Sunday, July 21, 2013

Our SORRY State with SUGAR!!



Feed Your Brain to Look and Feel Younger
Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.
As I was writing this book, I saw a feature on ESPN about Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who has a terrible sweet tooth, consuming up to eighty dollars' worth of candy a week. As a Lakers season ticket holder, I have suffered through years of Odom's erratic on-court performances. I decided to write a piece for my blog, which was picked up by the Losageles Times, which subsequently caused a firestorm of controversy during the 2009 NBA Finals. Here is an excerpt of the piece.

/ have been a huge Los Angeles Lakers fan since I was a child. I am really excited about my team being in the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. What I'm not as excited about is a piece I recently watched on ESPN about Lakers star Lamar Odom and his massive addiction... to candy. In it, you can see the 6-foot, 10-inch forward gobbling up massive quantities of the sugary treats.
Odom has been a giant source of frustration for Lakers fans. He is unbelievably talented, but often acts like a space cadet during games. Once, he was taking the ball out on the sidelines, when he walked onto the court before he threw the ball in, causing a turnover. During the Lakers last home game against the Denver Nuggets, Kobe Bryant threw him a pass, but the ball hit him on the shoulder because he had spaced out and was not paying attention. On talk shows, Odotn is constantly criticized because no one knows if he will play well or not. He can play great, and be worth hisfourteen-million-dollar-a-year salary or he can act like he is "missing in action."
Odom freely confesses that he just can't help himself when it comes to the sweet stuff and always keeps a stash on hand of Gummi Bears, Honey Buns, Lifesavers, Hershey's Cookies Creme white chocolate bars, Snickers bars, cookies, and more. He eats the sugary snacks morning noon and night, and even says he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night, chows down on some treats, then falls back asleep.
This is bad news for the Lakers. I've been telling my patients for decades that sugar acts like a drug in the brain. It causes blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling tired, irritable, foggy, and stupid. Eating too much sugar impairs cognitive function, which may explain why Odom doesn't always make the smartest decisions on the court.
Excessive sugar consumption also promotes inflammation, which can make your joints ache and delay healing from injuries, which is definitely a bad thing for a professional athlete. It is also linked to headaches, mood swings and weight gain. Weight gain isn't a problem now for Odom, but it is for the average person who isn't playing full-court basketball for hours each day.
As a fan and a physician, it concerns me that our professional sports organizations and players are not more concerned about brain health, which includes nutrition. My advice to Odom and to all sugar addicts is to get your sugar consumption under control. You will feel so much better and your brain will function better, too.
After my piece ran, I was interviewed by ESPN radio, and reporters played part of my interview for Odom. Like most addicts, he denied it was a problem and said he had eaten candy for breakfast during games five, six, and seven of the last round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, and he had played well in those games. The problem with the comment, however, was that there was no game seven. The Lakers won it in six games. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was also asked about my comments; he said he knows candy makes kids more troubled and that when you have kids, "Halloween is the worst night of the year." .....

Reduce your sugar intake.

Curbing your intake of sugary foods is an important step to better health. Sugar spikes your blood sugar level then sends it crashing down about thirty minutes later, leaving you feeling lackluster and dim-witted. As we saw in the story of Lamar Odom at the beginning of the chapter, there is no doubt that sugar can be addictive. Sugar's empty calories can also lead to obesity and excess inflammation, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Not only that, sugar also promotes seizure activity. In a number of studies from Johns Hopkins University, when neurologists took children completely off simple carbohydrates, it dramatically cut down on seizure activity, in some studies by more than half.
Sugar affects some people more than others. Jenny, twenty-six, is a prime example. She had been dealing with anxiety, depression, and fatigue for many years. She constantly craved sweets and would often experience headaches, mood swings, and dizziness throughout the day. When Jenny stopped eating treats made with refined sugar and gave up caffeine and alcohol, her symptoms disappeared.

Sugar consumption has been on the rise for decades and Americans currently consume an average of 22.2 teaspoons (almost half a cup) a day (355 •calories a day) of added sugars. The number one source of added sugars in the American diet are soft drinks and other sugar-laden beverages. Recognizing  the deleterious role excess sugar intake plays in our health, the American Heart Association issued a statement in 2009 recommending that Americans limit their intake of added sugars to no more than 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men.

If you want to cut down on your sugar intake, start by cutting out the sodas and limiting the cookies, candy, and ice cream you eat. I realize that it may not be easy. As noted earlier, according to Dr. David Kessler's The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, the high-fat, high-sugar combos found in many mouthwatering snacks light up the brain's dopamine pathway similar to the same way drugs and alcohol do. He suggests that some people can actually get hooked on chocolate chip cookies the way other people get addicted to cocaine. Kessler and his team of researchers have seen this theory at work in animals, too. In one study, they found that rats will work increasingly hard for a high-fat, high-sugar milk shake, and that they will consume greater quantities of it if more sugar is added.

Because sugar is a common ingredient in thousands of processed foods—even foods that don't taste sweet-—-start checking food labels. Spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, ketchup, peanut butter, and crackers often contain some form of sugar. If food labels simply said "sugar," it would be easy to figure out what to cut out of your diet, but they don't. On food labels, sugar may be listed using any of a wide variety of names. This is only the beginning— Manufacturers use many more names, so you have to be on your toes. When you start looking for these names on labels, you will soon realize just how many foods contain sugar. You will also notice that a food might not have sugar listed as one of the top few ingredients, but it might have three, four, or more different types of sugar included. When you add up all of them, it comes to a huge amount of sugar. I went to the store the other day looking for a healthful snack and picked up one of those so-called health bars. The packaging screamed "health," but the list of ingredients told another story.

whole-grain rolled oats
whole wheat flour
sugar (sugar!)
molasses (sugar!)
rice flour
sodium bicarbonate
whole-grain rolled wheat
soy lecithin
caramel color (sugar!)
barley malt (sugar!)
nonfat dry milk
partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils with TBHQ (tert-Butylbydro quinone) and citric acid sunflower oil with natural' (trans fat) tocopherol
corn syrup (sugar!)
crisp rice
barley malt (sugar!)
whole-grain rolled oats
sugar (sugar!)
sugar (sugar!)
corn syrup solids (sugar!)
high fructose corn syrup (sugar!)
partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil
sorbitol (sugar!)
calcium carbonate
fructose (sugar!)
honey (sugar!)
natural and artificial flavors
molasses (sugar!)
soy lecithin
citric acid
Some form of sugar is listed an incredible fourteen times! 
When you inspect the food label, this "healthy" snack doesn't seem so healthy anymore. In looking at the list of sugar names, you might be wondering about fruit ice and fruit juice concentrate. After all, isn't fruit one of those complex carbs that are so good for you?

Let me clear this up. Yes, fruit is great for you, but fruit juice isn't good. Orange juice, for example, consists of a small amount of vitamin C, a lot of sugar, and water. It doesn't contain any of the fiber you get from eating an orange. Orange juice is better than a Diet Coke, but it isn't as good as eating an orange.

(Some companies today give you fruit juices with no sugar added - Keith Hunt)

Get to know theglycemic index.

To help you figure out how carbs affect your blood sugar, understand the glycemic index (GI). The GI rates carbs based on their effect on blood sugar levels. Low-glycemic carbs cause only small fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which helps you maintain energy throughout the day. High-glycemic carbs cause blood sugar levels to spike then crash. This roller-coaster effect gives you an initial boost of energy, but then leaves you feeling sluggish and slow. The key to good brain health is to make sure the majority of the carbs you consume are low-glycemic.
Eating low-glycemic carbs that contain a lot of fiber is even better for your brain. Dietary fiber promotes health and can lower cholesterol, which promotes good blood flow. Good sources of high-fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans and legumes. When choosing fruits and vegetables, it is best to go for non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits-—think broccoli rather than potatoes, and blueberries instead of pineapple. Check the GI Ratings box for tasty low-glycemic, high-fiber foods you should stock up on.



Low-fat yogurt
Kidney beans
Low-fat milk
Apple juice
Whole-grain bread
Orange juice
Sweet potato
Brown rice
Potato chips
Cheese pizza
Ice cream
White bread
French fries
Rice cakes
Rice Krispies
Baked potatoes
White rice
Sources: The Glucose Revolution,,,

Hold the bread before meals.

Why do restaurants serve baskets of bread before each meal for free? Why not cheese? Why not almonds, or chunks of beef or chicken? The reason is that bread makes you hungrier and encourages you to eat more. Bread, especially white bread made from bleached and processed flour, spikes your blood sugar and boosts the natural feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps you feel happier and less anxious.
On brain SPECT scans, I have seen that serotonin interventions help to relax or lower function in the PFC. When I prescribe antidepressant medications or supplements that boost serotonin in the brain, my patients often say they feel better but that they are also less motivated. Anything that lowers PFC function makes you more impulsive and less worried about long-term consequences. The bread or simple carbohydrate to start a meal helps you feel better, but also more impulsive when the dessert tray comes by later on. Hold the bread, wait for your meal, and you will be happier with the end result.

Dump artificial sweeteners and replace them with small amounts of natural sweeteners.

I love sweet things. I wish it wasn't so, but growing up with a grandpa whom I adored who was a candy maker put me at a decided disadvantage. When I found it was essential to watch my weight, I was grateful for artificial sweeteners. No calories! How cool. Have as much as you want, I thought. Diet sodas became a regular companion for me and I drank a ton of them from age twenty-five to thirty-five. Then, at age thirty-five, right as we started our brain imaging work, I found that I had problems getting off the floor when I played with my young children, because myjoints hurt. Being a writer, I became even more concerned when my fingers and hands started to hurt as well.
Initially, I just wrote it off to old age. At thirty-five? Then, as I became much more interested in learning about brain health, I discovered that there was a large body of information reporting that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame in diet sodas, maybe associated with arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, memory problems, neurological problems, and a myriad of other maladies. I had a patient who told me her arthritis and headaches went away after she stopped aspartame. Another patient told me her confusion went away as she got rid of artificial sweeteners, and yet another patient told me that it was only after he stopped diet sodas that he was able to lose weight.
So I stopped aspartame, and within four weeks, my arthritis went away. Just to test, as diet sodas have been a big part of my life, I tested it again with a diet soda at lunch. Within twenty minutes, my fingers started to hurt. So I decided to eliminate aspartame from my diet. The other artificial sweetener choices at the time either tasted bitter to me or had been reported to be possibly associated with cancer.
Then sucralose (Splenda) came along, and I felt as though I was in sweet heaven again, plus it had no aftertaste, and I did not have arthritis with it. In fact, sucralose was reported to be six hundred times sweeter than sugar. Putting regular sugar in tea or lemonade was bland by comparison. Then, yet again, reports began to emerge that it was associated with health troubles, including decreasing the healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Besides the reported health problems, one of the significant problems with artificial sweeteners is that they may increase sugar cravings. The empty calories prime the brain's appetite centers to expect something good, and when nothing comes, it wants more. Artificial sweeteners also desensitize your taste buds, and even naturally sweet things, such as a regular portion of sugar, are not enough to satisfy you.
Changing the sensitivity of your taste buds is clearly possible. If you were a diet soda drinker like me, remember how disgustingly sweet regular sodas tasted after you had not had them for a while? When you dump the artificial sweeteners, your taste buds will adapt back to normal within a few weeks.

My favorite natural sweetener, stevia, which has been reported to have anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering properties, has not been associated with negative health effects. Xylitol and agave are other natural sweeteners. With any of them, use sparingly, and you will be better off in the long run. Another terribly disturbing trend is the artificial sweeteners that are ending up in gum, candy, packaged foods, sauces,  vitamins,   medications,   nutritional powders,  nutritional bars, popcorn, toothpaste, and water. The sweeter it is, these companies know, the more hooked you are likely to become. Fight back and do not collude with the food companies in your own demise.


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