A Day in the Life of the Standard American Diet (SAD)

Our Health is Declining.

The statistics are alarming. In 1960, one person in a hundred had diabetes, today it’s one in eight. It is now predicted that by 2050, one person in three will suffer from the condition if the trend continues. Even worse, 70 percent of people who get diabetes will develop heart disease.

So much of the time we hear about our Standard American Diet or SAD Diet. And a sad diet it is. I have borrowed a description of a fictional victim of our food culture from an interesting book titled: The End of Alzheimer”s: the First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline by Dale E Bredesen, MD, MSL, Professor and Founding President, Buck Institute, Professor, UCLA. Quotes cited by Dr. Bredesen.

 Our fictional consumer begins early in the morning as “ he grabs a typical America breakfast – a sweet roll or doughnut, a large glass of orange juice, a big slug of low-fat  milk in his coffee.” His high refined carbohydrate diet sets him up immediately toward insulin resistance with an increased stress level brought about by the “stress hormone, cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of each kidney. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help:

  • the body respond to stress or danger
  • increase the body’s metabolism of glucose
  • control blood pressure
  • reduce inflammation

Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response, which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct.

In order to prevent gastric reflux, he takes his daily proton pump supplement after he swallows his statin his doctor prescribes to prevent a rise in his  cholesterol and heart disease risk.

“When his blood sugar crashes around mid-day, he visits the office pantry, where a colleague has left a thoughtful box of chocolate chip muffins.” But he realizes that it’s almost time for lunch, so he proudly skips the muffins, declaring he’s starting to eat “healthy.”

“There’s no time for much of anything except a sandwich from the deli on refined white bread and spongy saline-injected turkey with hormones and full of antibiotics or how about a mercury-laden tuna sandwich. Either way he can wash it all down with a diet soda.”

“Sugar from the candy machine has helped to fuel his  “exercise today ( and every day) – who has time to get up and move around frequently? Finally, it’s time to hit the freeway, so he grabs a bag of Doritos to snack on to get him home. “He is soon heading home while screaming at the idiot riding his brakes in front of us, keeping his blood pressure up and making his blood-brain barrier as porous as the colander we plan to use for tonight’s gluten -filled pasta dinner.” Bredesen, M.D 2017.

“On second thought, he thinks he prefers something from the drive-thru. Start with large fries loaded with trans fats, oxidized reheated oils with little vitamin E .” Add the burger from corn and not grass-fed beef, high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3s, slathered in high-fructose corn syrup ketchup, on a bun packed with gluten.” Now he has had a perfect inflammatory day. No wonder so many of the conditions that increase our risk of chronic disease (cardio, brain health, diabetes, and obesity) are becoming so prevalent even at younger ages). Are they the result of what we eat and exercise.” Research is beginning to say “yes”. Bredesen, 2017.

Dr. Robert H. Lustig MD writes in his current book, Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine, “Are Americans healthier? Do we enjoy better healthcare? Do we live longer? The answer is an unequivocal and emphatic no. Americans have the worst health outcomes of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the thirty – seven richest countries.  Americans have the worst rating of the developed countries of the world: #1 in diabetes, #2 in Alzheimer’s disease, #5 in cancer, and #6 in cardiovascular disease (CVD)”

“No doubt, of all the OECD countries, the U.S. is the sickest along with expensive drugs and expensive doctors. Lustig says: “America spends the most but gets the least.”

“The holy grail of Modern Medicine is you can’t fix healthcare until you fix health; and you can’t fix health until you fix the food. Everyone is talking about healthcare, few people are talking about health, and nobody is talking about food.” Lustig, Metabolical, 2021., p 25.   

Isn’t that a novel idea?  “What can you do today? You have the vote in the form of not only a ballot box but with your fork.”

The next wave of the food revolution is long overdue. We have to make food a voting issue” Robert H. Lustig, MD 2021, page 375. Food, Facts and Fads agrees. (SJF)

THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET (SAD)

What is the Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome

A collection of health risks, including high blood pressure, altered blood lipids, high blood glucose and a large waist circumference, that increases the chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The condition is also called insulin resistance.

CLICK HERE.

Smolin, Grosvenor. Nutrition, Science and Applications, Third Edition

How Diet Affects the Brain

“Poor diets lead to a host of medical issues: obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. But diet also influences the brain and can increase the risk for mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers are uncovering the details of how the foods we consume affect our cravings, our moods, and even our memories.”

We hear so much these days about omega 3-rich fish oils as well as omega-6 rich oils. Today we consume ten to 20 times more omega-6 fats and have dramatically reduced our intake of omega-3 fats. This goes against our hunter-gatherer evolutionary history of a 1:1 ratio. Recent research indicates that people who regularly consumed omega-3-rich oils such as flax seed, olive and walnut oils were 60 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who did not regularly consume such oils. Y. Zhang, et al. “Intakes of Fish and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Milk-to-Severe Cognitive Impairment Risks…. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71, no.2 (2016):330-40.

CLICK HERE.

Alert: Meat, coffee and chocolate?

Nearly 50% of food influencers are actively seeking more plant-based options. Major retailers are asking their suppliers for more plant-based products for their shelves and restaurants that have added vegan options to menus have seen an increase in business while the competition has struggled. These are all signs that point to plant-based being more than just a trend. It is a blossoming cultural movement and we are still in the earliest stages!”

Reference: Plant-based World Newsletter, 2021

CLICK HERE.

Has anyone noticed the emphasis on plant-based food in the food magazines lately? Interesting!! Just saying – stay tuned. SJF (my opinion).

Your Brain on Processed Food

https://eladsi.medium.com/ultra-processed-food-is-messing-with-your-brain-2da37c98a09e

A real-life experiment -that speaks for itself. There is a great need for studies that attempt to measure the actual effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD) on the body. This study is not a clinical trial, and the results are somewhat subjective. It was only one subject but maybe more effective to everyone than obtaining food records from study participants relying on memory. The best way would be to measure metabolic parameters like LDL or HDL cholesterol, liver enzymes, hormones, blood pressure, e.g. This study did rely on brain scans and some lab work.

Many studies are often funded by the industry and the results are only for Big Food promotion of their own products. “Without understanding who paid for the research, it’s hard for anyone to know what dietary advice to follow.” Source: Marion Nestle, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, 2018.

Neverthless, I find the above study interesting and worth a read. (my opinion, SJF)

Do you remember what you ate last Tuesday?

CLICK HERE.

The Blue Zones: A Short Course

Dan Beuttner has gathered some of the top scientists in the world to study these remarkable places called the Blue Zones  where many people live to 100 years or more. They not only live long, healthy lives, but serve as teachers to the rest of us on a series of “food rituals’ ‘ that along with other healthy lifestyle factors contribute to this scenario. 

In our evolutionary history, we as hunter-gatherers lived at a time where we sought calorie-loaded foods in order to simply survive. Needless, to say, many of us don’t have this added stress to simply feed our families. On the other hand, many of us in the world today are living in a time when obesity is now called a pandemic and we are faced with the possibility of dying from abundance and not scarcity. We refer to our food choices as part of a conglomerate of industries referred to as big Ag, big Food the Standard American Diet or more realistically as the SAD diet. 

What Can We Learn and How? 

Centenarians in the Blue Zones follow daily rituals around food and meals that help them stay on course – practicing them in your own lives are the keys to longevity. Here is a brief guideline. 

 MAKE BREAKFAST THE LARGEST MEAL OF THE DAY. 

“Include complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and plant or animal protein. 

Expand your choices beyond cereal or eggs. In certain Blue Zone countries, some include beans, tortillas, miso soup.”

COOK YOUR MEALS AT HOME. 

Plan and prep ingredients for dinner in the morning. Use your slow cooker often, so dinner cooks all day and is ready for you late afternoon. 

HARI HACHI BU 

Plan to stop eating when you’re close to 80% full, based on a 2500 year old Confucian adage and practiced by the Okinawans. “ Try saying it before a meal by simply pausing for a moment of silence or saying thanks is a way to recognize the appreciation of your food. 

FAST FASTS 

“Recent evidence shows that fasting, even for a day, can recalibrate insulin release, temporarily lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Research has suggested that calorie restriction may slow aging. 

Try eating only two meals a day; a big late-morning brunch and a second meal around 5 p.m.” 

  EAT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS 

“Most people in the Blue Zones often have three-hour dinner affairs with a succession of many small courses.  They never eat standing up or while driving. Avoid reading, watching TV or using your phone.”

Celebrate and Enjoy Food 

“We eat about 1100 meals a year. If we celebrate a couple of times a week and enjoy what we love to eat, that still leaves almost 1,000 meals a year to eat the Blue Zones way.”

 Pick one day of the week and make it your celebratory day to splurge on a meal with your favorite foods.” 

 Diets that use restrictions, limitations or deprivations never work.  

 Source: 

Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, 2015,  

The Gut-Brain Connection: A New Concept?

CLICK HERE.

In the Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer, executive director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience at UCLA, offers the cutting edge into this developing science, showing the full impact and complexity of how the brain, gut, and microbiome that lives inside the digestive tract communicate with one another. As he explains, the connection between the mind and the gut is bidirectional: the gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut. When this communication is out of whack, major health problems can crop up in both the mind and the body, including food sensitivities and allergies, digestive disorders, obesity, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.”

Source: Emeran Mayer, MD. The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies impacts our Mood, Our Choices, and our Overall Health, 2016.

 

Pre Diabetes and Cognitive Decline

In the News

Pre diabetes linked to cognitive decline

“People with higher than normal blood sugar called prediabetes, are more likely to experience cognitive decline and vascular dementia according to a study published in Diabetes, Metabolism, and Obesity.  

Researchers analyzed UK biobank data from almost 450,000 people averaging 58 years old who underwent an HB A1C test, which determines average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.

Based on these results, they were divided into one of five groups:  low normal blood sugar, normal blood sugar, pre diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, and diabetes. Pre diabetes was classified as having a hemoglobin A1C blood test reading of 6.0% – 6.5% %. Ideal A1C levels are under 5.5%

Results show that people with above normal sugar levels were:

42% more likely to experience cognitive decline over four years and 54% were more likely to develop vascular dementia over eight years. Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

People with prediabetes and diabetes had similar rates of cognitive decline, 42% and 39% respectively.

MRI brain scans revealed that pre diabetes was associated with a smaller hippocampus and more strongly associated with having lesions on the brain, both of which are associated with age related cognitive impairment.”

Diabetes is thought to be prevented by making some easy lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise, in other words a diet that restricts refined carbohydrates, sweetened drinks (including fruit juice) and keeping your weight at a reasonable level with more emphasis on the lower carbohydrate side (less than 40 percent of total calories.) Please consult with your physician before you begin any calorie restricted diet, however.

Source: Diabetes Obes Metab. 2021; 1-10.

Life Extension, May 2021

Diet and Lifestyle in Diabetes Control

Notes: Sally Feltner, M.S., Ph.D.

Diabetes blood sugar control is getting worse for U.S. adults. By Bobbie Berman, June 14, 2021 .

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Fang, Michael, Ph.D., et al. Trends in Diabetes Treatment and Control in U.S. Adults. 2021; 384; 2219-2228, 

After scanning the original article in NEJM for any mention of the role of diet in the control of glycemic parameters, I found none.

In the article above by Mr. Berman, there is only a mention of diet in the following manner:

“A person with diabetes can still eat the foods that they enjoy, just less frequently or in smaller portions.

Follow the advice of a doctor or dietitian, eat a varied meal plan that includes foods from all groups, and stick to the recommended amounts.

Some people with diabetes should eat at the same time each day, while others have a little more flexibility when it comes to the timings of meals. Portion size is also very important in people with diabetes. Speak to a dietitian about the best way to manage this.”

Finally, someone gave it at least an after thought. I had a close relative with diabetes type 2 who when asked if he had ever seen a certified diabetic educator (CDE, often a dietitian,) or spoken about diet with his physician. He always said “No”. 

Perhaps if doctors were more educated about the effects of diet on diabetes control, patients would be more compliant with these recommendations. I am not a certified diabetic educator, but am retired as a registered dietitian. I strongly recommend that if you are diabetic, consult with your primary care physician and try to see someone with the proper credentials about diabetes care. (Sally Feltner)

Take a look at the following article on a study done to compare lifestyle factors vs. metformin ( a common compound taken by diabetic patients for glucose control) Spoiler Alert: LIFESTYLE FACTORS WIN OUT OVER METFORMIN and prevention is the key.

CLICK HERE.

Big Food?

“Robert Goldstein, a hedge fund manager in New York, was getting huge cravings for sweets when he came across a tropical plant called Gymnema sylvestre that works a little like methadone for heroin addicts.” What does that have to do with “big food”? Too much, I’m afraid.

CLICK HERE.

UNHEALTHY PROCESSED FOOD AND SNACKS CAN LEAD TO OBESITY