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Why eat emotionally--does sugar make you forget?

The April/May/June issue of Scientific American Mind has a brief review of a study out of Columbia University. The sub-head of the article is "Lowering blood sugar levels may thwart forgetfulness."

This maybe a reason why we crave carbs after an upsetting experience. Comfort foods raise our blood sugar and impair memory creation.

This mechanism also plays a role in memory degradation as we age. Of course the researcher immediately jumps on the exercise band wagon as the answer to insulin resistance. Me? I'll just keep my carbs low.

Senior moments, those pesky instances of not so total recall—forgetting where we left our keys or what we did last weekend—are a subtle but significant part of the aging process. Another effect of growing old: rising blood sugar levels, which typically take off in our late 30s or early 40s as our bodies become less adept at metabolizing glucose in the bloodstream. Now a study has linked these rising levels with momentary forgetfulness, pinpointing exactly where in the brain the aging process acts—a finding that could help the elderly ward off memory lapses.The nature of senior moments led scientists to believe they stem from disruptions in the hippocampus—an area that, among other roles, acts as the brain’s “save” button, allowing us to retain new information. Using functional MRI, researchers looked at the effects of increased blood glucose in the hippocampus of 181 subjects aged 65 or older with no history of dementia. They found that elevated levels impaired function of a section of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, which is a “hotspot” of age-related impairment, according to study author Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University.Blood glucose is not alone in selectively affecting dentate gyrus performance. A 2007 study co-authored by Small shows that exercise improves its function in both mice and humans. The newer research, he points out, suggests that these positive effects may actually result from the influence of regular exercise on the body’s ability to break down glucose.Psychiatrist Mony de Leon of New York University explains that the new study “may be showing a very funda­mental aging process that might have some reversibility built into it.” If you correct the glucose intolerance, he says, you may be able to forget about forgetfulness.


Is your bedroom behavior breaking your heart?

No I'm not taking about that. It's your sleep behavior that is leading to heart disease and depression. Ancient Chinese acupuncturists understood this behavior and observed it in action. They linked forever the functions of the heart, circulation and joy under the label of the "fire element." They noticed that a lack of joy will damage the heart and a damaged heart will cause a lack of joy. Today we call "lack of joy" depression. Depressed people have a lot fewer glia cells which power the neurons which make up the brain. WIthout enough glia cells the brain literally cannot fire on all cylinders.

During the Summer's long nights the fire energy is

Is exercise making you fat?

Your body was designed to move; walk to gather food; lift heavy objects to build shelter; and run to escape danger. All these activities activate muscle fibers which burn calories in order to contract and move your body. Health experts took note as society became more sedentary with the end of the "industrial age." These experts focused on the most "efficient" of these activities. In 1968 American physician Kenneth Cooper coined the term aerobics in his exercise book Aerobics. He used the term to describe exercises that use oxygen to keep large muscle groups moving continuously for at least 20 minutes. Based on this definition, the name aerobics came to refer to calisthenics taught to music. (Encarta) A movement was born and women all over the country bought leg warmers and danced in classes and in front of the TV sweating to the "oldies."

The biology of the "runner's high"
As their classes wore on, and the brain became starved for oxygen and fuel, a funny thing happened to these women. A region of the temporal lobe got more active, a lot more active. This is the same are area of the brain that is activated when religious people "talk to God." Dr. Michael Persinger, who is an expert on this part of the brain, reports that when this part of the brain is activated, people feel an "opiate-like effect with a substantial decrease in anxiety." and a "heightened sense of well being." Millions of women were hooked, literally stoned on aerobics.

This blissful experience is triggered by two activities, meditation/prayer and stress/lack of oxygen. This euphoria is designed so that when it's time to "meet our maker," after being chased to exhaustion, it is a peaceful transition. What this aerobic "runner's high" is covering up is the huge increase in cortisol that accompanies survival mimicking activities -- aerobics, running, spinning, stairmaster, treadmill, kick boxing, etc.

How stress makes you want to eat "junk"
These elevated cortisol levels keep your blood sugar high, and your insulin system working overtime to supply your muscles with the fuel they need to escape "danger." Chronically high cortisol levels also skew your perception of time so you feel rushed during the day and have problems turning off your brain at night so you stay up late feeling that there is more work to do and searching for sweet and starchy foods to feed this permanent "fight or flight" state.

The end result off job related stress getting pushed over the edge by heavy aerobic exercise is a damaging high cortisol state masked by the mimicking of a blissful "near death" experience all of which forces you to over eat sweets and starches, feel guilty adding more stress and more exercise. It's no wonder many people drop out after just a few months and some who get hooked on the "high" fall over dead on the treadmill.

So what's the answer
I'm not saying don't move your body, just concentrate on the other less "efficient" exercises that don't create stress or burn calories, like yoga, pilates, tai chi, weight lifting and walking.

What your lack of morning apetite is telling you.

The ancient Chinese acupuncturists say, "Eat breakfast like a Queen, lunch like a princess, and dinner like a pauper." Most people have heard a variation of this advice and know that breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, but they ask me, "I'm just not hungry in the morning. What should I do?" What I'm going to teach you today is why lack of hunger in the morning is a symptom of too little sleep and why you want to fix that.

Does your alarm clock wake you from the dead?
The problem with lack of sleep is that your body does not have enough time manage your hormones, especially melatonin. Among it's other jobs, melatonin is a master hormone that coordinates other hormones. When you go to bed too late, your melatonin levels peak right when they should be fading away, right about when the hated alarm goes off.

When your melatonin peak is shifted into the morning hours, the hormone controlling your appetite, leptin, is also high. (High levels of leptin at night keep you from waking up and raiding the fridge.) The elevated melatonin and leptin prevent hunger in the morning and explain why that lack of hunger is a serious sign that you are sleep deprived. Elevated morning melatonin also changes the timing of your natural cortisol spike which is your body's natural alarm clock. We are forced to replace our natural alarm clock with the much hated clock radio. Ugh!

Its all downhill from there!
So you drag yourself out of bed, forcing your body to wake up when it is just should be getting into deep sleep. You skip breakfast and sleep walk through the first part of the day. Because your cortisol levels are low, you cannot effectively deal with the stress of the day and your time perception gets warped and before you know it, the day has passed and you have accomplished little. Sound familiar?

The 5-element acupuncture body clock
The ancient Chinese understood the effects of these hormone waves. Even though they could not measure the hormones with blood tests, they could see the effects when normal sleep patterns were disturbed. They called this the Law of Midday/Midnight. If your internal body clock is off, not only do you have no hunger in the morning, but acupuncturists go on to say if your energy is not balanced, at 3:00 p.m. (bladder meridian time) you will crave sweets, get sleepy, irritable and stupid. Not exactly a recipe for success.

There are special 5-element acupuncture points to re-set your body clock called horary points. They help balance your energy through the day and help your hormones return to normal daylight patterns. So if you are feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, you will want to go to bed earlier and call for an acupuncture appointment!

But doesn't saturated fat cause disease?

Saturated fat is a marker for disease in the body, not because we eat saturated fat, but because the liver converts excess carbohydrates to saturated fats. The error logic is to assume that eating the same is harmful.

Here are a bunch of snippets from the Weston Price Foundation. They have abbreviated citations, but it should give you a start if you are inclined.

Myth: Heart disease in America is caused by consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat from animal products.

Truth: During the period of rapid increase in heart disease (1920-1960), American consumption of animal fats declined but consumption of hydrogenated and industrially processed vegetable fats increased dramatically. (USDA-HNI)

Myth: Saturated fat clogs arteries.

Truth: The fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated (74%) of which 41% are polyunsaturated. (Lancet 1994 344:1195)

Myth: Vegetarianism is healthy.

Truth: The annual all-cause death rate of vegetarian men is slightly more than that of non-vegetarian men (.93% vs .89%); the annual death rate of vegetarian women is significantly more than that of non-vegetarian women (.86% vs .54%) (Am J Clin Nutr 1982 36:873)

Myth: Vitamin B12 can be obtained from certain plant sources such as blue-green algae and soy products.

Truth: Vitamin B12 is not absorbed from plant sources. Modern soy products increase the body's need for B12. (Soybeans: Chemistry & Technology Vol 1 1972)

Myth: For good health, serum cholesterol should be less than 180 mg/dl.

Truth: The all-cause death rate is higher in individuals with cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dl. (Circulation 1992 86:3:1026-1029)

Myth: Animal fats cause cancer and heart disease.

Truth: Animal fats contain many nutrients that protect against cancer and heart disease; elevated rates of cancer and heart disease are associated with consumption of large amounts of vegetable oils. (Fed Proc July 1978 37:2215)

Myth: Children benefit from a low-fat diet.

Truth: Children on low-fat diets suffer from growth problems, failure to thrive & learning disabilities. (Food Chem News 10/3/94)

Myth: A low-fat diet will make you "feel better . . . and increase your joy of living."

Truth: Low-fat diets are associated with increased rates of depression, psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide. (Lancet 3/21/92 v339)

Myth: To avoid heart disease, we should use margarine instead of butter.

Truth: Margarine eaters have twice the rate of heart disease as butter eaters. (Nutrition Week 3/22/91 21:12)

Myth: Americans do not consume enough essential fatty acids.

Truth: Americans consume far too much of one kind of EFA (omega-6 EFAs found in most polyunsaturated vegetable oils) but not enough of another kind of EFA (omega-3 EFAs found in fish, fish oils, eggs from properly fed chickens, dark green vegetables and herbs, and oils from certain seeds such as flax and chia, nuts such as walnuts and in small amounts in all whole grains.) (Am J Clin Nutr 1991 54:438-63)

Myth: A vegetarian diet will protect you against atherosclerosis.

Truth: The International Atherosclerosis Project found that vegetarians had just as much atherosclerosis as meat eaters. (Lab Invest 1968 18:498)

Myth: Low-fat diets prevent breast cancer.

Truth: A recent study found that women on very low-fat diets (less than 20%) had the same rate of breast cancer as women who consumed large amounts of fat. (NEJM 2/8/96)

Myth: The "cave man diet" was low in fat.

Truth: Throughout the world, primitive peoples sought out and consumed fat from fish and shellfish, water fowl, sea mammals, land birds, insects, reptiles, rodents, bears, dogs, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, game, eggs, nuts and milk products. (Abrams, Food & Evolution 1987)

Myth: Coconut oil causes heart disease.

Truth: When coconut oil was fed as 7% of energy to patients recovering from heart attacks, the patients had greater improvement compared to untreated controls, and no difference compared to patents treated with corn or safflower oils. Populations that consume coconut oil have low rates of heart disease. Coconut oil may also be one of the most useful oils to prevent heart disease because of its antiviral and antimicrobial characteristics. (JAMA 1967 202:1119-1123; Am J Clin Nutr 1981 34:1552)

Myth: Saturated fats inhibit production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

Truth: Saturated fats actually improve the production of all prostaglandins by facilitating the conversion of essential fatty acids. (Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Journal 20:3)

Myth: Arachidonic acid in foods like liver, butter and egg yolks causes production of "bad" inflammatory prostaglandins.

Truth: Series 2 prostaglandins that the body makes from arachidonic acid both encourage and inhibit inflammation under appropriate circumstances. Arachidonic acid is vital for the function of the brain and nervous system. (Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Journal 20:3)

Myth: Beef causes colon cancer

Truth: Argentina, with higher beef consumption, has lower rates of colon cancer than the US. Mormons have lower rates of colon cancer than vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists (Cancer Res 35:3513 1975)

© 1999 Weston A. Price Foundation All Rights Reserved.

Back to our Fat Future

Follow along with a little back story, before I get to my point. Ancient Chinese acupuncturists developed a theory of healthy eating based on five flavors, salty, sour, bitter, sweet, pungent. They believed these five flavors, found in foods created the right balance of energy to lead a long, healthy life.

When I was earning my Master's Degree at the Tai Sophia Institute (, we had many discussions about the flavors, and would always get hung up on "pungent." What exactly does that mean? This is what the dictionary says: pungent |ˈpənjənt| adjective --having a sharply strong taste or smell : the pungent smell of frying onions.

In class, we left the discussion with the understanding that pungent meant spicy. I'd love to say that I wasn't satisfied with the answer and spent the next 20 years researching what the Chinese meant by pungent, but that would be a lie. Truth is, back then I didn't much concern myself with nutrition. As the saying goes, "That was then, this is now."

That's the back story, the point is there is a developing base of research showing that fats are critical to our immune system. The interesting thing is, the ancient Chinese say that the "pungent" flavor strengthens "wei qi" which is the protective energy of the body, guarding us from pathogens during the day, and nourishing our internal organs at night.

Take for example, this article from U.S. News and World Report. THURSDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Virgin coconut oil, added to antibiotic therapy, may help relieve the symptoms of community-acquired pneumonia in kids faster than antibiotic therapy alone, a new study finds. Children who received coconut oil therapy along with antibiotics had fewer crackles (a wheezing sound in the lungs), a shorter time with an elevated respiratory rate and fever, better oxygen saturation in the blood, and shorter hospital stays, according to the study.

I wouldn't be surprised if lard or tallow accomplished the same thing if researchers would have the courage, and funding, to do such a study. The same cannot be said of polyunsaturated fats however. Those are the supposedly superior vegetable oils. Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease; immune system dysfunction; damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs; digestive disorders; depressed learning ability; impaired growth; and weight gain.

So to tie this up in a nice little bow, I believe the translation from the ancient acupuncture texts has been influenced by the low fat folks. I believe pungent is the taste of fat in foods and is an essential component of any healthy diet.

Check out my interview

My internet podcast debut is happening Monday at Jimmy Moore's. Check it out here at Livin' Low-carb Show.

Jimmy has an amazing story of perseverance and weight loss. He has turned his own pain into a mission to help people be heathy first and loose weight second. He is an amazing resource both for health related issues, wellness and of course weight loss. Be sure to check out his site and my interview.


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