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Written by Dr. Welsh, Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D..
Published on 16 July 2014

Four Reasons Why Healthy Sleep Is Important For Weight Loss

Most people have a lot of the right ideas when it comes to weight loss. They know that they need to eat better and that they need to exercise more, for example. They also know that simply getting up out of the chair and being more active goes a long way. One aspect of a good diet that most people don't consider is a healthy night's sleep, however. Ideally, we spend eight hours per day at rest, but many people, whether due to their busy lifestyle or other factors, don't get enough each night. The goal of this article is to help you understand how vitally important that it is for you to take the time out each evening for a full night of quality rest.

The interesting thing about sleep is that you get the benefits explicitly from rest. There is no exercise routine, and you don't have to change your diet to experience these benefits. Metabolism can be augmented purely by adopting healthier sleeping habits. Think about sleep like a nutrient. It's as important as the water you drink and the food that you eat. In the same way that we can eat the wrong foods, we can suffer from malnutrition in our sleeping habits as well. Let's explain in depth how sleep encourages optimal health.

Sleep Helps Build Muscle

Did you know that sleep is a vitally important aspect of anaerobic exercise? You see, when you lift weights and exercise. You don't get stronger right away. When you lift weights, your muscles develop tiny, natural microscopic tears, and you become stronger through the healing process. This healing process takes place primarily at night, via the function of Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone.

While you are asleep, your body distributes Human Growth Hormone and Growth Factors all throughout the body in order to encourage repairs, and this speeds up the reinforcement process that takes place in the muscles, allowing you to grow stronger more quickly. Natural HGH is released on-and-off in bursts during sleep around once every hour and a half. It also benefits the skin and other organs, because HGH is an agent of cellular metabolism.

Testosterone is also released during sleep, in both sexes, although in much lower concentrations in women. Testosterone activates enzymes in the muscle cells which cause them to work more quickly and develop faster, which is why men have larger muscles than women, naturally. If you are interested in losing weight, developing muscle, and maintaining an increased energy level, sleep is as important as any other aspect of your exercise routine.

Sleep Helps Control Hunger

Sleep is not only an important part of your exercise routine, but also an important aspect of your diet. The hormone that is responsible for the sensation of satiation that occurs as we eat and become full is known as Leptin. Interestingly enough, researchers have found that men and women who don't get enough sleep don't produce enough of this hormone, which makes it much easier to overeat.

On the other hand, the opposite hormone, Ghrelin, becomes more active when we don't get enough rest, increasing our desire to eat and making it harder to remain satisfied with conscientious portions of healthy food. Our body relies heavily on proper hormone balance, which is encouraged by a circadian rhythm that is in tune and anchored by healthy sleeping habits.

Healthy Sleep Controls and Mitigates Stress

Most people understand that sleep is supposed to be a relaxing activity, but many people don't really understand exactly how extensively poor sleep can cause stress levels to go through the roof. This is because of sleep's influence on a stress hormone known as cortisol. Under normal, healthy circumstances, our cortisol levels reach their peak in the morning as a means to rouse us from sleep, and balance out once we eat breakfast. Then at the end of the day, cortisol levels fall very low, encouraging us to become sleepy and prepare for bed.

When we don't sleep well or don't get enough sleep, however, cortisol levels get out of balance and exacerbate sleeping issues. Some people experience heightened anxiety throughout the day. They also tend to have trouble sleeping because cortisol levels are higher than normal when it's time for bed, which causes sleeplessness, or causes people to be unable to reach deep phases of sleep necessary for hormone balance and distribution. This can lead to weight gain, loss of muscle mass, anxiety, and depression. By taking the time to ensure that you get the sleep that your body needs, you provide yourself with some free, much-needed therapy!

Sleep Helps Control Blood Sugar

Type-Two Diabetes is a full-blown epidemic in the United States these days, affecting millions of men and women across the nation. It is vitally important to keep blood sugar balanced in order to maintain health, preserve longevity, and reduce mortality risk. A diet flush in simple carbs and sugars causes the pancreas to secrete large amounts of Insulin all at once in order to transport glucose throughout the body. When these spikes are too large and too frequent, it confuses the body, and it develops a resistance to insulin.

One way to protect your body and your natural insulin sensitivity is to get a full night's rest. Study after study shows that the body's ability to regulate blood sugar is hampered significantly by poor sleeping habits. In addition to impacting your body's ability to utilize insulin, these insulin spikes also promote the body to convert glucose into fat instead of using it for energy. These patterns also increase your cravings for sweets and carbs. By sleeping better, you reduce cravings and help your insulin levels stay more balanced, which increases metabolism and helps you lose weight!

What Can I Do To Sleep Better?

Well, now you know why sleep is important, but what can you do to encourage healthy sleeping habits? The following are some suggestions:

Sleep in Absolute Darkness - The body recognizes darkness as a sign to fall asleep. Cover up lights in your room and cover windows.

No Playing in Bed - Many people like to play on their laptop or watch television in bed. This could be making it harder to sleep, because the brain no longer associates the bed with restful sleep.

Give Yourself Time For a Good Night's Rest - For some people, their poor sleeping habits are an issue of poor scheduling. Always make sure that you have a full eight hours to devote to healthy sleep.

See a Professional If You Have Chronic Sleep Issues - Sleep Apnea is a major health issue, and if you have trouble getting the rest you need in spite of a full night's rest, you may be suffering from a condition such as sleep apnea which inhibits your ability to sleep restfully. Make an appointment and get yourself checked out!


Written by Dr. Welsh, Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D..
Published on 18 October 2017

Sixteen Foods That Can Increase Your Cancer Risk

Eating healthy is a full time job. It's important to take the time to be knowledgeable about your diet, because, in the end, a healthy diet can add years and years to your life. There are foods that many of us eat every day that are actually very bad for us, and can even increase our risk of many forms of cancer. The goal of this article is to help you choose your foods more conscientiously, so that you can avoid cancer-causing foods.

Microwave Popcorn and Cancer Risk

Popcorn is a great low-calorie snack, and an excellent source of fiber, but you should only eat popcorn that you cook yourself, because microwave popcorn can be really bad for you. Microwave popcorn is the epitome of modern convenience, but there are a lot of reasons to avoid this staple snack in the American diet.

For one, the inner lining of popcorn bags is covered with perfluorooctanoic acid, also referred to as PFOA. The reason why manufacturers use PFOA is so that the popcorn kernels and other ingredients don't get stuck to the bag. PFOA is also an ingredient in Teflon. Most people know that scratching Teflon can contaminate the food you cook on the pan, but PFOA fairly freely dissociates from he popcorn bag.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers PFOA a toxic chemical, but the chemical is still used in popcorn bags. There is strong clinical evidence that PFOA contributes to both cancer and infertility in laboratory experiments.

Also, there are reasons to avoid microwave popcorn even on top of the issues with the bag. For one, most microwave popcorn is covered with preservatives. One of the most common is propyl gallate, which has been linked to issues ranging from rashing of the skin to gastrointestinal complications. Microwave popcorn manufacturers heavily make use of genetically modified crops to make their popcorn as well.

Finally, popcorn is frequently doused with diacetyl, a powdery substance which has been associated with lung conditions among employees at their factories, frequently referred to as Popcorn Lung. All of this can be avoided simply by purchasing popcorn kernels from a responsible source, and cooking them on your own.

Non-Organic Fruits and Cancer Risk

It's incredibly important to source your fruits from responsible growers. Many industrial fruit farms douse their fruit crops in chemicals, such as organophosphates, thiodicarb, and atrazine. Many also use fertilizers which are tremendously high in nitrogen.

The use of atrazine as a fertilizer is actually illegal in many areas of the world, including most of Europe. There is powerful evidence that atrazine exposure can lead to issues regarding reproduction and fertility, made particularly clear in animal experiments. In America, atrazine is still frequently used as a weed killer.

There is even evidence that atrazine impacts human fertility. In fact, in 2009, researchers found that women that lived in areas where water was inadvertently laced with Atrazine, their children weighed less at birth. Also, frequently, non-organic fruit farms use bio-solids to fertilize their crops. Bio-solids is a polite way of saying that these crops are fertilized with human waste from American sewage plants. This sewage contains not only human waste, but everything that is filtered from the water supply!

Vegetables and fruits are frequently doused with these chemicals, which is why the conspicuous health consumer should choose organic growers that avoid these chemicals. Growers use these chemicals to maximize the growth of their product. Apples have the highest rate of pesticide absorption. Ninety-eight percent of apples were shown to have traceable levels of pesticide! Other fruits that have high rates of pesticide absorption and exposure are grapes, strawberries, and oranges.

For this reason, it is important to wash all fruits before you eat them. But it is also important to understand that washing won't get rid of all of the contamination, which is why it's important to source your fruits as well as possible.

Canned Tomatoes and Cancer Risk

Bisphenol-A is a common chemical which is frequently used in order to line the inside of canned food, in order to prevent the organic chemicals in the food from interacting with the metal of the can, preserving taste. It is also known as BPA, and there are some concerns regarding the effect that Bisphenol-A can have on health.

A recent study, released in 2013 by NAS, demonstrated that BPA can impact the manner in which genes function inside lab rat brains. The Food and Drug Administration is also concerned about potential health issues that may be contributed to BPA, and cautiously urge food manufacturers to minimize their use of BPA or find another, more safe and suitable chemical to do the job.

There are many canned foods which don't necessarily present a big risk of BPA exposure, but acidic fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, are some of the prime culprits, because the acids can interact with the lining, causing the BPA to enter the food itself. In canned tomatoes, BPA levels can reach a concentration where many groups recommend that children don't eat them at all.

As of today, there are no rules in place to make manufacturers label their cans if they use BPA, so unless it explicitly says that it does not contain BPA, you should assume that it does. If you want to mitigate you or your children's exposure to BPA, choose foods that have been sealed in glass jars, frozen in bags, or which are just plain fresh!

Processed Meats and Cancer Risk

Processed Meats have become a staple in many people's eating habits. Originally, processed meats were created to help food taste better and remain edible for a longer period of time. When good, fresh meat was harder to come by, this was important, but today, when good, healthy meat is readily available, the downsides to processed meat become much clearer. Processed meat is a wide and varied category that includes lunch meat, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages, among many other meat products.

The issue with these foods is that, unlike other meats such as steak, pork loin, and fish, processed meats are heavily treated with chemicals and salts which affect their flavor, texture, and quality. Unfortunately, these ingredients also present a carcinogenic risk, while also being bad for the cardiovascular system in general.

In a recent study released in the journal BioMed Central Medicine, it was found that in over the course of a 13 year longitudinal study, one in every seventeen patients died. The consumption of processed meats played at least a strong correlative factor in mortality rates, because participants that ate a volume of processed meat product of more than 160 grams per day were 44% more likely to experience premature mortality than those that ate 20 grams per day or fewer. This broad study ranged across ten nations in Europe.

One of the prime factors which lead to this enhanced risk is sodium nitrate, a preservative used to maintain freshness and quality, but that also leads to increased cancer risk. Smoked meats can also cause issues, because the cooking process involved with smoking causes tar to be absorbed into the meat. If you enjoy foods like these and don't want to give them up, remember: moderation is your friend and will help you live a longer and happier life!

Farm-Raised Salmon and Cancer Risk

In general, fish are one of the best means to add lean protein to your diet. Of course, there are some forms of fish you should avoid, even if they are fresh. This includes Farm-Raised Salmon, which is not nearly as healthy as salmon which is caught wild. It's important to be aware of where your salmon is sourced, because more than half of the salmon eaten in the United States come from these farms.

Right now you are likely asking yourself, what's the problem with Farm-Raised Salmon? Well, the main issue with them is the way they are fed and stored. Salmon that has been raised in a farm atmosphere doesn't live the same life or even have the same dietary composition as those caught wild.

For example, they are often fed the same food as other farm animals, including chicken litter. Healthy wild salmon is naturally pink, but, because of their poor diet in captivity, they lose that color, and are actually fed chemicals in order to produce this color artificially to trick you into thinking that you are getting a healthy product. The deep red color is actually an indication of the composition of the animal, and farm-raised salmon don't produce as much natural Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which means that you don't get the same health benefits from Farm-Raised Salmon as you would from wild salmon.

Also, in order to keep the fish healthy and heavy, they are treated with pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals in order to increase the viability of the yield, and many of these chemicals are known endocrine disruptors or have other negative effects on human and ecological health. They also have increased levels of dioxins, mercury, and PCBs, all of which can have a negative impact on health.

Potato Chips and Cancer Risk

One of the issues with the American diet today is that so many of the things that are bad for us, or were originally only intended to be eaten in moderation are now staple foods in the American diet. This is especially true of potato chips, which are a go-to snack for people on the go, and many people that are simply looking for some quick and easy tasty calories to go with their sandwich (which likely contains processed meat!).

Unfortunately, potato chips are unhealthy in a number of ways. For example, potato chips are a calorie dense food and they are also full of fat. Potato chips, like french fries, are a terrible addition to any diet as more than an occasional treat. A recent article released in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that consuming just a single ounce of potato chips on a daily basis led to an average increase in weight of two pounds.

Also, many types of potato chips are loaded with trans-fats which are universally bad for human health and should be avoided as completely as possible. The combination of high trans-fats and high sodium combine in a one-two punch that is highly dangerous for individuals that suffer from hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels.

There are also carcinogens in potato chips, which are produced whenever potatoes are fried at very high temps. These exceptional temperatures are necessary to produce the crispiness in the ideal potato chip, but they also lead to the production of acrylamide, which is a cancer-causing agent most notable as a product of cigarette smoke.

All of this doesn't even take into account the glut of artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors which all have their unique effects on health and cancer risk. If you absolutely love the occasional bag of chips, turn to baked tortilla chips or potato chips in order to limit the calories and fat per serving. There are also a lot of alternatives that are much better for you, including whole wheat pretzels and popcorn popped on the stove, or, even better, air-popped.

If you are addicted to the crispness of potato chips more than the potatoes themselves, baked banana and apple chips can sate that desire while also filling in your nutritional needs without being a caloric burden.

Hydrogenated Oils and Cancer Risk

Hydrogenated oils are vegetable fats which are chemically extracted from the original plant. Animal fat can be separated naturally, but vegetable oils must be treated in order to be separated. The bottle of vegetable oil that you have on your counter has likely been treated with coloring agents and deodorized in order to make it appear more appealing as an ingredient.

There's nothing wrong with vegetable oil in moderation, but it's important to be aware that Hydrogenated oil is very high in Omega-6 fatty acids. If you have too much vegetable oil in your diet, it can lead to health issues such as an increased risk of both cancer and heart disease. The form of cancer that appears to be most affected by Omega-6 is skin cancer.

In order to mitigate the risk of cancer associated with Omega-6 fatty acids, it is important to both consume products which contain vegetable oil in moderation, and also make sure that you get enough Omega-3 to balance out for your health. There are a lot of great ways to supplement your diet with Omega-3, including fatty fish like wild mackerel and salmon as well as meat from animals fed by grass. There are also lots of supplements that effectively provide Omega-3.

The amount of oil used for home cooking is generally in an acceptable range, but processed foods tend to contain way too much vegetable oil because of its function as a preservative. The reason why Hydrogenated oils increase cancer risk is because they have a negative influence on the flexibility and structure of the cell membranes.

Smoked or Highly Salted Foods and Cancer Risk

One of the reasons why processed foods are such an issue is because they contain nitrite or nitrate salts. These salts are also used in a variety of other food products as well. They are powerful preservatives, and they also artificially color the meat to increase its visual appeal. The reason why these salts are bad is because, after they are digested, they are converted into N-nitroso composites, which are associated with increased cancer risk. Foods often treated with Nitrates and Nitrites are salami, bologna, sausage, and bacon, and, as we mentioned before, they are also unhealthy because of their salt and fat content.

The excess consumption of food cooked by smoking is also bad, because any food that is smoked absorbs tar solid carcinogens which will then be absorbed into the body. Pickled foods are highly unhealthy because the pickling process is literally preserving food by drowning it in salt.

There is evidence that all the foods mentioned above increase the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. This has been shown quite vividly by studying cultures like Japan, where the normal diet is high in smoked and salted foods.

Processed Bleached Flour and Cancer Risk

It is quite clear that, as evidence continues to grow, white flour is simply not good for you. It's so prevalent in the American diet, however, that it can be difficult to actually register how bad white flour is for the body. In reality, white flour is no better than sugar. White flour is the epitome of the empty calorie. The process that creates white flour eliminates all of the ingredients which can make grains beneficial.

Flour used to be naturally white, but today, in order to reduce production time and cut costs, white flour is bleached in order to make the product more visually palatable. The most common chemical that is used to hasten the whitening process is chlorine gas.

Chlorine gas is highly toxic and dangerous when inhaled, and the same chemical processes which make the chemical so dangerous are also the mechanisms by which causes white flour to be completely bereft of nutrition.

Because white flour is so processed, the body can directly absorb the carbohydrates and distribute them with no effort. In most cases, unless you are highly active or maintain an otherwise optimal diet, white flour will be converted nearly directly into fat. Because white flour activates so readily, it can positively be hell on your insulin and blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Over-consumption of processed flour can contribute to cancer for two reasons. For one, obesity leads to hormone imbalance, which suppresses Testosterone Levels and increases Estrogen Levels in men. In both sexes, HGH Levels are suppressed. Also, for patients with cancer, these empty calories can actually have a negative impact on health because of how readily they can be used by cancerous tumors.

GMOs Increase Cancer Risk

There are many loud and vocal opponents to genetically modified foods, frequently referred to as GMOs. GMOs are any foods, plant or animal, which have been modified at the genetic level via scientific means or exposure to chemicals.

Many GMOs are perfectly healthy, but the issue is that there is no review process or sufficient monitoring to make sure which GMOs are safe and which can potentially be dangerous. In one particularly telling study, performed by a scientist named Dr. Arpad Pusztai, potatoes were treated with a GMO modifier known as A-Lectin, which has an incredibly detrimental effect on mammalian health. After only ten days of experimentation, the rats in the study experienced diminished livers and brains, as well as pre-cancerous growths and inhibited immune systems.

Many point to this study to say all GMOs are bad, but the point of the study was explicitly to show that genetically modified foods, if not properly inspected, can potentially have a highly negative impact on human health. There are no procedures in place to sufficiently monitor genetically modified foods, and for this reason, the conscientious consumer would be wise to avoid GMO foods for their natural alternatives.

Processed Sugars Increase Cancer Risk

Like processed grains, processed sugars also wreak havoc upon insulin levels, and also provide a direct, unmediated path to increased weight gain and the exacerbation of cancerous and precancerous lesions and tumors.

For closing in on a century, scientific researchers have been aware of the potential cancer-exacerbating issues related to the excess consumption of sugar. In 1931, a man named Otto Warburg was the first researcher to prove that cancerous tumors draw in sugar from the blood stream to develop and grow.

The sugars which seem to have the most powerful effect upon tumor growth are those that also increase the risk of diabetes, such as simple sugars and carbs, as well as High-Fructose Corn Syrup. When you eat whole wheat bread or fruits, your body also processes fiber and other nutrients, which causes the body to absorb the sugar more slowly.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is essentially identical to the sugar in your blood stream, meaning that it is absorbed directly from the stomach into the blood stream, where it goes directly to fat tissue, the muscles (under heavy activity), or to tumors in the case of cancer.

Since the 1980s, corn syrup has become increasingly prevalent in the foods that we eat, including cereals, sauces, juices, sodas, cookies, pies, and cakes. One of the easiest ways to avoid HFCS and other processed sugars is to cook food yourself so that you are aware of the ingredients, or eat selectively or at specialty restaurants.

Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer Risk

Artificial Sweeteners are commonly used by people that are trying to limit their sugar intake, whether as a result of diabetes or a general interest in losing weight. The issue with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame is that they aren't that effective at leading to reduced caloric consumption. In fact, many studies show that, on average, people that turn to diet drinks actually have a tendency to gain weight, because these artificial sweeteners tend to lead to an increased sensation of hunger, especially for sweets. They've also been shown to be of limited effectiveness for diabetics.

These products can be ineffective for diabetics because it can inhibit the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, and can also exacerbate existing issues related to diabetes such as gastro paresis and cataracts. In some limited cases, aspartame can also lead to convulsions.

There is also growing data which suggests that aspartame, and some other artificial sweeteners, convert into Diketopiperazine, also known as DKP. When Aspartame is digested by the stomach, some of it is converted into this chemical, which is a known carcinogen, and is most strongly correlated with increased brain tumor risk.

If you are interested in a sugar substitute that is actually healthy for you, try Stevia. Stevia is a natural plant extract derived from a tropical plant that has the ability to imitate the flavor and satiation associated with sugar, without contributing to your caloric intake. Based on the way that the extract is biologically configured, it activates the taste buds associated with sweetness, but the sugar substitute does not break down until after it will no longer be absorbed into the blood stream and is safely excreted. The only issue is that Stevia cannot survive high temperatures associated with a stove top, but can survive the baking process up to a certain temperature.

"Diet" Foods and Cancer Risk

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but packaged diet products, whether they be drinks or meals, tend to be bad for you. For one, most common diet drinks contain aspartame, which is bad for you for the reasons described in the previous section.

Diet meals also tend to be bad for you because they dazzle you with phrases like Low Fat or No Sugar, but include other products that are just as bad for you. Many Low Fat foods are loaded with sugar, which is actually far worse for your diet than fat! Also, almost all Diet Foods are loaded with salt, which is bad for people that are overweight or obese and are already suffering from issues related to high blood pressure and hypertension.

Also, these diet foods often look nothing like their more naturally composed alternatives, meaning that they need artificial flavors and sweeteners in order to imitate the flavor profile that they are trying to copy. As we've mentioned previously, many of these artificial sweeteners and products are carcinogenic, and could be much worse for you in the long run than sticking to a natural and responsible diet.

There is also evidence that many of the additives in diet food actually have addictive qualities in some individuals. They are included to help you develop a craving for the foods and lean on them as a crutch, whether or not you lose weight! Remember, the best way to lose weight is to consume a diet of moderation high in nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits.

Excess Consumption of Alcohol and Cancer Risk

Alcohol is an interesting beast. When used in moderation, it can have beneficial effects on health and wellness, but, when consumed in excess, it can greatly increase mortality risk in a number of ways, including an increased risk of liver cancer and other medical conditions.

In one major study, researchers followed American women for nearly fourteen years in order to generally assess their health and how their habits affected their health. Among the 20,000 participants, it was discovered that women that drank alcohol once per day or more were thirty percent more likely to experience breast cancer than non-drinking women.

Behind the use of tobacco products, alcohol consumption is the 2nd highest identifier of cancer risk. Low or modest consumption of alcohol is related to a diminished heart disease risk, but alcohol abuse is associated with increased risk of general mortality, stroke, and heart failure. World Health Organization Researchers examined twenty-seven unique studies which explored the potential link between alcohol and cancer. The result of their research was that they determined that alcohol abuse is the leading cause of various cancers, including female breast cancer and cancers of the rectum, mouth, colon, liver, and esophagus.

Remember, the key here is moderation. There's no reason that you can't enjoy a beverage with dinner, but be sure to limit yourself in order to optimize your health!

Red Meat and Cancer Risk

Most people naturally crave red meat, at least sometimes. Red meat is a quality source of many vitamins, including Vitamin A. The problem is that we have a tendency to eat too much. Red meat is another food that is best eaten occasionally that many people eat on a daily basis.

The best red meat is that which comes from an animal eating its natural diet. Grass-fed beef is far better for health than grain-fed beef, and the former actually has cancer-preventing qualities, primarily in the form of linoleic acid.

On the other hand, studies have shown that daily consumption of red meat over an extended period of time can significantly increase cancer risk. For example, in one study, ten years of constant red meat consumption increased cancer mortality risk by twenty percent for women and twenty-two percent for men. In particular, red meat seems to increase the probability of experiencing colon, prostate, and breast cancer.

Red meat has the most significant and life-threatening impact with regard to colon cancer. In one exceptionally large study of men and women between fifty and seventy-four, there was clear evidence that red meat consumption greatly increased the risk of colon cancer, while regular consumption of lean meat had ameliorative properties which appeared to protect against cancer.

There's nothing wrong with a delicious steak occasionally, but make sure that you don't make it an every day habit. Once per week is a nice rule of thumb if you're a fan of steak and want to maximize benefits with minimal risk to your health.

Soda and Cancer Risk

After reading the previous entries, you probably wouldn't at all be surprised to find out that the excessive consumption of pretty much any soda is bad for you. One recent research study showed that men and women that average more than a single serving of soda daily are at increased risk of stroke compared to those that forgo soda altogether.

One reason for this is that sodas are packed with empty calories. Look at the back of that can of coke next time. The drink offers absolutely nothing that your body needs, aside from calories which you can easily get elsewhere, and are very likely consuming too much of as it is. Most American sodas are flavored with HFCS, which is incredibly bad for you and can lead to diabetes and exacerbate cancer.

Soda is also among the most common causes of Acid-Reflux disease, a condition in which stomach acid leeches into the esophagus, leading to discomfort and pain. Sodas are also bad because their ingredients cause ulcers to become worse and more problematic. Artificial flavors and sweeteners can be bad for you too, and one of the most common flavorings is 4-methylimidazole, which has been shown in some studies to be carcinogenic.

Some important things to note, if you do drink sodas occasionally: For one, root beer with natural flavors can be a nice treat every once in awhile that, while still containing empty calories, is devoid of other ingredients that can be bad for your health. Also, clear sodas like Sprite don't contain artificial coloring agents, and aren't as acidic as dark sodas, although Mountain Dew is just as bad or worse than other sodas, and contains more caffeine.


Written by Dr. Welsh, Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D..
Published on 06 May 2014

The Case Against Intermittent Fasting

The concept of Intermittent Fasting is incredibly popular these days. Some would even call it a trend. But there are many exercise, nutrition, and medical professionals that aren't all that impressed by the lifestyle technique. They argue that there are downsides to Intermittent Fasting which limit its potential benefits, and that it may fall out of favor in the near future.

These professionals do recognize that rearranging one's eating patterns in such a manner can encourage weight loss, but argue that for many people that it may be unsustainable, there are non-negligible health risks, and the practice holds no special benefit for those looking to maintain or enhance their athleticism.

Little Agreement on the Correct Way to Engage in Intermittent Fasting

One of the things about Intermittent Fasting is that it seems that everyone that recommends Intermittent Fasting, whether they be professionals or simply advocates, has their own particular take on the regimen. Some call for fasting during daylight, others recommend to eat only during a four or eight hour period of the day, and still others recommend taking entire day off from eating. There are some proponents that consider intermittent fasting to mean only eating when you truly are hungry.

Just as Intermittent is interpreted in a variety of ways, so is Fasting. Some people recommend going completely without food during the fast. Others believe that you should only drink protein shakes or stick to berries and veggies during the fasting portion of your day. As you can see, there is no clear consensus regarding what Intermittent Fasting really means.

In global society, there are many religions and cultures that engage in fasting as a spiritual act, but among animals, there is little evidence that other mammals fast for any reason except for illness. In many cases, animals that are sick will even eat particular plants like grass to purge their systems.

Intermittent Fasting is Not a Natural Animal Behavior

The core basis for Intermittent Fasting as a practice originally comes from animal research. There is evidence that Intermittent Fasting can be good for male animals in some ways, because it enhances reproductive characteristics, but for female animals, the same process can limit fertility.

The process of Intermittent Fasting in animals studies induced the females to sleep less, become unnecessarily alert, and limited their ability to menstruate. Researchers hypothesize that the reason why these changes take place is that their bodies are emphasizing traits that will aid them in seeking food.

Health Issues Related to Intermittent Fasting

Although there are many that firmly stand behind Intermittent Fasting, there are other people that have experienced temporary physical and psychological symptoms from their use of the technique. The following are some issues that people that undergo Intermittent Fasting experience:

  • Sleeping issues, predominantly in women. These issues are caused primarily by the stimulation of hypocretin neurons which encourage the body and mind to stay awake.

  • Others admit to highly increased coffee consumption to deal with their fasting. This overwhelming use of coffee can lead to circadian rhythm issues, Hormone Imbalance, and significant adrenal fatigue.

  • Many dieters experienced an increased fixation on the foods that they deny themselves. This also leads to a component increase in anxiety.

  • Women often experience a variety of Hormone Issues from extended Intermittent Fasting, including menstrual irregularities, fixation on self-image, changes in metabolic activity, and acne.

It should be noted these symptoms are highly associated with the severity of the Intermittent Fasting, and that other, more limited forms of Intermittent Fasting will produce fewer of these negative symptoms. Also, these issues are more related to long term Intermittent Fasting, and certain diet plans may be able to usefully utilize Intermittent Fasting as a means to lose weight.

Those that argue against Intermittent Fasting believe that there are other methods that can more effectively extend longevity in the long term, and can help enhance muscle mass and energy at the same time. The following are five reasons why Intermittent Fasting may not be the lifestyle that you're looking for:

One: Peak Cognitive and Physical Performance Rely on Regular Meals

The Human body relies on normalized feeding patterns in order to sustain energy and physiological capacity. Intermittent Fasting can lead to Hormone Imbalance issues which lead to fatigue, deteriorated focus, and changes in base hormone patterns. Also, the body relies on amino acids to sustain and build muscle, and if you drain your body of these amino acids, your body may start to break down muscle to meet the needs of the rest of the body.

Intermittent Fasting in the short term appears to have a balancing impact on these same factors, however, and may be beneficial as a means to lose weight and reset the body. In the initial period of Intermittent Fasting, men tend to experience increased cognitive function, boosted alertness, and there is even evidence that the experience even promotes healthier insulin production. As we mentioned previously, these benefits are less pronounced among women, and come with some potentially negative side-effects.

For men that are overweight, Intermittent Fasting can be a highly effective means to re-balance the body, especially in the short term, but for men that are already thin and looking to promote enhanced athletic ability, the benefits of Intermittent Fasting are limited.

This is primarily because asymmetrical eating pattern can lead to blood sugar issues and insulin spikes. Over time, this can cause the circadian rhythm, neurotransmitter activity, and hormone production to get out of sorts.

Many nutritionists and fitness experts recommend using a Paleolithic diet to accentuate many of the positive aspects of Intermittent Fasting while avoiding the negative aspects. A Paleolithic diet encourages healthy Insulin Balance, and provides a dependable stream of amino acids which aid metabolism, cognition, and muscle building.

A diet which revolves around healthy fats and high protein while limiting carbohydrates, with small meals consumed five to six times per day is one of the best ways to keep your body working and your metabolism pumping. This helps energy levels, muscle health, and cognitive ability, while also keeping blood sugar in check and promoting enhanced longevity.

Two: Regular Protein Consumption Necessary For Muscle Building Protein Synthesis

It is important to recognize that there is a significant difference building muscle and sustaining muscle. If you don't get your body the protein that it needs, you stand to lose muscle mass. It is very easy to design an Intermittent Fasting diet that prevents loss of muscle mass, but the issue is that Intermittent Fasting is not an ideal method for growing and enhancing muscles.

Again, if you are interested in losing weight, Intermittent Fasting may be a valid option, but if you are looking to enhance lean muscle and longevity from a healthy weight, other options are likely more beneficial. There is a body of research out there that explains exactly why Intermittent Fasting is not ideal for muscle development.

There are a lot of chemical processes that happen when your body builds muscles, and there are a number of important ingredients to make it happen. To build muscle optimally, the body needs a steady stream of hormones which promote anabolic activity, proteins and amino acids which supply the body's anabolic needs, and strength training which stimulates the use of these ingredients. If every ingredient is not available, it makes it very difficult to build muscle.

A study released in 2010 exemplifies this clearly. In this study, male participants were placed on a caloric-restriction diet, but still obtained high levels of protein each day1.5 grams per kilogram by weight. In spite of getting the necessary protein to build muscle, they still experienced a decline in muscle-building power because they weren't consuming enough calories.

Overall, this led to a loss of one kilogram of lean muscle mass in ten days. If the body isn't getting all of the nutrients that it needs, it will convert consumed protein into other products to meet the body's needs, to the deficit of the muscles.

Other studies show the benefits of multiple modest meals per day. In one particular study, athletic men performed anaerobic lower body exercise routines and consumed proteins in three experimental patterns dependent upon their group. One group took two doses of forty grams every six hours, a second group took twenty gram doses four times daily every three hours, and the third group took a ten gram dose every hour and a half eight times daily. The group that experienced the most enhanced protein utilization was the group which took twenty gram doses.

A final study examined how taking protein before bed affected protein synthesis. Researchers found that young males that consumed forty grams of protein before falling asleep experienced a 25% boost in protein utilization. In this study, participants worked out in the evening, consumed protein, and went to bed. The benefits continued to take place even overnight.

The opposite result is seen in studies mimicking the effects of Intermittent Fasting. In one study, conducted over the course of three days, young males ate twice per day with a twelve hour space between meals. Instead of building muscle, these patients burned the protein they consumed for energy, whereas men that consumed five meals per day utilized protein for protein synthesis.

It's important to note that this was only a three day study, and does not necessarily characterize how the body eventually adapts to regular Intermittent Fasting. Nutrition experts caution older men and women from engaging in Intermittent Fasting, because of issues related to sarcopenia and loss of muscle mass.

The line between protein burning and protein synthesis is finer than one would assume. Building muscle depends on supplying your body with a healthy diet, and giving your body the nutrients that it needs in the periods after physical activity. If you do not provide your body the necessary building materials, you slow down your body's recovery and slow down the rate at which your body synthesizes muscle.

Three: Adrenal Stress and Intermittent Fasting

The body eventually adapts to a pattern of Intermittent Fasting, but in the short term, the abrupt change in dietary patterns can have a significant impact on the way that your body functions, and can interrupt your circadian rhythm. The body will eventually get over adrenal fatigue over the course of an extended period of Intermittent Fasting, but there are other methods that can impact body composition in a more effective manner.

One study involving Islamic athletes shows the impact of short term fasting on athletic performance. In athletes that fasted during the day for Ramadan, the act of fasting led to higher levels of fatigue. It also contributed to reduced anaerobic performance and strength. Over the course of Ramadan, the athletes lost an average of 0.65 kilograms of fat and 1.8% of their total mass.

To date, there are no significant studies regarding the long term impact of Intermittent Fasting among athletes, but researchers hypothesize that it has a negative impact on physical output based on the scientific understanding of overtraining.

Going a long time without eating encourages the activation of hormones known as catecholamines. If this pattern is sustained for an extended period of time, it can lead to adrenal fatigue, and reduces the responsiveness of the adrenal glands. This modifies the metabolism, the priorities of the central nervous system, and leads to chronic fatigue.

All in all, engaging in Intermittent Fasting for brief periods of time has the impact of inhibiting physical performance. Engaging in it for an extended period can impact the body's homeostasis and can cause adrenal fatigue. It should be noted that these ideas regarding Long Term Intermittent Fasting are not fully tested, and the body may have some adaptive ability which has not been fully explored in the academic literature.

Four: Healthy Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels Depend on the Content of Your Diet More than the Timing of Your Meals

Intermittent Fasting and other similar eating patterns do have an effect on blood sugar and insulin. To date, the body of medical knowledge is still being fleshed out, and results are not fully conclusive. It appears that Intermittent Fasting has a positive influence on male Insulin Health under many circumstances, while women tend to experience more negative consequences.

If you are overweight or obese, Intermittent Fasting seems to have an overall-positive influence on Insulin Sensitivity, but many nutrition scientists do not believe that Intermittent Fasting is a long-term, sustainable diet plan because of the potential impact that it has on other issues, such as blood pressure. The same is believed with regard to caloric restriction.

This doesn't mean that Intermittent Fasting helps balance Insulin for everyone, however, and its benefits may be limited even among the overweight. In one piece of research released in PLOS One, researchers compared glucose and insulin levels over the course of three days among two groups: One group ate five meals per day at regular intervals, and the other engaged in Intermittent Fasting. Both groups consumed a diet consisting of 15% protein, 30% fat, and 55% carbs.

Researchers found that participants in the Intermittent Fasting group experienced more significant variation in their insulin levels through the course of the day, which is considered one of the factors which encourage Insulin Resistance over time. It should be noted that the body may adapt to Intermittent Fasting over time, which may balance out these issues with Insulin. Low-carb diets (Paleo Diets recommend around 40% carbs, for example), may also balance out these Insulin issues as well.

Rather than focus on when you eat, however, the best way to control your blood sugar is simply to scale back on your consumption of high glycemic carbohydrates. For example, one study consisted of three groups: One group ate six low-carb, high protein meals daily, a second group ate six high-carb meals daily, and a third group ate three high-carb meals daily.

Glucose levels were the lowest in the high-protein meal and highest in the six high-carb meal group. On the other hand, Insulin levels remained equivalent in both experimental groups that consumed high-carbs. The high-protein group experienced healthier Insulin levels.

In order to promote optimal Insulin sensitivity and utilization, it's more important to engage in a diet consisting of the conscientious use of low-glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fat, and protein, than to alter your eating patterns. Smart and consistent eating patterns are a positive influence, however.

Five: Intermittent Fasting Affects Natural Rhythms and Hormone Balance

One of the most potentially disruptive impacts of Intermittent Fasting is in regard to circadian rhythm and hormone balance. All of the important metabolic and anabolic hormones that our body produces are interrelated with one another, including Human Growth Hormone, Testosterone, Insulin, and Adrenal Hormones. This delicate interplay of hormones is known as the Hormone Cascade.

This means that when you have an issue with one particular hormone, all of your hormones can be affected in their own ways. Hormone Imbalance can lead to a wide variety of negative health conditions, including infertility, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, reduced metabolism, increased inflammation, sleep disruption, fatigue, and inhibited immune function.

There is evidence that Intermittent Fasting contributes to this hormone imbalance. In one particular study, participants stuck to an assigned diet eight weeks, either eating once per day or three times per day. At the conclusion of the study, participants that ate once per day lost an average of two kilograms of fat more than the opposing group. On the other hand, they also experienced heightened blood pressure, which is an indication of changes in the circadian rhythm.

Also, cortisol levels before consuming their single meal were nearly half of their normal levels. This suggests that the subjects were experiencing abnormal day-night hormone cycles. It is true that cortisol levels are important to control for optimal health, but normally, cortisol levels increase naturally as a result of hunger and drop in response satiation. Abnormal cortisol patterns are a indication of adrenal fatigue.

Of course, based off of this evidence, there may be particular forms of Intermittent Fasting that do not impact Hormone Balance so severely, and also, a responsible diet plan may mitigate the impact of this Hormone Imbalance. In the case of this study, however, a one-meal-per-day diet plan negatively impacted the health of the patients, overall, as a result of the impact on cortisol and the Circadian Rhythm.

Muscle Building and Weight Loss Tips

So, severe Intermittent Fasting can help you lose weight, but you would likely benefit from other methods. You can potentially increase your risk of illness and fatigue, and you can inhibit your body's self-regulating ability. The following are some recommended tips for men and women to consider rather than turning to Intermittent Fasting:

  • Eat five or six meals each day. Choose whole foods, limit processed foods, and eat healthy fat, a lot of protein, and limit your carbs.

  • Respect your food, but do not rely on it as a reward.

  • Don't abuse stimulants like coffee to help you keep your mind off food.

  • Find an eating pattern that works for you and does not cause undo stress on your mind or your body.

  • Eat lots of different kinds of food to ensure you get the nutrients you need.

  • Combine your diet and your exercise regimen to maximize results

  • Drink lots of water. Water is an essential component for muscle synthesis.

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