June 2003 Newsletter
Dear Friends and Patients:
The U. S. government finally announced that OBESITY is the number one epidemic in the United States, affecting over 50% of the population. It charged the fast-food industry to make its offerings healthier with lower calories, remove the saturated/hydrogenated fat, and to make portion sizes smaller. It is ironic that in the most prosperous nation in the world we are also one of the sickest populations when it comes to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure, all of which are impacted by diet and obesity.
For over 25 years I have seen patients who truly have tried to lose weight. Many of them had been on diets which temporarily allowed them to lose weight, but then they would regain weight and become even more overweight than before starting the diet. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there about how to lose weight in a healthy manner and keep it off permanently.
Fake Food, Fake Bodies
In this era of microwave meals and fast food restaurants, people are eating highly processed foods and literally tons of “fake” food, loaded with calories and saturated fat, and empty on nutrition. A breakfast of coffee and donuts is just one example. The problem is the body must use what you give it in order to rebuild itself on a daily basis, and over time, the inferior building materials will allow illness and disease to occur. Many Americans are trading convenience for health.
Which is the Right Diet?
Everyone has heard of the Adkin’s diet (high protein, unrestricted fat, low carbohydrate) and most people have heard of high-carbohydrate, low fat, limited protein diets as proposed by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). People lose weight on both, but for different reasons. I have come to the conclusion that there is no “one right diet” for everybody, and that a person’s diet must be custom tailored to their specific health problems, genetics and exercise level.
Do Calories Count?
When you restrict your calories below your basal metabolic rate, you will lose weight. Right? Yes, and no. When you drop below roughly 800 calories per day, your metabolism slows to conserve energy and your body becomes more efficient at storing and keeping fat. This is why on a severely calorie restricted diet people’s weight plateaus and they don’t lose weight forever. Then they get discouraged and get off the diet, and gain weight beyond their original weight (their metabolisms are now slower than before up to several months). This is why people who have tried multiple calorie restricted diets have difficulty and get fatter as they get older, and this can be difficult to reverse.
Is Fat the Enemy?
If you listen to the advocates of the Adkin’s diet, almost all of them lose weight and are able to keep it off. They eat unrestricted amounts of saturated fat from bacon, ham, butter, etc.. Calories, for the most part, are unrestricted, so you don’t get the slow down in the metabolism. Protein is not efficiently turned into fat by the body, but excess protein can stress the liver and kidneys in some cases. You are not hungry on an Adkin’s diet due to the hunger blunting effect of ketones, which come from the body’s fat being broken down. If low fat was the answer, then the
Adkin’s diet shouldn’t work, and everyone eating Lean Cuisine type of meals should be skinny and have low cholesterols. So obviously replacing fats with carbohydrates is not the answer. I have a concern about all the saturated fats the Adkin’s diet allows. It’s not a question of high fat but what type of fat (needs to be a large portion of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, totally avoid hydrogenated fats which are harmful). The Eskimos eat large amounts of fat in their diets from seafood, especially salmon. They have one of the lowest incidences of heart disease in the world.
The ADA type of diets work some of the time, but results are dependent on what type of carbohydrate is being consumed and calorie content. The problem with this type of diet is that we are becoming a nation of diabetics, heart patients and cancer victims because there are 2 types of carbohydrates (simple and complex).
So what is the real answer?
Sugar: How Sweet it Isn’t!
The average per capita consumption of sugar and high fructose corn syrup products is over 150 pounds per year for every man, woman, and child in this country! Just pick up any processed food item at your grocery store, including baby formula, read the label and you will see high fructose corn syrup added to it. The corn industry in this country is huge.
Eating sugar and refined carbohydrates (including the “healthy” ones such as honey or molasses) results in a rapid release of glucose into your blood stream. Insulin, a hormone secreted by your pancreas gland, is secreted to drive the glucose into your cells and tissue where it can be used for fuel. Excess glucose stresses the system, and over time, the cells become less responsive to insulin. We call this condition INSULIN RESISTENCE. The sugar, unable to go into your cells as fuel and be burned, is then stored as FAT. This can worsen on a high carbohydrate diet if the wrong kind of carbohydrates are eaten. Insulin resistence is associated with high cholesterol and triglyceride fats, which, in turn, are associated with heart disease and type II diabetes. When you become insulin resistant you cannot lose weight effectively on a high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein diet. A book I recommend is The Type II Diabetes Diet Book by Calvin Ezrin, M.D..
Know The Glycemic Index of Foods
A diabetic will have better control of his blood sugar when eating Haagen Daas ice cream than when drinking a glass of orange juice. I didn’t realize this until I read the book Enter the Zone by Barry Sears. All foods have a glycemic index (how fast they can raise your blood sugar). Basically, complex carbohydrates such as most vegetables, whole-grain pastas, many fruits have a low to moderate glycemic index when compared to most sugars, white breads, sodas, candies, pastry, most cold cereals. Combining foods with a high glycemic index with fat (sugar in ice cream combined with butter fat from cream) in some cases will lower the glycemic index, and will allow insulin to be released at a slow rate, not stressing the pancreas.
What About Sugar Substitutes?
Aspartame (NutraSweet) is comprised of 2 amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Both of these amino acids can alter brain chemistry. It can cause mood disorders and lower the threshold for seizures. It is also hard to get off of (could the altered brain chemistry cause an addiction to it?).
The remaining component of aspartame is a chemical that changes into methanol (wood alcohol, which is a poison!) after ingestion. Wood alcohol is notorious for harming the optic nerve of the eye, causing blindness. Methanol is converted into formaldehyde by the body. Formaldehyde causes cancer and neurological problems.
Use stevia instead of artificial sweeteners. Xylitol is a natural product that may also be used.
Protein, friend or foe?
Adequate protein, whether from animal or vegetable sources, is critical for good health. Protein is the basic building block for tissue repair and maintenance, and to support a healthy immune system. I am not an advocate of low protein diets or vegetarian diets, except for special circumstances in a cleansing program for a few weeks. The problem with meat sources of protein is not the meat, it is the saturated fat content. Buy meat with no more than a 5% fat content such as grass-fed beef, or poultry and fish that are on the low-mercury list. Make sure the meat and poultry are preservative-free, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free. Again, we are talking about the quality of the fuel you are putting into yourself and your family.
So how much protein do you need? If you are dieting, you want to spare protein and lose fat, and a low protein diet in the long run does not allow this. In general, you will want to consume 1 _ grams of protein per kilogram of your ideal body weight. Read on.
The Blood Type Connection
In 1996 a book entitled Eat Right For Your Type was published. It either cleared the waters or made them even more “murky.” It’s author, Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo proposed that there are 4 different blood types (A, B, AB, and O) and each type did better with a different diet. Type O’s needed more protein to do well and type A’s did better with a vegetarian type of diet with limited animal protein. Type B did well with a varied diet and also tolerated dairy products the best, and type AB had a mixture of types A and B qualities. It makes interesting reading and I find some of what he says makes sense, especially in the foods to avoid category based on blood type.
Hormonal and Genetic Factors
Further complicating the picture are genetic factors and also hormonal factors. Patients whose genetics are against them will have a more difficult time with losing weight than those who don’t. Patients who are taking hormones such as birth control pills or estrogen are altering their biochemistry and will gain weight. Patients who have thyroid, pancreatic, or adrenal problems will also need to be treated in a different manner. One of the tests we run at the Preventive Medicine Center is an IGF-1 level, which reflects growth hormone function. If this is low, this will need to be corrected in order to lose weight (see our March 2003 newsletter on Human Growth Hormone).
Are You Toxic?
One of the most common reasons we find a person cannot lose weight is they are toxic. Toxins are normal by- products of metabolism, or can be taken into the body from the environment or in the foods you eat. Our bodies normally handle most toxins, but as we get older, our ability to remove toxins may become impaired. The body’s normal response to toxins is to keep them away from your vital organs and store them in the fat. As a person becomes more toxic, their fat stores increase. Some of the symptoms of toxicity are brain fog, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, inability to lose weight, dry skin, irritability, memory loss. This requires a special detoxification diet and supplements before adequate weight loss can occur. This should be under medical supervision.
• Buy the 3 books I have listed and read them to gain a better understanding of the factors that contribute to weight gain and health:
1. The Type II Diabetes Diet Book – Calvin Ezrin, M.D.
2. Enter the Zone – Barry Sears
3. Eat Right For Your Type – Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo (He also has a new version out)
>Eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet and substitute stevia and xylitol (both are natural sweeteners from plant sources that you can obtain at a health food store). Keep yourself and your children off the sodas, cookies, cakes, pies, candies, except for special occasions.
>Reduce portion sizes. It’s okay to be a little hungry!
>Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index of the foods you are eating. Limit servings of high glycemic foods such as white potatoes, corn, bread, cereal, and anything made with white flour.
>Add fat to your diet in the form of mono or polyunsaturated fat. I take 1-3 tablespoons of organic flax seed oil or cold-pressed virgin olive oil a day and use it on salads or vegetables, or use Biotics™ Bio Omega 3 mercury-free fish oil capsules or their mixed EFA’s.
>Eat a variety of fresh (preferably organic) vegetables and fruits each day as well as legumes and whole grains.
>Eat adequate protein primarily from fish that are low on the mercury content list, and poultry sources.
>If you are having sugar craving, or if you have been unable to lose weight on a calorie restricted diet, you may have insulin resistence or other factors contributing – see Dr. Erickson for help.
>When shopping, keep to the periphery of the store and buy fresh or frozen foods. Stay away from processed foods or foods with preservatives or artificial anything.
>Drink adequate purified well or spring water with a little lemon or lime added each day to flush toxins and wastes.
>Take a 20 minute or more walk a day.
>If you suspect you are toxic, you may need a special cleansing program. Contact the Center for evaluation.
A Patient Success Story
Judy is Dr. Erickson’s wife and has struggled with her weight ever since having two children. Every few years it would seem her weight would creep up a few pounds. She would go on a calorie restricted diet and temporarily lose a few pounds, but they would always come back. Some of the diets she tried she felt a person could not stick on for a long period of time. Her symptoms of severe fatigue, brain fog, indigestion and stomach problems, and asthma increased and she realized she had to do something to clear her toxicity. She would go into our far-infra red sauna several times a week, and this would help temporarily, but the symptoms would come back. She had virtually given up on following a healthy diet. As her husband, this was difficult for me to see, but I realized that she had to come to the conclusion she had to take charge of her health. She was introduced to a special detoxification diet by one of our friends who is also a patient who felt great after undergoing this cleanse. He also lost over 20 pounds in weight. Judy went on the same cleanse, and has lost 10 pounds at the time this newsletter went to print. Many of her food allergies cleared on the program, and her energy was dramatically improved. Judy is an R.N., and will be helping others with this program through special classes at the Center. Call our office for details.
An Update on Mercury Toxicity Testing
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mercury is listed as the third most frequently found heavy metal (lead and arsenic are first and second), and the most toxic substance in the U.S.. Mercury toxicity is also considered the second most common cause of acute heavy metal poisoning according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The contamination of fish with methylmercury and the elemental mercury content of dental amalgams has long been a topic of political and medical debate. It seems there isn’t a week that goes by that there is an article on mercury contamination of food, air and soils on TV or in the newspaper. In my opinion, mercury toxicity is under diagnosed. See the December 2002 Newsletter on our web site for detailed information on Mercury Toxicity.
Acute mercury toxicity may be relatively easy to diagnose by obtaining blood mercury levels. Chronic, low grade mercury toxicity, which can take years to bio-accumulate, by its protean nature is difficult to diagnose. This diagnosis is missed on a blood mercury test. Up until recently, we would obtain a hair analysis and look for bio-accumulations of heavy metals such as mercury or lead or arsenic as a screening test. When these levels were elevated, we would recommend special provocative testing with either DMPS or DMSA, which are chelating agents that cause a release of mercury from the body. Some of my patients who had “normal” levels of mercury in hair would undergo the provocative testing anyhow if I had a clinical suspicion that there was a problem with either the patient’s metabolism (e.g. low thyroid function) or with their detoxification pathways, giving a false negative screen. Often times the provocative testing would show elevated total body burden of mercury with low or “normal” hair levels of mercury.
I recently corresponded with Dr. Boyd Haley, Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, and a world expert in mercury toxicity as relates to dental mercury amalgam leakage. I brought up the issue of blood mercury levels vs. provocative urine testing of heavy metals (which is not widely accepted by the traditional medical community) to diagnose chronic toxicity. Dr. Haley wrote back that he just recently had a manuscript accepted for publication in the International Journal of Toxicology that demonstrates that autistic children have birth hair mercury levels that average below 1 ppm whereas control children have levels that were much higher and corresponded to the number of dental mercury amalgams the birth mother had. However, on DMPS challenge, the autistic children dump much higher amounts of mercury than do the control children. What this implies is that the autistic children do not excrete mercury very effectively from their cells into the plasma. If the mercury doesn’t get into the blood, it doesn’t get into the hair or urine either. Dr. Haley went on to say that there is a subset of the population that are exceptionally susceptible to mercury toxicity since they are markedly unable to excrete it. He felt these were the individuals who developed neurological problems like autism or attention deficit.
This is a new paradigm shift even for alternative physicians, where we cannot rely on hair analysis by itself to exclude elevated body stores of mercury.
Another Patient Success Story
SB is a 52 y.o. female patient who began seeing me several years ago. She was concerned about her weight, adult onset diabetes requiring oral medication, and a ‘body heat’ sensation where she would shower, dry off, and within a few minutes sweat would cover her body. She had multiple symptoms consistent with hypothyroidism: hair loss, fluid retention, dry itchy skin, sensitive skin, brain fog, memory problems, lack of energy, inability to lose weight, and menopausal symptoms in spite of being on synthetic hormones from her gynecologist. Thyroid studies were normal. On examination she was found to have sluggish deep tendon reflexes and variable temperatures in the low 97% F to normal range. Her hair analysis showed elevated hair mercury and multiple low nutrient levels. This was suggestive of both a metabolic problem such as low thyroid function and also nutrient stress on her detoxification pathways. She was taken off her synthetic hormones (Premphase) and placed on bio-identical compounded hormonal replacement. A DMPS challenge test was performed and SB was found to have a urine mercury level of 63.7ug/mL, with the reference range being below 3ug/mL. Her urine lead level was also mildly elevated. She was placed on a seafood restricted diet to reduce dietary intake of mercury, and subsequently underwent removal of her mercury dental amalgams. Supplements were adjusted to replace low nutrients and she then was begun on a monthly heavy metal detoxification program with I.V. DMPS and nutritional I.V.’s.. After her 4th chelation with DMPS she shared with me “I feel like a new person. I no longer feel hot and my energy is the best it’s been in years. My husband feels like his old wife is back.” Her treatment is not yet complete and SB should continue to improve.
What’s New At The Center?
• SUMMER VACATION AT THE CENTER the Center will be closed from Friday, June 20th through Sunday, June 29th, and reopen at 9 A.M. on Monday, June 30th. If you need supplements or prescription refills, please call well in advance of June 20th. Also, Dr. Erickson will be out of the Center some Fridays over the Summer months, although the Center will remain open 9 AM until noon Fridays.
• ORGANIC VEGETABLES One of our patients is a wholesale organic food broker, and introduced us to an organic vegetable farmer in Alachua, Florida by the name of Don Applebaum. Don owns the Phoenix Rising Organic Farm and has a web site www.farmtofamily.com He normally sells to stores or ships large quantities of fresh vegetables to the Northeast. He is willing to also sell to individuals. The vegetables can be shipped to you or you can pick them up at his farm. His phone number is 386-462-5479.
• ORGANIC GRASS FED BEEF Dr. Erickson has discovered a unique company that raises organic, grass fed beef that is high in omega-3 oil and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Another concern many people have is mad-cow disease, since it has been discovered just across the border in Canada. These cows eat grass — not proceeded fed. You will not recognize this product when it comes as it is virtually fat-free. Log on to AmericanGrassFedBeef.com and tour the website. This company is out of Missouri and is owned by a veterinarian, Dr. Patricia Whisnant.
• MERCURY-FREE SEAFOOD Contact Randy Hartnell, President of Vital Choice Seafood. and tell him we sent you. His website is www.vitalchoice.com. He has certified mercury-free wild Alaskan salmon and halibut that can be shipped to your door on dry ice. This is very healthy food, high in Omega 3 oils.
• DETOX-WEIGHT LOSS CLASSES Judy Erickson, R.N. will have a schedule of classes and costs involved by the time this goes to print. Call the Center for information if you have an interest.