Category Archives: nutrition

Can Color Effect Your Appetite?


Professional chefs understand how important food presentation is for the success of a meal. One element of the eating experience that can be under estimated however, is the effect of color. Scientific studies have shown that the color of the food and the eating environment effect appetite, often in a significant way. Continue reading

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Coconut Milk as Health Food? You’ve Got to Be Kidding.


Much as has been said recently about the health benefits of coconut milk and coconut oil. Coconut milk is a white liquid mixture of water and the white “flesh” of the coconut and is considered a more diluted form of coconut oil a thick clear liquid. Coconut extracts have been used in commercial food products, non-dairy creamers and cooking for many years but lately there has been a burst of publicity for coconut oil and milk as a new form of health-food with beneficial properties including increasing energy, preventing cancer and speeding weight loss.  I have seen it being added to ice cream and even bottled water. I want to sound a note of warning here.

 

Most physicians and nutritionists will advise against having too much fat in the diet for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, fats have lots of calories. In addition dietary fat can increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) content of the blood leading to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Among the different kinds of fat that raise LDL the worst are the saturated fats. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 120 calories with about 90% of the coconut oil being saturated fat.  In fact the saturated fat, palmitic acid, takes its name from the plant that produces coconuts, the palm tree. Compare this to the fat in dark chocolate which is 30% oleic acid, the healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.

 

Oils which are far more beneficial for preparing foods are unsaturated fats including the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. I like canola, safflower and olive oil due to their high content of these healthier fats.

 

Coconut oil has many other applications which are useful outside the body. It can be used as a diesel fuel, deodorant, insect repellent, to make soap, and as a moisturizer for hair and skin.  My advice is to think twice however, before supplementing your diet with it.

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Mom Told You Fish is Brain Food. She Was Right.


Recent information from a 20 year study confirms what Mom told you about fish being good for the brain .  Using MRI studies of the brain researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that the size of certain brain regions crucial to intelligence were bigger in those who ate baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis.  In Alzheimer’s Disease these same areas shrink as the disease progresses.  Intelligence and memory testing by the researchers confirmed that having more brain volume in these areas correlated with better brain function. For fish eaters the rate of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease during this study was only 8% while non-fish eaters went on to Alzheimer’s  38% of the time. The researchers concluded that the benefit of fish eating probably results from the protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the brain. Omega-3 fatty acid contains high concentrations of EPA as well as another benefical nutrient DHA.

Fish oil is known to have other benefits as well, such as reducing certain fats in the blood, particularly triglycerides. In another recently released study those with high triglycerides taking 1.8 grams of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) for twelve weeks showed a 22% reduction in triglyceride levels . The EPA in this study was derived from the omega-3-fatty acids in fish oil. The researchers point out that there is still limited proof that lowering triglycerides leads to a reduction in heart attack risk, although reducing irregular heart beat after heart attack may be reduced by consuming nutrients such as EPA.

For more helpful information on nutrition and health check out my new book, Metabolism.com

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What’s Inside My Ebook, Metabolism.com?


My ebook Metabolism.com is now available; I think you will find it a great resource for many of the common problems members have asked me about over the past 15 years. Buy it now and use it for years to come. Don’t forget to check out the Weight Loss and Weight Gain Programs included for free!

Chapter 1: What Is Metabolism? 9

Turning Food into Energy 10
The Importance of Hormones 11
Role of Metabolism in Weight Loss or Gain 14
Is My Metabolism Healthy? 16

Chapter 2: What Makes Your Metabolism Fast or Slow? 17

The Role of the Thyroid 22

Chapter 3: How to Increase or Decrease Metabolism 25

Problems with Losing Weight 25
Problems with Gaining Weight 34
A Pleasurable Exercise Routine is a Must 39

Chapter 4: Fact vs. Fiction—Smoking and Weight Loss 41

Chapter 5: Thyroid Treatment 47

How Are T3 and T4 Regulated? 48
Types of Thyroid Diseases 49
Hyper- and Hypothyroidism 49
Thyroid Nodules 51
Is Your Thyroid Nodule Hot? 53
Thyroid Treatments 54
Using Thyroid Function Tests To Diagnose Disease 56
Hyperthyroidism Treatments 57
Hypothyroidism Treatments 58
T3 Plus T4 Combination Therapy 59
How to Talk to Your Endocrinologist 66
The Recent Shortage of Armour Thyroid 67

Chapter 6: Diabetes Treatment 73

The Bad News—Major Stumbles in the Treatment of Diabetes 74
The Call for Tight Glycemic Control 74
2010 Diabetes Treatment Guidelines Lack Credibility 76
Setbacks in Diabetes Drug Development 81
The Failure of Inhaled Insulin 86
Dangerous Commercial Weight Loss Programs 87
Perhaps the Biggest Stumble of Th em All 89
The Good News—What Really Works 90
Diet and Exercise 90
Weight Loss Surgery 94
Incretins 95

Chapter 7: Hormone Treatments 99

Hormone Replacement Therapy—Estrogen 101
Heart Health 101
Breast Cancer 103
Benefits of Estrogen: Brain Function and Blood Pressure 104
Testosterone Replacement for Men 106
Testosterone Replacement Options 107
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement 108
Potential Risks 109
Human Growth Hormone in Adults 111
Diagnosing Growth Hormone Deficiency 113
Benefits of Growth Hormone Supplementation 113
Adrenal Fatigue: Fact or Fiction? 115

Conclusion 117

The Birth Of Metabolism.com 119
My Path Into Endocrinology 121
Recent Contributors On Metabolism.com 125

Appendix 1: Personal Nutrition Profile 127
Appendix 2: Ultimate Weight Gain Program 145
Appendix 3: Food Journal 165

Relevant Studies

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More Toxic Thyroid Supplements


During 2 decades of practicing endocrinology I had not encountered an instance of an over the counter product containing enough active thyroid hormone to make a difference in thyroid levels. In the last month I consulted on two new patients who appear to have developed toxic thyroid levels due to non-prescription products. The first involved a “Metabolic Complex” obtained from New Zealand. This seemed like a fairly random event in which a non-prescribing health practitioner was able to obtain an unregulated product which was passed on to the patient. Not likely to become a common issue. This second instance is more worrisome since it involves a product purchased directly by the patient from the internet, and supposedly “vegetarian” in nature.

Here is the story. A woman with a history of hypothyroidism for about one year taking synthetic prescription thyroid hormone decided to find a more natural solution to thyroid hormone replacement. She stopped the thyroid hormone replacement prescribed by her local physician and purchased a product via the internet advertised to improve thyroid gland “health”. Prior to starting the OTC product her thyroid blood tests indicated low thyroid levels, as expected. About a month after starting the thyroid supplement her thyroid levels were clearly above normal, entering the thyrotoxic range. Fortunately she returned to her physician who alerted her to the problem and asked her to stop the thyroid supplement and one month later she was back to being hypothyroid again. It was at this time I first consulted with her and found her to have the expected symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, poor memory, dry skin and water retention (edema). I restarted her on prescription thyroid hormone replacement.

I wanted to see the product bottle myself but was unable to obtain it. Instead I went on-line and tried to track down the product’s manufacturer and list of ingredients. It was a frustrating exercise since the names of the products and the manufacturers and distributors changed from one website to another. I narrowed my search to one product manufactured in California and another in Canada. Perhaps I will be able to get the original pill container and nail this product down but for now it remains a bit mysterious.

Members of metabolism.com have asked me to pass on the name of these products. Now come on…do you think I want to make this situation worse by giving the information away to juvenile delinquents? I am hoping government regulators will become more vigilante to what appears to be a growing problem. In the mean time I advise everyone to be on the alert to similar products being marketed to an unsuspecting public.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

Some of the details of this report have been changed to protect the identity of my patient. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or therapy.

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Prominent Diabetes Specialist Shares His Views on Best Practice Principles


In this video, Eric Cohen, endocrinologist, explains what he considers the principles that will result in the best outcomes for his patients. He also shares his life experiences that influenced him in his decision to specialize in diabetes care.

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FDA to Weight Loss Drug Developers: “Drop Dead!!”


In just the last few months the FDA shot down applications from three new weight loss drugs
and removed one from the market that was previously approved. A month ago, based on
analysis of these actions, I predicted it will take 10 years for a new weight loss drug to be
approved by the FDA
. The latest action by the FDA makes me more confident than ever, in this
prediction.

A sensational action by the FDA to cripple development of new weight loss drugs came
about two weeks ago. The FDA denied approval to the weight loss drug candidate Contrave,
a combination of two medications. Both of the drugs in the combination pill are presently in
use and were FDA approved decades ago for indications other then weight loss. One of the
drugs Naltrexone, is used to treat opiate drug overdoses and the other bupropion HCL is used
to treat depression. Given the long history of safety of both drugs it would seem surprising
the FDA would reject the combination of these drugs on grounds of safety concerns, which
was what happened. Making the FDA rejection even more astounding is that just a month
before, a majority of members of the FDA’s own Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory
Committee, gave a thumbs-up to Contrave. In almost all previous instances where the Advisory
Committee gives their green light to a new drug candidate, the FDA has followed through with
an approval. I can hardly imagine a clearer way for the FDA to say “Drop Dead!!” to all those
seeking to get approval for a new weight loss medication.

Michael Narachi, CEO of Orexigen the maker of Contrave, is quoted as saying he “was
surprised and extremely disappointed with the agency’s (FDA’s) request”, a request which
essentially ended any chance of getting approval for his company’s weight loss drug. My advice
Michael, is to move on with your company and find another drug class to work on. Maybe
something to smooth away skin wrinkles or relieve constipation. I’m sure you will have a lot
more success. In the meanwhile, the epidemic of diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and
disabilities due to degenerative joint disease, all related to obesity, marches on.

A final note of advice to investors in the medical field. I would spend my money on a psychiatrist
before investing money in companies conducting research on weight loss medication, since you
won’t see a penny from your investment for ten plus years.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

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How Light Effects Your Metabolism by Jim Rollince


A guest contributor, Jim Rollince, shares this informative article on how the amount of light in our environment can have a big impact on health.

Jim writes:

Ambient Light During Sleep and The Affect on Metabolism

By Jim Rollince of Gym Source, distributor of home gym equipment, including treadmills, ellipticals and other home gyms.

Frustrated that your exercise routine and constantly calorie counting has not yielded any weight loss results? Are you in fact gaining more weight then before you began exercising and monitoring your food consumption? The key to your weight gain could be a result of an external factor that you never took into account, the exposure to light at night.

New research in sleep science has shown that prolonged exposure to light during the regular nighttime sleeping hours may cause weight gain. This weight gain occurs independent of daytime calorie consumption and physical activity.

These research findings came out of a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study tested animals, and the findings have begun to raise discussion from the scientific community based on whether the human body experiences metabolic sluggishness and weight gain as a result of too much light exposure at night.

A research team from Ohio State University discovered that mice exposed to a dim light during the course of a night for roughly a two-month period, gained 50 percent more body mass than mice exposed to a regular light-dark cycle. “Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others,” said Laura Fonken, a neuroscience doctoral student at Ohio State and director of the study.

Although the lab mice were exposed to nighttime light they did not become less active nor eat more. However, they did eat at times when they normally wouldn’t. In fact, in one part of the study when the mice were exposed to light at night and then restricted from eating with the exception of their normal feeding times, they did not experience more weight gain.

“Something about light at night was making the mice in our study want to eat at the wrong times to properly metabolize their food,” Randy Nelson, professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State and co-author of the study.

The researchers found that levels of the stress hormone corticosterone were not different among the mice exposed to the dim light and mice exposed to standard light-dark. This finding was surprising for the research team since corticosterone is connected to changes in metabolism. The research has shown that changes in metabolism have the potential to cause weight gain independent of corticosterone levels.

What is the link between dim light at night and fat-causing changes in one’s metabolism? The Ohio State research team postulates that the presence of light during the night works to disrupt hormone melatonin. Hormone melatonin plays a significant role in the functioning of the metabolism. To this end, light exposure at night could in fact disrupt expression of clock genes, which aid in controlling the time animals choose to be active and eat.

Dr. Nelson furthers her comments by saying that if her team’s research results are confirmed, eating late at night is a serious contributing factor to obesity. “Light at night is an environmental factor that may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in ways that people don’t expect,” he said. “Societal obesity is correlated with a number of factors including the extent of light exposure at night.”

Past research similar to this study have been prolonged television and computer use as contributing risk factors for obesity. Yet these studies were centered in the idea that engaging in prolonged television or computer usage contributed to a lack of physical activity. The current connection between weight gain and the light coming from a TV or computer, is related to the disruption of the metabolism via the negative bodily effects of getting too much light exposure at night and eating at the wrong time.

“Clearly, maintaining body weight requires keeping caloric intake low and physical activity high, but this environmental factor may explain why some people who maintain good energy balance still gain weight,” Dr. Nelson’s press statement.

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Adopted Children Experience Early Sexual Maturity


Puberty occurs when areas within the brain awaken beginning a cascade of hormone signals which conclude with the gonads (ovaries and testicles) increasing their production of the female and male sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Under the influence of these hormones a child begins the transition from childhood to sexual maturity. In boys puberty is associated with a growth spurt, the appearance of facial, axillary (arm pit) and pubic hair, acne, deepening of the voice, growth of the testicles and penis while girls undergo a growth spurt, develop breasts, acne, pubic and axillary hair, and growth of the clitoris.

Historical data shows the average age of puberty today is many years sooner than in previous generations. Most experts attribute earlier puberty to better nutrition. A recent article in metabolism.com reviewed how “over-nutrition” accelerates obese children into puberty sooner (referred to as precocious puberty) than normal weight children. The latest studies on causes of precocious puberty suggests that a child’s social environment also exerts an important influence on the timing of puberty. Researchers in Madrid publishing in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 95:4305 2010 analyzed the age of puberty in normal children, adopted children and children whose families immigrated (children not adopted but subject to high levels of personal stress) to Spain. Adopted children were 25 times more likely than other groups of children to undergo precocious puberty (breast development before the age of 8 years in girls, and boys under 9 years of age with testicular growth). Over-all girls were 11 times more likely than boys to demonstrate precocious puberty.

Researchers speculate that socio-emotional stresses early in life of children who are later adopted result in changes in the brain that cause premature maturation of vital nerve pathways. This early brain maturation later results in stimulation of the pituitary gland, turning on the hormone pathways that cause puberty. This seems strange to me because various forms of deprivation in childhood can also delay puberty. For example, girls who have anorexia remain child-like in their body development and may fail to menstruate even into their late teens. A decade ago I studied hormone levels in adults during the stress of illness and surgery and found this lowered the sex hormone levels in their blood. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view because during stressful conditions nature wisely cuts off the reproductive hormones. Why make babies if the environment is hostile in some way? Why the opposite occurs in children under stress of adoption is an interesting but unanswered question.

Gary Pepper, M.D.,
Editor-in-Chief, metabolism.com

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Dr. Oz’s “Metabolic Makeover” Dishes Empty Calories


I want to help Dr. Oz not criticize him. Criticizing Dr. Oz is like criticizing Mother Theresa. He is uniformly worshiped by the media and his huge audience. He comes across as someone truly wanting to be helpful. So if I come across as being critical of him think of it as constructive criticism.

Yesterday, as I waited in the checkout line at Walmart, I saw a popular woman’s tabloid with a full page photo of Dr. Oz. The headline with the picture was “Dr. Oz’s Metabolic Makeover”. This intrigued me because I can use new information of this kind in my daily office encounters, so I bought the magazine. Imagine my surprise when, reading through the 2 page article, I didn’t find a single word from the great and powerful Oz. Instead a nameless author offered a summary of “Dr. Oz’s body-transforming secrets!”. What were Dr. Oz’s secrets? Take Vitamin D, fish oil, calcium, multivitamins, get enough sleep, and eat food with anti-oxidants low in carbs and sugar. In conclusion a dietitian put together a few simple recipes for meals based on a 1400 calorie per day diet. That’s it folks. That’s all she wrote!! Nothing even remotely new or body transforming. There was not a single original or inspirational thought to be found. Not even a single quote from the medical guru. I doubt whether he even read the article himself.

Dr. Oz was trained as a cardiac surgeon. It takes years of dedication and hard work to achieve that goal. In his mind must have been a desire to save people’s lives by literally taking them to the brink of death and bringing them back healthier than they were before. What this article says to me is that Dr. Oz has allowed himself to become the Kim Kardashian of medicine. A pretty but empty headed celebrity offering nothing of real value. His full page photo in this magazine is the portrait of an almost cynical drive to grab a few dollars from the pockets of adoring fans. What kind of deal do you have, Dr. Oz? Do you get a few pennies for each magazine sold? Do you really need the money, the fame, the glory that this kind of exploitation provides?

Nobody got hurt by this, you might say. That is true if you have time and money to waste. I know that many people would rather get up to date information they could use to get healthy and donate the money they wasted on this article to better causes.

We expect something more from you Dr. Oz. Shake off your advisers and entourage. Stand up for the person you originally sought to be.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

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