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Dr. Nicholas Perricone Headshot

The Dieter's Dilemma Part 2: Sabotage Secrets Revealed

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If you think that the fabulous figures of Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Bar Rafaeli, Adriana Lima or Megan Fox are not attainable, think again. I can't promise you the cover of Sports Illustrated or the Victoria's Secret catalog, but I can promise that many of your weight problems are not your fault!

Some scientists and researchers believe that many of the health problems of today are caused by our departure from the hunter-gatherer diet, which consisted of nuts, seeds, berries, wild greens, roots, fruits, fish, fowl and game. This is a fascinating theory and I agree with the premise that natural, unprocessed foods are always the best choices.

Go Green and Lean with Grass-Fed

One serious sabotage agent of our diets is the switch from grass-fed beef to grain-fed. Researchers have found that grass-fed beef contains two newly discovered "good" fats and more beta carotene, vitamin E and folic acid. These health benefits decline significantly with even three months of grain feeding, even if the grain is organic. Cattle that eat grass and live a "pastoral" life in the pasture produce beef and milk that is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Corn-fed beef has no CLA at all. CLA is also a powerful aid in the prevention and treatment of obesity. With the motive of saving money (corn is really inexpensive) at the expense of health, we are now in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Grass-fed meat is rich in CLA, which decreases body fat, especially in the area of the abdomen. My favorite is from the Stannard Farm in the beautiful rolling hills of Benson, VT. Here the cows enjoy the pure Vermont air and water and spend their lives eating the rich, emerald-green grass that helps give Vermont its nickname of the Green Mountain State. For more information, visit Bob and his farm online at www.vermontnaturalbeef.com.

Frankenfoods

To be healthy and maintain normal weight, we need all of the food groups -- but not those that come from the laboratory.

Speaking of the laboratory, it was here that one of the greatest diet sabotages known to humankind was created: high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). As you will discover, HFCS has a direct impact on the appetite, directly contributing to overeating. The introduction of this highly glycemic sweetener in the 1970s has, in my opinion, a direct corollary to the rise in obesity in both children and adults. Prior to the 1970s, popular soda drinks such as Coke and Pepsi were made with pure cane sugar. The average bottle of soda was six ounces. In the ensuing decades as we and our meals have become "super-sized," an average can or bottle of soda holds 12 ounces and a large soda can contain 32 ounces or more.

HFCS is used in a tremendous variety of products because it is significantly cheaper than cane sugar. Many nutritionists and experts believe a host of serious health problems are arising from the use of this cheap, plentiful, pro-inflammatory substance. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that the consumption of HFCS increased 1,000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group. HFCS now represents 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in most soft drinks in the United States. Sweetened beverages (and they are ubiquitous--even in the health food store) set us up for caloric over-consumption.

Weight Gain and Wrinkles

According to the December 2005 issue of Alternative Medicine Review, fructose promotes the formation of toxic advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). This is the glycation I often write about, which degrades the collagen in our skin, resulting in deep wrinkles, and which is implicated in the complications of diabetes and in the development of atherosclerosis. In addition, excessive fructose consumption may be responsible in part for the increasing prevalence of obesity, diabetes mellitus and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup--Upsetting the Appetite Applecart

When we consume simple sugars such as HFCS, we are causing an immediate pro-inflammatory spike in our blood sugar. Unlike glucose, however, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production--key hormones that regulate the appetite. Because insulin and leptin act as signals to the brain for the regulation of food intake and body weight, the ability of fructose to bypass these mechanisms may contribute to overeating. In short, the body's natural checks and balances are thrown out of balance. Fructose bypasses the natural mechanisms that prevent overeating and actually makes the body think it is still hungry -- even after eating a large meal.

This is because the digestive and absorptive processes for glucose and fructose are different. Also, when we consume large amounts of fructose, which is basically an unregulated source of fuel for the liver, it is converted to both fat and cholesterol. Fructose also significantly raises triglycerides. As Perricone readers know, I am no advocate of sugar--in fact, sugar is toxic. But the effects of fructose, particularly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, are an even more significant cause for alarm. (I am not talking about the naturally occurring fructose found in fresh fruit.)

If you find that your attempts to eat less are continually being sabotaged, look closely at all of the foods in your cupboard and refrigerator. Chances are, if it is a processed food, HFCS is a key ingredient. And if that is the case, you now have a sterling opportunity to permanently eliminate a key contributor to the dieter's dilemma.

As an active researcher, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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