encourage its workers to eat things like vegetables and whole grains instead of Doritos and McDonald’s, costs for health insurance will ultimately go down or at least stabilize. And it’s working.

The article acknowledges that it’s easier said than done to make dietary and lifestyle changes. There’s so much conflicting info about nutrition out there–which should you listen to?

That’s why I do what I do. As a holistic nutrition counselor, I help my clients discover what works for them, and I support them every step of the way–holding them accountable, but also serving as their biggest cheerleader. You can make lasting changes. And you don’t have to do it alone.