Three Drugs that I Would Not Take

o-PRESCRIPTION-DRUGS-facebookIn Western Medicine, drugs are created to treat symptoms as opposed to the root cause of the condition. If you only suppress your symptoms, instead of also addressing the cause, your body will often protest by developing so-called “side effects” to medication or even by developing another dis-ease. This is how our bodies talk to us. But, there is nothing “side” about these effects—they are the direct result of the drugs.

Many of the most popular drugs being prescribed for millions have significant side effects that just don’t outweigh the risks. There are three drugs, which are frequently prescribed to women, that fall into this category—and which I personally would not take.

 

Statins for Heart Health

 

Statin drugs are prescribed to lower cholesterol. And the myth is that lowering cholesterol is the key to preventing heart disease. But the latest research has shown that things are far more complex than that. The truth is that statins deplete the body’s CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10)—a vital nutrient for producing energy in the cells. [1] Of all the organs, the heart requires the most energy and CoQ10 to function properly. So why take a medication for heart health that depletes a vital nutrient shown to support the heart—as well as every cell in your body?

Low levels of CoQ10 have also been linked to depression and dementia, as well as muscle weakness, fatigue, pain, and nerve damage—all of which are also known side effects of statins. [2]And because your body makes less CoQ10 as you age, taking any medication that lowers CoQ10 is not advisable. Further, fat—and fat in the form of cholesterol—has been vilified as the enemy of a health heart. Actually, sugar is the real culprit, not fat, because sugar causes inflammation. And this inflammation taxes the cardiovascular system and the entire body.

If you want to protect your heart, start by reducing inflammation. This means a healthy diet and supplements that are high in antioxidants. Taking vitamin E has been shown to keep blood platelets slippery (so fewer blood clots) and reduce inflammation. [3] (See The Wisdom of Menopause for a complete list of heart-healthy supplements and foods.)

Heart health also has an emotional component. If you want to truly heal your heart—or protect it at midlife—you need courage to look closely at any source of emotional pain, and then heal this brokenness with compassion, faith in the Divine, and emotional release. You were meant to have an open heart—to give and receive love, and to live joyfully.

Bisphosphonates for Bone Loss

Your body is constantly renewing itself. Older or damaged cells are eliminated by the body, so that newer, healthier cells can take their place. Your bones go through this cycle, too. If you have decreased bone mass, that means that your body is breaking down bone faster than it is creating new bone.

The most popular treatment is a biphosphonate, such as Actonel, Boniva, or Fosomax. These medications prevent bone breakdown and therefore bone loss. Although this sounds like a good idea, these drugs interfere with the natural cycle of breakdown and restoration. [4] The result is older, porous, brittle bone—and brittle bone means an increased likelihood of fractures. [5]

Bisphosphonates have significant side effects, too, including back pain, joint pain, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and constipation. [6] And some women have suffered osteonecrosis of the jaw—death of bone tissue—a condition that is not treatable [7] We’re also seeing atypical fractures of the femur that don’t heal! All because of dense bone that doesn’t remodel and allow in a good blood supply. Many dentists are also seeing an increasing need for root canal surgery because of these drugs. 

 

In about 50 percent of women prescribed a biphosphonate will stop treatment because of these side effects.

Even with these side effects, bisphosphonates may offer some benefit for women over 70 who already have osteoporosis. But I want you to protect your bones much earlier than that! And that means promoting bone health naturally. Be sure to get plenty of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. (Studies suggest that to keep your vitamin D levels in the optimal range requires 5,000 IU/day!) I also suggest eating an alkaline diet, getting plenty of weight-bearing exercise, and considering bioidentical hormones or plant hormones (phytoestrogens) that have estrogenic effects.

Premarin, Prempro, and All Other Synthetic Hormones 

I’ve been talking about bioidentical hormones for nearly three decades. And it still surprises me when women—and doctors—don’t know the difference between bioidentical hormones and synthetic ones. Bioidentical hormones are created to be an exact match in molecular structure to a woman’s body. That is what makes them “bioidentical.” In contrast, non-bioidentical estrogen, such as the estrogen in Premarin, is bioidentical only if your native food is hay. That’s because it is made from the urine of pregnant horses. Hence the name Pre (pregnant) Mar (mares) in (urine). Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone that is derived from bioidentical progesterone. The reason for this is that you can’t patent a bioidentical hormone that naturally occurs in nature. And so—to make progesterone marketable—it was changed into a compound not native to the female human body.

For about two decades, Premarin (just estrogen) and Prempro (Premarin plus Provera, a synthetic form of progesterone) were the gold standard for many doctors. And the one-pill-fits-all-women approach was the only option women were given. Then, in 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative Studies showed that women who supplemented with synthetic estrogen or Progestin had more incidences of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots than those who were given a placebo. Once thought to confer heart health and other benefits, women suddenly became wary of these drugs. [9]

The best approach for hormone therapy is one that is unique to you. Women can have their levels of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and other hormones tested. Or simply pay attention to how you feel—which I find is a far more accurate way to assess hormone balance than testing your levels. The results (and how you feel) allow you and your doctor to customize a treatment plan that is right for you. Start with the lowest dose possible and see how you do. Better yet, change your diet to a low sugar, organic food approach. Add a natural herbal remedy such as Pueraria mirifica, maca, black cohosh, ground golden flaxseed, or chasteberry. And if that doesn’t work, then try the bioidenticals. 

Remember that hormone therapy can take a few trials and errors. It’s a work in progress—just like you are at menopause.

You aren’t destined to wind up on various preventative medications. My mom is in her late 80s and she isn’t on any medication! Neither is my doctor friend Gladys who likes to say “93 and prescription free.” Before you take any medications regularly, make sure you are informed about all the risks and benefits. Does the drug cause nutritional deficiencies? Are you increasing your risk of cancer or heart disease? If so, seek out some alternatives that won’t put your health at risk.

[1] Langsjoen, P.H., & Langsjoen, A.M. (2003) The clinical use of HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors and the associated depletion or coenzyme Q10. A review of animal and human publications. Biofactors, 18 (1-4), 101-111.

[2] Scott, R.S., et al. (1991). Simvastatin and side effects N Z Med J, 104, 493-495. Laise, E. (Nov 2003). The Lipitor dilemma. Smart Money: The Wall Street Journal Magazine of Personal Business, 12(11), 90-96.Golumb, B.A., et al. (2007) Physician response to patient reports of adverse drug effects: Implications for patient-tergeted adverse effect surveillance. Drug Safety, 30, 669-675. King, D.S., et al. (2003). Cognitive impairment associated with atorvastatin and simvastatin. Pharmacology, 23, 1663-1667.

[3] Stampfer, M.J., et al. (1993). Vitamin E consumption and the risk of coronary artery disease in women. New Engl J Med, 328 20), 1444-1449.

[4] Odvina, C.V., et al. (2004). Severely suppressed bone turnover: A potential complication of alendronate therapy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 90, 1294-1301.

[5] Parker-Pope, T. (July, 15 2008) Drugs to buil bones may weaken them. New York Times, available online www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/health/15well.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

[6] National Osteoporosis Foundation, http://nof.org/articles/22

[7] Ruggiero, S.L. et al. (2004). Ostenecrosisof the jaws associated witht the use of bisphosphonates: A review of 63 cases. J Oral Maxillofacial Surg. 62, 527-534.

[8] Neviaser, A.S., et al. (2008). Low-energy femoral shaft fractures associated with alendronate use. J Orthop Trauma, 22, 346-350.

[9] Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators (2002). Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: Principal result from the Women’s Health Initiative randomizedmconrolled trial. JAMA, 288, 327-333.

-Dr.Northrup

 

What Is The Big Deal With Poop?

Mark your calendars for April 23rd and Join me for a FREE Teleseminar you WON'T want to miss on your Digestion!



Measure Progress Without the Scale

happy_woman_measure_waist_weightFrustrated. Disappointed. Hopeless. Skeptical.

Whichever you choose, these emotions are enemies of people trying to lose weight—especially when you feel like you have done everything right. For many trying to shed pounds, the elation from that initial weight loss is brought to a screeching halt when the scale stops moving. But instead of viewing this as a setback, look for other ways to measure your progress besides the scale. After all, good health isn’t always measured in pounds.

Losing weight usually involves a relatively simple calorie equation: burn off more calories with daily activity than you consume through food. So what happens when these numbers indicate progress, but the scale doesn’t? Before the aggravation sets in, consider why this might be the case. If you’ve been hitting the gym on a regular basis, participating in both cardiovascular and strengthening exercises, then chances are good that you have shed some fat. But the scale might not indicate this because you have also been building lean muscle. Since muscle is dense (a small volume of muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat), the scale might not reflect your hard work.

4 Non-Scale Signs of Progress
 
1. See results by taking a trip to your very own closet. Take out a pair of pants that fit snugly before you began your new, healthy habits. Are you able to ease into them, when before you had to sit (or lie) down and yank them up your legs? This is a sure sign of progress toward a leaner you! What about an old shirt? Is it now a little loose around your waist or arms? Also look for improved muscle definition when you check out your body in the mirror. There are many everyday indicators that you are firming up your body, from how your clothes fit to sitting more comfortably in a booth or small chair.

2. Aside from weight, use other numerical signs of progress. When you first start your program, take measurements of your waist, arms, neck and hips. Even if you are not losing pounds, you very well may be losing inches all over your body as your figure slims down and tones up with muscles. Measuring your body is more reliable than the scale alone. Other numerical indicators include a reduction of blood pressure or cholesterol, heart rate, and body fat percentage.

3. Monitor how a healthy diet and regular exercise affects your energy levels. Not only will you be able to work out for longer intervals of time, but everyday chores will also become easier. Whether cutting the grass or simply walking up the stairs, these behaviors will come effortlessly. Think of all the daily activities you could use more energy for—grocery shopping, house cleaning, playing with your kids, and more. Pretty soon you’ll be training for your first 5K!

4. Lastly, be conscious of how you feel emotionally. You’ve been working hard to reach your goals. Hopefully, the hard work will come with a boost in self-esteem, confidence, and happiness. Are you beginning to feel more comfortable in your own body? Work to build a positive vocabulary to stay motivated.

Just because the scale has stopped moving doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a plateau in reaching your goals. Don’t give up out of frustration—all healthy behaviors are well worth the effort. Whether it’s better sleep at night or more energy throughout the day, start listening to the signs your body gives you that all of your hard work is paying off!

-Sparkpeople



13 Benefits of Kiwifruit That Make It More Adorable

kiwiDid you know that the kiwifruit originally came from the Kang Chiang Valley in China and is also known as the Chinese gooseberry? It was only when New Zealanders saw its potential that it was given the name kiwi. The kiwi bird is the national symbol of New Zealand and the fruit itself is said to resemble it with its brown skin and funny shape.

It is not just a weird-looking fruit. It is also packed with nutrients that put many other fruits in the shade. Read on to discover the many benefits of kiwifruit.

1. Helps with weight loss
One medium kiwifruit contains only 57 calories per 100 grams, so it is an excellent daily addition to your fruit intake. As it also contains a high quantity of fiber (2.1 grams), this helps to make you feel full, so you may eat less. That is great news for weight watchers.

2. Relieves asthma in kids
An experiment involving 18,000 children in northern Italy showed that consuming kiwifruit can play a significant role in reducing asthma attacks. One group of children were given a few kiwifruit every day, while another group were given just one a week. The kids who ate the most kiwifruit found relief (25% to 44% less) from wheezing, nighttime coughing, and a runny nose.

3. Increases your potassium intake
Potassium is one of the essential minerals involved in pumping your heart and keeping the nervous system healthy. Kiwifruit contains lots of potassium and beats bananas by virtue of a 50% lower calorie count. Just another easy way of warding off heart disease.

4. Protects your vision
Maintaining eye health is essential. Carrots are great but may be tough to chew, so why not take a few kiwifruit instead?

A study at the South Dakota State University has shown that as kiwifruit has plenty of lutein and zeaxanthin, it can play a vital role in helping to reduce the incidence of macular degeneration. This is an extremely common vision disorder from 65 years of age onwards.

5. Relieves constipation
If you suffer from constipation, the kiwifruit is an excellent laxative as its fiber content helps to keep bowel movements regular. Kiwis contain actinidine, which is a key to efficient digestion. Combine that with exercise and plenty of liquids to prevent constipation.

6. Nourishes your skin
Another key element in this fruit is its plentiful supply of vitamins C and E. These are essential in helping you to regenerate new skin cells. If you are eating the right nutrients, your whole immune system will benefit. Your glowing skin will be a testimony to that.

7. Assists diabetes sufferers
The great thing about the kiwi is its low glycemic load, which makes it a good choice for those at risk of diabetes. In addition, it has only 14.6 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams. Please note though, any fruit has to be taken in moderation when diabetes is present, so be sure to consult your doctor.

8. Reduces blood clots
A study at the University of Oslo in Norway showed that kiwifruit was just as effective as aspirin in helping to keep blood from clotting. No side effects either! They were able to show that consuming up to three kiwis a day was effective in preventing these dangerous clots. In fact, the incidence of clots was reduced by 18%.

9. Provides more than enough vitamin C
The kiwi is the king when it comes to vitamin C. It contains one and a half times the recommended daily dose! It even beats the orange (55 mg) as it contains 85–92 mg per 100 grams. It is therefore an essential weapon for keeping everything on track healthwise, such as:

  • blood circulation
  • healthy bones
  • teeth
  • immune system.

10. Cancer prevention
It is fascinating to learn that the kiwifruit was used as a cancer prevention aid as far back as 700 BC in Asia.

The fact that the kiwi has such a high concentration of flavonoids and carotenoids means that it can have a powerful antioxidant function. This is crucial in keeping free radical activity at bay and also may help to protect DNA.

11. Provides folate
If you are thinking of starting a family, your doctor may recommend that mothers-to-be take more folate, as it has been shown to be an effective way of reducing birth defects. It also helps you to make red blood cells, which is really useful in preventing anemia. The amount of folate in a kiwi is about 10% of the daily recommended dose, which amounts to 17 micrograms. Other sources are dark leafy vegetables, beets, potatoes, and asparagus.

12. Sleep well!
Research reported in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who took kiwifruit on a regular basis slept better and longer. Participants were given two kiwis before bedtime for a month. Results showed that the serotonin in the fruit helped the subjects get to sleep more quickly and alleviated sleep disorders.

13. Reduces harmful cholesterol
One of the kiwifruit’s greatest benefits of all is that it helps to keep your cholesterol levels under control. Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand found that consumption of kiwifruit was a factor in helping to reduce harmful cholesterol. They believe that this is due, in part, to the high levels of polyphenols found in it.

As we have seen, there are innumerable health benefits in eating this great fruit. So the next time you go grocery shopping, why not give the ugly, humble kiwifruit a try?

Whatever you do though, don’t follow Erma Bombeck’s advice. She wrote: “Someone once threw me a small, brown, hairy kiwifruit, and I threw a wastebasket over it until it was dead.”

-Lifehack



Mastering Hashimoto’s

Almost everyone at some point of their lives has experienced acid reflux, or GERD. It would make perfect sense to think that when we have too much acid, it will start coming up and hurt our esophagus and even the throat. 

Right?

Not so fast.

There are a few misconceptions in the Western medical world and stomach acidity (or HCl levels = hydrochloric acid) is one of them. Doctors liberally prescribe anti-acids but you and I know that: a). they take the pain away for a while but never solve the problem in the long term and b). they do not address the root cause of acid reflux. Meantime, the pharmaceutical companies are having a ball with Americans spending $13 billion on acid stopping drugs every year. 

Anybody familiar with a functional approach to health or scientific literature (like on PubMed.com) would know that most people today have a stomach acid deficiency which is the root of many digestive issues.  

If having too much acid was the cause of acid reflux, why is it that it's the older people who get it more often? It's well known that as we age, we produce less stomach acid. So if the theory made sense, it's the teenagers who should be popping anti-acids and not the older people. 
 

~ Here is why we need good HCl levels ~

 
1. Digestion and absorption pre-requisite 
 
HCl is essential in the breakdown of vital nutrients. It allows for the digestion and absorption of the trace minerals zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, selenium, and vitamins B12 and B3. It also triggers the pancreas to produce bile and digestive enzymes needed to digest and absorb proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If these nutrients are not properly digested and absorbed, a person can develop multiple deficiencies which lead to other serious health issues. In other words, you can eat well but your body will still be starved of nutrients.

This is also part of the reason why seeing food particles in your poop could be due to low HCl levels. I've had clients whose anemia went away just by increasing their HCl levels. It's simple – the iron-rich foods they were eating were now getting absorbed properly. 

 
2. Keeps pathogens at bay
 
HCl also serves to sterilize the stomach. This helps to kill off pathogens found in food and prevents the overgrowth of yeast (like Candida), fungus, and bacteria (like h.pylori and yersinia, often present in people with Hashimoto's). Those who have low acid levels in their stomach may experience chronic bacterial or yeast infections. So, you might be doing all the right things – avoiding sugar and taking anti-bacterial herbals but can you see how futile this can be when the stomach is not playing along in killing the nasties? 
 
~ How to check for sufficient stomach acid? ~
 
Test Option 1: Baking soda test
You can very easily test it at home. This is how.
  1. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 4-6 ounces of cold or room-temperature water first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything.
  2. Drink the baking soda solution.
  3. Time how long it takes you to belch.
  4. If you have not belched within 3 minutes, stop timing.
  5. If you have not belched, you have too little stomach acid. If you belch, you are fine.
Is it the most reliable method? 
Not for everyone. But, it's fun to do, especially when you get your kids involve and start belching first thing in the morning! 
 
 



Frozen Banana Coconut Cream Pie

This is from my new favorite cookbook. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family did! This recipe was so easy, I was able to do it with my son. If you have kids, it's so great to cook with them. They have such a sense of accomplishment when they serve their creations. Enjoy! And please let me know what you think of it.

I'm so sorry we didn't take a picture of the completed pie. It was so beautiful, we ate it before I had a chance!

Nourishing Meals

Chocolate Cookie Crumb Crust:

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1/4 cup arrowroot powder

1/4 cup coconut sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 to 2 teaspoons water

 

Coconut Cream Filling

4 medium frozen bananas

1/2 cup coconut cream*

2 to 4 tablespoons honey

1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla

 

*Coconut cream is just a can of full fat coconut milk put in the fridge overnight.

Crust:

Preheat over to 350

Place almond flour, arrowroot, coconut sugar, cocoa powder and salt nto food processor. Pulse a few times to mix the ingredients together. Add coconut oil and process again until crumbly. While the motor is running, slowly add the water starting with 1 tablespoon. Continue to process until dough begins to form a ball. Add a tad bit more water if necessary. Press into a 9 inch deep dish pie plate. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely or freeze before adding the filling.

To make the filling, place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse/process to break down the bananas.

Note: this jammed up my food processor so I would suggest cutting the bananas into slices before doing this step.

Once the filling is smooth, scoop into crust and freeze for 2 to 4 hours or until firm. Slice and serve.

Yields 8 servings



Thyroid Healthy Tips

Suzy-Cohen-1-150x111Dear Pharmacist,

I take Synthroid for my thyroid condition and also Wellbutrin for depression. I am in pretty good health other than my hair still coming out, and I have cold hands and feet, but I feel better overall. What else can I take or do to help myself? –R.P., Boston, Massachusetts

Answer: It sounds like your getting somewhere but not fast enough. The symptoms you describe are commonly associated with low thyroid. I suggest you ask your doctor for added support. By that, I mean a slight dosage increase, or a different medication altogether and/or supplements. Let’s talk about this more.

Synthroid contains synthetic thyroxine (T4). It’s pure T4 and it’s a bio-identical match to our own natural thyroid hormone. Some people can easily convert that drug to it’s active form called T3, but not everyone.  The problem is that in people with depression, they have a very hard time converting T4 to active T3 which is what your cells are starving for. It sounds like this could be happening to you. It’s what I call being “thyroid sick” as opposed to “hypothyroidism” which is where your gland fails you. There are ways to overcome this:

One way is to switch to a “natural dessicated thyroid” (NDT) drug such as Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid or WP Thyroid (very clean ingredients).  Since NDT drugs are combinations of T4 and T3, you’ll probably get better results.

Another way is to take a T3 drug with your Synthroid each morning (2 pills). This offers the active T3 to your body which could ease your depression and other symptoms.  T3 drugs are compounded at special pharmacies and you can buy a ready-made brand called Cytomel at any pharmacy.

Yet another way to help improve T4 to T3 conversion is to take natural herbs and vitamins that help your body activate the Synthroid. I’m  thinking of a high quality trace mineral formula that contains zinc, magnesium and so forth. Selenium is particularly important because it improves T3 activation while reducing antibodies that would otherwise destroy your thyroid gland. Here are tips for everyone:

Thyroid Healthy Tip #1: Wear a “thyroid collar” whenever you get a chest  X ray, or any X ray where your thyroid gland is exposed to the radiation. Your thyroid is extremely sensitive to radiation so do whatever you can to protect it.

Thyroid Healthy Tip #2: Before you become pregnant, have your thyroid checked properly. Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for infertility, premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage and poor fetal neurological development.

Thyroid Healthy Tip #3: I often hear a person describe obvious symptoms of hypothyroidism several weeks or months after surgery. This is termed non-thyroidal illness and it happens after surgery. It’s detrimental to not treat this condition. Your cells could be starving (what I call “thyroid sick”) even though your TSH test is normal so if you feel hypothyroid despite a normal lab test, ask for a trial course of medicine and see how you respond.

-Suzy Cohen

Cardio Vs. Weights: Which Should You Do First?

Weights628x363-COMP-mann0107The claim: Forget what you've heard about the ideal order of a workout: Turns out it doesn’t matter whether you do weights or cardio first, because the long-term results will be the same, says a new study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. 

The research: Finnish researchers hypothesized that by doing cardiovascular exercise prior to strength training, it might make muscles weaker and reduce the ability to lift heavy weights. To test their theory, they followed 34 men between the ages of 18 and 40 years old as the men performed either cardio followed by strength training or vice versa for 24 weeks, two to three times a week. Equal time (varying between 30 and 50 minutes) was given to both cardiovascular and strength training. Surprisingly, at the end of the 24-week training period, both groups increased their physical performance and muscle size. 

What it means: “Based on our studies of men and the preliminary findings of women, the exercise order does not seem to play a key role, leaving it up to personal preference,” says lead researcher Moritz Schumann, a PhD candidate in the department of biology of physical activity at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

The bottom line: Exercise order does not seem to affect the training outcomes as long as the volume and frequency of training is moderate: two to three combined sessions per week, Schumann says. However, strength development suffers when the amount of cardio training is much higher than the amount of resistance training performed (e.g. three cardio endurance sessions and only one strength session).

-Prevention

Good Fats Versus Bad Fats

food2I was a card-carrying skinny-latte-drinking low-fat girl. I ordered frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, grilled chicken instead of steak, and I snacked on low-fat cheese and reduced-fat crackers. With a family history of high cholesterol (my own number hovered slightly beyond the healthy range), I figured that limiting saturated fat was smart.

But in the past couple of years I've made some changes. Inspired by the movement to eat locally, I started shopping at my farmers' market: I bought a quarter of a grass-fed cow and stocked my basement freezer with the beef, which I ate once a week. I also splurged on local bacon sometimes. When my store was out of skim milk, I discovered I preferred creamier 1 percent. I began eating dark chocolate daily. At the same time, I bought fewer packaged crackers, granola bars, and other snacks.

At a recent checkup, I was shocked: Even though I was eating foods rich in saturated fat and a seemingly more indulgent diet, my total cholesterol was down 10 points, my "bad" LDL cholesterol was stellar, and my "good" HDL was the highest it's ever been. And bonus: I hadn't gained any weight! How was that possible? Actually, the health benefits I experienced may be surprisingly common, a growing number of experts say.

What We're Told
Since the epic fail of the fat-free craze of the '80s and '90s, we've learned a lot. The hope was that by cutting fat from our diets, we would trim inches from our figures. Instead, the exact opposite happened: Because fat-free cookies, cheese, chips, and crackers were missing the critical fat that makes us feel full, we ate double — sometimes triple — the usual portion. And because manufacturers dumped extra sugar into these foods to make them taste better, we took in just as many calories and often many more. "The low-fat message backfired," says Frank Hu, MD, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It led to a proliferation of products that were loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories."

These days, advice about fat has shifted away from "Eat less fat" to "Eat the right fats." Fats are now labeled "good" and "bad." The good guys are unsaturated fats: monounsaturateds (MUFAs), found in foods like olive oil and avocados, and polyunsaturateds (PUFAs), found in sunflower and corn oils, among others, and in the omega-3s in salmon and walnuts. Both types earned gold stars because they've been shown to lower blood cholesterol and the risk for heart disease.

The villain, we've long been told, is saturated fat. The conventional wisdom, which dates to the 1950s, is that saturated fat, which is present in meat, dairy, and some plant products, increases our total cholesterol and chance for heart disease and stroke. Trans fat, a relative newcomer that dominated packaged goods and fast food, is another bad guy: It not only ups our LDL cholesterol but also lowers our HDL cholesterol (the kind that helps sweep bad cholesterol out of the body). The American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake of saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your total calories (if you eat 2,000 calories a day, that's 16 grams, roughly the amount in a chocolate milk shake) and of trans fats to no more than two grams a day.

Saturated Fat Is Wrongfully Accused
After decades of bashing saturated fat, the medical community was stunned by a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In a research analysis, scientists discovered that there wasn't enough proof to link saturated fat to either heart disease or stroke. It wasn't the first time this fat had been vindicated: Four years earlier the Women's Health Initiative study found that eating less saturated fat didn't result in lower rates of heart disease or stroke. The 2010 analysis, however, was so big and so thorough — involving 21 studies and nearly 350,000 people — that it grabbed experts' attention. "Everyone had just assumed that the evidence against saturated fat was strong," says study author Ronald Krauss, MD, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who was surprised by the finding and the controversy it created. "We had to work hard to get our study published. There was an intrinsic mistrust of this kind of result."

Researchers say there were even earlier clues that saturated fat didn't deserve its reputation as top dietary villain. The decades-old "diet-heart hypothesis" — the idea that saturated fat is bad for the heart — was mostly based on animal studies and short-term trials that looked only at people's cholesterol levels, not at whether they actually had heart attacks. "Those studies are great for making hypotheses but not for making widespread recommendations," says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and a researcher of diet and heart health. "When we started getting evidence from longer trials and observations, we realized that the truth is more nuanced than we thought."

What researchers discovered was that cutting out saturated fat didn't make much difference, until you considered what people ate in place of it. Swapping animal fats for vegetable oils — for instance, using soybean oil instead of butter — appeared to lower LDL cholesterol levels and disease risk. But trading your a.m. bacon for a bagel didn't do the trick. "When you replace saturated fats with refined carbs, your triglycerides can go up and your good HDL cholesterol can go down," explains Alice H. Lichtenstein, the director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University. High triglycerides and low HDL are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and criteria of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems linked to diabetes and heart disease.

Eating less saturated fat doesn't seem to help your weight, either. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people on a low-carb diet shed pounds faster and had better cholesterol levels than those on a low-fat diet, even though the low-carb group was taking in relatively more saturated fat. This may be because people eating fewer carbs release less insulin, which may reduce fat storage, control hunger, and influence metabolism in a way that helps keep cholesterol in check.

-FitMagazine

Seeing is Achieving

Finish_LineVisual images hold amazing power. We can all still “see” the Challenger disaster, the flag rising over Iwo Jima, even our own high school yearbook pictures. The images are still with us today. And so are the emotions that go with them.

You can use this power to your advantage to help you lose weight. If you surround yourself with visual cues, you have a great chance of meeting that goal. A picture of what you want (or don’t want) to look like; a vacation postcard that you’re using as a reward; a picture of your kids who you want to stick around for – these images can stick around and pull at you even when they’re not in sight.

Seeing is believing. Seeing is also achieving.

How Do Visual Cues Work?
First, let’s look at how the brain processes information. The mind simply can’t keep up with the 36 million bits of visual data that bombard it every second. So the conscious mind doesn’t bother trying. It simply passes most of the info along to be processed somewhere else.

According to brain specialist Amy K. Hutchens, 99% of learning is done on a non-conscious level. “That’s a fancy way of saying that vision dominates your brain activity and behaviors,” she says. Basically, what we see can determine how we act.

Seeing The Good Stuff
Your brain needs a method of filtering through the clutter and locking onto what’s important. This is where the science comes in. The “reticular activation system” (RAS) sorts through those millions of bits of data, making sure that you’re only aware of certain things. It calls your attention only to the details that you don’t want to miss, such as hearing your name in a crowd.

Have you ever bought a home or rented an apartment? Once you made a conscious decision to start shopping, it probably seemed like For Sale or For Rent signs were popping up everywhere. In actuality, the signs probably had been there for months, but you just noticed them for the first time. That’s because this specific priority was now “registered” with your RAS.

Weight loss is a priority that can be “registered” the same way. Mare Petras, a fitness expert who helped organize the first Great American Workout, sees this as a perfect reason to write down or put visuals to your goals. She explains, “If you put down a solid vision of how you want to look, your vision will pop up when you need it. In my experience, overweight people are sometimes powerless over impulses. Seeing a visual helps them to stop and think – and make better choices. It adds color to a black and white goal.”

Once you write something down or see a picture of your goal, your brain starts to work on that goal without you even realizing it. You’ll notice people wearing the same swimsuit you want; you’ll see bike and walking paths that you didn’t notice before; you’ll see healthier menu items that you skipped over in the past. You’ll be drawn toward making the right decisions.

Positive Pictures = Positive Progress
Another way visual cues can help keep your motivation high is through the power of positive association. Seeing a positive stimulus increases the production of serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Seeing that same cue often enough builds a pattern of positive response that creates momentum. Soon, the positive feeling will transfer to your goals as well.

Dr. Daphne Stevens, a psychotherapist with 30 years’ experience working with weight control and fitness issues, says that this connection between picture and motivation only grows stronger as you achieve and see results. “Pardon the pun, but a sense of mastery ‘feeds’ on itself,” she says. “The satisfaction of doing positive things for the body substitutes for the quick-fix rush of sugar or simple carbs that put on the pounds.”

So write your goals down right now, plaster that fridge with positive pictures, tape an inspiring message to your dashboard, do whatever it takes to surround yourself with visual cues.

You’ll see success – both in your mind and in your life.

-Sparkpeople

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