Many terms have come to define the complex symptom set and chronic disease inter-relationship that is generally recognized as the metabolic syndrome, a precursor to the modern scourge, adult- onset diabetes. Encompassing elevated lipids and glucose, high blood pressure, central adiposity and other signs and symptoms, this is the clinical manifestation of the American obesity epidemic. Nutrition texts refer to a toxic food environment.
Each quarter, I explain to students that this phrase has a dual meaning. We live in a predominantly couch-friendly, TV marketing environment that is toxic, with ads featuring highly refined foods. At the same time, we are eating food that is, in fact, toxic, adding to the metabolic burden on our bodies. ivf in Santa Barbara Though modern medicine relies on various pharmacological therapies, reversing diabetes and obesity must focus foremost on education, prevention and lifestyle change. Diet and exercise ought to lay the groundwork with herbs, specific phytochemicals and nutritional supplements playing supporting roles.
There is no question that our diet has changed drastically over the past 75 years. Factory food production has been geared towards corporate profits, with food preservation and refinement taking the lead, while nutrients have been stripped from the finished product. In more recent decades, greater sums of flavorings, colorings, stabilizers and preservatives have become part of factory food recipes, not to mention pesticides, agricultural – chemical residues, and of late, modified genes (GMO). The government and academic institutions have been complicit as well.
Take for example the old Department of Agriculture food pyramid with grains as the base; a recipe for diabetes. The new pyramid, laid out differently, is little improved. I advise my students to put vegetables, legumes, other plant foods, wild and grass-fed animal proteins, and some fruit near or at the base, and move grains (way) up the pyramid, if they choose to use this illustration at all. An entertaining online pursuit is perusing mypyramid.gov and then mypyramid.org, the former being, of course, the official site. The latter is a parody brought to my attention by a former student.
A decade ago, I attended an organic farming class at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. It took place in the Center for Advanced Food Technology and Nabisco Advanced Food Technology Institute. Clearly, industry money is influencing research, especially in an environment of financially strapped state colleges. In fact, a recent study on nutrition research out of Boston showed that four out of five studies funded by food industries were biased to show results favorable to their sponsors. In food processing, one of the first macro-nutrient components to be removed was dietary fiber, the matrix that holds plants together and incorporates key phytochemicals in its structure.
There is a direct relationship between the inclusion of dietary fiber in meals and the bodys glycemic response to specific foods. Soluble, viscous fibers especially slow glucose absorption by slowing transit of food through the upper gastrointestinal tract. Found in legumes, citrus whites, apple skins, berries, various fruits, grains and other food, pectin, gum and mucilage can also lower blood cholesterol by binding with bile acids and aiding their excretion.
Much research is being conducted on how the body utilizes both soluble and insoluble fiber. Many think fiber goes unused. However, soluble fiber is partially broken down in the gut, yielding energy, vitamin manufacture and immune enhancement by nourishing flora and by extension, colonocytes. Insoluble fiber aids passage through the lower digestive tract and plays other roles. By eating more fibrous foods in general, we are likely to consume more health-promoting constituents in addition to phytochemicals. Lignans, for example, perform phenomenal tasks in the body though a lesser role in lowering risk of diabetes. For 75 cents per pound, one can purchase lignan-laden flaxseeds that may prevent and control breast, prostate and other cancers.
Several companies have combination formulas of powdered, soluble fiber-rich blends. These are often a considerable step in quality above commercial brands and are sometimes made without psyllium and oats, to which some individuals are intolerant/allergic. Encapsulated products are also available, though more costly, but may boost individuals adherence to a nutritional program. Powdered fiber products are invaluable for increasing overall fiber consumption and slowing glucose absorption. In fact, some individuals would get more fiber in 1 or 2 scoops of a particular fiber formula than they may get in an entire days diet. The FDAs daily value for fiber is set at 25 grams; however, few Americans consume this quantity. It is telling that traditional cultures, many of which ate 3-5 times as much fiber, had no diabetes. Compare these quantities to the average Americans daily intake of added sugar, approximately 30 teaspoons per day.
Sugar and Spice
I often ask students to consider the historic availability of sugar (and most commonly used vegetable oils). I once heard the respected herbalist, David Winston, speak of the same. Obtaining sugar was a difficult, seasonal process at best. Sugar was available certain times of the year from whole foods, fruits and vegetables, not in soda, juice, and an array of cookies and candies. It was prized and stored in the whole food matrix, dried, used to ferment, etc. The takeaway: instruct your patients and clients to step out of the box and eat whole foods rich in fiber and phytochemicals. Furthermore, we can take advice from NYU nutritionist Marion Nestle and walk the perimeter of grocery stores. The healthier foods generally live along the walls, and there appears to be less shelf-talking advertising.