Throughout my pursuit of information over the last 12+ months, I recognised that I was most probably insulin resistant, caused by my eating. I thought that maybe this was due to my Uni years where I lived on pasta and bread and not much else. But lately a lot of my findings have lead me to wonder whether my high-fruit diet as a child could have played a role in this. I do mean high in fruit - I would eat at least two apples per day, often the gigantic Granny Smith apples, and when in season I would consume nectarines, peaches, and mandarin oranges back-to-back. I adored grapes and would eat them by the bunch (and I loved them, despite the gut pain they ALWAYS triggered!), and we'd always have dried apricots and sultanas on hand to snack on. Fruit juice was part of almost every meal, as soft drink was banned. Not all of these items are comparably high in fructose, but the amount consumed would have potentially nullified the relevance of fructose/glucose ratios. It doesn't really matter where the fructose comes from (except potentially the use of considering fibre in the equation) - once it's in the system, it adds up. Considering that my weight issues have been consistent throughout most of my life, it made sense that, if externally triggered, they must be due to something that had been a normal part of my routine for many more years than my stint at Uni.
There is, of course, a growing understanding of the dangers of fructose, but until recently I did not understand that the problem with fructose might extend beyond the liver damage issue and blood sugar issues, etc. Richard J. Johnson, author of The Sugar Fix, explains it best:
“…we have powerful direct evidence to show that consuming too much fructose-rich sugar and HFCS causes the toxic brew of conditions known as metabolic syndrome. Moreover, this same body of research suggests that starchy foods do not induce metabolic syndrome.”
“It’s worth noting here that the glucose in starchy foods may cause blood glucose levels to rise, which stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. But this is normal and healthy. Dietary glucose does not cause insulin resistance; fructose does.”
“And so begins a vicious cycle caused by eating high-GI foods, which overstimulate the pancreas. It’s an interesting theory, but it is not well supported by the metabolic facts. Stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin is not the problem. Your body is supposed to produce insulin when blood glucose levels rise, so that’s normal and healthy. It is insulin resistance that is closely linked to metabolic syndrome and weight gain. Glucose does not cause insulin resistance. Fructose does. Glucose does not trick your body into persistent hunger. Fructose does.”
I have also been wondering whether I may be fructose intolerant: yesterday I topped my coconut pancake with a small amount of thawed raspberries, and shortly there after my stomach swelled painfully. Today, I've noticed some intestinal issues as well. These are the same issues I used to find with excessive consumption of grapes, but perhaps I used to bloat a bit after eating all fruit high in fructose but just wasn't paying attention to it. The symptoms and details explained on the What About Fructose? of the Triglycerides-Lowering Diet ring more than a few bells.
One point that has popped up numerous times of late (not necessarily new news, just newly relevant to me) has been that starches are consumed by many peoples who do not seem to have the health issues the Western World experiences. The paradox of Asia's rice-based diet (on average) always seemed unsatisfactorily answered. But lately a variety of voices have explained this in a meaningful way, the thrust of which is that:
Glucose does not cause metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. If you are not insulin resistant and have a high-functioning metabolism, then consumption of potatoes, corn, and rice should not be harmful as blood glucose levels are unlikely to rise as high as those levels experienced by the insulin resistant.
So, arguably, if you can get your metabolism in excellent working order and reverse the damage done by following ways of eating that combine significant amounts of fructose with other damaging behaviours, then eventually starches should not be the enemy (so long as they are not neolithic foods involving damaging factors such as phytic acid). I know that potatoes are out of bounds for me at the moment, since I have no reason to believe that my metabolism is all that great and all evidence points to continued insulin resistance, but it's interesting to think that I may not need to follow a low-carb diet forever. I already know tat the majority of paleo bloggers out there are not even slightly low-carb, and even Richard Nikoley's blog, Free The Animal, details his transition from low-carb to something more moderate, and he has not seemed to experience unpleasant results.
The main reason that I find this interesting (since I am currently happiest when on an all-meat diet) is that a number of nutrition experts have scientific reason to believe that low-carb diets - ketogenic diets in particular - are damaging in the long run. Matt Stone states effusively, in a guest post on The Fat Head Blog, that the ketogenic diet, if followed long-term is 'metabolic suicide'. His own personal experience was that low-carbing worked wonders for him for 3 years, but then his health started to reverse back to his initial state without any real change in his routine. However, the majority of experts attribute this to the process of losing weight itself - that being in caloric deficit for a significant period of time is necessarily going to encourage the body to conserve energy. This aligns with my own understanding, and I haven't seen reason to believe that the metabolism reacts any differently to a lack of dietary sugars vs. a lack of dietary fats/protein other than the insulin response itself in the short-term.
I am understanding more and more that it's not enough to simply trust that what makes you feel best in the short-term is going to work long-term. The obvious points here would be to look at consumption of alcohol, excessive sun-baking (inc. burning), using drugs recreationally, going to loud music gigs, etc etc. The less obvious practices which may well be damaging include my possibly-ruinous consumption of large amounts of fruit throughout most of my young life, and possibly my potential choice of living on an all-meat diet for longer than is my current practice. Perhaps Dr. Atkins had it right when he encouraged his patients to achieve a ketogenic state to accelerate fat-burning, but then to gradually increase the amount of carbs (in the form of vegetables, primarily) in such a way that fat loss didn't stop, but ketosis was no longer the present metabolic state. However, Dr. Kurt Harris suggests:
The paleolithic principle itself argues against LC and VLC being damaging the same way it argues against plants and all carbs as being poison. It just makes no sense, as it implies that humans in any given econiche, even one rich in a huge variety of animal foods, would have been at risk of metabolic damage from being in long term mild ketosis if they were not able to find enough starchy tubers and fruit in season. (We've agreed that grains like white rice are a recent food, I hope).
So, I am currently trying to work with both my body's response to food and the information available to me by the scientific community, and will not be consuming carbs for carbs' sake, but will be aiming to achieve ketosis in order to kick-start fat burning, and then finagle my food consumption to continue fat-burning but perhaps not be in ketosis. Alternate Day Fasting will still be part of the plan, as I want to continue this experiment, but on my feasting days I will be sticking to animal products until I achieve ketosis. Then I may add vegetables back in or take other action to keep clear of ketosis but not block fat burning... I'm not sure if this will actually be possible though, since in the past, whenever I have reincorporated carbs, I have experienced inflammation of various kinds. And as Dr. Harris puts it: Enough nonstarchy greens to choke a gorilla with an otherwise all animal diet will not keep you totally out of ketosis, I guarantee. If it did, I wouldn't want to share your bathroom. In the meantime I will be spending more time swotting up on metabolic functioning so that I can work towards overcoming insulin resistance once and for all!
Let's see how I go!
First, to catch up on the last three days:
Wednesday - Fasting
A fine day for fasting! I have really been enjoying my fasts, even though I miss out on a bit of cooking. I have been a little worried about fasting's effect on my leptin sensitivity though, since on feasting days I seem to be hungrier after eating than before... Re-restricting carbs should help that, I hope. Nuts & cheese tend to pose the most binge danger, so I'll be keeping them out of the house once more.
Dinner: It was a shockingly hot day, so we picked up a roast chicken after running off to the movies after work to hide in air-conditioned comfort. I served the chicken with a dollop of beetroot dip and a serving of anchovy paste (see my Dips post for recipes) - both were perfect with the juicy chicken!
Thursday - Feasting
I started my day with salmon sashimi (but forgot to photograph it as I was eating it whilst preparing the rest of breakfast) and a couple of coconut pancakes with some cream cheese in lieu of actual cream.
I packed up some leftover chicken for lunch, to help get me through a long night of rehearsals.
I was hungry when I finally made it home, so I whipped up some cheesy sautéed cabbage as an entree to enjoy whilst the lamb chops cooked:
Despite reaching a sufficient amount of consumed calories for the day, I was still hungry, so I made a dessert of coconut pancakes and raspberries. And even after that, with resultant stomach pain from the fruit, I still had the munchies! So I ended up snacking on nuts and a carrot, until finally locking myself away in my bedroom and tried to ignore my hunger pangs. I'm not sure if this reaction was a result of the food I had eaten or the fasting regimen... The crazy weather and extremely busy schedule at work probably didn't help!
Friday - Fasting
Another blissful fast to help alleviate the shame of over-indulgence the previous night! Despite a mad day of full-on classes and uncomfortable weather (kinda humid but cold with misty rain, but still hot inside of buildings thanks to the previous heatwave... Ick!), I didn't find myself heading toward hunger-territory until after lunch, which I washed away with some white tea.
Once home, I whipped up three eggs and a sprinkling of pizza cheese to tide me over until dinner.
And as I type, I'm grilling a couple of blade steaks for the beau & I before we head out to the theatre for the evening. I'd really just like to go to bed, but I'm an MTC subscriber and my dates are secured well ahead of time. Here's hoping it's a good show, else I may finally experience the embarrassment of falling asleep in public!