Diet Heart Hypothesis – Part 2

Part 2

Cholesterol as an Enemy of Heart…

Cholesterol is an organic molecule that is essential for the normal function of our cells and our body is capable of making all the cholesterol it needs. We all have heard of LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol and how supposedly high LDL is related to the high risk of CVD. So how did the scientist came to this conclusion?

Let’s look at the studies that tried to support the idea of cholesterol causing cardiovascular disease.

In 1986 the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) has published a study that became a standard and is used as a reference to this day. “Relationship between serum cholesterol and risk of premature death from coronary heart disease” by Stamler et al. In this study, scientists came to conclusion that “ 1% higher serum cholesterol level was associated with an almost 2% higher CHD risk”.

But let’s look at the actual numbers in the study and see if this conclusion makes sense.

People with the lowest LDL cholesterol:

99.7% – didn’t die from CHD

0.3% – died from the CHD

People with the highest LDL cholesterol:

98.7% – didn’t die from CHD

1.3% – died from the CHD

So how did the scientist came up with a risk factor for high cholesterol, you ask? If you take the extremes and divide 1.3% / 0.3% you will get 4.13 which translates into 400% risk factor or increase in deaths. Math magic isn’t it?! 

It’s worth remembering an important point: correlation doesn’t equal causation. 1% rate of deaths across the entire range of cholesterol amount is a way too small to be considered a “cause” for any type of disease.

There several other studies, including the ones from the large pharmaceutical companies (the ones that produce statin drugs) that also manipulated data in such fashion. But we also have a few that have some evidence showing LOW levels of cholesterol AND LDL can be linked to the increased risk of CVD.

  1. Familial Hypercholesterolemia: a genetic and metabolic study” by Harlan et al, published in 1966: “no evidence that familiar hypercholesterolemia appreciably shortens the life and affected individuals. On the contrary, they show that high levels of serum cholesterol are clearly compatible with survival into the seventh and eighth decades”.

  1. Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in elderly people from the Honolulu Heart Program: a cohort study” (20 year long study) by Schatz et al., published in 2001: “Our data accord with precious finding of increased mortality in elderly people with low serum cholesterol, and show that long-term persistence of low cholesterol concentration actually increases risk of death”

  2. Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review”, meta-analysis by Ravnskov et al, published in 2016: “ Since elderly people with high LDL-C live as long or longer than those with low LDL-C, our analysis provides reason to question the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis.

As you can see, the actual studies give quite opposite answers to what we normally hear these days.

The reasons behind cardiovascular diseases are quite versatile and cholesterol DOES play a role but not in the way you probably used to think.

Here are some facts:

  • There are 5 types of LDL and HDL molecules

  • Not all LDL is bad and not all HDL is good

  • LDL-a are “fluffy”, large molecules that are harmless and serve their purpose

  • LDL-b molecules, are very small and “hard’, golf-like molecules that are dangerous for our health

  • Some HDL types do not reduce inflammation that’s why some people with high HDL still develop heart disease

  • At least 50% of people with high total cholesterol have healthy hearts

  • Cholesterol alone is not a reason for heart disease.

Useful to know: Next time you do your cholesterol check instead of simply checking total cholesterol, do the particle test. That’s the only way to know what is actually happening with your cholesterol. Low total cholesterol but a high amount of LDL-b particles are BAD news. On the other hand, over the top high total cholesterol with a high count of LDL-a particles are GREAT news.

Unlike in the criminal justice system, where you are innocent until you are proven guilty; in science, the hypothesis is considered wrong until proven right.

This post is my attempt to bring your attention and to encourage you to think cryptically of anything you hear on the media, literature and even your doctors. As my 7th-grade physics teacher said: “don’t believe everything people say just because they say they know better. Analyze before you come to your own conclusion”.

This post is inspired by the work of many influential people, including Dr. David Diamond, Uffe Ravnskov, Nina Teicholz, Dr. Thomas Seyfreid, and many others. I highly recommend reviewing their lectures and books for a more in-depth understanding of the topic of nutrition.

The “Diet-Heart Hypothesis”

Part 1

The great tragedy of science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact” – Thomas Huxley

It all started in the early 1900s when American oil manufactures found themselves in a tough spot wanting to produce more packaged foods with longer shelf life and cheaper production cost. Series of changes in the products manufacture strongly correlated with a rapid increase in a number of heart disease cases which by 1950s became almost epidemic.

In response to the skyrocketing number of heart disease cases, scientists began a frantic search for the reason, which eventually led them to a hypothesis: a diet that is high in saturated fats causes heart disease.

A hypothesis became an accepted truth before there was any evidence to support it and Ancel Keys was the one of the main reasons for that.

Ancel Keys was a very smart, charismatic and influential individual, with BA in economics and political science, Ph.D. in zoology and human physiology, he became the main driving force and a father of “Diet-Heart Hypothesis”. In 1961, Mr. Keys appeared on the cover of the Time magazine with the main article stating that Americans eat too much of saturated fat, which leads to the increase of blood cholesterol, which leads to the damage of the arteries and causes coronary disease. Keys advised to cut saturated fats to 4% of the total calories and reduce total fat intake to no more than 15%.

This article became the base of the recommendation for the entire U.S. nation (and many other countries) that is used today by the majority of doctors.

So what is wrong with it, you ask?

The problem is that all studies on the diet-heart hypothesis had a very high failure rate, but due to the series of chronological events, greediness of big corporations and political interests, these result had to be rationalized and altered in order to fit the hypothesis that became a matter of institutional credibility.

Majority of American society, including doctors, sincerely believe that low-fat diet is beneficial and can prevent heart disease. Ancel Keys had such a powerful influence that American Heart Association still follows the guidelines Keys provided in 1961.

There were several big-name scientists who were strongly against such dramatic changes in dietary guidelines for the entire nation, but their voices were not heard until the recent years. How could that have happened, you ask?

The explanation is very simple actually, in today’s world it is easy to express ourselves and therefore being heard with a help of internet and social media. Regardless of your beliefs, associations and/or support from big names your opinion can be heard by millions of people with just a “click of the button”. The internet gave us the power we never had before. Back in the 20th century, on the other hand, your opinion could only be heard if it aligned with the opinion of highly influential subjects of the society. While today we don’t need anyone’s permission to publish our opinion or a study, back in the day, you needed the approval of people in power. Ancel Keys, American Heart Association (that was given a check for 1.2 million by the Oil Company in the exchange for the support. Talk about conflict of interests) and other big names of that time, had no interest in being proven wrong. So the truth had slipped through the fingers for quite some time.

Since the scientists that disagree with Keys’ theory were a minority, they were not favored by big companies who funded research, they were pushed out of the publications and generally didn’t get any light outside of the science community, which means general public was greatly unaware of their existence.

Over the years, more and more scientists from all over the world were piling up the evidence against diet-heart hypothesis and in 2015 the Time magazine had published another article stating that saturated fat doesn’t cause an increase of cholesterol and/or risk of cardiovascular disease.

To be continued…

What Motivates You?

The Statistics

50% of people give up on their new exercise regiment within the first 6 months. The reason for that is pretty simple, people who drop out so soon don’t value their health and fitness goals enough. It’s a simple fact of human psychology if you want something bad enough you will find a way to make it happen.

You don’t have to be a part of 50%

Do it for your health

Regular exercise and diet help you develop strong and healthy heart, reduce the likelihood of developing cancer and diabetes, keep a sharp mind and reduce your chances of getting dementia, and avoid many of the common ailments that come with aging. IT IS possible to age without decay and the key is to key to this is to exercise and eating well.

Do it to be strong

There is nothing like bending over and picking up something that normally results in discomfort, strain or even pain, only to find out that it feels like a piece of cake. By getting strong you also reduce your risk of age-related falls and fractures because you have strong muscles to support you and balance to support you.

Do it for your loved ones

Not everyone feels motivated by the promise of better health in the future. If you are that person, it may be helpful to shift your perspective to something else and think about your loved ones, and what YOU mean to them. If you cannot do it for yourself, maybe, you can do it for somebody else. Think about how much more time would you have to spend with your kids, grandkids, and partners if you wouldn’t have to spend the time at the Dr’s office. Or about activities that you would be able to enjoy if your knees and back didn’t hurt with every step you take. Do it for the people that mean the world to you.

Do it for the stress relief

Exercise really does cause physical changes in your brain and nervous system and results in feelings of calmness and well-being. Over time, most people become addicted to exercise (I definitely do) and start craving it.

It worth taking time to discover the powerful motivators in your life, YOUR WHY. Find out what makes sweating worth it. Find out what do you want more than a cookie. Your life depends on it – do what it takes to get moving!

-GymKat

 

Ditch New Year Resolutions!

Simple google search for “New Year Resolutions” brings up over 195 million results in less than a second. Seems like people all over the world get the itch to start something new at the beginning of a new year. Maybe it has something to do with the holiday spirit, maybe with the all the regrets that come to mind about things we haven’t achieved throughout the year. But let’s face it, “New Year – New Me” sounds as “magical” as “I’ll start on Monday”.

Here is why resolutions fail

  • You are not sure about your WHY

You are “promising” yourself to start exercising, stop smoking, read more, eat better, etc. but have you defined the WHY behind your actions? Is it simply because you think you should be making these changes or you actually found the real reason to do so? If you don’t identify your true reasoning, motivation will fade faster than you expect and before you know it, you are back to square one.

  • Your resolution is too lofty

It’s o.k. to be ambicious about your goals, in fact, I think it’s necessary. But at the same time, it’s important to remember that every big goal starts with small steps and a LOT of work. If you are aiming to achieve a goal of serious proportions, it could be useful to recognize that the year ahead is just a beginning and a first stepping stone to your goal, a journey that is filled with hard work and setbacks. In other words, GET REAL.

  • You don’t believe in yourself

It’s one thing to “wish you could do something” and it’s a completely different feeling to “believe you can do it”. The way you feel often dictates how you act. Believe in yourself, you can do it!

The real solution to your resolutions

  • “Time is a concept that humans created” – Yoko Ono

Change your mentality. Yes, holidays are special because we get to spend quality time with friends and family but other than that, there is nothing special about it. There is no magic in January 1…And if so, what’s the point of waiting “until after the holidays” to start something you really need to start working on? Start now.

  • Find your reason

Nothing works unless you do, and while we often feel enthusiastic and excited about achievement of a new goal, in order for that feeling to last we need to be clear about our reasons. Find your reason, find your WHY.

New year will always be different from a previous one, but wheather that change is intentional or not, largerly depends on us.

Recovery: Hot vs Cold

Growing up as an athlete in Russia I always knew that a hot bath or wet sauna are great for recovery. When I moved to the US, however, I quickly realized that this concept is quite foreign to athletes and fitness enthusiasts here. More often than not I see people applying ice packs to the sore or swollen muscles and when I suggest doing the opposite I am usually met with a puzzled look.

Let’s take a look at the science behind both options.

Cold Therapy for Recovery

A hard workout will create small trauma to the muscle and other tissues, which means inflammation. Cold therapy is aiming to reduce the inflammation as fast as possible and relieve the discomfort. But here is the thing, inflammation is NOT a problem in this setting, itis only dangerous if it becomes chronic. Inflammation is a necessary tool that acts as a signal for recovery. Taking ice bath, for example, does indeed reduce inflammation but it also slows down the recovery process.

On the other hand, cool rather than cold bath/shower may help the recovery. During the workout, blood rushes to the muscles and our vessels become wider. Taking a cool shower or bath helps with shrinking blood vessels just enough to reduce the inflammation without postponing the recovery.

Hot Tub or Heat

When my clients pull a muscle I usually recommend applying some cold for the first day and then sleep with the heating pad. Here is why. The body has a natural way of healing: inflammation, repair, remodel. Applying ice reduces inflammation, but too much of it will slow down repair and remodel. Heat on the other hand, helps keeping the vessels dilated and brings all necessary nutrients to the injury site.

I use this method on myself and my clients; I always note how much faster I heal when I apply heat vs cold, or not applying anything at all.

When it comes to post-workout recovery I now often use a combination of both: warm bath for 20min followed by a cool shower. This way I can reap the benefits of both worlds 🙂

Which option do you prefer? Have you tried other ways for a faster recovery?

Eating Out – Tips

Let’s be honest, a lot of people simply don’t have an opportunity to food prep on daily or weekly basis due to work/travel schedule. The good news is that you DON’T HAVE TO eat homemade food in order to stay in shape year round. All you need to do is to be mindful of yourchoices. Let’s look at some points.

  • Mindfulness with EVERY Choice 

Before you order your next meal think about what you already had through out the day. Your choices should depend on each other. Did you have enough protein in the morning? Did you have too many carbs at lunch? Chose accordingly.

  • Keep it Simple

It’s great to be able to enjoy something special once in a while, but when you eat out on regular basis, balance is the key. Keep your meal choices as simple and customize accordingly. For example, you can always ask for the salad dressing on the side, refuse an extra serving of bread or rice. Eat for your goals!

  • Portion Control 

This one could be really hard to do especially if the food is very tasty and/ or you are too hungry. Drink plenty of water before eating and eat SLOWLY. The faster you eat the greater is the likelihood of you overeating. It takes about 20 min for your stomach to give the signal to your brain that you are no longer hungry.

Being mindful of your choices while eating out will help you stay on track with your fitness goals. Instead of using restaurant meals as an excuse, make them a part of your health plan.

Why do you gain weight

Besides the well-known reason – you eat more calories than you spend, there are quite a few reasons to why you may not be losing the weight.

1. Stress
During stressful times our bodies produce more of a stress hormone – cortisol. Chronically high levels of which lead to a lot of dis-balance. But even relatively short spikes of cortisol will affect water balance in the body. Higher cortisol levels = water retention.

2. Increase in carbs
Each gram of carbohydrate attracts up to 3g of water. So if one day you ate more carbs than usual, you sure will see it on the scale.

3. Water intake
Our bodies regulate water and sodium balance by different mechanisms. Diuretic hormone vasopressin and anti-diuretic hormone ADH are largely responsible for the water balance in your body. Every time you change your water intake your body needs time to adjust. Let’s say you drink 1 gallon of water a day on regular basis. If on one of the days you drink 2 or 3 gallons you will notice weight gain next morning because your body didn’t have time to catch up with the new water intake amount.

4. Salt intake
Similar to the water balance, the amount of salt in bodily fluids is also tightly regulated. Variation in salt intake causes cells to either shrink or swell by attracting more or less water.
Food in restaurants tends to have more flavor and salt than the one we eat at home. So often, even if you eating out meal was a good healthy option, you will see an increase in your body weight the next morning.

5. GI problems
Any kind of GI problems, like diarrhea or constipation, will cause weight fluctuations due to the constant salt and water balance change.

6. Weighing at different times/conditions
This one seems obvious, but yet… Weighing yourself first thing in the morning will always yell different results from the weight you see during the day or in the evening due to the food and fluid intake. To get the most accurate measurement, ensure you are weighing yourself in similar conditions every time.

There are a lot more reasons to why your weight can fluctuate on a day to day basis and that is exactly why weight should be used only as a tool. For the more accurate progress measurement include circumference of your waist, navel, and hips. Measuring once a week or every other week will give a good idea on whether you are moving in the right direction.

Stay fit,

GymKat 🙂

Postpartum Fitness – What Are We Missing?

Social media is saturated with images of fitness models that pride themselves on “getting their bodies back” (as if there is such thing), along with the fitness centers and boot camps that encourage you to try their “magic formula”. Being a Mom is hard. Lack of sleep, never-ending stress and responsibilities, and now, added pressure from the society that tells you “being a mom is not an excuse to be out of shape”. While it is true, it also creates a sense of urgency and a requirement for the moms to look a certain way and get that perfect body FAST.

So what SHOULD we do? Should we, women, be concerned with the “fast track to better body” or should we rather be concerned with the safe and proper way of getting a NEW, STRONGER and HEALTHIER one?

Let me start by stating one simple truth: during pregnancy, our bodies change dramatically. Once the baby is born our bodies never come back to what they used to be. POSTPARTUM IS FOREVER. It doesn’t matter if you had your baby 1 month ago or 15 years ago – you always be a postpartum athlete.

That doesn’t mean that you will never be able to get in a better shape than before the pregnancy, or that you cannot be stronger or leaner. No, not at all! Of course, YOU CAN achieve anything you put your mind to (there are plenty of examples of women that have done that). Rather, what it means is that we need to learn how to be patient with our bodies postpartum and ourselves, how to listen to the NEW body we have after the baby.

Let’s take a look at some symptoms that we should be on the lookout for AT ALL TIMES:

  • Incontinence during any type of activity or at rest

  • Diastasis Recti

  • Organ prolapse

  • Painful intercourse

  • Lack of stability during movements

This is just a short list of very COMMON but NOT normal symptoms that women experience during pregnancy or postpartum. I’ve met a lot of women that have these symptoms YEARS after having their kids and don’t do anything about it simply because they don’t know that IT IS an issue that needs to be taken care of.

I wish there was one size fits all type of workout or advice but unfortunately, there isn’t one. However, there are a few tips I would like to share that can help you become more aware of your body and determine the COURSE OF ACTIONS.

  1. Talk to a pelvic floor physical therapist

Even if you have any of these symptoms years after having your kids you can still see pelvic floor specialist that can help you understand what is going on and help you adjust your fitness routine. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover it, realize, one visit will give you a lot of valuable information.

  1. There is no rush

While it is tempting to get started with a strict workout regimen and diet in an attempt to get leaner and fitter as fast as possible, the INITIAL FOCUS should always be on RESTORING and REBUILDING. There is no right or wrong timeline, each person is different. Some of us will need just a few months to recover and rebuild, while others may require a couple of years. Either way, it all should happen on YOUR terms.

  1. Work with the specialist

Work with a personal trainer and/or physical therapist that have knowledge and expertise in this specific field. Working with people that know what they are doing, is a crucial part of the process. Note, that each professional works in his/her scope of practice. Your doctor is not there to prescribe you a corrective exercise program, a physical therapist is not there to build a workout routine for your or motivate you, and a personal trainer is not there to rehab you. The more eyes you have on you during this chapter of your life, the better and faster results you are going to see.

  1. It is SERIOUS but it’s NOT the end of the world

If you experience any symptoms postpartum please, don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. Pain and discomfort are NOT the enemies, they are SIGNALS telling us that something needs to change. There are only two mistakes you can make in this situation:

  • Ignore the signs and continue your normal routine through pain and discomfort; OR

  • Panic and get discouraged

Almost any issue that arises with pregnancy is fixable with the right approach. But in order for that to happen, you have to listen to what your body is telling you and take an action.

I hope this post brings attention to the importance of understanding the pregnancy and postpartum athleticism. If you feel like you need to get some help with getting started but don’t know where, let me know, and I’ll do my best

Stay strong and beautiful,

GymKat

7 Habits for a Better Sleep

We all know that for optimal health and performance we should sleep at least 7-8 hours a night. And of course, most of us have a hard time getting to this number. That being said, the quality of your sleep is often more important than the duration. In this post, I’m going to go over some tips that will help you improve the quality of your resting time and help you recover better.

1. Find your perfect bedtime and try to stick with it

Try going to bed and wake up at the same time. Your body has a natural clock and it does like discipline. Try not to sleep in on your days off either unless absolutely necessary.

I know, it’s not always possible especially if you work night shifts or have a schedule that changes every week. So let’s move on to the next one

2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least 5 hours before going to bed

This one seems obvious but often overlooked. Sometimes we get too busy and run on coffee and energy drinks and don’t think about time. Alcohol buzz may feel like a way to relax but it actually disrupts your sleep.

3. Create a perfect environment

Your room should be cool, dark, quiet and clean. Your bed should feel like heaven.

4. Avoid big meals right before bed

Eating before bed, in general, is not a bad thing, but if you have a big meal it can disrupt your sleep because your body is focused on digestion rather than rest.

5. Avoid electronics

Playing with your phone or pad doesn’t help you to relax, as LED lights trick your brain into thinking it’s still activity time.  If you feel like you need extra activity before bed, try reading a book.

6. 20 min rule

If you don’t fall asleep in 15-20min get up and do something quiet, like reading a book, drawing or knitting, until you feel sleepy again. Staying in bed and tossing around just causes more frustration and won’t result in a good rest.

7. Stay active during the day

Needless to say, physical activity is one of the best ways to get some good sleep. Haven’t worked out in a while? Time to introduce regular exercise back into your routine.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Fitness is a Lifestyle

I think it is safe to say that problems are evolutionary drivers and crisis often proceeds a big change. It’s at the moment of the great discomfort we often find a new way that helps us grow.

     In 2012 when I hit the rock bottom with my emotional state, there was a moment when I felt that “enough is enough” and that it was the time to try something that I subconsciously knew could help. I needed to start creating a stronger body, because strong spirit can only reside in a strong house.

     I’ve been a professional athlete for over a decade back in Russia, but with the move, daily problems, new life, and new experiences occupied my mind and I stopped exercising on a regular basis.

     I started going to the gym next to my house. I was training religiously, trying different techniques and programs. I was training 4-6 hours on some days (that’s not a recommendation). Every single day I was showing up and training like my life depended on it, because in some sense of it, it did. When I felt like crying, I pushed myself harder, I ran faster and lifted heavier. Within several weeks I noticed my body starting to change, depression started to ease, problems were not that tragic and that future was actually more exciting than what I originally thought.

     Years of unhealthy habits allowed me to forget that overcoming difficulties in a physical state ALWAYS translates  into a stronger spirit and clearer mind. Fitness showed me my strengths and presented me with the opportunity to extend my hand to others, to prove them that they are stronger than they think they are.

     To be the “saving grace” fitness has to become a lifestyle. It has to be something that you crave. You can only crave it when you I’ve gotten the taste of what it can do for you. Give yourself a chance to feel the positive effects of healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. Give it a little time to show you how strong you are. Trust the process – nothing happens overnight! I assure you, the reward is well worth it! 🙂

Stay positive and keep grinding!