On May 9th, a nationwide nutritional movement officially began. It was based on the release of a new documentary film, Fed Up, which highlights how our junk-food industry and excess sugar consumption is contributing to our current obesity epidemic.  In celebration of the film’s release, this Fed Up challenge began. It consists of uniting with fellow participants in going sugar free for 10 days, led by writer Stephanie Soechtig, executive producers Katie Couric and Laurie David, and the Fed Up team.  Many individuals have participated and the movement is still in full swing.

You can sign up on the website and receive tips and recipes to get you through the “sugar withdrawal” blues. The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) has teamed with the producers and has provided additional tools for practitioners and patients alike. (Clients and readers, you can download this easy PDF guide from IFM here)

Learn more about the movement by watching the trailer below:

(Note: Please read about healthism as well to keep everything in perspective.)

Why We Should be Fed Up with Sugar

Many are aware that excess sugar consumption can lead obesity, but it also can contribute to other diseases. For example, sugar and fructose:

  • Leads to insulin resistance, which increases risk for type 2 diabetes and other health conditions. Eating sugar increases the release of insulin, which leads to its overproduction in your blood. Eventually, this causes your body’s receptors for this hormone to become flooded and unresponsive. As a result, your cells no longer effectively us sugar as fuel.

According to WebMD, long-term insulin resistance is the precursor to high blood pressure, abnormal  cholesterol levels, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and heart disease. In fact, a 2013 study from researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center found that eating too much sweet stuff will not only contribute to weight gain but can also set people up for heart failure.

  • Can increase risk for cancer. Researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer have reported that those who are obese and/or diabetic are at greater risk of cancer. Furthermore, a recent, groundbreaking, seven-year human trial documented that sugar intake increased the risk of death in the cancer patient.

In this interventional study, Dr. Colleen Huber, NMD and her team at Nature Works Best, an alternative cancer clinic in Tempe, Arizona, instructed  317 cancer patients to avoid all types of sugar. This study was noteworthy because most of the other studies on this topic were done on mice, retrospective, or used fewer than 20 human subjects. The researchers found:

    • the group of cancer patients who followed naturopathic treatments, but did not avoid eating sugar, had a remission rate of 36%.
    • the group who were also steadfast in recommended naturopathic treatments, but also in the avoidance of sugar, had a remission rate of 90%.
  • Leads to cravings. Fructose turns off your body’s appetite-control system by not stimulating the insulin response. Too much insulin leads to insulin resistance, but no insulin release results in elevated ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and lower levels of leptin (the “satiety hormone”). Together these effects lead to more cravings and food consumption.
  • Leads to lipid disorders. Fructose metabolism is very similar to ethanol metabolism, which has a multitude of toxic effects. It has been linked to an increased risk of acquiring NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). Due to this negative effect on the liver, fructose  leads to abdominal obesity, lipid metabolism issues (especially increased triglycerides), elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure.
  • Artificial sweetener intake. This is bad because these fake sweeteners trump health in a variety of ways. For example, their intake has been linked to the stimulation of excitatory brain neurotransmitters, hunger cue dysregulation, and  sugar metabolism dysfunction. Some studies also report a connection to artificial sweeter consumption to tumor growth and neurological issues. This non-conclusive safety evidence led The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI), a nonprofit watchdog group, to release a warning about Splenda which followed their recommendation to avoid other man-made sweeteners.
  • Sugar Addiction. Food consumption stimulates the reward centers in the brain. If you add an addictive chemical like sugar to a meal, there can be double trouble. In fact, some studies have shown that sugar does create an addictive effect to eating behavior.  In a rat trial, rodents who consumed more sugar than their four-legged buddies exhibited more cravings and consumed more sugar over time.

In a small human study of 12 overweight or obese men aged 18-35 years, those who consumed a low glycemic index meal verses one that spikes blood sugar, demonstrated less hunger, lower plasma glucose, and decreased stimulation of brain regions that modulate reward and cravings post-meal consumption.

The FED UP Controversy

With all this science to back up the deleterious role of sugar on our health, it’s hard to understand why there would be controversy. The New York Times highlighted its support for this new film in their recent review. It cites evidence on how not all calories are created equal and that sugar calories effect our bodies differently than fat or protein calories.  However, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and The Sugar Association launched a website in response to debunk the facts found in Fed Up. Thankfully, Dr. Hyman, Institute of Functional Medicine’s Chairman of the Board, wrote a blog that sets the facts straight between biochemistry and the bottom line. You can read it here.

What’s Next

The movement to create a healthier future generation and the impact of our lifestyle choices on our health is a passion of mine. As much as I love science, geek out with exploring biochemical pathways, and enjoy diving into the genetics of individual diversity, I do believe it’s not just a matter of willpower and knowledge. For example stress, gut health, hormonal balance, and biochemistry are all connected in what you choose to eat every day.

I’m currently editing my book, BreakFree Medicine, which discusses our cultural addiction to sweetness, brain patterns of eating behavior, and the emotional aspects of dieting. Suffice to say, willpower can easily be derailed with sugar and artificial sweetener consumption.

Furthermore, science is validating that thoughts about food and various beliefs held about “food rules” play a role in cravings and eating behavior. In an experiment to determine if information on a food label would prompt changes in food consumption, participants were randomized to drink the same 380 calorie milkshake, but with a caveat. Some were labeled as a “low-calorie sensible shake” and others were advertised as a “high-calorie indulgent shake.”  Those who believed they were “indulging”, demonstrated a dramatically steeper decline in ghrelin, the “hunger” hormone than the unsatisfied “sensible” crowd. In other words, thoughts about your food’s nutritional content can affect your metabolism.


The Hole in the Soul

I think the biggest sickness we are experiencing in our culture is our search for pleasure outside of ourselves because many feel so disconnected. Many are using sugar to fill the void and are left on a vicious cycle of addiction. The reason I like this “Fed Up” movement is because it’s connecting communities and giving resources to those who need them to get out of the sugar-trap. I hope you join or find a way to unite with your friends in exploring resources to nourish your body. This support will ultimately loosen your pants and get to the route of unhealthy behavior that isn’t supporting your wellness goals.

Don’t miss my Saratoga.com blog on gut bugs as our belly-loving friends. In it, you can read more tips on how to support your little friends which can help keep your tummy trim. Also, check-out my book suggestion below for healing the emotional food roller-coaster.


water drop






The Power of Sage

I recently reviewed two amazing articles on the power of the botanical Sage.

The first was a meta-analysis that discussed its beneficial use in the treatment of a wide range of diseases including those of the nervous system, circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, and the metabolic and endocrine systems. In addition, sage essential oil has also been shown to have carminative, antispasmodic, antiseptic, and astringent properties.

In another recent study, the antimicrobial activity of Sage was compared to botanical extracts using minimal inhibition concentrations for efficacy against S. aureus. Plants that were most effective in inhibiting staph were Salvia officinalis (Sage), Eucalyptus globulus, Coleus forskohlii, Coptis chinensis, Turnera diffusa, and Larrea tridentata.




Fedup.com. http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home

WebMD. Insulin Resistance and Diabetes. Accessed May 19, 2014. http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/insulin-resistance-syndrome

Daily News. Sugar stresses the heart, may contribute to heart failure: study. AFP RELAXNEWS. June 17, 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/sugar-stresses-heart-contribute-heart-failure-study-article-1.1374771#ixzz2Wbw9XxNG

Nature Works Best. Eating sugar doubles risk of death in cancer patients: Groundbreaking Seven-Year Study Shows The Deadly Role of Sugar for Cancer Patients. Nature Works Best. April 23, 2014.

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Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI Downgrades Splenda From “Safe” to “Caution”. Cspinet.org. June 12, 2013. http://cspinet.org/new/201306121.html

Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman S. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats (abstract).J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-29. doi: 10.1080/15287390802328630.

Volkow ND1, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Logan J, Jayne M, Franceschi D, Wong C, Gatley SJ, Gifford AN, Ding YS, Pappas N.”Nonhedonic” food motivation in humans involves dopamine in the dorsal striatum and methylphenidate amplifies this effect (abstract). Synapse. 2002 Jun 1;44(3):175-80.

Belinda S Lennerz, David C Alsop, Laura M Holsen, Emily Stern, Rafael Rojas, Cara B Ebbeling, Jill M Goldstein, & David S Ludwig. Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr. September 2013. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.064113

Amen, DG, Willeumier, K, Johnson, R. The clinical utility of brain SPECT imaging in process addictions. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2012 Jan-Mar;44(1):18-26. http://www.academia.edu/6484697/The_Clinical_Utility_of_Brain_SPECT_Imaging_in_Process_Addictions

Colantuoni C1, Schwenker J, McCarthy J, Rada P, Ladenheim B, Cadet JL, Schwartz GJ, Moran TH, Hoebel BG. Excessive sugar intake alters binding to dopamine and mu-opioid receptors in the brain (abstract). Neuroreport. 2001 Nov 16;12(16):3549-52.

Dargis, M. Sugar, Come Out With Your Hands Up: ‘Fed Up’ Descends on Villains in the Battle of the Bulge. NYT Critics’ Pick. May 8, 2014.

Wanjek, C. When Dieting, Not All Calories Are Created Equal: A low-glycemic-index diet is better than a low-fat or Atkins diet in terms of improving metabolism and reducing the risk of various chronic diseases. Scientific American. Jun 27, 2012.

Hyman, M. Big Government and Big Food Give the Same Weight Loss Advice. drhyman.com. May 11, 2014.

Mercola, J. How Your Thoughts Can Rule Your Stomach. Mercola.com. May 1, 2014.

Mohsen Hamidpour, Rafie Hamidpour, Soheila Hamidpour, Mina Shahlarii. Chemistry, pharmacology, and medicinal property of sage (salvia) to prevent and cure illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, depression, dementia, lupus, autism, heart disease, and cancer.  Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2014. 4(2): 82-88.

Snowden, R, Harrington, H, Morrill, K, LeDeana, J, Garrity, J, Orian, M, Lopez, E, et al. A Comparison of the Anti-Staphylococcus aureus Activity of Extracts from Commonly Used Medicinal Plants. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. May 2014, 20(5): 375-382. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0036.

Images courtesy of istockphotos: istockphoto.com