Category Archives: Low-Carb Eating

If Gut Bacteria Cause Alzheimer’s Dementia, What If You Alter Those Bacteria?

The short answer? We don’t know the answer to either of those questions.

Low-carb salad

The gut bacteria (aka microbiome) seem to be able to decrease or increase inflammation that could cause or exacerbate Alzheimer’s dementia. The  microbiome’s effect on inflammation depends on the species of bacteria present, and the amount of those bacteria. At least one study found that Alzheimer’s patients have a greater abundance of the pro-inflammatory species and less of the anti-inflammatory species, compared to other folks.

Researchers with Wake Forest School of Medicine tried to find answers to the questions in the title of this post. (Click for full text.) They studied 17 experimental subjects, average age 64, who had mild cognitive impairment (11) or “cogni/subjective memory complaints” (6). God bless them for submitting to three spinal taps apiece. The experimental diets were 1) Mediterranean-Ketogenic (under 20 g carb/day), or 2) Low-fat American Heart Association diet (under 40 g fat/day). Participants were on each diet for six weeks.

The investigators didn’t find anything useful for those of us trying today to avoid Alzheimer’s or prevent the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia. Their bottom line is, “The data suggest that specific gut microbial signatures may depict [characterize] the mild cognitive impairment and that the modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet can modulate the gut microbiome and metabolites in association with improved Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid.”

So we won’t know for several more years, if ever, whether intentional modification of diet will “improve” our gut microbiomes, leading to lower risk of dementia.

What we have known for many year, however, is that the traditional Mediterranean diet is linked to lower risk of Alzhiemer’s dementia.

For more details, see Science Daily:

In a small pilot study, the researchers identified several distinct gut microbiome signatures — the chemicals produced by bacteria — in study participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) but not in their counterparts with normal cognition, and found that these bacterial signatures correlated with higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of the participants with MCI.

Through cross-group dietary intervention, the study also showed that a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet produced changes in the gut microbiome and its metabolites that correlated with reduced levels of Alzheimer’s markers in the members of both study groups.

Source: Diet’s effect on gut bacteria could play role in reducing Alzheimer’s risk — ScienceDaily

Steve Parker, M.D.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diets in one book, including the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet

Click the pic to purchase the world’s first practical ketogenic Mediterranean diet at Amazon.com

 

British Medical Journal: Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance

When you read “total energy expenditure” below, it may make more sense if you substitute “calories burned per day.” If you burn your food calories, they don’t end up as stored fat on your body,

“In this controlled feeding trial over 20 weeks, we found that total energy expenditure was significantly greater in participants assigned to a low carbohydrate diet compared with high carbohydrate diet of similar protein content. In addition, pre-weight loss insulin secretion might modify individual response to this diet effect. Taken together with preliminary reports on activation of brain areas involved in food cravings and circulating metabolic fuel concentration, results of the current Framingham State Food Study (FS)2 substantiate several key predictions of the carbohydrate-insulin model. Regardless of the specific mechanisms involved, the study shows that dietary quality can affect energy expenditure independently of body weight, a phenomenon that could be key to obesity treatment, as recently reviewed.”

Source: Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial | The BMJ

DIETFITS: Why do dieters succeed or fail? 

Julia Belluz has interesting article at Vox regarding low-fat and low-carb diet success over the course of 12 months. Her focus is on a few individuals who participated and were outliers.

As I read this, I was reminded that successful long-term weight management starts and ends in the kitchen. It also took me back to 2009, when I determined that low-carb diets were just as legitimate as low-fat.

I don’t recall the author mentioning the typical pattern with 12-month weight loss studies: most folks lose significant weight in the first few month, then at six months they start gaining it back. Cuz they go back to their old eating habits. Sure, diets don’t work………..if you don’t follow them.

From Ms. Belluz:

As a longtime health reporter, I see new diet studies just about every week, and I’ve noticed a few patterns emerge from the data. In even the most rigorous scientific experiments, people tend to lose little weight on average. All diets, whether they’re low in fat or carbs, perform about equally miserably on average in the long term.

But there’s always quite a bit of variability among participants in these studies.Just check out this chart from a fascinating February study called DIETFITS, which was published in JAMA by researchers at Stanford.

The randomized controlled trial involved 609 participants who were assigned to follow either a low-carb or a low-fat diet, centered on fresh and high-quality foods, for one year. The study was rigorous; enrollees were educated about food and nutrition at 22 group sessions. They were also closely monitored by researchers, counselors, and dietitians, who checked their weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other metabolic measures throughout the year.

Overall, dieters in both groups lost a similar amount of weight on average — 11 pounds in the low-fat group, 13 pounds in the low-carb group — suggesting different diets perform comparably. But as you can see in the chart, hidden within the averages were strong variations in individual responses. Some people lost more than 60 pounds, and others gained more than 20 during the year.

Read the whole thing. It’s not long.

Source: Why do dieters succeed or fail? The answers have little to do with food. – Vox

The DIETFITS Trial

How Did Walter White Lose That Weight in “Breaking Bad”?

That’s a guacamole deviled egg.
Photo Copyright: Steve Parker

In 2014 Howard Stern interviewed Bryan Cranston and asked how he lost weight so quickly for his role as Walter White on Breaking Bad:

“Stern: When you had chemo and was getting sick playing the part of Walter White, in order to go through rapid weight loss you deliberately didn’t eat for 10 days? True or false?

Cranston: False.

Stern: How’d you lose all that weight?

Cranston: No carbohydrates. I just took out all the carbohydrates.

Stern: How much weight did you drop?

Cranston: 16 pounds, in ten days.

Stern: Painful?

Cranston: No. The first three days are really hard, ’cause your body’s changing and craving sugar and wants, you know, and then you deprive it of the sugar and it starts burning fat.”

Source: How Walter White lost weight in Breaking Bad, it wasn’t chemo – High Steaks

h/t Tom Naughton

Is Insulin the Reason You’re Always Hungry?

So easy to over-eat!

So easy to over-eat! Is it the insulin release?

No, insulin probably isn’t the cause of constant hunger, according to Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Dr. G gives 11 points of evidence in support of his conclusion. Read them for yourself. Here are a few:

  • multiple brain-based mechanisms (including non-insulin hormones and neurotransmitters) probably have more influence on hunger than do the pure effect of insulin
  • weight loss reduces insulin levels, yet it gets harder to lose excess weight the more you lose
  • at least one clinical study (in 1996) in young healthy people found that foods with higher insulin responses were linked to greater satiety, not greater hunger
  • billions of people around the world eat high-carb diets yet remain thin

An oft-cited explanation for the success of low-carbohydrate diets involves insulin, specifically the lower insulin levels and reduced insulin resistance seen in low-carb dieters. They often report less trouble with hunger than other dieters.

Here’s the theory. When we eat carbohydrates, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high as we digest the carbohydrates. Insulin drives the bloodstream sugar (glucose) into cells to be used as energy or stored as fat or glycogen. High doses of refined sugars and starches over-stimulate the production of insulin, so blood sugar falls too much, over-shootinging the mark, leading to hypoglycemia, an undeniably strong appetite stimulant. So you go back for more carbohydrate to relieve the hunger induced by low blood sugar. That leads to overeating and weight gain.

Read Dr. Guyenet’s post for reasons why he thinks this explanation of constant or recurring bothersome hunger is wrong or too simplistic. I tend to agree with him on this.

The insulin-hypoglycemia-hunger theory may indeed be at play in a few folks. Twenty ears ago, it was popular to call this “reactive hypoglycemia.” For unclear reasons, I don’t see it that often now. It was always hard to document that hypoglycemia unless it appeared on a glucose tolerance test.

Regardless of the underlying explanation, low-carb diets undoubtedly are very effective in many folks. That’s why I offer one as an option in my Advanced Mediterranean Diet. And low-carbing is what I always recommend to my patients with carbohydrate intolerance: diabetics and prediabetics.

Steve Parker, M.D.

front cover

front cover

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

front cover

front cover

Save Time by Microwaving Your Spaghetti Squash

The pale yellow half-squash is cooked. The meaty red sauce is low-carb.

Both of these weighed about 4 pounds (1.8 kg). The pale yellow half-squash is cooked. The meaty red sauce is low-carb.

My wife found this new spaghetti squash cooking method—new to us at least—on a sticker attached to a squash. We tried it and the finished product is the same as if done in the traditional oven baking way. The whole process just takes 15 minutes. Here it is:

Hope you can read it

Hope you can read it

A different squash had a different stuck-on cooking method that involved both microwaving AND oven baking. Why make it so complicated?

It takes no skill at all to make it look like spaghetti pasta

It takes no skill at all to make it look like spaghetti pasta

 

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In the northern hemisphere, the spaghetti squash season is autumn and winter. Purchasing in spring and summer may be iffy. We tried one out of season and it was inedible.

Spaghetti Squash Recipes

Low-Carb Spaghetti Sauce

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Spaghetti Squash Recipes

low-carb diet, spaghetti squash, paleobetic diet, diabetic diet

The yellow spaghetti squash is at the top. It’s related to pumpkins and zucchini.

Many weight-conscious folks are cutting down on carbohydrate consumption. One way to do that is to find lower-carb alternatives to carb-rich items.

An alternative to spaghetti pasta is spaghetti squash. A cup of cooked spaghetti squash has 10 g of carb; a cup of cooked spaghetti has 43 g. The fiber grams are about the same. Numbers are from FitDay.com.

Spaghetti squash is a classic low-carb vegetable. If you’ve never tried it, you should. As vegetables go, it’s one of the largest, heaviest, and most interesting to prepare. Easy, too. The spaghetti squash season is autumn and winter in the northern hemisphere. Purchasing in spring and summer may be iffy.

In my part of the world, supermarket spaghetti squashes weigh between two and five pounds. We cooked a three-pounder (1.4 kg) that yielded five cups; a five-pounder (2.3 kg) gave us 12 cups. A serving size is one, maybe two cups. What you don’t eat immediately stays fresh in the refrigerator for at least several days. Re-heat by microwaving or stir-frying.

Like pasta and potatoes, the squash by itself is bland. It’s a great substrate for sauces or seasonings.

low-carb diet, paleobetic diet, diabetic diet, spaghetti squash

Raw squash cut in half lengthwise

Here’s how we cook it at the Parker Compound. Preheat the oven to 375º F 0r 190º C. Very carefully slice the squash in half lengthwise. Spoon out and discard the guts (seeds and membranes like a pumpkin; it even smells like a pumpkin). Put the halves flat-side down in a pan, then add a half inch (1.3 cm) of water to the pan. Cover with foil and bake until the outer shell (rind) is fairly easily pierced with a paring knife. This will be about 45 minutes for a two-pound squash (0.9 kg); 90 minutes for a four-plus pounder (2.3+ kg). Then turn them over, re-cover with foil, and cook 15 minutes more, until very tender. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Then use a fork to pull the strands away from the rind.

Other cooks simplify the process and just place the squash halves flat-side down on a baking sheet and cook for 30-60 minutes. Some leave the seeds in while cooking and spoon them out just before the stranding step.

Or you can save time and microwave it. We can’t tell the difference in the final product.

Now what?

You got options.

Our first experiment was with l0w-carb spaghetti sauce.

paleobetic diet, low-carb diet, diabetic diet, spaghetti squash

Low-carb spaghetti

Next we took three cups squash (710 ml) and mixed in 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, 2.5 tbsp (37 ml) chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) minced fresh garlic, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt, and 1/8 tsp (0.6 ml) black pepper.

low-carb diet, diabetic diet, paleobetic diet

Seasoned with parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper

Finally, we took a cup (240 ml) of the squash and added minced celery (4 inches or 10 cm of stalk), 3 minced black olives, 5/8 oz (18 g) of minced sweet (bell) pepper, 1/2 clove of minced garlic, salt (a dash), and pepper to taste.

paleobetic diet, diabetic diet, low-carb diet, spaghetti squash

Seasoned with sweet peppers, black olives, garlic, celery, and salt

These last two options I consider side dishes. By the way, they taste good either cold or warm. They would go well with a number of entrees, such as steak or salmon.

I’ve read that this squash is good with pesto, or just with salt and butter.

Nutrition facts from FitDay.com:

One cup of cooked spaghetti squash has 75 calories (I’ve seen 42 elsewhere), 10 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber, 8 g of digestible carb, 4 g of fat (predominantly MUFA), minimal protein, and a fair amount of vitamins A, niacin, B6, and C. Plus 8% of your RDA for manganese.

Steve Parker, M.D.