Paleo Diet Article in Sound Consumer

I recently wrote an article for my local natural foods grocery store, PCC, about the "Paleolithic" diet.  You can read it online here.  I explain the basic rationale for Paleo diets, some of the scientific support behind it, and how it can be helpful for people with certain health problems.  I focused in particular on the research of Dr. Staffan Lindeberg at the University of Lund, who has studied non-industrial populations using modern medical techniques and also conducted clinical diet trials using the Paleo diet.
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Insulin and Obesity: Another Nail in the Coffin

There are several versions of the insulin hypothesis of obesity, but the versions that are most visible to the public generally state that elevated circulating insulin (whether acute or chronic) increases body fatness.  Some versions invoke insulin's effects on fat tissue, others its effects in the brain.  This idea has been used to explain why low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic-index diets can lead to weight loss (although frankly, glycemic index per se doesn't seem to have much if any impact on body weight in controlled trials). 

I have explained in various posts why this idea does not appear to be correct (1, 2, 3), and why, after extensive research, the insulin hypothesis of obesity lost steam by the late 1980s.  However, I recently came across two experiments that tested the hypothesis as directly as it can be tested-- by chronically increasing circulating insulin in animals and measuring food intake and body weight and/or body fatness.  If the hypothesis is correct, these animals should gain fat, and perhaps eat more as well. 

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Can Drinking Tea Really Accelerate Your Fat Loss - Here Are The Facts!


Over the past few months I have spent a significant amount of time researching the possible good and bad benefits of drinking different types of teas.

No, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with drinking your cup of Joe. As a matter of fact, organic coffee is jam packed with tons of antioxidants and has been found to decrease the risk of diseases like type 2 Diabetes and cancer, but it’s also pretty jam packed with caffeine, which is why I decided to research and make the switch over to a variety of different teas.

The good news is that I found a long list of incredible benefits to drinking tea which made my transition very easy. Tea also does contain some caffeine (about a quarter to half as much as coffee) making the switch even easier.

Here are several different varieties of teas and the many healthy benefits I found to each (who knows, you may even consider switching your Java habit as well.)

Black Tea

Before we differentiate between several different teas, it is true that all teas (black, green, oolong and white) come from the same plant, camellia sinensis. What gives each tea its particular qualities is in the processing of this particular plant to create different varieties of tea. Black tea is probably the most commonly consumed and most popular of all the teas I researched. It also contains the highest amount of caffeine of most teas (approximately 40 mg), but not nearly as much as 1 – 8 oz cup of coffee (100 mg). The low amounts of caffeine in black tea promotes blood flow in the brain without over stimulating the heart, helping to sharpen mental focus and concentration (oh, we could also use a little of that).

One of black teas greatest benefits is its high number of antioxidants, including quercetin, a substance found to combat inflammation and support healthy immune function. This is probably the best health benefit of drinking black tea…its ability to keep the immune system healthy and strong.

I enjoy a cup of hot black tea most mornings with a bit of squeezed lemon and stevia. It helps me start off my day energized and alert without giving me any of the jittery feelings I would sometimes get with drinking too much coffee. Some people much prefer their black tea cold, which I sometimes make for my husband and relatives when they are visiting. I make 2-3 tea bags with boiling water in a large glass bowl, sweeten with stevia and allow to cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. It’s delicious and refreshing served over ice with a little added piece of lemon (careful with how many glasses you drink if you are someone who is sensitive to caffeine).

Green Tea

If you’ve ever done even the slightest research on weight loss, you’ve surely come across tons of information touting the miraculous ability of green tea to burn off body fat.

Is that really true?

Well, before we get to that, what makes green tea so special?

Green tea is extremely rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly EGCG, which is an extremely powerful antioxidant. Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it actually has the ability to kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. EGCG has also been found to be extremely powerful in the prevention of heart disease and assists in keeping cholesterol levels healthy.

But back to the weight loss theories…

Many doctors and scientific studies have confirmed the incredible power of green tea when it comes to weight loss. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, world renowned doctor and author of 3 bestselling books stated, “…you'd lose up to 10 pounds in 4-6 weeks doing nothing but taking green tea. Green tea increases your daily fat burning rate by 43%”. The fat burning effects of green tea can be attributed to so much more than just its caffeine content (since caffeine has been shown to enhance the metabolism). The catechins in green tea have been found to force the body into thermo genesis, driving your body to burn fat as its energy source. Green tea has also been shown to cause carbohydrates to be released slowly, preventing rises in blood-insulin levels and keeping the body at an ideal blood sugar balance for fat burning.

Can I say for sure that this will happen to almost everyone? Definitely not! Every person is individual and many other factors in your diet and exercise program greatly affect what your weight loss results will be. But with all the other wonderful benefits we know about green tea, it is definitely worth including 1-2 cups into your daily routine (Green tea contains approximately 15-30 mg of caffeine per cup. Careful with your intake if you are someone who is sensitive to caffeine).

Like black tea, green tea can be enjoyed hot or cold and you can use stevia, xylitol or raw honey to sweeten a bit.

Last but definitely not least…

Oolong/Wu-long Tea

This was by far the most eye opening research of them all. I had heard of the many benefits of Oolong Tea (also widely referred to as Wu-long) for some time, but had never done this much research and reading about it (little did I know what I was missing).

Even though green tea has been most popularly known as the drink of choice for fat burning, wu-long tea has been shown to burn 220% more fat than green tea. The only difference between green tea and wu-long tea is in the processing of the tea leaves, making the beneficial properties of each just slightly different.

The Chinese have long believed that oolong/wu-long tea is greatly beneficial in reducing and maintaining weight and have conducted several studies proving such. It looks like, from the research, that wu-long tea can actually encourage your body to use more fat for energy, resulting in accelerated fat burning and, of course, weight loss. Many of the same fat burning properties, mentioned above for green tea, have been found in wu-long tea but the effects seem to be more pronounced.

All of the other incredible benefits of tea can also be found with wu-long tea, but, where as increased immune function and antioxidant benefits are black and greet teas claim to fame, it looks like wu-long teas greatest benefit is fat loss.

You can enjoy wu-long tea hot or cold, sweetened or flavoured with lemon. I actually really enjoy the rich, flowery taste of wu-long tea all on its own, not really needing any sweetener or anything added to enjoy its delicious taste.

Sue, which tea is the best for me?

With all the wonderful benefits of these 3 teas, it may be hard to decide which is the best choice for you. I love to do what my good friend Mike Geary taught me is to mix all three varieties together! Many mornings I will put 1 tea bag each of black, green and wu-long tea in a small pot with boiling water. I let that steep for about 5 minutes and remove the tea bags. I sip 1 cup for breakfast and then another with lunch. The different tastes of each blend together really nicely and make for a tasty warm drink (again, it can also be enjoyed like iced tea, which I know is how Mike enjoys it best.)

Black, green or Wu-Long , whichever you choose, 1-2 teas each day is a wonderful addition to your healthy eating plans. As with anything, be very mindful to your body’s response to the caffeine amount and let your body be your guide.

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue
PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part VII

In previous posts, I outlined the factors I'm aware of that can contribute to insulin resistance.  In this post, first I'll list the factors, then I'll provide my opinion of effective strategies for preventing and potentially reversing insulin resistance.

The factors

These are the factors I'm aware of that can contribute to insulin resistance, listed in approximate order of importance.  I could be quite wrong about the order-- this is just my best guess. Many of these factors are intertwined with one another. 
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Three Announcements

Chris Highcock of the blog Conditioning Research just published a book called Hillfit, which is a conditioning book targeted at hikers/backpackers.  He uses his knowledge and experience in hiking and conditioning to argue that strength training is an important part of conditioning for hiking.  I'm also a hiker/backpacker myself here in the rugged and beautiful Pacific Northwest, and I also find that strength training helps with climbing big hills, and walking farther and more easily with a lower risk of injury.

Richard Nikoley of the blog Free the Animal has also published a book called Free the Animal: Beyond the Blog, where he shares his strategies for losing fat and improving health and fitness.  I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but Richard has a reasonable perspective on diet/health and a sharp wit. 

Also, my friend Pedro Bastos has asked me to announce a one-day seminar at the University of Lisbon (Portugal) by Dr. Frits Muskiet titled "Vitamins and Minerals: A Scientific, Modern, Evolutionary and Global View".  It will be on Sunday, Feb 5-- you can find more details about the seminar here.  Dr. Muskiet is a researcher at the Groningen University Medical Center in the Netherlands.  He studies the impact of nutrients, particularly fatty acids, on health, from an evolutionary perspective.  Wish I could attend. 

Why You Should Eat Breakfast


You've heard it a million times—eat breakfast to lose weight.  With all the healthy options out there, starting your day with a balanced breakfast that includes lean protein and fibrous carbohydrates can be just the boost you need to reach your target weight.

Numerous studies have shown that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than breakfast skippers.  Reasons behind this tendency haven’t been completely proven, but one theory suggests that eating breakfast reduces hunger throughout the rest of the day; this, in turn, causes total calorie intake to be lower than if you hadn’t eaten breakfast.
Another theory is that people who eat breakfast tend to be more health conscious than people who skip breakfast.  Either way, a complete breakfast is an invaluable tool in your weight loss and health goals.

An important aspect of a healthy breakfast is lean protein.  It’s an ideal nutrient to include in breakfast because if its ability to suppress your appetite throughout the day.  Numerous studies have shown the link between eating eggs (as opposed to a mostly carbohydrate meal) for breakfast and being more satisfied throughout the day.

Now the question of what to eat arises.  A super-easy, balanced breakfast that I eat is, a protein shake made with a cup of 2% milk and fresh fruit.  This quick breakfast comes out to roughly 300 calories, with a good balance of protein, good carbs, and healthy fat and only takes two minutes to prepare.  So, if you don’t think you have time for breakfast, make that and eat it on your way to work or school!

However, if you have time in the mornings you can make an omelette made with 2 whole eggs, 4 egg whites, green and red peppers and onions.  This with a small bowl of oatmeal and some mixed fruit is a good breakfast to start with with.

Here are a few other healthy breakfast options:
Whole-wheat English muffin with cheese, a scrambled egg, and avocado.
Breakfast smoothie with Greek yoghurt, fruit, and protein.
Whole grain cereal with milk. 
Oatmeal with fruit and a protein shake.

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest & ticking the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.  

Fit Fitness Into Your Day

While I was looking around on the web today, I came across this handy little tool to help me keep track of my daily exercise.

Its call the Fitbit and costs $99.95 (US and free shipping) I'm going to order mine today and give it a go. If it does all they say it should do, it will be money well worth spending.

For more information on the Fitbit here is the link to their website

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest & ticking the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts. 

Swap It, Don't Stop It!

The Australian Government has launched the ‘Swap It, Don’t Stop It’ campaign – a call to action to all Australians to make healthier lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

‘Swap It, Don’t Stop It’ features Eric, an animated blue balloon character, likeable but overweight. On television, in print and on the radio, Eric will urge Australians to make some simple lifestyle changes to become healthier – for instance swap big for small (portion control); swap often for sometimes (occasional treats); swap fried for fresh (nutritional quality); swap sitting for moving (physical activity); and swap watching for playing (physical activity).

Plenty of Swap It resources have been developed to help people learn how to become a 'swapper'. These resources are available from the Swap It, Don't Stop It website and include:

An app for your iphone that allows you to choose from a range of food and physical activity swaps. You can track your progress, use an ingredient planner, create your own shopping list and find activities nearby.
12-week planner to help you plan and monitor your eating and physical activity.
The Swap It, Don't Stop It campaign and the swapper resources will help you lose your belly without having to lose out on the things you love, so start swapping today!

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue
PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest & ticking the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts. 

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part VI

In this post, I'll explore a few miscellaneous factors that can contribute to insulin resistance: smoking, glucocorticoids/stress, cooking temperature, age, genetics and low birth weight.


Smoking tobacco acutely and chronically reduces insulin sensitivity (1, 2, 3), possibly via:
  1. Increased inflammation
  2. Increased circulating free fatty acids (4)
Paradoxically, since smoking also protects against fat gain, in the very long term it may not produce as much insulin resistance as one would otherwise expect.  Diabetes risk is greatly elevated in the three years following smoking cessation (5), and this is likely due to the fat gain that occurs.  This is not a good excuse to keep smoking, because smoking tobacco is one of the most unhealthy things you can possibly do.  But it is a good reason to tighten up your diet and lifestyle after quitting.

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Let’s Unleash The Power Of Goal Setting!

Today we’re starting off by setting goals.

Did you know that only 5% of people in the world set goals, and that they are among the wealthiest folks in the nation?! If you want to accomplish something, you can do it! But you must know where you want to go, have a plan to get there, and monitor your progress along the way.

What are your goals? Pick up a pen and a piece of paper and jot down the goals you’d like to reach. Don’t worry I’ll wait….

Done? Ok, now look at each goal and evaluate it as you read this article. Make any changes necessary to ensure that your goals meet the criteria for SMART goals.

The best goals are smart goals — well, actually SMART goals are more like it. SMART is a handy acronym for the five characteristics of well-designed goals. SMART goals are:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely

Are your goals straightforward and emphasize what you would like to reach? Do they answer the what, why and how? WHAT are you going to do? Use action words! WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish? HOW are you going to do it? (By…) For example, a general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a running club and run 3 days a week.”

Do your goals establish concrete criteria for measuring progress? When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.
To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? Some ways to measure progress are: Time, Distance, Weight, # of runs/walks, speed, # of repeats etc…

When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it’s too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best. A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you.

This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able”. Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low and you’ll have difficulty sticking to your plan as the goal will not be a good motivator.
Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months…. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards. If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action NOW.

Time must also be measurable, attainable and realistic.

So what are my SMART goals? I knew you would ask that :)  Here are my goals: My Smart Goals For 2012

QUESTION/SHARING: What will you accomplish this year? How will you accomplish them?

PS – you can join the challenge anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest & ticking the “Notify me of new posts by email” box so that you’ll be emailed the daily challenge.

Are You Ready For Your Healthiest Year Ever!

Hi guys!
Are you ready for your healthiest year ever?
I know that I sure am, and it all starts TODAY!!
Tomorrow we’ll kick off the 90 Days to Your Healthiest Year Ever by developing our SMART goals – I don’t believe in resolutions because they lack an action plan, but I am all in favour of goal setting. None of us are perfect (not even me) and setting goals is a great way to improve.

In my post tomorrow I’ll introduce you to SMART goal setting and will also share a goal setting worksheet with you. As we start the New Year, I’d like you to think about your 3 goals that you’d like to accomplish this year – they can either be worked on concurrently, or consecutively. (HINT: mine are consecutive goals that build on each other).
All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue
PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest & ticking the “Notify Me Of New Posts By Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

If Connie Can Do It, Then So Can You

One of the most inspirational things about the “Shrink Team Challenge” are the stories of success.

I always think “Hey! If they can do it, then so can I”. Then, I put down whatever sweet I’m eating at the moment and grab a glass of water. Because I find these articles so inspiring, I thought that I would share one of  the success stories.

This week, I’m featuring the success of Connie Mueller.

Here is her story

Lost 28 Pounds! 
I lost 28 pounds with Vitamark's “Shrink Team Challenge” and I've kept it off. 
I have struggled with losing and gaining the same 25 pounds all my life. I started my weight loss plan in February 2010 and reached my goal at the end of June 2010. I ate the cookie at 10:00 AM for a boost of energy and drank the shake at 6:00 PM in place of my evening meal. I ate my normal breakfast and lunch. 
I have maintained my weight loss goal for over a year and I feel fabulous. Vitamark helped me create my ideal body and keep it! I have so much energy now that I became a certified Zumba Instructor at the age of 55 and I love the way I look in my new clothes! 
- Connie Mueller

 Great job Connie! You’re an inspiration to me, and you know what? If you can do it then so can I! Thanks you for sharing your story with us!

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part V

Previously in this series, we've discussed the role of cellular energy excess, inflammation, brain insulin resistance, and micronutrient status in insulin resistance.  In this post, I'll explore the role of macronutrients and sugar in insulin sensitivity.

Carbohydrate and Fat

There are a number of studies on the effect of carbohydrate:fat ratios on insulin sensitivity, but many of them are confounded by fat loss (e.g., low-carbohydrate and low-fat weight loss studies), which almost invariably improves insulin sensitivity.  What interests me the most is to understand what effect different carbohydrate:fat ratios have on insulin sensitivity in healthy, weight stable people.  This will get at what causes insulin resistance in someone who does not already have it.

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New Obesity Review Paper by Yours Truly

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism just published a clinical review paper written by myself and my mentor Dr. Mike Schwartz, titled "Regulation of Food Intake, Energy Balance, and Body Fat Mass: Implications for the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Obesity" (1).  JCEM is one of the most cited peer-reviewed journals in the fields of endocrinology, obesity and diabetes, and I'm very pleased that it spans the gap between scientists and physicians.  Our paper takes a fresh and up-to-date look at the mechanisms by which food intake and body fat mass are regulated by the body, and how these mechanisms are altered in obesity.  We explain the obesity epidemic in terms of the mismatch between our genes and our current environment, a theme that is frequently invoked in ancestral health circles.

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What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part IV

So far, we've explored three interlinked causes of insulin resistance: cellular energy excess, inflammation, and insulin resistance in the brain.  In this post, I'll explore the effects on micronutrient status on insulin sensitivity.

Micronutrient Status

There is a large body of literature on the effects of nutrient intake/status on insulin action, and it's not my field, so I don't intend this to be a comprehensive post.  My intention is simply to demonstrate that it's important, and highlight a few major factors I'm aware of.

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What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part III

As discussed in previous posts, cellular energy excess and inflammation are two important and interlinked causes of insulin resistance.  Continuing our exploration of insulin resistance, let's turn our attention to the brain.

The brain influences every tissue in the body, in many instances managing tissue processes to react to changing environmental or internal conditions.  It is intimately involved in insulin signaling in various tissues, for example by:
  • regulating insulin secretion by the pancreas (1)
  • regulating glucose absorption by tissues in response to insulin (2)
  • regulating the suppression of glucose production by the liver in response to insulin (3)
  • regulating the trafficking of fatty acids in and out of fat cells in response to insulin (4, 5)
Because of its important role in insulin signaling, the brain is a candidate mechanism of insulin resistance.

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What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part II

In the last post, I described how cellular energy excess causes insulin resistance, and how this is triggered by whole-body energy imbalance.  In this post, I'll describe another major cause of insulin resistance: inflammation. 


In 1876, a German physician named W Ebstein reported that high doses of sodium salicylate could totally eliminate the signs and symptoms of diabetes in certain patients (Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift. 13:337. 1876). Following up on this work in 1901, the British physician RT Williamson reported that treating diabetic patients with sodium salicylate caused a striking decrease in the amount of glucose contained in the patients' urine, also indicating an apparent improvement in diabetes (2).  This effect was essentially forgotten until 1957, when it was rediscovered.

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What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part I

Insulin is an ancient hormone that influences many processes in the body.  Its main role is to manage circulating concentrations of nutrients (principally glucose and fatty acids, the body's two main fuels), keeping them within a fairly narrow range*.  It does this by encouraging the transport of nutrients into cells from the circulation, and discouraging the export of nutrients out of storage sites, in response to an increase in circulating nutrients (glucose or fatty acids). It therefore operates a negative feedback loop that constrains circulating nutrient concentrations.  It also has many other functions that are tissue-specific.

Insulin resistance is a state in which cells lose sensitivity to the effects of insulin, eventually leading to a diminished ability to control circulating nutrients (glucose and fatty acids).  It is a major contributor to diabetes risk, and probably a contributor to the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and a number of other disorders. 

Why is it important to manage the concentration of circulating nutrients to keep them within a narrow range?  The answer to that question is the crux of this post. 

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New York Times Magazine Article on Obesity

For those of you who haven't seen it, Tara Parker-Pope write a nice article on obesity in the latest issue of NY Times Magazine (1).  She discusses  research showing  that the body "resists" fat loss attempts, making it difficult to lose fat and maintain fat loss once obesity is established.
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High-Fat Diets, Obesity and Brain Damage

Many of you have probably heard the news this week:

High-fat diet may damage the brain
Eating a high-fat diet may rapidly injure brain cells
High fat diet injures the brain
Brain injury from high-fat foods

Your brain cells are exploding with every bite of butter!  Just kidding.  The study in question is titled "Obesity is Associated with Hypothalamic Injury in Rodents and Humans", by Dr. Josh Thaler and colleagues, with my mentor Dr. Mike Schwartz as senior author (1).  We collaborated with the labs of Drs. Tamas Horvath and Matthias Tschop.  I'm fourth author on the paper, so let me explain what we found and why it's important.  

The Questions

Among the many questions that interest obesity researchers, two stand out:
  1. What causes obesity?
  2. Once obesity is established, why is it so difficult to treat?
Our study expands on the efforts of many other labs to answer the first question, and takes a stab at the second one as well.  Dr. Licio Velloso and collaborators were the first to show in 2005 that inflammation in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus contributes to the development of obesity in rodents (2), and this has been independently confirmed several times since then.  The hypothalamus is an important brain region for the regulation of body fatness, and inflammation keeps it from doing its job correctly.

The Findings

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Junk Free January

Last year, Matt Lentzner organized a project called Gluten Free January, in which 546 people from around the world gave up gluten for one month.  The results were striking: a surprisingly large proportion of participants lost weight, experienced improved energy, better digestion and other benefits (1, 2).  This January, Lentzner organized a similar project called Junk Free January.  Participants can choose between four different diet styles:
  1. Gluten free
  2. Seed oil free (soybean, sunflower, corn oil, etc.)
  3. Sugar free
  4. Gluten, seed oil and sugar free
Wheat, seed oils and added sugar are three factors that, in my opinion, are probably linked to the modern "diseases of affluence" such as obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease.  This is particularly true if the wheat is eaten in the form of white flour products, and the seed oils are industrially refined and used in high-heat cooking applications.

If you've been waiting for an excuse to improve your diet, why not join Junk Free January?