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The Fat Storage Machine

Junk-food-collage

These foods are doing more than just making you fat.

Carbohydrates are great, they are the bodies preferred source of fuel providing instant energy when needed.  Endurance athletes need more than most as they are continually drawing on the bodies resources, consider them as a high octane fuel in a well oiled machine.  However they are also at the source of the obesity problem and so you should monitor very carefully both the type and quantity you eat as they have a dramatic effect on the body chemistry.

It is without question that blood sugar levels are the driving force in the fat storage mechanism as this determines the level of insulin production.  This goes against many who believe fat or more specifically saturated fat and over consumption are the drivers.  This is incorrect as increasing numbers of scientific studies now show that it’s consumption of a high carbohydrate diet and not a high fat diet that is the main cause of fat accumulation,  excess consumption of food is a symptom of being overweight and not the other way around.  It is the fat cells themselves that disrupt the body chemistry which tell the brain to eat more and more.  The alienation of saturated fat began in the 1950’s thanks to the now discredited findings of an American scientist by the name of Ancel Keys.

So back to the real culprits, when consumed carbohydrates are quickly converted into glucose and enter the bloodGlucose-Insulin-Cycle-graphic stream (blood sugar).  Of the two types of carbohydrate simple and complex it is the simple form (sweets, syrups, table sugar, alcohol, soda drinks, fruit juices)  that have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels.  These simple forms have little to no nutritional value but small amounts can be converted for use as instant energy, great…but hang on a moment.  In order for the body to be able to use glucose as fuel it produces a hormone called insulin whose job it is to transport glucose from the blood to the cells, liver and muscles.  The problem is these energy storage banks don’t have much capacity and so quickly become full.  When this happens all surplus glucose in the blood gets stored in the fat cells.  If this were to be an irregular event there would be little to worry about.  But it’s not, as our present day diet is filled with refined carbohydrates in the form of processed foods and drinks, bread, pasta, pastries, soda’s, fruit juices etc. As a result we find ourselves with consistently high levels of insulin working overtime to lower blood sugar.   The presence of high levels of insulin mean three things:

1. Fat cells unable to convert fat to energy

2. Weight Gain

3. Insulin Intolerance ( This is very bad!)

You have basically turned your body into a fat storing machine by constantly feeding it a high carbohydrate diet.  Because our bodies cannot tolerate sustained high blood sugar levels a condition called insulin resistance begins to take effect.  This is very serious and linked to many of the modern autoimmune and degenerative diseases we see today.

Insulin-resistance-cycle-graphicSo what can happen when your body is a fat storing machine? How about type II diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimers to name a few.  Americans are adding, on average one and a half pounds of fat each year with Britain a close second.

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The Temptation of Eve

temptation-of-eve-cartoonWorking with a client on her food journal we had hoped to find a way out of the plateau that was causing this wonderful woman to feel fed up, low and lethargic.  Encouraged that paleo works and the successes we have had, experience tells us this problem can be as a result of one or several factors.  And sure enough, there it was, nestled in the midst of her food journal entries:  FRUIT: grapes, apples, pears were being consumed with a passion at any time of day or night, snacking and not always with a meal. The point is some fruits in particular grapes and dates contain pure glucose as well as fructose and are therefore faster releasing into the blood stream.  This in turns causes blood sugar to spike giving a short lived lift in mood and energy surge, the problem is any surge is followed by a rapid fall as the body fights to balance blood sugar.

We talked a little about this about the journal entries and the pattern of food consumption.  It was apparent that the fruit had become her prop (treat) and the learned behavior, that thought that we deserve a treat to give ourselves a little boost was still forming a big part of her routine.  To such an extent when days were really bad my friend was literally “gorging” on fruit to deal with the issues instead of… well, dealing with the issues.  Fine if you’re a mountain gorilla but we’re not mountain gorillas.  This can be such a deep pattern of  ingrained behavior it can be hard to spot and it’s only fruit after all………?

When we think of fruit, fructose, fruit sugar we often associate it with healthy eating.  Indeed, some diets recommend we purchase fructose as a sweetener in our food.  Some diets even encourage us to eat fruit as a ‘free food’.  But the fruit we eat today is very different from that which was present a generation ago let alone in our ancestor’s time.  Our fruit is selected and bred for its sweetness, shape and appearance.  Historically the fruit we ate was seasonal, lower in sugar and higher in fibre.

Over eating fruit causes over consumption of fructose.  Excessive consumption of fructose causes increases in uric acid levels (which raise blood pressure and can lead to gout), raises triglycerides (which elevates risk factors for heart disease) decreases leptin entry into the hypothalamus (leading to prolonged feelings of hunger) leads to weight gain, induces insulin resistance and high levels over a long period may cause fatty liver.

Fruit is not the answer for weight loss due to the presence of fructose.  Cut back on fruit if you are overweight or having trouble shifting the weight whilst eating above average amount of fruit in your daily life.

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