Gut Feelings–the “Second Brain” in Our Gastrointestinal Systems.

 

 

A primal connection exists between our brain and our gut. We often talk about a “gut feeling” when we meet someone for the first time. We’re told to “trust our gut instinct” when making a difficult decision or that it’s “gut check time” when faced with a situation that tests our nerve and determination. This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe. This information superhighway is called the brain-gut axis and it provides constant updates on the state of affairs at your two ends. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach after looking at your postholiday credit card bill is a vivid example of the brain-gut connection at work. You’re stressed and your gut knows it—immediately.

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The enteric nervous system is often referred to as our body’s second brain. There are hundreds of million of neurons connecting the brain to the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is tasked with controlling the gastrointestinal system. This vast web of connections monitors the entire digestive tract from the esophagus to the anus. The enteric nervous system is so extensive that it can operate as an independent entity without input from our central nervous system, although they are in regular communication. While our “second” brain cannot compose a symphony or paint a masterpiece the way the brain in our skull can, it does perform an important role in managing the workings of our inner tube. The network of neurons in the gut is as plentiful and complex as the network of neurons in our spinal cord, which may seem overly complex just to keep track of digestion. Why is our gut the only organ in our body that needs its own “brain”? Is it just to manage the process of digestion? Or could it be that one job of our second brain is to listen in on the trillions of microbes residing in the gut?

 

gut & brain

 

Operations of the enteric nervous system are overseen by the brain and central nervous system. The central nervous system is in communication with the gut via the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, the involuntary arm of the nervous system that controls heart rate, breathing, and digestion. The autonomic nervous system is tasked with the job of regulating the speed at which food transits through the gut, the secretion of acid in our stomach, and the production of mucus on the intestinal lining. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis, is another mechanism by which the brain can communicate with the gut to help control digestion through the action of hormones.

This circuitry of neurons, hormones, and chemical neurotransmitters not only sends messages to the brain about the status of our gut, it allows for the brain to directly impact the gut environment. The rate at which food is being moved and how much mucus is lining the gut—both of which can be controlled by the central nervous system—have a direct impact on the environmental conditions the microbiota experiences.

cropped-bad-and-good-bacteria

Like any ecosystem inhabited by competing species, the environment within the gut dictates which inhabitants thrive. Just as creatures adapted to a moist rain forest would struggle in the desert, microbes relying on the mucus layer will struggle in a gut where mucus is exceedingly sparse and thin. Bulk up the mucus, and the mucus-adapted microbes can stage a comeback. The nervous system, through its ability to affect gut transit time and mucus secretion, can help dictate which microbes inhabit the gut. In this case, even if the decisions are not conscious, it’s mind over microbes.

What about the microbial side? When the microbiota adjusts to a change in diet or to a stress-induced decrease in gut transit time, is the brain made aware of this modification? Does the brain-gut axis run in one direction only, with all signals going from brain to gut, or are some signals going the other way? Is that voice in your head that is asking for a snack coming from your mind or is it emanating from the insatiable masses in your bowels? Recent evidence indicates that not only is our brain “aware” of our gut microbes, but these bacteria can influence our perception of the world and alter our behavior. It is becoming clear that the influence of our microbiota reaches far beyond the gut to affect an aspect of our biology few would have predicted—our mind.

For example, the gut microbiota influences the body’s level of the potent neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates feelings of happiness. Some of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. for treating anxiety and depression, like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, work by modulating levels of serotonin. And serotonin is likely just one of a numerous biochemical messengers dictating our mood and behavior that the microbiota impacts.

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WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO DO A DETOX BEFORE STARTING A NEW DIET.

 

healthy or unhealthy foods

Whether you’re attempting to get to the root of annoying gut probs, want to try the eating plan your yoga teacher swears gives her more energy, or want to see for yourself whether keto lives up to the hype, there are all sorts of reasons to revamp your diet. But before jumping into a completely new way of eating,

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“When you hear the word ‘detox,’ you might think drug detox or alcohol detox or wheatgrass enemas. That’s not what I’m talking about,”

 

First things first. What exactly does detoxing mean? “It’s how your body gets rid of waste,” let me explain. “If waste builds up, we get sick. The key becomes figuring out how to enhance our body’s capacity to detoxify and get rid of waste while minimizing our exposure to toxins.”

Toxic chemicals—from food, air, the environment—are absorbed by the body every day.  the average newborn baby has 287 known toxins in his or her umbilical cord blood,” This means the mother is exposed to at least this many toxins on a daily basis, “so imagine how many you have been exposed to in your life,”

“The simple truth is that we are living in a sea of toxins and it is destroying our bodies and brains,”  Not one to sugarcoat anything—literally and figuratively speaking.

“The simple truth is that we are living in a sea of toxins and it is destroying our bodies and brains.”

For a healthy person, the body’s detoxing system is like a well-oiled machine. But if you start having digestive issues, your doctor tells you something is up with your liver, or you feel drained constantly, it means there’s a kink in the system. “Also, if you’re overweight, [toxic] environmental chemicals like pesticides and plastics are stored in your fat tissue,” As you lose weight, you need to flush out the toxins that get released from your fat tissue. Otherwise, they can poison your metabolism and impair weight loss.”

Even if you aren’t overweight,  toxicity has been linked to nearly every disease, including Dementia, Heart Disease, Food Allergies, and Digestive Issues.

 

How to detox

Now that you know why detoxing is important, the next question is: How do you do it? Fortunately, it doesn’t involve an all-liquid diet or skipping meals.

First: Identify what toxins you’re putting into your body. It may sound like a no-brainer, but you may be unintentionally exposing yourself to agents harming your body. My advice is to eliminate sugar, grains, processed meat and high-mercury fish, dairy (except for grass-fed ghee and clarified butter), and anything with preservatives for 10 days. “Just see how your body feels,”

Instead, fill up on real, whole foods. “The foundation of your diet should be high-quality protein, fats, and non-starchy vegetables that don’t spike blood sugar or insulin,” Dr. Hyman says. “These are the types of foods that detoxify your body but also reignite your metabolism, calm body-wide inflammation, crush cravings, and fill you up.”

Another way to detox: Get moving. While most people don’t associate exercise with detoxing, Dr. Hyman says they it’s truly an integral part. “This helps your blood and lymphatic circulation do its job,” he says. “Also, detoxing your mind is just as important as detoxing your body, and it’s something rarely talked about,” he says. And we know that working out can boost your happy-making hormones and help quell anxiety.

After 10 days, you’ll be ready to move off the detox and slowly start re-introducing the foods you had cut out back into your diet. That way, you can truly notice what agrees with your body.

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Are You About to Have an Asthma Attack?

Asthma Early Warning Signs

Asthma attacks rarely happen without warning. Before one begins, you might:

  • Not feel hungry
  • Feel tired or have trouble sleeping
  • Cough often
  • Have a headache
  • Get dark circles under your eyes
  • Wheeze and feel very weak or tired when you exercise

Recognize the signs, and you could keep yourself from having an asthma emergency.

 

A Cough That Doesn’t Go Away

Signs of an asthma attack can change from one attack to the next. One time you might have little or no coughing beforehand. The next time, you might have a cough that you just can’t get rid of, especially at night.

An asthma cough is usually dry and hacking. If you have one that doesn’t go away after other cold symptoms are gone, that could point to asthma.

Avoid taking cough medicine to feel better. It won’t help the asthma.

 

Measureable Changes in Your Breathing

A peak flow meter can let you know if an attack is about to happen. Be sure you always know the number that reflects your best breathing.

  • If your peak flow meter shows numbers between 50% and 80% of your personal best, an asthma attack has probably started.
  • A number below 50% means an emergency. Use your rescue inhaler, and call for help right away.
  • Call 911 if you have trouble walking or talking because you’re short of breath, or if your lips are blue or gray. Use your rescue inhaler while you wait for help.

Follow Your Asthma Action Plan

An action plan tells you how to deal with the symptoms of an asthma attack.

  • Based on your peak flow numbers, it shows you what medicines to take and when. It’s important to follow the steps and take your medications exactly as your doctor tells you to.
  • If your symptoms still get worse after you’ve followed your plan, call your asthma doctor. Your plan should have instructions for emergencies, too.

 

Trouble Breathing

During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten, and the airway linings swell.

  • The airways make too much mucus, which can block the air tubes in the lungs.
  • Air gets trapped in the lungs, and it gets hard to breathe.

Wheezing might be the first symptom you notice. But as the attack gets worse, you’ll feel more chest tightness and shortness of breath. Eventually, you might feel like you can’t get enough air.

Posture Changes

When someone is having trouble breathing, he might lean forward, speak in single words instead of sentences, and get very agitated.

As the problem gets worse, he might hunch over with his hands supporting his upper body. This is called the tripod position.

Chest and Neck Retractions

When it’s hard to breathe, the tissue in the chest and neck may sink in with each breath. This is called retraction.

Retractions mean not enough air is getting into the lungs. They’re a sign of a medical emergency. Call 911 or see a doctor right away.

In children, other signs that breathing is getting worse are:

  • Poor appetite
  • Feeling tired
  • Not as active as usual

Blue Lips or Fingernails

Blue or gray lips or fingernails are a sign that there’s not enough oxygen in your blood. The condition is called cyanosis.

If it happens, you need medical help right away. Call 911 as soon as possible

Other Signs of Asthma Emergencies

Get emergency help at once if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble talking
  • Can’t exhale or inhale
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Coughing that won’t stop
  • Pale, sweaty face

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Foods That May Help With Muscle Cramps.

Surprising Things That Raise Your Blood Pressure.

Try to Stomach These Interesting Facts About Your Gut Health.

More and more, the scientific community is finding out ties to our mental and physical health relating to our gut. Turns out what’s going on in digestive tract can have a huge impact on the rest of our bodies – including our brains – giving more meaning to “you are what you eat.”

Keeping a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut is important to maintain overall health and keep cravings for sugary foods at bay. Let’s digest 12 facts about gut health and how it affects you…

1. What Exactly are Gut Bacteria?

Your gut health generally relates to the quality of the bacteria that resides in it, and there are actually about 300 to 500-kinds containing more around 2-million genes,  “Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make what’s known as the microbiota, or the microbiome,” it adds.

No 2-people have the exact microbiota – it’s like a fingerprint, it adds. The bacteria that live in your gut may have the biggest impact on your overall health, affecting everything from how quickly you metabolize foods to your immune response, it adds.

 

2. Mind Your Guts

As we said, there’s more than just your physical health related to gut health. An unhealthy microbiome can go straight to your head and affect your mood,.In fact, there could be a link between depression and gut health, it adds.

Brain chemicals such as serotonin can be produced in lower quantities if your digestive health is compromised, according to the source. Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that has been linked to mood, and many antidepressants are designed to keep levels of this chemical higher. “It may not be the case for every person with these issues, but cleaning up your diet may relieve brain fog, sadness, and low energy,” it adds.

3. You Are What You Eat

It’s really no surprise that what you consume will have an overall impact on you, but your gut health may be affected as well. “When it comes to maintaining your microbiome at its healthiest level, nothing is more important than what you eat and drink,” says FoodRevolution.org.

The good news, adds the source, is that even if you’ve been eating unhealthy foods for your entire life, it’s still not too late to correct it and improve your gut health in the process. “Amazingly, your body can create a new microbiota in as little as 24 hours — just by changing what you eat,” it says. Foods that can have a positive impact include vegetables, grains, and beans, it adds.

4. The Very Fiber of Your Diet

You hear a lot about dietary fiber, and how you should include it in your diet. But why? FoodRevolution.com explains that fiber is “the most crucial ingredient for gut health,” and that having low fiber intake is actually more cause for concern than low protein intake.

The source notes that fiber feeds good bacteria in the gut, and that our microbes extract a lot of goodness from fiber such as energy, nutrients, and vitamins that can boost immunity, reduce inflammation and even aid in weight control. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber (from veggies and whole grains) helps move stool through your system quicker, helping you stay “regular.”

5. Be Pro-Prebiotics

While antibiotics are designed to kill off bacterial infections, they can leave your digestive system out of whack because they’re not particular about what type of bacteria they’re targeting. That means probiotics, which are friendly bacteria, are also decimated.

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that feed probiotics, “help reinoculate your microbiome, and offset the effects of your altered gut flora,” notes Heathline. Examples of prebiotics foods are onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, and legumes, it adds.

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6. Healthy Gut, Healthy Person

If you focus on improving your gut health, you may maintain your overall health more easily, suggests Buzzfeed.com. If you get sick often with colds and other ailments, there’s a good chance your gut flora is out of balance, it adds.

The source explains that 70-percent of your immune system resides in your gut, so it’s clear to see why it can affect other areas of your health. Also, 80-percent of plasma cells that create an important antibody called Immunoglobulin A is produced in your gut, it adds. “So be nice to your gut, and your gut will save you a couple sick days,” it concludes.

7. Chew it Through

In today’s fast-paced world, people often wolf down their lunch or dinner in the name of saving time. However, that won’t do your gut any favors, and could end up slowing you down in the long run by causing indigestion. “Taking time to chew your food actually helps jump-start the digestive process,” says Heathline.

The source notes breaking down foods into smaller pieces through chewing stimulates saliva production, which alerts and readies your body (namely your digestive system) for the coming food. Also, think about your favorite meal and how much better it is when you savor each bite rather than approaching it like a timed race.

8. The Stomach: All Glory, No Guts

Buzzfeed explains that while people often think of the stomach first when it comes to the digestive system, it’s actually the laziest component. “While the stomach is the clear breakout star of your digestive tract, it wouldn’t be anything without its supporting cast,” it notes.

The stomach’s job is primarily to neutralize any harmful bacteria with stomach acid and break down proteins, it adds. Unfortunately, this process also destroys up to 95-percent of the good bacteria you consume. “That’s why you need to make sure you take a probiotic designed to survive your tummy,” it explains. Meanwhile, it’s the small intestine that does the biggest job in digestion and nutrient absorption, says Buzzfeed.

9. Large, But Not in Charge

The large intestine – also known as the colon – is much wider than the small intestine, but also shorter (a mere 6-feet compared to 22-feet), explains LiveScience.com. The large intestine is responsible for the final stages of digestion, which involves removing waste from your body.

The process of eliminating waste – a process medically known as peristalsis – can actually take 36-hours, it adds. The colon is very susceptible to diseases, such as colorectal cancer that “is one of the most common causes of cancer-associated death,” notes the source. It’s important that when you consider the bigger picture of gut health, you get screened for colon cancer and other potential gut problems.

10. Your Guts Have Some Nerve

your digestive tract has its own nervous system (and can function independently without direction from the brain). This system is called the enteric nervous system, which the source calls “the overlord of your gut, and functions all on its own.”

The scientific community seems to be split whether it’s part of the central nervous system or its own entity, says MentalFloss. It may have evolved to handle the elimination of waste without the “sign-off” from the brain, which is especially helpful when you consider an infant and their inability to decide when they should go potty, it adds.

11. Just How Acidic is Stomach Acid?

A learning website called Wonderopolis.org breaks down how powerful your stomach acid really is – and it’s a wonder it doesn’t burn a hole right through you. This acid, obviously intended to break down food, is strong enough to destroy metal, according to the source.

Acidity ranges from 0 to 14-on the pH scale, with stomach acid ranging from 1 to 3 – about as strong as battery acid, it adds. “In fact, if you were to put a drop of stomach acid on a piece of wood, it would eat right through it,” notes the site. The only thing keeping this acid from eating your stomach are epithelial cells, which produce a mixture of mucus and bicarbonate to form a coat of armor, it adds. Sometimes, stomach acid can overwhelm these natural defenses, and in those cases you’ll possibly end up with an unpleasant gastric ulcer.

12. Don’t Be Sour About Sauerkraut

Do you avoid sauerkraut, cheese, and beer? Well, unless you have a good reason, then maybe you shouldn’t. These are all fermented foods, and fermented products “can also be a key component of a diet that fuels gut health,” explains FoodRevolution.org.

Fermented foods provide “healthy, living microorganisms” that crowd out bad bacteria and help improve absorption of minerals, it adds. Not only does eating fermented foods help your body get all the good stuff from it, but the fermentation process itself adds more nutrients to foods, it explains.

 

A Visual Guide to Asthma.

THE KETO DIET IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!

The latest low-carb diet trend is merely a rehash of fad diets past.

The latest — or maybe just loudest — diet obsession transfixing the internet says it will help you lose weight, live longer, and improve your memory. Sounds great, you say? Except that these benefits will only bloom once you cut carbohydrates. Familiar story, right? The Atkins diet is back? We’re all gonna start eating eggs and bacon for every meal again until our cholesterol inevitably reaches code-red levels?

No, this new obsession is not Atkins. It’s the ketogenic diet, lovingly called “keto,” popularized by actorsInstagram stars, and the same people who brought you raw water.

If you believe a diet is supposed to be a varied landscape of all the things the world has to offer in moderation, keto may not be the diet for you. Let’s find out if science says it’s worth it.

WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET?

The history of keto goes much farther than an attempt to stem weight gain during our fat-fearing era. In 1921, it was observed that fasting decreased incidence of seizure in epileptic patients. The same year, reports noted cognitive improvement and reduced seizure activity in epileptics who fasted for two to three days (fasting has been used as far back as 500 B.C. to treat epilepsy).

Around the same time, it was discovered that the metabolic change caused by fasting that controlled seizures also occurred when a patient stopped eating carbohydrates. It was then that an endocrinologist named Dr. Rollin Woodyatt had a scientific breakthrough: he found that the compounds acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid were detectable in high levels in fasting patients (to be fair, they can also be present in urine in low levels normally, and things like dehydration can trigger a false positive test). These compounds are classified as ketones, produced via the metabolic state of ketosis, which occurs when an elevated level of ketones are produced as a result of the body using fat for fuel as stored carbohydrate is depleted.

THE KETOGENIC DIET KEEPS COMING BACK INTO THE LARGER CONSCIOUSNESS, TO THE CONSTERNATION OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic created a formula that manipulated the ketogenic effect that came with complete fasting by instead limiting a patient’s intake of carbohydrates. This was the genesis of the ketogenic diet. To manage childhood epilepsy, the prescribed diet consisted of one gram of protein per kilogram of body mass — a max of 15 grams of carbs — and the rest of the calories from fat. Et voila: the ketogenic diet was born.

A strict version of the diet is still used to manage drug-resistant epilepsy. But it’s fallen out of favor because the success rate of a large suite of readily available anti-epileptic medications. It’s been observed that children on this diet for epilepsy don’t generally become overweight and tend to lose some weight in the first few months on the diet, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Children on keto tend to have higher cholesterol than other children in their age range and there can be some nasty side effects, including kidney stones. Due to the public’s appetite for miracle weight-loss cures, however, the diet keeps coming back into the larger consciousness, to the consternation of medical professionals.

HOW KETO WAS REBORN AS ATKINS WAS REBORN AS KETO

In 1997, a book titled Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution climbed up the bestseller list for five years after it was first published (this edition of Diet Revolution was little more than a cosmetic overhaul of Dr. Robert Atkins’s 1972 book, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which didn’t quite revolutionize diets in the way publishers hoped).

But this time around, America was primed for Atkins’s theory that it wasn’t fat but carbohydrates that caused weight gain. Food manufacturers and consumers had cut fat from their diets but obesity rates continued to rise; something was due to be the new culprit for our weight woes. Dr. Atkins was further vindicated by 2002 article by the science journalist Gary Taubes in The New York Times Magazine. “If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it,” Taubes wrote. “They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along.”

At one point in the early 2000s, approximately 10 percent of the country was on a low-carb diet. That’s insane. What’s more, people actively started avoiding carbs even if they weren’t on a diet. “A year ago, if you asked consumers what they watch, 11 percent would have said carbs,” Michael Polk, the chief operating officer at Unilever-Best Foods, told The Times. “Today if you ask, 40 percent of consumers say they are watching carbs. In our opinion, this has evolved into a major shift in consumer behavior.” Atkins was able to build an industry out of his diet advice: Atkins Nutritionals, which cranked out low-carb meals and snacks, was at one point valued at approximately half a billion dollars.

AT ONE POINT IN THE EARLY 2000S, APPROXIMATELY 10 PERCENT OF THE COUNTRYWAS ON A LOW-CARB DIET.

So why did Atkins fall out of favor? Well, the diet’s delightful side effects could include fatigue, constipation, excessive thirst, bad breath, the dreaded meat sweats, and worst, the look your friends would give you when you said you were on Atkins. There was also the fact that the diet wasn’t really sustainable (kinda like most diets, funnily enough). In 2003, a pair of studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most of the weight one initially lost while following Atkins was water weight; and subjects who followed the diet typically gained back any lost weight in six months.

Atkins Nutritionals filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005, a year after the doctor died after falling on an icy New York City sidewalk. Still, Atkins had a long-lasting impact on the dietary landscape in America. “Sugar free” and “low carb” labels never left the snack aisle. People still fell back on the idea that to lose weight, one simply had to cut carbs. But all the while, obesity rates climbed from 30 percent up to 39 percent of the country, priming the stage for another diet “revolution.”

THE RISE OF THE KETO GURUS

Losing weight has become a challenge to be solved through innovation, and the new diet gurus don’t take kindly to the scientific method. It’s in line with Dr. Atkins’s legacy; he was a huge proponent of alternative and unproven medical treatments beyond just his ideas about nutrition. You almost can’t blame him or the other diet gurus for leaning in on the techno-bullshit market; it’s hard to fill up a 300 page diet book on “eat a bit less and find a type of exercise that doesn’t make you hate life.”

Dave Asprey is one such tech guy-turned-low-carb guru. Asprey is now the CEO of Bulletproof 360, which sells butter-larded coffee and myriad supplements to the masses — and which raised $19 million in Series B funding last year. Over the past two decades, Asprey says he’s spent $1 million to “biohack” his body, turning it into a fat-burning machine and even increasing his IQ by 20 points. (Asprey has also said that he blocks waves out of his cells with glasses and takes supplements to help with the “low oxygen high EMF [electromagnetic field] environment” on airplanes, so.)

I’ll give Asprey this: people have told me that the buttered coffee tastes okay and makes them feel energetic. The coffee is also, of course, keto-approved:

“The Bulletproof Diet uses ketosis as a tool, but tweaks it for even better performance,” goes a blog post on the Bulletproof website. “It is a cyclical ketogenic diet, which means you eat keto for 5 to 6 days a week and then do a weekly protein fast, which lowers inflammation and kickstarts fat-burning. This is much better for your body and spurs weight loss even more.”

But about that weight loss.

Between the butter and the so-called “Brain Octane Oil” that are part of the Bulletproof coffee recipe, any increased energy one feels after consuming it could have something to do with the nearly 500 calories of fat that are in it. As has been pointed out, those calories displace other more nutrient-dense sources of fuel. Asprey also claims that his coffee is better for you because it doesn’t contain mycotoxins, i.e. toxins produced by fungi. Though it’s true that mycotoxins can be dangerous for your health, the possibility of any roasted coffee available on store shelves containing mycotoxins is slim to none. It’s like slapping “this coffee was not made with white rhino horn” on the label.

CALORIES STILL MATTER

Keto devotees sometimes brag about how they eat more on the diet than ever before and still lose weight. On keto, their bodies have turned into fat-burning machines that give the finger to the laws of thermodynamics, or something.

Let’s hold up a sec. Allow me to introduce you to the DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial, published in February 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. DIETFITS, which stands for Dietary Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success, succeeded in busting a slew of dietary theories. Microbiome is responsible for everything? Nope. Predisposition to success on one diet based on genetics? Nah. Low carb over low fat? Uh-uh.

Over the course of a year, 609 participants were randomly sorted into low-fat or low-carb diet groups. They were given instruction on healthy habits and choices, along with practical advice on how to stick to the diets to which they had been assigned. Additionally, and possibly most importantly, they were instructed to keep their caloric intake limited similarly in both groups.

It’s fairly common that, initially, low-carb dieters see more weight loss. This is because glycogen molecules bind with water, and once you’ve burned through your most readily available source of energy, you’re also down a few pounds of water weight. Over time, that weight loss of the low-carb group evened out with the low-fat one; there was ultimately just a 1.5 lbs difference in weight loss between the two groups — the low-fat group lost an average of 11.7 lbs the low-carb group 13.2 lbs. This is a difference reflective of which group took a shit before or after going for their final weigh-ins.

IT’S FAIRLY COMMON THAT, INITIALLY, LOW-CARB DIETERS SEE MORE WEIGHT LOSS. BUT IT DOESN’T LAST.

A few variables were tested in conjunction with weight loss. One was initial insulin secretion, specifically to see if it had any affect on loss in each diet group. It did not. They had also checked a few genetic markers that were suspected to give dieters pre-dispositions to success either on low fat diets or low carb diets based on previous studies. However, genetics were shown to have no effect.

But the most important takeaway from the study is that similar numbers of participants lost and gained similar amounts of weight in both groups. As Examine.com shows in its analysis of the study, charts comparing weight loss (or gain) from each group are almost identical.

In the beginning of the study, all participants were instructed to consume either ≤20 g of fat (if in the low-fat group) or ≤20 g of carbs (if in the low-carb group) for the first two months, after which they could increase either their fat or carb intake to levels they felt they could sustain indefinitely. By the end of the trial, the vast majority had not been able to maintain such low levels. The final dietary recalls reported an average daily fat intake of ≈57 g (low-fat group) and an average daily carb intake of ≈132 g (low-carb group).

Part of what makes a diet work in the long run, of course, is a person’s ability to stick with it, and most diets that cut out an entire food group or macronutrient are not sustainable.

Curiously, this study was funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), a group with the aim of producing “conclusive results in the next decade” in a sometimes confusing nutritional landscape. They claim our nutritional guidelines are “based on inconclusive science,” and though their website doesn’t directly indicate any bias, their research so far focuses on the effects of carbohydrates on obesity. This was the second published study that received funding from the institute. In the first study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016, researchers hypothesized that a low-carbohydrate diet increased energy expenditure. Results said otherwise:

The carbohydrate–insulin model predicts that the KD would lead to increased EE, thereby resulting in a metabolic advantage amounting to ~300–600 kcal/d. Our data do not support EE increases of that magnitude. (…) In summary, we found that a carefully controlled isocaloric KD coincided with small increases in EE that waned over time. Despite rapid, substantial, and persistent reductions in daily insulin secretion and RQ after introducing the KD, we observed a slowing of body fat loss.

In layman’s terms: people burned marginally more calories at first, but there wasn’t evidence that the diet increased caloric burn in the long term.

I suppose it’s not a surprise that, per an investigation from Wired, NuSI seems to be having trouble scrounging up financial backing lately.

KETO AND LOW-CARB NOW HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM AS LOW-FAT

Remember those insanely awful Snackwell’s cookies and the chips that gave you anal leakage? We were willing to suffer so much for the price of “weight loss.” Snackwell’s. Christ.

We soon learned that low-fat diets only work if a dieter is also controlling their calories. Five thousand calories of broiled dried out chicken breasts, kale, or anal-leakage chips is still 5,000 calories. Low-fat content or not, those calories add up.

Low-carb has become the new low-fat. During the early Atkins era, snacks included cucumbers, beef jerky, and pork rinds. Now there’s a wealth of low-carb snacking options; there are junk-foody low-carb recipes all over Pinterest; a low-carb aisle at the grocery store. There are low-carb replacement foods and ingredients for low-carb replacement foods. It’s Snackwell’s 2.0.

REMEMBER SNACKWELL’S? LOL.

Want candy but you don’t want to stray from keto? A low-carb peanut butter cup has about the same calories, gram per gram, as a Reese’s. Want to slap all that bacon between something other than lettuce wraps? Some low-carb bread will run you $7.99 per loaf whereas bread that doesn’t taste like sadness with the same number of calories per slice is generally about half the cost. How about chocolate? A chocolate brand that boldly calls itself ‘The Good Chocolate’ is sweetened with a sugar alcohol commonly associated with some nasty gastrointestinal effects when consumed excessively. It’s also $8 for a 2.5-oz bar, and about as calorically dense as a Hershey’s bar. Low-carb flour? Not surprisingly, it costs more than normal old flour, and the more expensive one has more calories.

BACON: A BALANCED BREAKFAST?!

Here’s the thing: Low-carb diets absolutely have a track record of working. A 2017 study in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviewsshowed significant weight loss, improvement of health markers related to diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol in participants who followed the diet for 10 weeks. If you have been advised to lose weight by your trusted medical professional and your doctor or dietitian says this is appropriate for you, a low-carb diet can help you lose weight.

But low-carb diets don’t work because of how people seem to think they work — more specifically, through something called the “insulin hypothesis,” which says that removing carbohydrates from your diet stabilizes insulin and blood sugar levels, subsequently increasing your metabolism and reducing your hunger. This hypothesis has failed several studies. A review study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017 reported it as “carefully controlled inpatient feeding studies whose results failed to support key [carbohydrate-insulin] model predictions.” Sad.

common belief among keto devotees is that your body not only switches to burning fat on keto but that a low-carb, high-fat diet turns you into a “fat-burning machine.” Now that you’re not eating pizza crust, your body is going to burn through all of its own fat, calories and laws of thermodynamics be damned. But you don’t magically burn off your love handles just because you changed your fuel source. As much as the three macronutrients have different uses in the bodies, when it comes to gaining and losing weight, calories are calories are calories.

Someone trying to follow the keto diet to a letter may not even go into the much-desired state of ketosis. Sure, you can buy those little piss strips that react to ketones in your urine to reassure you that you’re “in ketosis,” but you’re probably wasting your money. Ketones are present in low levels in your urine even if you’re not on a ketogenic diet. Measuring ketones via blood is far more accurate (if not overly invasive for a diet), but to measure them for weight loss in the first place is borderline useless, especially in urine.

One of the most extraordinary claims in Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution was the metabolic advantage hypothesis, which theorizes that the inefficiencies in the fat-burning process caused an energy advantage (in layman’s terms, it was hypothesized that using fat for fuel causes you to burn more calories). Unfortunately, a 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that calorie per calorie, you’ll lose the same amount of weight on both a ketogenic diet and a reduced calorie, controlled carb (but not ketogenic) diet. Amazing what you can get people to believe when you sell some books.

Studies also contradict the claim that the ketogenic diet will help your Crossfit performance, or whatever. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports that a low-carb diet inhibited cardiovascular performance. Want to check that half marathon off your bucket list? Science says eat your carbs. Multiple studies have shown similar results. The best news I can tell you about keto is that a 2017 Journal of Human Kinetics study said that it can help maintain a lower body weight, which can help athletic performance. But the study also said that “some aspects regarding the effects of long-term LCHF diets in athletes are still unexplored and in need of investigation, including (…)Strength, power, psychological status, and perceptual-motor performance after weight loss.” So, take that with a grain of low-carb salt.

SO WHAT DO I EAT?

You could pick any of the countless diet books on the market, follow their plan to the last calorie, and lose weight. This is because — as study after study has shown — calories and dietary adherence matter more than anything for weight loss. You can gain or lose weight on any combination of foods. People have lost weight on twinkies, McDonalds, juice, plants, and obscene amounts of meat.

It’s important to remember weight loss alone doesn’t necessarily cause all health markers to improve, and a diet causing weight loss does not mean it’s appropriate and healthy for everyone. Some foods are better than others at making weight loss and maintenance easier for different people, so balancing a diet is a fairly personalized thing. If your doctor gives you the green light and keto works for you, do it. If low fat works for you, do it. If plant-based, paleo, Mediterranean, or one of the zillion other diets help you improve your health and your relationship with food? Do it. There’s no one right way to eat for everyone, just as there is no miracle diet plan for weight loss.

Ranking Every Kind of Cooking Oil by How (Un)healthy They Are!

Olive oil? Coconut oil? Hemp Seed Oil? Here’s which is least likely to blow up your heart.

Most of us regard cooking oil as nothing more than a means to a non-sticking end. But (and this is a big, prepare-to-gag kind of but) the average American consumes a whopping 36 pounds of cooking oils per year — more than three times as much as in the early 1970s. These oils contributed more than 400 calories to our daily diet in 2010 (the Census Bureau suspiciously quit collecting data on how much fat and oil companies produce in 2011, meaning the Department of Agriculture can no longer use that data to accurately calculate how many calories cooking oil contributes to the average American diet).

All of this cooking oil isn’t exactly doing us any good, either: Physician and biochemist Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, estimates that, at this point in time, roughly 45 percent of the average American’s calories come from refined oils. She’s also told me time and time again that consuming too much vegetable oil (an umbrella term for plant-based oils) can result in fatty liver diseaseinsulin resistance and migraines.

The lesson here: Cooking oils play a massive role in our overall health, which means choosing healthy oils is a bright idea if you expect to continue living for as long as humanly possible. To help us all make better choices, I asked Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and my go-to source for all nutritional queries, to help me rank every popular cooking oil by how healthy they are.

But first, here’s a quick explanation for our ranking: “I ranked these based on their fatty-acid profiles: How much saturated fat, unsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and medium chain triglycerides they contain,” Hunnes explains.

Generally speaking, unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are regarded as healthier than saturated fats, since they lower cholesterol, and therefore, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. But while the consumption of saturated fat has traditionally been linked to heart disease, it’s worth noting that science continues to go back and forth in regard to whether or not saturated fats are actually healthy. As for medium chain triglycerides, these are linked to increased enduranceweight loss and lowered cholesterol, so they’re totally good for you.

With that as our guide, let’s rank some oils…

1. Flaxseed Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil and Hemp Seed Oil (tied): “These contain fairly high doses of omega-3 fatty acids from plant-sources, which are extremely healthy for us,” Hunnes explains, since omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and control blood pressure. “They also contain good doses of monounsaturated fats, which likely reduce cholesterol.”

There’s a catch, though: Flaxseed oil, pumpkin seed oil and hemp seed oil all have relatively low smoke points — the temperatures at which an oil starts to burn and smoke — meaning they fare better in dressings, spreads and marinades than on the stovetop or in the oven.

2. Sesame Oil: “Sesame oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants,” Hunnes says. “It might also help reduce cholesterol.” Sesame oil also has a high smoke point (410 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning it’s well-suited for cooking at higher temperatures.

3. Avocado Oil: “Avocado oil is extremely high in oleic acid [which protects against cardiovascular disease],” says Hunnes. “It’s even better for you than olive oil: It’s an anti-inflammatory and may help reduce cholesterol.” Avocado oil also has an even higher smoke point than sesame oil (520 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning it’s great for frying foods.

4. Canola Oil, Olive Oil and Peanut Oil (tied): “All of these are high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants,” Hunnes explains. “They can also be relatively good anti-inflammatories.” Hunnes also says that canola oil and peanut oil are better suited for high-temperature cooking than olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.

Speaking of which: The difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, if you were wondering, is essentially that extra virgin olive oil is less processed, meaning it’s both slightly healthier and more flavorful. As such, extra virgin olive oil is best in dressings, spreads and marinades, while regular olive oil works better for general cooking and sautéing.

5. Sunflower Oil: Hunnes explains that sunflower oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are good for the heart when consumed in moderation. Sunflower oil also contains no saturated fat, but has a relatively low smoke point.

6. Corn Oil: “Corn oil contains good levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and decent amounts of monounsaturated fats,” Hunnes says. “It may help reduce cholesterol.” Corn oil also has a high smoke point.

7. Pam Non-Stick Cooking Spray: “Pam is a combination of canola, palm and coconut oil, so it contains monounsaturated and saturated fats,” Hunnes explains. “But since you typically don’t use too much of it, it’s not overly bad for you. Although, it also contains dimethyl silicone (an anti-foaming agent) and a few other stabilizers, so I think you’d be better off putting a mixture of oils in a spray bottle of your own.”

8. Coconut Oil: “This has a high amount of medium chain triglycerides, so it’s good for people who have some trouble absorbing fats due to certain medical conditions,” says Hunnes. “However, it’s also fairly high in saturated fat, so it may possibly increase your total cholesterol.”

It’s worth noting, too, that Harvard epidemiologist Karin Michels recently called coconut oil “pure poison” and “one of the worst foods you can eat” during a lecture on nutrition — because it contains such high levels of saturated fat — which has since sparked outrage among both Americans and Indians (who live in a country where coconut oil is a dietary staple). Who’s right remains unclear, but one thing’s for sure: Cooking oils, especially those high in saturated fat (like coconut oil), should be used sparingly.

9. Palm Oil: “This is terrible for the environment and the habitats of orangutans in Indonesia,” Hunnes emphasizes. “If you must use palm oil, look for certified humane (non-conflict) palm oil.” On a more personal level, palm oil is also high in saturated fat.

10. Vegetable Oil: While vegetable oil can be used as an umbrella term for all plant-based oils, like I mentioned earlier, Hunnes explains that it can also be used by companies (on ingredient labels) as a generic term for trans fats, which are terrible for you. “There’s nothing redeeming about trans fats,” Hunnes says. “They definitely increase cholesterol levels and cause inflammation.”

And here I thought vegetables were healthy.

Health and Beauty Uses for Baking Soda.