Sleep Loss Triggers Pre-Diabetes

sleeping girlEven a few nights of poor sleep in healthy individuals results in a transient state of pre-diabetes. That is the eye-opening conclusion of a new study that underscores how vital sleep is for metabolic function. For this new study, researchers subjected 19 healthy, young men to four consecutive nights of sleep deprivation (just 4.3 hours of sleep) in a controlled laboratory setting. In addition to carefully controlling what they ate and how much they slept, the researchers followed blood levels of several important metabolic markers. After just three nights of poor sleep, there were “marked changes” in several important metabolic compounds including a significant increase in insulin resistance.With insulin resistance, insulin’s ability to facilitate the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream becomes impaired and sluggish-a hallmark feature of pre-diabetes and often “the final common gateway” to obesity. The researchers noted that although the reduction in insulin action was transient (it only lasted about five hours) it was on par with what is observed in pre-diabetes!

This study is in keeping with the large population studies that consistently show that those who get inadequate sleep are more likely to gain weight and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. I am personally convinced by the science I have read that sleep is essential for weight control and metabolic health. (Diabetologia, February 2015 DOI: 10.1007/s00125-015-3500-4) Click here to see my best advice for improving your sleep.

Caution! — Caramel Color in Colas May Boost Cancer Risk

Coke GlassIf you need another reason to ditch colas for good, both diet and regular, keep reading. Caramel color is a common ingredient in dark colored sodas and past studies have shown that many can contain significant levels of a caramel color byproduct called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). 4-MEI has been shown to boost cancer risk in laboratory animals and may also be a human carcinogen. In a new report by researchers at John’s Hopkins University that analyzed soda consumption data, the scientists determined that many Americans are being exposed to significant levels of this potential cancer-causing agent. According to the lead researcher of the study, “Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes.” (PLOS ONE, 2015 10(2)))

I consider both diet and regular sodas a science experiment in a bottle and encourage you to stop drinking them.


Follow Popeye’s Lead

spinach 2Popeye loved his spinach and his Olive Oil and you should too. In a study including 30,000 Italian women followed for about 8 years, those who reported eating at least 1 serving of dark leafy greens a day were 46% less likely to develop heart disease versus those who ate two or less servings a week.  Knowing that dark leafy greens are home to potent doses of the most important heart-healthy nutrients, this is not surprising.  Be good to your heart and eat at least 1 serving from any of the following foods daily: dark lettuce greens, kale, collards, spinach or Swiss chard.  (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2010)

You would really be wise to go ahead and include a bit of extra virgin olive oil with your olive oil spoongreens too.  In this same evaluation, women who downed at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily also enjoyed a 40% risk reduction in heart disease.  Remember olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and a big kick of anti-inflammatory polyphenols.  (Inflammation in the arteries is the root cause of heart disease.)

15 Foods That Are Always in My Kitchen Cupboards

  • Almond butter
  • Organic quinoa
  • A variety of canned and dried beans
  • Canned red sockeye salmon
  • A variety of bagged teas
  • Steel cut oats or old fashioned oats
  • Cocoa powder
  • Brown rice
  • Honey or molasses
  • Organic chicken broth
  • Garden of Eatin’™ Sprouted Blues tortilla chips
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A variety of vinegars
  • Stone-ground grits
  • Dark chocolate bars


4 Reasons to Eat More Steel-Cut Oatmeal

  1. Relative to ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, oatmeal, especially the steel- cut variety, offers greater satiety (feelings of fullness).oatmeal with cinnamon
  2. Oatmeal has all the proven health benefits attributed to eating intact whole grains, which include protection from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
  3. Oatmeal is uniquely high in a special type of soluble fiber, beta-glucan, that is one of Nature’s most powerful cholesterol-lowering agents.
  4. Quick cooking steel cut oats are now available in several brands – including Quaker and McCann’s.



Quick Tip!


Use more garlic, onions, and shallots in your cooking as an easy way to boost their healthfulness, flavor, and mouth feel. These essentially zero calorie foods are super high in beneficial plant compounds including a unique group known as kokumi substances. Kokumi agents enhance food’s natural flavors while also imparting a mouth feel similar to fat. Chefs love these culinary gems for this reason.

Stand Up to Sitting


Want an easy way to lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and premature death? Stand up. In a powerful new review study that loudly echoes what previous studies have shown – simply taking a stand may be one of the most life-changing and life-saving of all simple maneuvers. This new analysis, which combined the data from a number of former studies, found that despite how much you exercise, prolonged sitting significantly increases your risk for our leading chronic diseases and an earlier death. The scientists did note that while regular exercise could not fully compensate for the bodily damage that occurs during too much sitting, those at the greatest risks of the perils of sedentarism were those who got little or no exercise.

Prolonged sitting is loosely defined as sitting more than 7-8 hours a day. Sadly, over half of our population does just this with watching TV, commuting, and sitting while at work comprising the three top contributors. (Annals of Internal Medicine, 2015 DOI: 10.7326/M14-1651)

Bottom line – to achieve and maintain optimal health, you must engage in regular physical activity/exercise and avoid prolonged sitting. For best results, strive to limit your sitting to less than four hours a day. For times that prolonged sitting is unavoidable, be sure to get up and move around, or at least stand up for 2-5 minutes every hour. Click here for my best tips to stand up to sitting!

Delicious Foods for Fighting Fat

Woohoo! That is what I said as I read a new report that suggested that eating foods high in ellagic acid may help us lose weight and avoid gaining it. When you see the list of foods that provide the highest amounts, you will understand my glee – hint they are really delicious.strawberries1

First, the study highlights – scientists exposed human liver and fat cells grown in a lab to four natural, plant-based compounds, to include ellagic acid. Of the four, ellagic acid proved to be a potent metabolism booster and fat-fighter. In the liver cells, this wonder chemical kicked up the burning of fat – a known safeguard for metabolic health. And in the fat cells, ellagic acid dramatically inhibited their growth while also hindering the formation of new fat cells. (Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry2015;26(1):82)

Although lab studies like this cannot prove human benefit in real life, you have nothing to lose (but perhaps some fat!) by eating the foods high in ellagic acid. They are all delectable and already have a rock solid scientific reputation for building health and fighting disease. Here are the best of the bunch.

More Reasons to Marinate

grillingFor those who enjoy the enhanced flavor marinating meats imparts, a new study gives us an additional reason to engage in this culinary practice – much safer food.  In line with other studies, researchers found that marinating meats prior to cooking at high temperatures dramatically reduces the formation of a class of cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCA’s).  HCA’s form in the muscle fibers of meat when it is exposed to high temperatures.  Grilling creates the most, followed by pan-frying and broiling.  As reported in the Journal of Food Science (August 2008), scientists marinated beef roundsteak for 1 hour in 3 different bottled marinades selected from the grocery shelf prior to pan-frying.  The marinated steaks had up to an 88% reduction in HCA levels compared to steaks that were not marinated.  Although the exact component(s) of the marinades responsible for blocking the formation of the HCA’s has not been determined, scientists speculate that antioxidant phytochemicals in the herbs and spices typically found in the marinades are the likely “active ingredients.”  I strive to marinate any muscle meats (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, and venison) prior to cooking them at high temperatures like grilling or broiling.

Late Night Eating Bad for the Belly

Up until recently, there has never been credible data to support that calories consumed late at night were any more fattening than those consumed during the day.  An intriguing new laboratory study however, reveals “hard data” to the contrary and should give us reason to be particularly food wary during the wee hours of the night.  Scientist have consistently observed that shift workers who are frequently forced to eat at abnormal (unnatural) times, weigh more on average that those who maintain a normal (circadian) eating pattern.  Prompted by this observation, scientists conducted a study in lab rats – feeding one group a high fat diet when they would normally be sleeping and a second group the exact same diet, but during normal, wakeful periods.  Those fed during sleep time gained 28% more weight than the other group.  (Obesity, Sept 09)

weight gain
It’s unlikely that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate much after sun down and thus it may be hard-wired into our genes that a diurnal pattern of food intake is what is healthiest for our bodies.