Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Snackwell Effect, Part 2

Hi everyone!  Here is a personal update and another great article that pretty much sums up how I eat!  I actually do not eat every 2 to 3 hours as she suggests below, because I am satiated from the healthy Nutrient-Dense foods I do eat.  I only eat when I am hungry.  I have a weight-loss guide available listing the foods that I eat and it's posted at the top of the Blog as Tabs.  You can click on them to see an outline.  The Food Guides posted in the tabs are What to Eat?, Weight Loss Guide and An Overview which I put together to show what I eat to promote health in the body and/or fat loss (if the body needs it).

The simple message is... when the hormone Insulin is present in the body it causes the body to convert and store the foods we eat as fat, locks it away so we can't use it as energy or fuel for our body (are you tired?), and carbohydrates are the only foods that cause insulin levels to rise.  So I keep my Insulin levels low by limiting my starches and sugars, and I keep my 80 pound weight/fat loss off my body!  Yes, 80 pounds to date! 

I am so excited and feel so good!  My energy levels are through the roof.  I cut back my workouts (not eliminate, but exercise at an optimal level for a reasonable amount of time) and still can maintain my weight loss.  I work out two times a week at the gym - 1/2 hour of Weight Training, and 1/2 hour of the Treadmill, Rower, or Elliptical Trainer (sometimes 45 minutes) instead of my previous and ridiculous high-carb diet with 2 hours at the gym (3 days a week plus two workout classes and a bike ride with my daughter) without any weight loss (very frustrating).  I also do a Yoga class (for strength, balance and flexibility) and a Core Fusion class that tones and strengthens the core.  (You should check out the classes that Sun Yu provides.  She is fabulous and offers fun and effective classes to get fit.  She is a Nia Black Belt and Yoga Instructor.  Her web link is and you can reach her at (310)872-7763 for private or group classes.

That's it.  No more killing myself working out 6 days a week, several hours a day, without weight loss results.

This is one video clip I watched that was critical in me understanding how to lose weight and create health.  It is a clip from the FatHead Movie on DVD that was instrumental in me figuring out how to lose weight and sent me on a journey to finding out what Nutrient-Dense Foods really are, and probably more importantly, what Nutrient-Dense Foods are not:

Dr. Al Sears, MD and Dr's. Eades, MD

Okay, so this is part two of the previous blog.  This article was intended to educate medical professionals to teach patients (us) how to create health, but we can skip the middleman and hear it directly from Dr. Merritt.  She keeps it basic and easy to comprehend.  It has a lot of great information to understand.  So, just disregard the parts when she is talking about "your patients".  And, if you don't have time to read the whole article, just watch the short video clip at the beginning and if you want to see more, you can view all four of her video clips at the bottom of the blog. I bolded the part (the second half) that speaks directly about "what to do", in case you want to skip directly to that part and not read about all the health reasons of "why" we need to understand this information and get our health back on track, and the diseases we could be preventing by changing the foods we eat. 

With that said, I am attempting to also include an audio link into this post recorded by Dr. Merritt.  Now she is in Texas and  most of us won't be able to visit her office, but the nutrition recommendations and health information she mentions is good to know.

Belly Fat - why do we get it? (click to hear a recorded message.)

The Snackwell Effect, Part 2

By Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN

The Snackwell Effect, Part 1 talked about how we lost our ability to regulate blood sugar by overwhelming our bodies with cereal, bread and Ho-Ho's.

I finished the article by recommending that you (or your patients) measure a few days of carbohydrate intake (not calories or fat, just grams of carbs) and see how far away from the number 72 you were. This article is going to be about how to reverse this whole process.

Dr. Merritt - How to lose Weight?

First, let me explain what will happen if we don't. Eighty-one percent of all adults over the age of 55 are diabetic or pre-diabetic. If we really wanted to deal with the health care crisis, we'd be dealing with this first. Pretty much everyone dreads receiving a diagnosis of cancer. You don't want to get cancer? One of the very first things you should do is cut down on carbs. Tumors have four times the number of insulin receptors as regular cells because cancer cells need all that glucose for their extra-fast metabolism. Ask any oncologist and they will tell you the same thing. There are studies that show the link between sugar and cancer.1,2 Yet, most people do not deal with their diet until after a diagnosis, when it's basically too late.

How about heart attacks? The number one cause of death in diabetics is a heart attack, and they are SEVEN times more likely to have one. Why? Because the high levels of insulin and glucose basically create a "sludge" in the bloodstream. When that thicker blood gets to the capillaries, it can't make it through, causing the tissue a lack of oxygen. As more and more capillaries get clogged up, the tissue starts to die -- whether it's in the heart, causing a heart attack, or in the kidneys, causing kidney failure, or in the eyes, causing blindness, or causing neuropathy and ultimately gangrene and amputation. Every 24 hours, 230 diabetics have a limb amputated. And many more have a heart attack.

Worried about Alzheimer's? If you have blood sugar issues, you should be. A Swedish study showed that borderline diabetics had a 70% chance of dementia and Alzheimer's, and this connection is especially strong with people who DIDN'T have the genetic tendencies. The risk was especially high for people who also had hypertension.3

How many patients have hypertension and want to know if acupuncture can help? Of course it can, AND you will have much better results if you also deal with their insulin resistance and diabetes; the excess insulin and sugar causes slow but serious damage to the capillaries, raising the blood pressure.

I could go on and on. There are direct links of blood sugar imbalances for everything from anxiety to PCOS, from depression to arthritis. It is so prevalent that stabilizing someones blood sugar is often the first thing we do in our practice, leaving only a few symptoms left for us to "clean up", so to speak. So how do we do this?

The first step is to be very clear for yourself what's going on, so that you can explain it to patients in a way that they understand. I filmed a series of YouTube videos for this very reason, available at Feel free to see how I explain it, and you can send the link to patients as well.

The second step is to get clear on how many carbs are actually being consumed per day. It's easy to use one of the diet web sites. They allow you to look up commercial products such as Starbucks mochas, as well as generic foods. Two things to watch out for: make sure the serving size is being taken into account since most people don't pay attention to that, and that everything is being measured, since it's easy to write off milk and beans as proteins even though they still have quite a few carbs.

Research has shown that a body system that is not "broken" can manage about 70-100 g of carbs per day. 4 Notice that I'm not advocating a "no-carb" diet. That's not reasonable or fun. We typically recommend people limit their intake to around 60 g to rein in their sugar cravings. So what does 60 g look like? Well, a banana is 29 g. A piece of bread is 20-24 g. An 8-ounce flavored yogurt is 25 g. That grande mocha, made "healthy" with non-fat milk and no whipped cream is 42 g.

When someone starts to restrict carbs, which were often nearly the only thing raising their blood sugar and helping them have energy (since so many of these people eat low fat, while fat would actually help to stabilize their blood sugar), the rules they had about eating have to change. One of the first rules that needs to be broken is the low-fat rule. Eating low fat is what got us into this mess, and to get out, healthier fats are going to need to be added. Butter would be a good start -- it helps you absorb the minerals from vegetables. More protein would be helpful - eggs, nuts/nut butters, full-fat dairy products like cheese, some meat - all of these will give the body energy while not triggering insulin. When insulin is not triggered, the overworked receptor sites can start to recover (which starts the process of reversing the insulin resistance and diabetes), and with insulin out of the bloodstream, the body can start to access fat.

More vegetables need to be eaten, but don't fall into the trap of thinking fruits are just as good. Fructose is a sugar and turns into fat much more efficiently than glucose. High amounts of it (as in high-fructose corn syrup and agave nectar) causes fatty liver disease and lipid problems in the blood. Don't count green vegetables and the like in the carb counting. Count potatoes and other starchy ones, but all the rest of them are fine. However, don't eat those green vegetables by themselves; eat them with some butter, a dip or olive oil, or spread some peanut butter on celery. Something has to be added that will give you a little more energy.

The other piece to this, and this is possibly the most important part, is that you have to eat every two to three hours, before you are hungry. No exceptions. Eating frequently like this allows the adrenals to begin to recover from the ups and downs of carbohydrate intake, and since the blood sugar stays more stable, people have fewer cravings. They notice their energy is better, they start to sleep deeper, are more rested when they wake up because their body is not having to work so hard to stabilize itself.

The results can be very quick. We sell a package in our office designed just for this, and we see results in less than a week. It doesn't mean that they're "fixed" yet, but just this one piece can turn around conditions you as a practitioner may have been struggling to improve for your patient: insomnia from liver blood deficiency, spleen qi deficiency or kidney deficiency. Not to mention that you have now also given your patients the tools to start taking care of themselves.

There are other elements that can be added in as well. Herbs can often help reduce carb and sugar cravings. We often give people coconut oil (the refined is just as healthy and doesn't taste like coconut) because, as a medium-chain fatty acid, it's used by the body as quickly as a carb, but doesn't trigger insulin. Our patients love using it and find that it stabilizes blood sugar remarkably well and far longer than most other foods. We also keep a jar of nut butter in our office fridge, and have found a nut butter manufacturer (Justin's Nut Butters) that has "to-go" packs, which are easy to carry and help people keep away from the all-too-accessible carbs.

The YouTube video I mentioned earlier says much of this; it was filmed primarily so that people could learn from it and pass it on. The father of a patient saw the video, and took on the recommendations. His diabetes had not been under control for years, and seeing this explanation just made it "click" for him. A few weeks later, he was in his doctor's office, and she was stunned at the improvement in his numbers and asked him what he was doing. She said, in amazement, "You're doing this only with food and lifestyle changes?"

That's what we have to do; start educating people on how to do it themselves. It's completely possible to reverse this awful trend and the first step is to understand it clearly and then be able to explain it to your patients. You may be the only one who does.


Hoehn SK, et al. Complex versus simple carbohydrates and mammary tumors in mice. Nutr Cancer 1979;1(3):27.
Santisteban GA, et al. Glycemic modulation of tumor tolerance in a mouse model of breast cancer. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1985 Nov 15;132(3):1174-9.
10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders. Madrid, Spain. July 15-20, 2006.
Lutz W. Life Without Bread. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000.

Click here for more information about Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Snackwell Effect - Part 1

The Snackwell Effect

By Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN

Have you noticed how people gain weight nowadays? You've seen it but perhaps not recognized it: the "muffin top," the belly fat, the apple-shape with the skinny legs. Have you tried on pants recently? A lot of them are now cut to be roomier in the waist.

Take a look around you; people are gaining weight the same way. Each year, practitioners deal with more and more overweight patients. You may have heard that belly fat is a risk factor for everything from heart disease to cancer. What you haven't heard is why it's happening and what to do about, both for yourself and for your patients.

Back in the early 1980's, a dietary shift occurred in the U.S., and the theory of low-fat-is-good and high-fat-causes-heart-disease started taking hold. An entire food industry was born, based on reducing the fat in foods and changing the USDA Food Pyramid from the Four Food Groups to the current model. The Snackwell Effect is named for Nabisco Snackwell Cookies, which were marketed as low fat. Because "low-fat" was considered healthier than its alternative, we ate more of them and felt less guilty.
Fast-forward 25 years. This link for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows how obesity spread and increased across the U.S., year by year.1 When we present this in a lecture, people always ask us to repeat the slides because it is so shocking to see the transformation.

The low-fat theory? Not working. People will argue that they lost weight doing a low-fat diet, because of course you will lose weight if you restrict calories enough. However, it is not sustainable, and you risk being deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Perhaps where we should be looking is at the bottom of the food pyramid. Those six to 11 servings of breads, cereals, grains and pasta that were recommended as the base of the food pyramid have wreaked havoc on people and not just in being overweight or obese. This problem is impacting nearly all your patients and you are probably not recognizing it.
The Snackwell Effect - Dr. Merritt
(To view further, go right below this post for clips 1, 3, and 4)

All those spleen qi deficiency syndrome symptoms? The bloating, the gas, the craving of sweets, the fatigue, hard-to-wake-up in the morning? All related to carbohydrate intake. How about the kidney deficiency syndrome symptoms of fatigue in the afternoons? Same thing. Or the liver blood/gallbladder symptom of waking up at night? Still related. I would estimate that more than 90 percent of our patients are dealing with blood sugar imbalances. When we help them manage those, many of their OM diagnoses clear up. So let me explain what's going on.

In trying to follow the recommendations of the USDA, people would start the day with bowl of cereal (whole grain, if they were really trying to be healthy), some skim milk, maybe half a banana cut into it, and a glass of orange juice. For lunch, they might have a sandwich with low-fat turkey with some baked potato chips. People weren't supposed to snack between meals, so when they got home and were hungry for dinner, they might have a small handful of multi-grain crackers beforehand, and then pasta with sauce, a side salad, and maybe a roll.

Every time a carbohydrate gets digested in your small intestine, it breaks down into glucose and is transported to the cells with insulin, the hormone released from your pancreas. In a perfectly healthy person, the amount of insulin released is just the right amount for the amount of glucose in the blood stream and when most of the glucose is transported into the cells, the insulin level drops, and you burn fat until the next time you eat. The problem is, that's not happening anymore.

What's happening is that after years of eating high-carb diet, your body begins to predict your carbohydrate intake and releases too much insulin when you eat, for example, that piece of whole-grain toast. Now what happens is, after the glucose is delivered to the cells, there is still insulin left in the blood stream. That excess insulin drives your blood sugar below normal levels, called "hypoglycemia," but it could also be named "hyperinsulinemia." Hypoglycemia causes fatigue, difficulty thinking, irritability, sugar cravings, memory loss, poor concentration and many symptoms related to brain function. Thirty to 40 percent of that glucose is needed for your brain. The other problem caused by insulin in the blood stream is an inability to access your fat stores. So you can't burn fat for energy. So what do you do? You eat a carb because it will raise your blood sugar faster than anything else, and then you often feel better.

But as time marches on, the constant presence of insulin in the blood stream causes problems. At a certain point, the cells and tissues get tired of being bathed in insulin and start to become resistant, refusing to allow insulin to deliver glucose. This doesn't happen all at once, but as the glucose starts to back up in the bloodstream, the body turns it first into a triglyceride (which is why whenever I see high triglycerides on a blood test, I know it's almost always from a high-carbohydrate diet) and then into a fat. Then the weight gain begins.

Another problem is that insulin resistance causes metabolic syndrome and severe hormonal imbalances like low testosterone and high estrogen in men (Those manboobs? That's estrogen.) and high estrogen and high testosterone in women (That thinning hair in women? Probably male-pattern baldness from high testosterone).2 Polycystic ovarian syndrome, caused by insulin resistance, is the number one cause of infertility in women. High blood pressure? That fatty bump at C7 in women? Caused by insulin resistance. As the blood sugar levels start to climb, the body churns out more and more insulin, in an effort to force the glucose into the cells, and, over time, as the pancreas overworks, it begins to fail, and then Type 2 diabetes results.

When I explain this to patients, I hold my hands apart and explain: "We were given this many points for carbohydrates in our lifetime, and you've used all yours up before the age of 35." They sometimes argue that grains have been around for thousands of years. However, our DNA has been around a lot longer and it is not designed to deal with this overload of carbohydrates. We got away with it for a long time because we were much more active than we are today, but between the carbohydrate overload and the computer age, this progression will not reverse itself easily.

It is not an underestimation for me to say that more than 90 percent of our patients are in one of these stages and often it's a combination. We see hypoglycemia and mild insulin-resistance together when the patient is struggling with fatigue and sugar/carb cravings, and also gaining weight around the middle. To support patients in changing their diets, we developed a package for learning how to eat low-carb, and incorporated the herb gymnema, which has been shown to reverse insulin resistance, and which patients love because it reduces their sugar/carb cravings.

When we're talking to patients about this, I explain to them that in this model, where I'm trying to prevent the surging of insulin, anything that triggers insulin is a problem. So there's no "good-carb/bad-carb" option like brown rice versus white rice; anything that triggers insulin is a problem. Ditto for artificial or alternative sweeteners (with the exception of stevia). From aspartame to sucrolose, to agave syrup, they will all trigger an insulin surge. That's why multiple studies have shown that diet sodas increase insulin resistance. Vegetarians are often struggling with blood sugar disorders because it's easy to eat too many carbohydrates, even "healthy" ones disguised as whole grains. And "fruits and vegetables" is not one word. Fruits are not a substitute for vegetables. For people who love sugar and carbs, it's easy to rationalize fruit as a healthier option, and not eat enough vegetables.

What I'm not saying here is that the oatmeal itself is unhealthy. Or that piece of fruit or the brown rice. But when you add that to the overload of carbohydrates we have all day, all they do is contribute to the progression that, over time, ultimately ends in diabetes. It's not a mistake that the International Diabetes Federation states that 81 percent of adults over the age of 55 are diabetic or pre-diabetic. That's four out of five older Americans.

So how do you help your patients? I'll address details in the second half. But the first step would be to start measuring the grams of carbohydrates eaten during a typical day, and start noticing how far that is from the number 72.3 That's the number of grams of carbs recommended a typical person ingest during a day. See how often you can get vegetables in your diet, from the spinach in scrambled eggs to an extra serving at dinner and skip the rice. And in the next article I will explain specifically, and in detail, how to address this epidemic.

Lutz W. Life Without Bread. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000.
Click here for more information about Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN.

The Science of Nutrition- 1 of 2:

The Science of Nutrition - 2 of 2:

School Lunches most effected 1 of 2:

School Lunches most effected 2 of 2:

What we need to do for Health and Weight Loss

An Overview

·      Increase Good Fats to 60%-70% of calorie intake, with
1.     Butter – regular (good), organic (better), pasture-raised (best)
2.     Tropical Oils – (Coconut Oil and Palm Oil), Olive Oil, Cod Liver Oil
3.     Animal Fats – in Beef (bone-in), Poultry (with skin), Fish, (preferably organic or wild caught)
4.     Full-Fat Cheese – no hormone or antibiotics (good), organic (better), raw (best)
5.     “Pasteurized” Whole Milk (good), “Organic” Whole Milk (better) or “Raw” Whole Milk (best) - But not ultra-pasteurized or homogenized.
6.     Regular Eggs (good), Omega-3 Eggs (better), Pasture-Raised Eggs (best)

·        Reduce Carbohydrates to less than 100 grams (see where your limit is to lose weight everybody is different) around 10%-15% of calorie intake.  Make them good quality carbohydrates from
1.     Non-Starchy Vegetables – Green Leafy and any other except potatoes (eat with butter, olive oil based salad dressing, full-fat sour cream dip, or melted cheese)
2.     Low Sugar Fruits – Berries, Grapefruit, Kiwi, and small Apples are good choices
3.     Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters (no sugar added) – preferably organic

·        Eat a Moderate Protein Intake - 15-25% of Calories
1.     Regular Eggs (good), Omega-3 Eggs (better), Pasture-Raised Eggs (best)
2.     Bone-in fatty cuts of Beef and Pork
3.     Poultry (w/skin) cooked on the bone 
4.     Wild-caught Fish and Shell Fish
5.     Whole Milk Cottage Cheese – preferably organic

Once you reach your goal weight, you can start to add back in healthy fermented, soaked, or sprouted grains and legumes, and the occasional treat.  They need to be added back in slowly based on maintaining your goal-weight.
Eliminating grain and legume Carbohydrates is just TEMPORARY.  Doing this will curb the physical ADDICTION to carbs (bread/pasta/rice) and it will reduce or eliminate your CRAVINGS, energy crashes and lows.  Then, once your goal-weight is reached, you can slowly add them back in to your diet, based on keeping your end-weight steady. 
You will need to find what amount of carbohydrates your particular body can tolerate in order to maintain your weight-loss.  Everyone’s amount is different.

Watch these short clips that explains "Why You Can't Lose Weight".

Dr. Merritt - Merritt Wellnes Center

Adele Hite - Healthy Nation Coalition