Are you hungry?

Eliminate modern high-yield semi-dwarf Triticum aestivum . . . and what is the effect on appetite?

A reduction in appetite is among the most common and profound experiences resulting from wheat elimination. I know that I have personally felt it: Wake up in the morning, little interest in breakfast for several hours. Lunch? Maybe I'll have a few bites of something. Dinner . . . well, I'd like to exercise first.

The wheatless report that:

--Appetite diminishes to the point where you can't remember whether you've eaten or not. It is not uncommon to miss a meal, perfectly content. Calorie intake drops by 400 calories per day, on average, calories you otherwise would not have needed but all went to . . . you know where.
--Hunger feels different: It's not the gnawing, rumbling hunger that plagues you every 2 hours. In its place, you will find that hunger feels like a soft reminder that, gee, maybe it's time to have something to eat because you haven't had anything in--what?--4 to 6 hours. And it's a subtle reminder, not a desperate hunt that makes you knock people aside at the food bar, steal coworkers' lunches stored in the refrigerator, salivating at the mere thought of food.
--The simplest foods satisfy--It no longer requires an all-you-can-eat buffet to satisfy, but a few small pieces of healthy food. (Yeah, but what happens to revenues at Kraft, Nabisco, and Kelloggs, not to mention the revenues at agribusiness giants ADM and Monsanto? Slash consumption by, say, 30%, you likewise slash revenues by 30%. What would shareholders say?)
--Even prolonged periods of not eating, i.e., fasting, is endured with ease.

Hunger and the relentless search for something to eat disappear for most people. By eliminating the appetite-stimulating properties of wheat, we return to a natural state of eating for sustenance, to satisfy physiologic need. We are no longer victims of this incredibly powerful appetite-stimulant called gliadin from wheat.

This is why many diets fail: They fail to remove this powerful appetite stimulant. You might eat only lean meats, limit your calories, and exercise 90 minutes per day, but as long as the gliadin protein is pushing your appetite button, you will want to eat more or you will have to mount monumental willpower to resist it. You can lose 20 pounds on phase 1 of the South Beach diet, for instance, only to regain it in phases 2 and 3 when "healthy whole grains" are added back.

So the key is to remove the gliadin protein from your life, i.e., eliminate all things wheat.


Chocolate . . . for adults only

If you've got a serious chocolate addiction and you'd like to make it as healthy as possible, give this X-rated dark chocolate a try.
I call it X-rated because it is certain to not satisfy young, sugar-craving palates, but is appropriate for only the most serious chocolate craver. This is a way to obtain the rich flavors and textures of cocoa, the health benefits (e.g., blood pressure reduction, antioxidation) of cocoa flavonoids, while obtaining none of the sugars/carbohydrates . . . and certainly no wheat!

It is easy to make, requiring just a few ingredients, a few steps, and a few minutes. Set aside and save for an indulgence, e.g., dip into natural peanut or almond butter.

8 ounces 100% unsweetened cocoa
5 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup dry roasted pistachios
1/4 cup whole flaxseeds or chia seeds
Truvia or other non-aqueous sweetener

Using double-boiler method, melt cocoa. Alternatively, melt cocoa in microwave in 15-20 second increments. Stir in coconut oil, pistachios, and flaxseeds or chia seeds. Stir in sweetener, mixing thoroughly. (Note that the sweetener must be non-aqueous, as water-based sweeteners will separate in the oils.)

Lay a sheet of parchment paper out on a large baking pan. Pour chocolate mixture slowly onto paper, tilting pan carefully to spread evenly until thickness of thick cardboard obtained. Place pan in refrigerator or freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove chocolate and break by hand into pieces of desired size.

"Friday is my bad day"

At the start, Ted had a ton of small LDL particles. His starting (NMR) lipoprotien values:

LDL particle number: 2644 nmol/L

Small LDL: 2301 nmol/L

In other words, approximately 85% of all LDL particles were abnormally small. I showed Ted how to use diet to markedly reduce small LDL particles, including elimination of wheat, limiting other carbohydrates, and even counting carbohydrates to keep the quantity no higher than 15 grams per meal ("net" carbs).

Ted comes back 6 months later, having lost 14 pounds in the process (and now with weight stabilized). Another round of lipoproteins show:

LDL particle number: 1532 nmol/L

Small LDL: 799 nmol/L

Better, but not perfect. small LDL persists, representing nearly 50% of total LDL particle number.

So I quiz Ted about his diet. "Gee, I really stick to this diet. I have nothing made of wheat, no sugars. I count my carbs and I almost never go higher . . . except on Fridays."

"What happens on Friday?" I asked.

"That's when I'm bad. Not really bad. Maybe just a couple of slices of pizza. Or I'll go out for a big custard cone or something. That wouldn't do it, would it?"

That's the explanation. Your liver is well-equipped to recognize normal, large LDL particles. Large LDL particles therefore "live" for only a couple of days in the bloodstream. But the human liver does not recognize the peculiar configuration of small LDL particles, so it lets them pass--over and over and over again. The result: Once triggered by, say two slices of pizza, small LDL particles persist for 5 days, sometimes longer.

So Ted's one "bad" day per week is enough to allow a substantial quantity of small LDL particles to persist. While a fat indulgence (if there is such a thing) pushes large LDL up, the effect is relatively short-lived. Have a carbohydrate indulgence, on the other hand, and small LDL particles persist for up to a week. It means that Ted's one "bad" day per week is enough to allow his small LDL particles to persist at this level, preventing him from gaining full control over coronary plaque.

It also means that, if you have blood drawn for lipoprotein analysis but had a carbohydrate goodie within the previous week, small LDL particles may be exaggeratedly high.

HDL 80 mg/dl

More and more people in my clinic are showing HDL cholesterol values of 80 mg/dl or higher, males included.

Think about it: Nationwide, average HDL for males is 42 mg/dl and for females 52 mg/dl. Even though these average values are generally regarded as favorable, HDL cholesterol values at these levels are nearly always associated with higher levels of triglycerides, postprandial (after-eating) lipoprotein abnormalities, and excessive quantities of small LDL particles.

HDL particles are, of course, protective and are powerfully anti-oxidative. Higher levels of HDL have been associated with reduced potential for cancer, as well as reduced risk for heart disease.

Following the simple regimen that we follow to gain control over coronary plaque has therefore increased levels of HDL to heights that are uncommon in the rest of the population, levels that readily top 80, 90, or 100 mg/dl. That regimen includes:

1) Elimination of all wheat--Yes, consumption of "healthy whole grains" sets you up to have lower HDL levels; elimination of wheat increases HDL.
2) Limited carbohydrate consumption--While eliminating wheat is a powerful nutritional strategy to increase HDL, non-wheat carbohydrates like quinoa, millet, beans, rice, and fruit can still cause high triglycerides that lead to reduced levels of HDL. Limited exposure helps keep HDL at higher levels.
3) Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation--Because omega-3 fatty acids reduce both triglycerides and blunt the postprandial rise in lipoproteins that can cause HDL degradation, HDL rises with omega-3s from fish oil.
4) Vitamin D supplementation--The effect is slow, but it is BIG. HDL just goes up and up and up over about 2 years of supplementation. Before vitamin D, HDL levels of 60 mg/dl were the best I could hope for in most people. Now 80 mg/dl is an everyday occurrence.

Other factors can also be used to increase HDL levels, such as weight loss, red wine and alcohol, exercise, cocoa flavonoids, green tea, and niacin. But following the regimen above sends HDL through the roof in the majority.

Lessons from the 20-year statin experience

Readers of the Heart Scan Blog know that, while I recognize that statins are useful in a small segment of the population with genetically-determined disorders, they are wildly overused, misused, and abused. In my view, the majority of people taking statins have no business doing so and could, in fact, obtain superior results by following some of the strategies advocated in these pages.

Nonetheless, the 30-year long statin experience has taught us some important lessons. Statin drugs have enjoyed more "research" than any other class of drugs ever conceived. They have received more media attention and embraced by more physicians than any other class of drugs. Combine these social phenomena and I believe that several lessons can be learned:

Small LDL particles and increased HbA1c--An evil duo

Small LDL particles are triggered by consumption of carbohydrates. Eat more "healthy whole grains," for instance, and small LDL particles skyrocket.

Increased hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, a reflection of the last 60-90 days' blood sugars, is likewise a reflection of carbohydrate consumption. The greater the carbohydrate consumption and/or carbohydrate intolerance, the greater the HbA1c. Most regard a HbA1c of 6.5% or greater diabetes; values of 5.7-6.4% pre-diabetes. However, note that any value of 5.0% or more signifies that the process of glycation is occurring at a faster than normal rate. Recall that endogenous glycation, i.e., glucose modification of proteins, ensues whenever blood sugars increase over the normal range of 90 mg/dl (equivalent to HbA1c of 4.7-5.0%). Glycation is the fundamental process that leads to cataracts, arthritis, and atherosclerosis.

Put the two together--increased quantity of small LDL particles along with HbA1c of 5.0% or higher--and you have a powerful formula for heart disease and coronary plaque growth. This is because small LDL particles are not just smaller; they also have a unique conformation that exposes a (lysine residue-bearing) portion of the apoprotein B molecule contained within that makes small LDL particles uniquely glycation-prone. Compared to large LDL particles, small LDL particles are 8-fold more prone to glycation.

So glycated small LDL particles are present when HbA1c is increased above 5.0%. Small, glycated LDL particles are poorly recognized by the liver receptor that ordinarily picks up and disposes LDL particles, unlike large LDL particles, meaning small LDL particles "live" much longer in the bloodstream, providing more opportunityt to do its evil handiwork. Curiously, small LDL particles are avidly taken up by inflammatory white blood cells that can live in the walls of arteries, where they are oxidized--"glycoxidized"--and add to coronary atherosclerotic plaque.

The key is therefore to tackle both small LDL particles and HbA1c.

Unforgiving small LDL particles

Small LDL particles are triggered by carbohydrates in the diet: Eat carbohydrates, small LDL particles go up. Cut carbohydrates, small LDL particles go down.

A typical scenario would be someone starts with, say, 2000 nmol/L small LDL (by NMR) because they've been drinking the national Kool Aid of eating more "healthy whole grains" and consuming somewhere around 200 grams carbohydrates per day, including the destructive amylopectin A of wheat. This person slashes wheat followed by limiting other carbohydrates and takes in, say, 40-50 grams per day. Small LDL: 200 nmol/L.

In other words, reducing carbohydrate exposure slashes the expression of small LDL particles, since carbohydrate deprivation disables the liver process of de novo lipogenesis that forms triglycerides. Abnormal or exaggerated postprandial (after-eating) lipoproteins that are packed with triglycerides are also reduced. Because triglycerides provide the first lipoprotein "domino" that cascades into the formation of small LDL particles, carbohydrate reduction results in marked reduction in small LDL particle formation.

So let's say you are doing great and you've slashed carbohydrates. Small LDL particles are now down to zero--no small LDL whatsoever. What LDL particles you have are the more benign large variety, say, 1200 nmol/L (LDL particle number), all large, none small. You are due for some more blood work on Thursday. On Tuesday, however, you have four crackers because, what the heck, you've been doing great, you've lost 43 pounds, and have been enjoying dramatic correction of your lipoprotein abnormalities.

Your next lipoprotein panel: LDL particle number 1800 nmol/L, small LDL 700 nmo/L--substantially worse, with a major uptick in small LDL.

That's how sensitive small LDL particles can be to carbohydrate intake. And the small LDL particles can last for up to several days, since small LDL particles are not just smaller in size, they also differ in conformation, making them unrecognizable by the normal liver receptor. The small LDL particles triggered by the 4 crackers therefore linger, outlasting the normal-conformation large LDL particles that are readily cleared by the liver.

This phenomenon is responsible for great confusion when following lipoprotein panels, since a 98% perfect diet can yield dismaying results just from a minor indulgence. But, buried in this simple observation is the notion that small LDL particles are also extremely unforgiving, being triggered by the smallest carbohydrate indulgence, lasting longer and wreaking their atherosclerotic plaque havoc.

I eliminated wheat . . . and I didn't lose weight!

Elimination of wheat is a wonderfully effective way to lose weight. Because saying goodbye to wheat means removing the gliadin protein of wheat, the protein degraded to brain-active exorphins that stimulate appetite, calorie consumption is reduced, on average, 400 calories per day. It also means eliminating this source of high blood sugar and high blood insulin and the 90-minutes cycles of highs and lows that cause a cyclic need to eat more at the inevitable low. It means that the high blood sugar and insulin phenomena that trigger accumulation of visceral fat are now turned off. It may possibly also mean that wheat lectins no longer block the leptin receptor, undoing leptin resistance and allowing weight loss to proceed. And weight loss usually results effortlessly and rapidly.

But not always. Why? Why are there people who, even after eliminating this appetite-stimulating, insulin-triggering, leptin-blocking food, still cannot lose weight? Or stall after an initial few pounds?

There are a list of reasons, but here are the biggies:

1) Too many carbohydrates--What if I eliminate wheat but replace those calories with gluten-free breads, muffins, and cookies? Then I've switched one glucose-insulin triggering food for another. This is among the reasons I condemn gluten-free foods made with rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Or perhaps there's too many potatoes, rices, and oats in your diet. While not as harmful as wheat, they still provoke phenomena that cause weight loss to stall. So cutting carbohydrates may become necessary, e.g., no more than 12-14 grams per meal.

2) Fructose--Fructose has become ubiquitous and has even assumed some healthy-appearing forms. "Organic agave nectar" is, by far, the worst, followed by maple syrup, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose,and fruit--yes, in that order. They are all sources of fructose that causes insulin resistance, visceral fat accumulation or persistency, prolongation of clearing postprandial (after-meal) lipoproteins that antagonize insulin, and glycation. Lose the fructose sources--as much of it as possible. (Fruit should be eaten in very small portions.) Watch for stealth sources like low-fat salad dressings--you shouldn't be limiting your fat anyway!

3) Thyroid dysfunction--A real biggie. Number one cause to consider for thyroid dysfunction: iodine deficiency. Yes, it's coming back in all its glory, just like the early 20th century before iodized salt made it to market shelves. Now, people are cutting back on iodized salt. Guess what's coming back? Iodine deficiency and even goiters. Yes, goiters, the disfiguring growths on the neck that you thought you'd only see in National Geographic pictures of malnourished native Africans. Number two: Exposure to factors that block the thyroid. This may include wheat, but certainly includes perchlorate residues (synthetic fertilizer residues) on produce, pesticides, herbicides, polyfluorooctanoic acid residues from non-stick cookware, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants), and on and on. If you are iodine-deficient, it can even include goitrogenic iodine-blocking foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and soy. Thyroid status therefore needs to be assessed.

4) Cortisol--Not so much excess cortisol as disruptions of circadian rhythm. Cortisol should surge in the morning, part of the process to arouse you from sleep, then decline to lower levels in the evening to allow normal recuperative sleep. But this natural circadian cycling is lost in many people represented, for instance, as a flip-flopping of the pattern with low levels in the morning (with morning fatigue) and high levels at bedtime (with insomnia), which can result in stalled weight loss or weight gain. Cortisol status therefore needs to be assessed, best accomplished with salivary cortisol assessment.

5) Leptin resistance--People who are overweight develop an inappropriate resistance to the hormone, leptin, which can present difficulty in losing weight. This can be a substantial issue and is not always easy to overcome. It might mean assessing leptin levels or it might mean taking some steps to overcome leptin resistance.

Okay, that's a lot. Next: More on how to know when thyroid dysfunction is to blame.

Do the math: 41.7 pounds per year

Consumers of wheat take in, on average, 400 calories more per day. Conversely, people who eliminate wheat consume, on average, 400 calories less per day.

400 calories per day multiplied by 365 days per day equals 146,000 additional calories over the course of one year. 146,000 calories over a year equals 41.7 pounds gained per year. Over a decade, that's 417 pounds. Of course, few people actually gain this much weight over 10 years.

But this is the battle most people who follow conventional advice to "cut your fat and eat more healthy whole grains" are fighting, the constant struggle to subdue the appetite-increasing effects of the gliadin protein of wheat, pushing your appetite buttons to consume more . . . and more, and more, fighting to minimize the impact.

So, if you eat "healthy whole grains" and gain "only" 10 pounds this year, that's an incredible success, since it means that you have avoided gaining the additional 31.7 pounds that could have accumulated. It might mean having to skip meals despite your cravings, or exercising longer and harder, or sticking your finger down your throat.

400 additional calories per day times 365 days per year times 300,000,000 people in the U.S. alone . . . that's a lot of dough. Is this entire scenario an accident?

Or, of course, you could avoid the entire situation and kiss wheat goodbye . . . and lose 20, 30, or 130 pounds this year.

We got the drug industry we deserve

A biting commentary on just who is writing treatment guidelines for diabetes and cardiovascular disease was published in the British Medical Journal, summarized in's HeartWire here.

"About half the experts serving on the committees that wrote national clinical guidelines for diabetes and hyperlipidemia over the past decade had potential financial conflicts of interest (COI), and about 4% had conflicts that were not disclosed.

"Five of the guidelines did not include a declaration of the panel members' conflicts of interest, but 138 of the 288 panel members (48%) reported conflicts of interest at the time of the publication of the guideline. Eight reported more than one conflict. Of those who declared conflicts, 93% reported receiving honoraria, speaker's fees, and/or other kinds of payments or stock ownership from drug manufacturers with an interest in diabetes or hyperlipidemia, and 7% reported receiving only research funding. Six panelists who declared conflicts were chairs of their committee.

"Of the 73 panelists who had a chance to declare a conflict of interest but declared none, eight had undeclared COI that the researchers identified by searching other sources. Among the 77 panel members who did not have an opportunity to publicly declare COI in the guidelines documents, four were found to have COI.

The closing quote by Dr. Edwin Gale of the UK is priceless:
"Legislation will not change the situation, for the smart money is always one step ahead. What is needed is a change of culture in which serving two masters becomes as socially unacceptable as smoking a cigarette. Until then, the drug industry will continue to model its behavior on that of its consumers, and we will continue to get the drug industry we deserve."

It's like having Kellogg's tell us what to each for breakfast, or Toyota telling us what car to drive. The sway of the drug industry is huge. Even to this day, I observe colleagues kowtow to the sexy sales rep hawking her wares. But that's the least of it. Far worse, even the "experts" who we had trusted to have objectively reviewed the evidence to help the practitioner on Main Street appears to be little more than a hired lackey for Big Pharma, hoping for that extra few hundred thousand dollars.