Are vegetarians more prone to depression?

I must start this by saying that I have some friends that are vegetarian, and while I personally love to eat meat, I respect and admire their diet choices.  Some people choose to be vegetarians for ethical reasons. It's understandable as you learn more about how big agro business treats animals. There are even those who do it for religious reasons, believing that god experiences the world through the eyes of all living beings.  As such, they believe that no only do they reincarnate as other people, but also cows, chickens, etc.  While that would certainly suck, I at least take solace in the thought that those animals are only dimly aware of their own existence and ultimate doom.  I do try to eat ethically grown animals and grass-fed, happy cows whenever I can, betting that their demise was quick and painless.

That being said, I've suspected for some time that there may be a link between vegetarianism and depression, and according to this study, there is.  Vegetarians are 2-3 times more likely than meat eaters to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and somatoform disorders and syndromes.  In addition, this other study contends that Vitamin B12 deficiency (common among vegetarians) can lead to a lack of response to conventional antidepressants.  This actually makes perfect sense to me, and here is why:

We are meant to eat meat

That's right, we were designed to eat meat through millions of years of evolution.  The archaeological record shows that early humans ate mostly other animals, and when early 19th century explorer Weston Price went looking for vegetarians in native populations through the south sea islands and Florida natives, he found none.  Every native population he studied ate meat, were in good health and had perfect teeth (perfect dental arches and no cavities).

There is also plenty of evidence of our dependence of meat in our own biology and biochemistry.  If we were meant to eat only vegetables, we'd have the digestive system of a cow, with four stomachs and the ability to ferment cellulose to break down plant material.  There are also a number of essential nutrients that our bodies cannot make and can only be found in animal sources (e.g. Vitamin B12).

Meat contains certain nutrients essential to adequate brain functioning

Our brains are made mostly of fats and cholesterol.  In fact, the dry mass of myelin is about 70-85% fats and 15-30% protein.  Saturated fatty acids also make up the phospholipid bilayers that make up our neurons, axons, and dendrites.  In addition, certain animal nutrients play a key role in neurotransmitter support, the lack of which could trigger neurotransmitter imbalances resulting in a range of psychological and psychiatric disorders.

What to do?

As I said, I admire the sacrifices that vegetarians make to uphold their principles.  Thankfully, in today's modern world, you can continue your vegetarian diet as long as you take appropriate supplements to make up for your dietary deficiencies.  The following supplement links should help vegetarians obtain the brain-healthy nutrition they wouldn't otherwise get.

Phosphatidylserine


Phosphatidylserine, or PS for short, is a phospholipid component kept on the inside of the phospholipid bilayer. Many of the reviewers on Amazon for this product report improvement in sleep and memory while reducing anxiety.

While some vegetable sources contain PS, it is found in much higher concentration in meats and animal innards. For example, a carrot contains 2 mg/100g, while a chicken leg contains 134 mg/100g.  Fish like mackerel and herring also are rich in PS, with mackerel containing 480 mg/100g.  Most PS (like the one linked to here) is derived from soy lecithin rather than cow brains, althought it's probably from GMO soy.  If you prefer a non-GMO option, try getting your PS from these Non-GMO Sunflower Seed Lecithin softgels.  Of course, while these are indeed non-GMO, they do come in gelatin softgels, which some vegetarians might frown upon.

Choline (Alpha GPC)


Choline is an essential nutrient, often grouped with B-vitamins.  It is used in the brain to form two classes of phospholipids abundant in cellular membranes.  It is also the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh).  This neurotransmitter is used by the cholinergic system in the CNS, which tends to cause anti-excitatory actions and has an important role in decision-making and sustaining attention.  Damage to the cholinergic system has been shown to be associated with memory deficits observed in Alzheimer's disease.  In addition, choline deficits can result in headaches, cluster headaches and migraines.

Choline is especially important during pregnancy as it is used as a substrate in building cellular membranes in the rapidly-developing embryo.  In addition, various forms of choline are abundant in breast milk in order to support the infant's cellular and brain development.  It is, therefore, imperative for pregnant and breastfeeding women to make sure they are getting enough choline from their diet or to supplement accordingly.

Eggs yolks have some of the richest sources of choline, followed by beef liver and kidneys, and fish caviar.

Vitamin B-12 (and others)


B-vitamins are found in greater concentration in meats, although some B-vitamins are found in some vegetable sources as well.  Vitamin B-12 is the exception here, as it is not found in vegetables at all.  It must be synthesized from bacteria or extracted from animal sources.  Deficiency in Vitamin B-12 can lead to peripheral neuropathy (paralysis), memory loss, and other cognitive deficits.  Similarly, Vitamin B-6, is used to convert 5-HTP into serotonin and melatonin.  It is also used in the synthesis of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.  Not surprisingly, Vitamin B-6 deficiency is linked with depression.

B-vitamin deficiencies have all kinds of exciting neurological symptoms, such as:
  • B-1 Deficiency - Emotional disturbance, impaired senses, weakness, Korsakoff's syndrome (dementia, amnesia, false memories), heart failure and death in severe cases.
  • B-3 Deficiency - Aggression, insomnia, weakness, confusion, dementia and death in severe cases
  • B-6 Deficiency - Depression
  • B-12 Deficiency - peripheral neuropathy, memory loss, macrocytic anemia, mania and psychosis.
Creatine


Creatine is not an essential nutrient per se, since our bodies make it from L-arginine, glycine and L-methionine, however, it is a nutrient also found in red meat and studies have found that vegetarians have a significantly lower amount of creatine in their tissues.

Creatine plays a pivotal role in brain energy balance through its action on the ATP-ADP cycle.  This study found that oral creatine supplementation resulted in an increase in intelligence and working memory in vegetarians.

Essential Aminoacids

Essential aminoacids are those we must acquire through our diet since they are not made by the human body.  The essential aminoacids are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, lysine, and histidine.  While these are all important, of special note for brain health are phenylalanine and tryptophan.

Phenylalanine is naturally found in mammalian breast milk, and is a precursor to neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.  As we all know, dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the signaling pathways for the pleasure and reward centers of the brain.  One of the main symptoms of dopamine deficiency is depression, but it can also carry along other symptoms such as oversleeping, low libido, rapd weight gain, and parkinson's disease.

Tryptophan, mainly found in eggs, cod, cheese, and meats, is the biochemical precursor to serotonin, another important neurotransmitter.  Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and anxiety and SSRI drugs like Prozac and Zoloft target depression by boosting serotonin levels through blocking its re-uptake into the secreting axon.  A metabolite of Tryptophan, 5-HTP is also sold as a dietary supplement and is believed to be more effective as a serotonin precursor than ingestion of tryptophan alone since it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.

Conclusion

So there you have it.  If you are a Vegan or a Vegetarian, and have been feeling blue lately, it could very well be that your diet is lacking in some essential happiness-inducing nutrients.  Try supplementation with the above and see if your mood changes for the better.  One word of caution, though, is that if you're taking a supplement that directly increases the amount of a neurotransmitter that's already being targeted by your prescription medication, take it slow at first and see how you react to it.  If you're already on pharmaceutical antidepressants, it would be a very good idea to consult with your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.

What is Shakeology?

veggie_bowl-low_resIf you are here it's probably because you've asked yourself this question at some point: What is Shakeology?  Maybe you've heard your friend rave about it and how it transformed their life, or maybe you read something online or heard someone mention it in passing.  Either way, you really owe it to yourself to find out more about it. Shakeology is a Beachbody product.  Surely you've heard of Beachbody, they're the makers of P90X, P90X2, T25, Insanity, Body Beast, etc.  Shakeology happens to be the complete nutrition companion to their fitness routines, and your secret weapon to incredible results.  Some people use it as a meal replacement for weight loss and others use it as a dietary supplement to support their health and fitness goals.  In a nutshell, it's a Protein Shake / Liquid Multivatimin / Superfood combo.  It packs more nutrition in a single serving than you're likely to get in an entire week eating a traditional American diet.  The results of this product are phenomenal, with people reporting health benefits well beyond gains at the gym.  Users have reported a variety of outcomes such as:
  • Reducing their clinical depressionShakeo Testimonials
  • Reducing the frequency of headaches
  • Reducing the frequency of colds
  • Having increased energy
  • Lowered A1C
  • Weight Loss
  • Clear Skin
  • Reduced Insomnia
  • Reduced IBS
  • Clear Skin
  • Sharper mind
In fact, my good friend Danielle was so moved by Shakeology and how it transformed her life that she went ahead and recorded this video.  She went from having a persistent nonstop migraine that lasted over half a year to only having a migraine once a month.  She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic migraines and chronic fatigue.  She now suffers next to no symptoms thanks to Shakeology .

Value

The cost of Shakeology is $129.95 for a 30-day supply.  You may balk at this until you realize that this is about $4.33 per serving.  That's about the price of a Frappuccino or a MacDonalds happy meal.  Now think about the nutritional benefits of Shakeology versus the aforementioned "meals." As if that weren't enough, Beachbody is so convinced you'll love Shakeology that they offer a 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee.  This means that you could eat the entire bag, and if you don't feel healthier, energized and simply amazing, they'll issue a refund.  Try going to MacDonalds and asking for your money back because you don't feel amazing after eating there for a month! You can also get free shipping by signing up for home direct (HD) delivery.  This means that you won't have to remember to keep ordering month after month.  And if you're anything like me, you'll want to put as many things on auto-pilot as you can.  You can always cancel or modify HD at any time by calling or e-mailing their customer service number. If you are still not convinced about the value that Shakeology offers, as a homework assignment go ahead and compile the total that it would cost to order a 30 day supply of even a subset of Shakeology's 70 ingredients from any reputable source.  Let me know if you can get the following ingredients for a price that even comes close.

Ingredients

Shakeology is made with 100% all natural ingredients.  They go to the ends of the earth to use Non-GMO, ethically-sourced ingredients as well.  When I say to the ends of the earth, I mean it.  In fact, they are sourcing the vanilla bean to flavor their newest vanilla Shakeology from Malagasy farmers in the depths of the Madagascar Jungle.  They are also currently pursuing their Non-GMO certification, which is not easy to do when you have 70 ingredients in Shakeology .  The following are the supplement facts for Vanilla Shakeology (Click for Full Screen). Vanilla Shakeology In addition to Vanilla, you can see the ingredients for the rest of their lineup here: Ingredients and Nutritional Information for Shakeology Vanilla Flavor Download PDF Ingredients and Nutritional Information for Shakeology Chocolate Flavor Download PDF Ingredients and Nutritional Information for Shakeology Greenberry Flavor Download PDF Ingredients and Nutritional Information for Shakeology Tropical Strawberry Flavor Download PDF Ingredients and Nutritional Information for Shakeology Chocolate Vegan Flavor Download PDF I just want to highlight a few of their superfood ingredients and how they work together.  The info below describing the ingredients is mostly quoted from Wikipedia, with some information being from WebMD (as noted).  Feel free to do your own research as well.  You might want to get comfortable, though. Even though this is just a sampling of Shakeology's 70 ingredients, this will take a while.

Super-Protein Blend

Whey

Everyone knows what this is.  If you've ever used good quality protein powders, chances are it was whey protein.

Sacha Inchi

The seeds of Inchi have high protein (27%) and oil (35 - 60%) content, and the oil is rich in the essential fatty acids omega 3 linolenic acid (≈45-53% of total fat content) and omega 6 linoleic acid (≈34-39% of fat content), as well as non-essential omega 9 (≈6-10% of fat content).[1] They are also rich in iodine, vitamin A, and vitamin E.

Chia

Also known as Salvia Hispanica.  According to the USDA, a one ounce (28 gram) serving of Chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein. The seeds also have 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese, similar in nutrient content to other edible seeds such as flax or sesame.

One pilot study found that 10 weeks ingestion of 25 grams per day of milled chia seeds, compared to intact seeds, produced higher blood levels of alpha-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 long-chain fatty acid considered good for the heart, while having no effect on inflammation or disease risk factors.

Flax

Flax seeds contain high levels of dietary fiber as well as lignans, an abundance of micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids (table). Studies have shown that flax seeds may lower cholesterol levels, although with differing results in terms of gender. One study found results were better for women whereas a later study found benefits only for men. Initial studies suggest that flax seeds taken in the diet may benefit individuals with certain types of breast and prostate cancers. A study done at Duke University suggests that flaxseed may stunt the growth of prostate tumors, although a meta-analysis found the evidence on this point to be inconclusive. Flax may also lessen the severity of diabetes by stabilizing blood-sugar levels.

Quinoa

Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein. Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights.

Amaranth

Several studies have shown that like oats, amaranth seed or oil may be of benefit for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease; regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters. While the active ingredient in oats appears to be water-soluble fiber, amaranth appears to lower cholesterol via its content of plant stanols and squalene.

Pea

Peas are starchy, but high in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and lutein. Dry weight is about one-quarter protein and one-quarter sugar. Pea seed peptide fractions have less ability to scavenge free radicals than glutathione, but greater ability to chelate metals and inhibit linoleic acid oxidation.

Superfruit / Antioxidant blend

Camu-Camu

Camu camu has an extraordinarily high vitamin C content (in the order of 2–3% of fresh weight, second only to the Australian native Terminalia ferdinandiana) and is the most important property of the Camu camu fruit, which has been exploited consistently in positioning camu camu on international markets. Vitamin C content declines as full maturity is reached, and there is a trade-off between vitamin C and flavour expression.

It is also rich in flavonoids, such as anthocyanins, flavonols and flavanols, catechins, delphinidin 3-glucoside, cyanidin 3-glucoside, ellagic acid and rutin; other analysis revealed the presence of gallic and ellagic acids, suggesting that Camu camu fruit possesses hydrolyzed tannins (gallo- and/or ellagitannins).

Acai

Freeze-dried açaí powder was found to have antioxidant activity in vitro against superoxide and peroxyl radicals, and mild activity for peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals. The powder was reported to inhibit hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidation in neutrophils, and to have a slight stimulatory effect on the reactive radical, nitric oxide.

Extracts of açaí seeds were reported to have antioxidant capacity in vitro against peroxyl radicals, similar to the antioxidant capacity of the pulp, with higher antioxidant capacity against peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals.

Acerola Cherry

The fruit is edible and widely consumed in the species' native area, and is cultivated elsewhere for its high vitamin C content. There are 1677.6 mg of vitamin C in 100 g of fruit. The fruit can be used to make juices and pulps, vitamin C concentrate, and baby food, among other things.

A comparative analysis of antioxidant potency among a variety of frozen juice pulps was carried out, including the acerola fruit. Among the eleven fruits' pulps tested, acerola was the highest-scoring domestic fruit, meaning it had the most antioxidant potency, with a TEAC (Trolox equivalent antioxidant activity) score of 53.2 mg.

Bilberry

Bilberries are recognized as a good source of flavonoids, some of which have antioxidant activity. As a deep purple fruit, bilberries contain anthocyanin pigments.

Goji Berry

Goji Berries (Wolfberries) contain many nutrients and phytochemicals. The list is too long to include here.

Grape Seed

Since the 1980s, biochemical and preliminary clinical studies have demonstrated potential biological properties of grape seed oligomeric procyanidins (OPC). A research paper from 2002 suggested that laboratory tests indicated a potential anticancer effect from grape seed extract, which could warrant further investigation.

Green Tea

A 2012 systematic review concluded the evidence that green tea can prevent cancer "is inadequate and inconclusive" but with some evidence for a reduction in certain types of cancer (breast, prostate, ovarian and endometrial). Green tea may lower blood low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol levels, though the studies were of short duration.

Luo Han Guo

The sweet taste of the fruit comes mainly from mogrosides, a group of triterpene glycosides that make up about 1% of the flesh of the fresh fruit. Through solvent extraction, a powder containing 80% mogrosides can be obtained, the main one being mogroside-5 (esgoside) Other similar agents in the fruit are siamenoside and neomogroside.  Recent research suggests isolated mogrosides have antioxidant properties and may have limited anticancer effects.  Mogrosides have also been shown to inhibit induction of Epstein-Barr virus in vitro.  The plant also contains the glycoprotein momorgrosvin, which has been shown to inhibit ribosomal protein synthesis.

Pomegranate

In preliminary laboratory research and clinical trials, juice of the pomegranate may be effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation. In mice, "oxidation of LDL by peritoneal macrophages was reduced by up to 90% after pomegranate juice consumption...".

In a limited study of hypertensive patients, consumption of pomegranate juice for two weeks was shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotensin-converting enzyme. Juice consumption may also inhibit viral infections while pomegranate extracts have antibacterial effects against dental plaque.

Rose Hips

Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C content, one of the richest plant sources available. However, RP-HPLC assays of fresh rose hips and several commercially available products revealed a wide range of L-ascorbic acid content, ranging from 0.03 to 1.3%. Rose hips of some species, especially Rosa canina (Dog Rose) and R. majalis, have been used as a source of vitamin C.

Rose hips contain plenty of lycopene, an important and strong antioxidant that prevents oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) as well as of many cellular membranes. Rose hips also contain some vitamin A and B, essential fatty acids, and antioxidant flavonoids.

A study of a rose hip preparation for treating rheumatoid arthritis concluded that there was a benefit, apparently due to both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.

Rose hips are used to help prevent colds and influenza.

Supergreen / Phytonutrient Blend

Moringa

The leaves are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and minerals. 100g of fresh Moringa leaves have 8.3 g protein, 434 mg calcium, 404 mg potassium, 738 μg vitamin A, and 164 mg vitamin C.

Chlorella

(From WebMD)

As a medicine, chlorella is used for preventing cancer, reducing radiation treatment side effects, stimulating the immune system, improving response to flu vaccine, increasing white blood cell counts (especially in people with HIV infection or cancer), preventing colds, protecting the body against toxic metals such as lead and mercury, and slowing the aging process.

Chlorella is also used to increase “good” bacteria in the intestine in order to improve digestion; and to help treat ulcers, colitis, Crohn's disease, and diverticulosis.

Some people also use chlorella for the prevention of stress-related ulcers; treatment of constipation, bad breath, and hypertension; as an antioxidant; to reduce cholesterol; to increase energy; to detoxify the body; and as a source of magnesium to promote mental health, relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and reduce asthma attacks. It is also used for fibromyalgia.

Chlorella is applied to the skin for treating skin ulcers, rashes caused by radiation treatment, and a sexually transmitted disease called trichomoniasis.

Spirulina

(From WebMD)

Blue-green algae are used as a source of dietary protein, B-vitamins, and iron. They are also used for weight loss, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hayfever, diabetes, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other women’s health issues.

Some people use blue-green algae for treating precancerous growths inside the mouth, boosting the immune system, improving memory, increasing energy and metabolism, lowering cholesterol, preventing heart disease, healing wounds, and improving digestion and bowel health.

Spinach

Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.

Barley Grass

(From WebMD)

Barley is used for lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and for promoting weight loss. It is also used for digestive complaints including diarrhea, stomach pain, and inflammatory bowel conditions.

Some people use barley for increasing strength and endurance. Other uses include cancer prevention and treatment of a lung problem called bronchitis.

Kamut Grass

The grain itself is very high in protein. It also contains a high mineral concentration especially in selenium, zinc, and magnesium. This grain variety is considered a high energy wheat, and provides the body with more energy in the form of complex carbohydrates.

Wheat Grass

(From WebMD)

Wheatgrass is used for increasing production of hemoglobin, the chemical in red blood cells that carries oxygen; improving blood sugar disorders, such as diabetes; preventing tooth decay; improving wound healing; and preventing bacterial infections.

It is also used for removing deposits of drugs, heavy metals, and cancer-causing agents from the body; and for removing toxins from the liver and blood.

Some people use wheatgrass for preventing gray hair, reducing high blood pressure, improving digestion, and lowering cholesterol by blocking its absorption.

Wheatgrass is also used to treat various disorders of the urinary tract, including infection of the bladder, urethra, and prostate; benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH); kidney stones; and in "irrigation therapy," the use of a mild diuretic along with lots of fluids to increase urine flow.

Other uses include treatment of respiratory tract complaints, including the common cold, cough, bronchitis, fever, and sore throat; tendency toward infection; gout; liver disorders; ulcerative colitis; joint pain; and chronic skin problems.

Wheatgrass is used for cancer and arthritis in alternative treatment programs. Wheatgrass contains a lot of chlorophyll, the chemical in plants that makes them green and also allows them to make energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. Some people think chlorophyll might fight cancer and arthritis.

Oat Grass

(From WebMD)

Oat bran and whole oats are used for high blood pressure; high cholesterol; diabetes; and digestion problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diarrhea, and constipation. They are also used for preventing heart disease, gallstones, colon cancer, and stomach cancer.

People use oats for joint pain (rheumatism), fatigue, a fatigue-related condition called neurasthenia syndrome, withdrawal from nicotine and narcotics, and lowering high uric acid levels that can cause gout. Oats are also used for anxiety, excitation and stress; as well as for weak bladder and kidney ailments. Other uses include connective tissue disorders, skin diseases, fat redistribution syndrome associated with HIV treatment, and as a tonic.

Oat straw is used for the flu, swine (H1N1) flu, coughs, bladder disorders, joint pain, eye ailments, frostbite, gout, and a skin infection called impetigo.

Adaptogen Blend

Ashwagandha

(From WebMD)

Ashwagandha is used for arthritis, anxiety, trouble sleeping (insomnia), tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, a skin condition marked by white patchiness (leukoderma), bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, and chronic liver disease.

Ashwagandha is also used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress, and as a general tonic.

Some people also use ashwagandha for improving thinking ability, decreasing pain and swelling (inflammation), and preventing the effects of aging. It is also used for fertility problems in men and women and also to increase sexual desire.

Astragalus

(From WebMD)

Astragalus is used for the common cold, upper respiratory infections, allergies, fibromyalgia, anemia, HIV/AIDS, and to strengthen and regulate the immune system. It is also used for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Some people use astragalus as a general tonic, to protect the liver, and to fight bacteria and viruses.

Astragalus is commonly used in combination with other herbs. For example, in combination with Ligustrum lucidum (glossy privet), astragalus is used orally for treating breast cancer, cervical cancer, and lung cancer.

Cordyceps

(From WebMD)

Cordyceps is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, nighttime urination, male sexual problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss, and opium addiction.

It is also used for strengthening the immune system, improving athletic performance, reducing the effects of aging, promoting longer life, and improving liver function in people with hepatitis B.

Some people use cordyceps as a stimulant, a tonic, and an “adaptogen,” which is used to increase energy, enhance stamina, and reduce fatigue.

Ginko

Extracts of ginkgo leaves contain flavonoid glycosides (myricetin and quercetin) and terpenoids (ginkgolides, bilobalides) and have been used pharmaceutically. These extracts are shown to exhibit reversible, nonselective monoamine oxidase inhibition, as well as inhibition of reuptake at the serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine transporters, with all but the norepinephrine reuptake inhibition fading in chronic exposure. Ginkgo extract has in addition been found to act as a selective 5-HT1A receptor agonist in vivo.

(From WebMD)

Ginkgo is often used for memory disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used for conditions that seem to be due to reduced blood flow in the brain, especially in older people. These conditions include memory loss, headache, ringing in the ears, vertigo, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and hearing disorders. Some people use it for other problems related to poor blood flow in the body, including leg pain when walking (claudication), and Raynaud’s syndrome (a painful response to cold, especially in the fingers and toes).

Ginkgo leaf is also used for thinking disorders related to Lyme disease and depression.

Some people use ginkgo to treat sexual performance problems. It is sometimes used to reverse the sexual performance problems that can accompany taking certain antidepressants called SSRIs.

Ginkgo been tried for eye problems including glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The list of other uses of ginkgo is very long. This may be because this herb has been around for so long. Ginkgo biloba is one of the longest living tree species in the world. Ginkgo trees can live as long as a thousand years. Using ginkgo for asthma and bronchitis was described in 2600 BC.

Maca

(From WebMD)

Maca is used for “tired blood” (anemia); chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); and enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance, memory, and fertility. Women use maca for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, and symptoms of menopause. Maca is also used for weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, stomach cancer, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction (ED), to arouse sexual desire, and to boost the immune system.

Maitake

The sclerotia from which hen of the woods arises have been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine to enhance the immune system. Researchers have also indicated that whole maitake has the ability to regulate blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and both serum and liver lipids, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids, and may also be useful for weight loss.

Reishi

Lingzhi possesses anti-tumor, anti-cancer, immunomodulatory and immunotherapeutic qualities, supported by studies on polysaccharides, terpenes, and other bioactive compounds isolated from fruiting bodies and mycelia of this fungus (reviewed by R. R. Paterson and Lindequist et al.). It has also been found to inhibit platelet aggregation, and to lower blood pressure (via inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme), cholesterol, and blood sugar.

Laboratory studies have shown anti-neoplastic effects of fungal extracts or isolated compounds against some types of cancer, including epithelial ovarian cancer. In an animal model, Ganoderma has been reported to prevent cancer metastasis, with potency comparable to Lentinan from Shiitake mushrooms.

The mechanisms by which Ganoderma lucidum may affect cancer are unknown and they may target different stages of cancer development: inhibition of angiogenesis (formation of new, tumor-induced blood vessels, created to supply nutrients to the tumor) mediated by cytokines, cytoxicity, inhibiting migration of the cancer cells and metastasis, and inducing and enhancing apoptosis of tumor cells. Nevertheless, Ganoderma lucidum extracts are already used in commercial pharmaceuticals such as MC-S for suppressing cancer cell proliferation and migration.

Additional studies indicate that ganoderic acid has some protective effects against liver injury by viruses and other toxic agents in mice, suggesting a potential benefit of this compound in the treatment of liver diseases in humans, and Ganoderma-derived sterols inhibit lanosterol 14α-demethylase activity in the biosynthesis of cholesterol. Ganoderma lucidum compounds inhibit 5-alpha reductase activity in the biosynthesis of dihydrotestosterone.

Besides effects on mammalian physiology, Ganoderma lucidum is reported to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral activities. Ganoderma lucidum is reported to exhibit direct anti-viral with the following viruses; HSV-1, HSV-2, influenza virus, vesicular stomatitis. Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms are reported to exhibit direct anti-microbial properties with the following organisms; Aspergillus niger, Bacillus cereus, Candida albicans, and Escherichia coli. Other benefits were studied such as the effect of lowering hypertension, cholesterol, and anti-inflammatory benefits through the ganoderic acid properties.

Schisandra

(From WebMD)

Schisandra is used as an “adaptogen” for increasing resistance to disease and stress, increasing energy, and increasing physical performance and endurance.

Schisandra is also used for preventing early aging and increasing lifespan; normalizing blood sugar and blood pressure; and stimulating the immune system and speeding recovery after surgery.

It is also used for treating liver disease (hepatitis) and protecting the liver from poisons. The Chinese have developed a liver-protecting drug called DBD that is made from schisandrin, one of the chemicals in schisandra.

Other uses for schisandra include treatment of high cholesterol, coughs, asthma, sleep problems (insomnia), nerve pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), chronic diarrhea, dysentery, night sweats, spontaneous sweating, involuntary discharge of semen, thirst, erectile dysfunction (ED), physical exhaustion, excessive urination, depression, irritability, and memory loss.

Some people use schisandra for improving vision, protecting against radiation, preventing motion sickness, preventing infection, boosting energy at the cellular level, counteracting the effects of sugar, and improving the health of the adrenal glands.

Tulsi

(From WebMD)

Holy basil is a plant. It is originally from India and is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an “adaptogen” to counter life’s stresses. It is considered a sacred plant by the Hindus and is often planted around Hindu shrines. The Hindu name for holy basil, Tulsi, means "the incomparable one." Medicine is made from the leaves, stems, and seeds.

Holy basil is used for the common cold, influenza ("the flu"), H1N1 (swine) flu, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, earache, headache, stomach upset, heart disease, fever, viral hepatitis, malaria, stress, and tuberculosis. It is also used for mercury poisoning, to promote longevity, as a mosquito repellent, and to counteract snake and scorpion bites.

Pre- and Probiotics / Digestive Enzymes:

Yacon Root

These edible tubers contain fructooligosaccharides, an indigestible polysaccharide made up of fructose. Fructooligosaccharides taste sweet, but pass the human digestive tract unmetabolised and hence have very low caloric value. Moreover, fructooligosaccharides have prebiotic effect, meaning that they are used by "friendly" bacteria that favor colon health and digestion.

Lactobacillus Sporogenes

There are many references to use of this bacterium in humans, especially in improving the vaginal flora, improving abdominal pain and bloating in Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients and increasing immune response to viral challenges. One strain of this bacterium has also been assessed for safety as a food ingredient. Spores are activated in the acidic environment of the stomach and begin germinating and proliferating in the intestine. Sporeforming Bacillus coagulans are used in some countries as probiotic for patients on antibiotics.

Amylase

Amylase is an enzyme that catalyses the breakdown of starch into sugars. Amylase is present in the saliva of humans and some other mammals, where it begins the chemical process of digestion. Foods that contain much starch but little sugar, such as rice and potato, taste slightly sweet as they are chewed because amylase turns some of their starch into sugar in the mouth. The pancreas also makes amylase (alpha amylase) to hydrolyse dietary starch into disaccharides and trisaccharides which are converted by other enzymes to glucose to supply the body with energy.

Cellulase

Cellulase refers to a suite of enzymes produced chiefly by fungi, bacteria, and protozoans that catalyze cellulolysis (i.e. the hydrolysis of cellulose).

Conclusion

Shakeology really is the best thing since sliced bread.  Stop thinking about it and just get it.  You'll be glad you did.

How to get the best sleep of your life (and pay next to nothing for it)

Recently a friend asked about something I really hadn't thought much about since college, and I thought it might be something worth sharing in this blog.  After all, this is supposed to be a health and fitness blog, and one part of fitness that is often overlooked is the sleep and recovery time.  Just as important as it is to work hard in the gym, so is getting a good night's sleep.  After all, that is when your muscle fibers are rebuilding and recovering after being shredded earlier at the gym.

One thing that should be obvious to everyone is that you can't get good sleep on a bad bed.  The one simple trick I learned back in my college days, however, is that you don't have to pay thousands of dollars to get a great night's sleep.  The secret is a memory foam topper.

This alone will completely transform your bed and give you a quality of sleep that exceeds that which you may get from a bed that costs 10 times as much.  In fact, I found that this works best on a firm mattress, which tend to be the cheapest.  In short, the steps to getting the best sleep of your life are the following:

Step 1: Get a cheap, firm mattress 

Amazingly, the firmer your mattress, the better a memory foam topper will perform.  I don't know why this is, it just works like that.  It's almost like the mattress serves as a transition between the box spring and the topper, with the topper itself acting as the mattress proper.  It also happens that the firmer the mattress the more affordable they become, so this is perfect.  You can just go to your local mattress factory or some such similar store, and ask for something just slightly softer than concrete.

Step 2: Get a good quality memory foam topper.

This is what you'll actually sleep on and what will make all the difference in the world.  You'll need a minimum of 2", but for most people a 3" thick topper will be perfect.  It all depends on your linear density, or weight to height ratio.  For a 180lb, 5'8" person, a 3" topper is perfect.  If you are taller or lighter, a 2" topper will do, and heavier / shorter, you might want to consider a 4" topper.



This is actually a good use for the BMI chart.  If you are muscular, you know this is a completely worthless chart, but it works well to determine your overall linear density and mattress recommendation.  If your BMI is <25, go with a 2" topper.  If you are "Overweight" (BMI 25 - 30) go to 3", and if your BMI > 30 go to a 4" topper.  For instance, I am 5'8" and 170lb thanks to my fitness routine, so since I'm "Overweight" I'd get a 3" topper.  My goal is to get to "Obese" by the end of the year, but I think I'll probably plateau at around 190lb or so (and that's wishful thinking).  There is only so much you can do without steroids, and I'm just not going there.  So I think there's no need to go to 4" and a 3" topper would be just perfect for me.

In addition, you'll see pound ratings on memory foam toppers.  These refer to how many pounds they weight per square feet, or how dense they are.  A 3-pound 2" topper is slightly denser than a 4-pound 3" topper (0.010lbs/in3 vs 0.009 lbs/in3).  Meanwhile a 3-pound 3" topper is denser than a 3-pound 4"-thick topper.  As a rule of thumb, try to pick something that is at least as many "pounds" as it is inches thick plus one (eg. 2"-3lb, 3"-4lb, etc).  You can also take a look at this graph I made of volumetric density vs thickness and weight (click for full screen). Try to stay somewhere in the blue range.  Deep purple will be too soft and aqua might start to get a little too stiff.

   density 2density 1 

Where can you get these magical toppers you might ask?  Well, Amazon, of course.  They usually have the best deals you'll find anywhere on the internet. As an example, as of this writing, they are selling a 3" 4lb topper for a queen-size bed for $168.59. That's a 78% discount off the full $760 price.  You can of course pick what size you need. Here are some good options which ship free with Amazon Prime (to which you can get a free 30-day trial here).



And yes, they have lots of other brands to chose from as well, But the ones I linked to above are made in the USA (not China) and don't have the strong chemical smell you get from some of the other brands.

And while you're at it, you might as well get a memory foam pillow also.

Step 3 (optional): Get some new sheets

One common complaint from some people who have used memory foam toppers in the past is that some brands can feel hot.  While the reviews for the Memory Foam Solutions toppers linked above specifically stated that they are not hot, you still might want to get cooling sheets, especially if you wind up going with a different brand that might have some heat issues, or if you just simply generate a lot of heat while sleeping.



Conclusion

So there you have it.  All you need for the best sleep of your life is an uncomfortable mattress and a memory foam topper.  Now go get it.

The very real danger of Lyme disease

When I recently found out that my neighbor had been diagnosed with Lyme disease, I thought perhaps I should look into it some more.  What I found out is truly horrifying.  I knew it was a tick-borne illness, and all you have to do to get it is to go in the woods and have the misfortune of having a deer tick bite you, but what I did not know was the agony that Lyme disease patients go through.

 

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by spirochetal bacteria from the genus Borrelia. It can affect multiple body systems and produce a range of symptoms. Not all patients with Lyme disease will have all symptoms, and many of the symptoms are not specific to Lyme disease, but can occur with other diseases as well. The incubation period from infection to the onset of symptoms is usually one to two weeks, but can be much shorter (days), or much longer (months to years).  The bacteria are shaped like a corkscrew and can drill through your blood vessels and various tissues.  This is how they enter your joints, heart and brain.

Initial (acute) symptoms most often occur from May through September, because the nymphal stage of the tick is responsible for most cases. You could be infected and not even know it because in some cases the infection is asymptomatic.

The bacteria responsible for the disease live in deer ticks and are passed to humans when bitten by a tick.  In some cases, however, you may not even know you have been bitten.  Some of these ticks can be as small as the head of a pin.

Early localized infection is where the Lyme disease has not yet spread throughout the body. The only area affected is where the infection has first come into contact with the skin. The classic sign of early local infection with Lyme disease is a circular, outwardly expanding rash resembling a bull's eye, which occurs at the site of the tick bite three to thirty days after the tick bite.  Around 70% of those affected by Lyme disease develop this initial rash, meaning that around 30% of those with the disease could easily miss it, especially if they do not find a tick on them and have no reason to suspect anything is wrong.

While acute infection is bad enough, it is the chronic form of the disease that is the most horrifying and difficult to treat. In addition to chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, patients often exhibit debilitating neurological symptoms resembling bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ALS, MS, Parkinsons and Alzheimer's. The chronic form of the disease is especially devastating in children, sometimes leading to permanent brain damage.

Interactive Lyme disease map



The disease is more common in the northeast, but cases have been reported in almost every state in the country.  According to the CDC, about 300,000 people are diagnosed every year, and the number is growing.  The map to the right shows the number of incidents reported to the CDC by county.  Keep in mind this is the number reported.  The CDC acknowledges the actual number of infections is almost ten times higher.  It could also be argued that the number is much higher than reported in southern states because doctors down there are not used to seeing this and could easily misdiagnose it as something else.  This map links to the interactive map on the CDC website.  Looking at the difference from 2001 to 2011 really shows the magnitude of this epidemic.

The documentary Under our Skin, which we watched on Amazon Prime (free trial), chronicles the struggles of a number of Lyme disease patients and follows their progression through their treatment. The treatment for this is not easy or cheap. It involves a very long and expensive regimen of powerful intravenous antibiotics, and it is getting more and more difficult to get.

Why is it so difficult to get treatment for chronic Lyme disease?

IDSA authorsThe short answer is the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The IDSA published a set of guidelines for treatment of Lyme disease which deny the existence of chronic Lyme disease and are written with the purpose of restricting the treatment of Lyme. The IDSA cherry-picked a small number of articles to reference in their guideline, half of which were written by themselves, and ignored the body of research that exists on chronic Lyme disease.

Dr. Samuel Donta, who was also on the IDSA panel said "we never got to discuss late and chronic Lyme disease [...] what happened was; Dr. Wormser did take over the Chairmanship on guidelines for Lyme disease and we never met again, we just said 'here are the guidelines, you can sign them and agree... or not' [...] Really those guidelines reflected the ideas of one or two people, but they've been misused by insurance companies who don't want to pay for treatment."

Dr. Donta also questions the wisdom of prescribing a course of only two to four weeks of treatment, and suggests this may be an arbitrary recommendation.

The guidelines are written in legalese terms, and are used in court to prosecute physicians who treat patients for chronic Lyme disease and by insurance companies to deny coverage to those same patients. This is truly abhorrent behavior by those who are supposed to protect the best interest of the public, but the reality is that many of them are protecting their own interests instead.

There are numerous conflicts of interests with a number of the IDSA guideline authors. Of the 14 authors:
  • 6 hold patents associated with Lyme disease or its coinfections
  • 4 have received funding from Lyme disease test kit manufacturers
  • 4 have been paid by insurance companies to write Lyme policy guidelines or serve as consultants in legal cases
  • 9 have received money from Lyme vaccine manufacturers
It is common sense that the IDSA should to establish a rule that no one that serves in a guideline committe have a financial stake in the outcome of those guidelines. This was not the case in the development of the Lyme disease guidelines and as a result patients and doctors are suffering.

What can you do?

Seeing as how the IDSA is trying to make it impossible to get treated for Lyme disease in the chronic stage, the best thing you can do is to never get there.
  • If you go in the woods make sure you douse yourself in a good insect repellent (this one has 25% DEET and works well according to reviewers).
  • If you do get bit by a tick, try to save the tick and test it with this test kit.  If it comes back positive run to your doctor and demand to be put on the strongest antibiotics available for Lyme disease and for as long as possible.  Do not wait for your blood test to come back since this can take weeks and could show a false negative.  The sooner you start treatment the better.
  • You can also test yourself with this test kit.  It is labeled for use on humans as well as pets.
  • Keep deer off your property with this electronic deer repellent.
Other than that, the only thing you can do is be vigilant, try to avoid walking through the woods or tall grasses, and pray that you never find yourself in this situation.

When a temper tantrum is more than just a temper tantrum

Everyone expects children to have temper tantrums or periods of being completely unreasonable. Every child does it and it's part of the learning and development process. They're usually short lived and inconsequential. After being through the terrible twos with our son, we had experienced our share of tantrums and had gotten through them fairly unscathed. Then one day everything was completely different. All of a sudden, Damian had turned into a monster as if someone flipped a switch.  It appeared as though his prefrontal cortex was shut down and his limbic system was going into overdrive.  We were horrified to see this behavior, and there was no seemingly reasonable explanation for it and no way to deal with this.  I really did not want to get him on psychoactive drugs at such an early age, and there just had to be a reason for what was happening.

After some searching my wife found some information suggesting that artificial colors could make children hyperactive.  This could explain why this completely unreasonable behavior started after Vacation Bible School.  He had been fed Swedish fish, jello, gummy frogs, and other candies full of artificial colors. In a sense he had overdosed on artificial colors.  But when I think of "hyperactive", I think of kids who like to run around a lot.  This behavior is better described as a temporary psychosis.  The kid becomes full of rage for no good reason, and his ability to think rationally is inhibited.  Just look at this video.  After asking him what was wrong, he replied (between cries and sobs) that it was because a wheel from his bike was touching the mulch.  The reality is that he didn't understand what was happening and had no control over it.



This was just a glimpse of what happened for three days. He screamed almost constantly to the point of losing his voice. Damian also would wake up multiple times in the middle of the night screaming. It took at least 45 minutes to calm him down and get him back to sleep each time. After his behavior started to calm down during the day this sleep pattern went on for at least another week. Let's just say early morning meetings at work got a bit more challenging.
Once we understood what was possibly causing this behavior, it all made sense.  Some of his worst prior tantrums were after having some brightly-colored candy but because they were still short lived we thought they were just normal kid behavior. He never before had the large amount that had been fed to him at VBS.  We stopped feeding him anything with artificial colors (which is harder than it sounds) and almost miraculously, the tantrums stopped and we had our nice, well-behaved child back. Now 3 months later, he barley ever acts out and when he does he is far more reasonable and talks to us to try to fix the problem.

The main culprits are:

Red 40 (disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalenesulfonate) This substance in Europe is not recommended for consumption by children. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France and Switzerland.

Yellow 5 (Trisodium (4E)-5-oxo-1-(4-sulfonatophenyl)-4-[(4-sulfonatophenyl)hydrazono]-3-pyrazolecarboxylate) Also called tartrazine, a variety of immunologic responses have been attributed to its ingestion, including anxiety, migraine, clinical depression, blurred vision, itching, general weakness, heatwaves, feeling of suffocation, purple skin patches, and sleep disturbance. This substance was banned in Norway, Austria and Germany.

Yellow 6 (Disodium 6-hydroxy-5-[(4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonate) On September 9, 2011, the European Union announced that they would be reducing the maximum permitted concentration of sunset yellow (in drinks) from 50mg/L to 20mg/L. The proposed change to be adopted by the end of the year.  In addition,  the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) called for the FDA to ban Yellow 6. The CSPI said, "These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody."

Blue 1 (ethyl - [4 - [ [4 - [ethyl -[(3 - sulfophenyl) methyl] amino] phenyl] - (2 - sulfophenyl) methylidene] - 1 - cyclohexa - 2, 5 - dienylidene] - [(3 - sulfophenyl) methyl] azanium) Brilliant Blue FCF has previously been banned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland among others.

There is plenty of evidence that these so-called azo dyes are detrimental to children's mental functioning. A 2007 report from Southampton University questioned the safety of azo food dyes in three year old and 8-9 year old children.  The study found increased levels of hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children consuming the chemicals. Based on the study, the UK agency advises that cutting certain artificial colors from hyperactive children's diets might have some beneficial effects.

The medical literature is full of studies that expose the deleterious effects of artificial colors. Studies such as this Assessment of Chemical Factors in Relation to Child Hyperactivity have suggested that one mechanism of action whereby certain azo dyes make your kids crazy is by reducing their blood serum levels of zinc. Meanwhile, other studies such as this Meta-Analysis of Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials suggest an association between ingestion of Artificial Food Coloring and hyperactivity.

No one has to convince me, however.  I've seen the evidence with my own eyes in my own child, and I've seen what happens when the azo dyes are removed from his diet. Thankfully I now have my son back. One thing is certain, though, artificial colors are very bad news and you should keep them as far away from your kids as possible.

Alternatives

Just because you are trying to avoid artificial colors does not mean your kid's candy has to be white and boring. There are naturally-colored alternatives like these gummy worms, for example. Granted, you will likely need to buy your kid's candy online since trying to find something without azo dyes at the store will prove to be a losing battle. The good news is that amazon has a fairly comprehensive assortment of organic candy.

You can also use natural color alternatives at home when baking a cake, making popsicles, etc:
Red Beet Powder, 2 oz.
Spinach Powder, 2 oz.
Pumpkin Powder, 4 oz.

Don't forget to supplement with a good multivitamin with zinc. Of course, make sure it has no artificial colors. These SmartyPants Gummy Vitamins with Omega 3 Fish Oil and Vitamin D are probably the best quality ingredient vitamins you can find and they are not overpriced.

Conclusions

I've seen the evidence with my own eyes of what happens to children when exposed to azo dyes. I'm just fortunate enough to have discovered the cause. I wonder how many parents experience this and rush their kids to a psychiatrists, only to be put on Ritalin or Adderall for the rest of their lives, doing untold damage to their normal brain development.

I think it's alarming and unfortunate that a lot of parents have not heard about the dangers of azo dyes. If you are a parent and see unexplained behavior like this in your children, please consider whether or not they are ingesting azo dyes, and experiment with removing them from their diet before giving Novartis a new customer for life. There may very well be cases where your child needs pharmaceutical help, but I believe these are extremely rare and a vanishingly small percentage of the amount of children currently prescribed these psychoactive drugs actually need them. Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall may have their legitimate uses, but these should be thought of in the same vein as surgery. They should be the absolute last resort once all other avenues of treatment are exhausted.

How to eat as much as you want every day and get skinny



The Beginning

I should start by saying that this post is not about being healthy per se. You can even accomplish your goal of losing weight by eating fast food everyday, which is probably the worst thing you can do to yourself. That being said, however, I believe that if you're going to do it anyways there are ways that you can ameliorate the effects it has on you and not become completely obese. I'm not talking about starving yourself or exercising, but rather selectively eating certain menu items and avoiding others. Before I get into the meat of it, though, I should rewind to 2009.

It all started when my wife was pregnant with our first child. She put on a little bit of weight like all pregnant women do, and I decided to put on some sympathy pounds. I started eating like crazy, all kinds of crap. Lots of sweets like doughnuts, soda, whatever I felt like. And I succeeded in gaining weight. A lot. As I've come to find out getting fat is exceedingly easy. Just look at these pictures.

July 2008

July 2008



July 2009



December 2009

December 2009



When I saw that last picture from around christmas 2009 I was absolutely horrified. I had no idea I had gotten so fat. I was well on my way to becoming Jabba the Hutt by next summer, and to make things worse my wife was breastfeeding and it was like my son just sucked whatever weight she put on during the pregnancy and then some. My wife was hot as always and I was a fat slob. In a very short period of time my weight ballooned from 160 lbs to 210 lbs. I had to do something!

The first thing I did was stopped eating so much, but that really had a minimal effect on my weight. I tried different things, like drinking diet soda, but that just wasn't enough. And I was just too lazy and busy with work (my favorite excuse) to exercise.

The Epiphany

The answer came to me when I was watching a documentary on Netflix called "Fatheat" by Tom Naughton. It was basically a reply to "Supersize me" and it suggested that it was carbs and sugar that makes you fat, not the fat by itself. The documentary was no hollywood blockbuster. It was done by a computer programmer, not a filmmaker, and it showed. But what it lacked in production value it more than made up for in presenting sound research and logical arguments.

As it turn out, we evolved as a species eating animal fats and meats, and in an evolutionary blink of an eye we all suddenly started eating grains and sugars. By grains I mean anything made out of flour, like bread and breakfast cereal which immediately get converted into sugar by your body. This is not what we evolved to eat.

When you eat sugars your body immediately releases insulin. This insulin has the effect of lowering your blood sugar level by converting the sugar to energy and fat. The issue is that insulin also signals your fat cells to absorb all the fat they come in contact with. What's worse, overtime, repeatedly high levels of insulin reprogram your fat cells. You see, fat cells are meant to work like little car batteries. They absorb some energy when there is an oversupply and release it when there is a deficit. When you are exposed to chronically high levels of insulin, your fat cells are reprogrammed to become greedy and hang on to fat, even when you need the energy back.

This is why, as everyone knows, eating cake makes you fat. It is that great combo of immense amounts of sugars and fat. It's signalling your cells to grab all the fat they see, and they are seeing a lot of it floating around at that time. You just don't stand a chance.

In fact, even what many would consider a healthy breakfast of cereal and a glass of orange juice is actually pretty bad for your since it's nothing more than a concentrated sugar shot. Cereals already have a lot of sugar to begin with, and the processed carbohydrates in them also get transformed into sugar in no time. The orange juice is basically orange-flavored sugar water. By itself this breakfast is bad enough, but combine that sugar with some fat, like bacon, and you have a recipe for making yourself fat and staying that way.

On the other hand, if you eat fat by itself, or combined with meats and vegetables it will actually make you lose weight. Your body will go into fat burning mode and start using the fat you've stored for energy. Not only will you lose weight, but when I had my cholesterol checked, it went down quite a bit. My triglycerides were only 45, so they couldn't even measure my LDL because it was so low. In fact the lady that did the test kept asking me if I ran marathons, because I had the best numbers she had seen in quite some time.

The only downside to eating this way is that the first two weeks of doing this you will feel like a hibernating bear as your body adjusts to the new food source. Once your new metabolism kicks in, though, you will have energy again, although it will be a smoother, more baseline energy. You won't have those peaks and crashes that come with a carb and sugar-based diet, and you really won't be hungry all that much. You will still get hungry when you need to eat, but it won't be that debilitating, gotta-eat-right-now hunger you're used to.

You will experience rapid weight loss in the first 3 months or so, to the point where people won't recognize you if they haven't seen you in a while. The weight loss will continue until you get to a steady-state condition. I've actually lost about 60 pounds eating like this.

July 2012



In the spirit of full disclosure i will admit that during this time I had also been taking some supplements. I know that my diet is not the best (because I just don't like to eat vegetables) and therefore it was important to supplement with vitamins, minerals and other things. Take a look at the "Supplements" section for a complete description of what I take.

And now, the idiot's guide to eating all you want and still losing weight. This is similar to the Ketogenic diet, the Paleo diet, and the Atkins diet; the central theme being avoiding carbs, starches, and sugars. What I'm advocating here is more of a general guideline than a diet, however, without having to worry about portion sizes, proportions, and calorie counting.

What to Eat

Protein, animal fats and vegetables. Things like:
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Meat (Cow, Chicken, Fish, Pork, Ham whatever you like)
  • Vegetables
  • Animal Fats
  • Coconut Oil (great for cooking or just by itself and very healthy)
  • Butter (real butter)
  • Cheese
What Not to Eat It basically comes down to avoiding sugar, carbs and starches. Avoid things such as:
  • Sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Bread
  • Grains and grain derivatives (wheat and anything made from flour)
  • Carbohydrates
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans fats (this is poison and gives you heart disease)
  • MSG and other poisons
Examples

1. Say you go to KFC. Using this guide, the healthiest thing on the menu is the double down, one of my personal favorites. Cheese and bacon sandwiched between two chicken breasts. Delicious. DO NOT get the potato wedges. If you must have a side get some popcorn chicken, or chicken nuggets. For a drink get diet. It may have some neurological effects, but at least it won't make you fat. Water is obviously the best.

2. If you go to a burger joint, get some sort of chicken (chicken strips, or chicken nuggets). Instead of fries get onion rings or fried cheese if you must have a side. Again, your drink should be water, milk, or diet soda. You can also order a burger, but be prepared to eat inside and ask for some utensils. You will extract the meaty goodness from the burger and discard the bun. A knife and fork will be necessary.

3. For breakfast at McDonalds, ask for a side of sausage, eggs with cheese, and bacon on a platter. No biscuit. I always ask for this but every now and then they still throw a biscuit in there, which I promptly discard. I like their sugar-free vanilla iced coffees.

4. Just about anywhere you go (even fast food) will offer salads. Some are actually pretty good. Get something with lots of meat and bacon, and use a high-fat (not high-sugar) dressing, like ranch. Don't eat the croutons.

5. Breakfast at home: Start by throwing all your cereal away, or better yet, donate it to your local soup kitchen. Stock up on eggs, milk, and bacon. I normally eat 4 eggs with melted shredded cheddar cheese when I make breakfast, with three or four slices of bacon, whatever I feel like eating at the time. Fry the eggs in a spoonful or so of coconut oil (unrefined). Eggs and bacon are in my opinion the healthiest breakfast you can have.

6. Going out to a restaurant: Get meat and vegetables. Chicken, pork, beef, or fish of some sort by itself, rather than wrapped in a tortilla or in a bun. Instead of potatoes get vegetables. You can also get a soup or salad, just make sure the soup does not contain noodles, rice or lots of flour. If you get a salad, get a high-fat, low-sugar dressing, and no croutons.

Conclusion

Use this simple guide every time you decide what to eat and you will lose weight. It's that simple and that powerful. Eat as much as you'd like. In fact, you'll find that you will be fuller and stay full longer eating foods rich in animal fats and will actually wind up eating less just because you will feel satiated.

Don't lose sleep if you can't completely eliminate all sugar intake. This crap is in everything. Even the ketchup that comes on your burger is mostly sugar. Don't stress over the condiments. The trick is in trying to reduce it as much as possible. If you get breaded chicken there will be some flour and carbs in the breading, but it's a small enough amount in my opinion that it will probably be alright. Just get rid of the bread, french fries, and sugary soda, substitute them with an extra serving or two of bacon, and you're mostly there.

Keep in mind this is a lifetime commitment, but that's not as bad as it sounds. After eating like this for some time you will naturally avoid carbs, and eating something with a lot of carbs will actually make you feel sick. I accidentally ate a broccoli cheese soup some time ago that was cut with a lot of flour and felt like I was going to die. It's not a big deal, but something you should watch out for.

Something else I should mention is that if your insulin system is already broken and you have full blown diabetes, I have no idea how this diet could affect you. You should consult your doctor if that's the case. If you have diabetes and start messing with your sugar levels it could kill you, so please use extreme caution if this is the case.