NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

The sweet link between Steve Jobs, Mel Gibson, cancer, and appearance

sugar health

Steve Jobs famously said he didn't care about his appearance—but he was Steve Jobs. Once Hollywood handsome, he'd lost most of his looks years before his cancer surfaced. That may not be a coincidence. Cancer is etiologically multifactorial—that is, it is caused by many things—but some of the same processes that increase the risk of certain cancers also prematurely rob us of our looks.

Most people have good reason for caring about their appearance, which influences your ability to attract, hold, and spellbind a mate, as well as your occupational success. Studies have shown that good-looking people have an easier time getting jobs. Researchers found that appearance is correlated with employee and even CEO pay, at least in the United States, which increasingly seems to be less of an intellectual meritocracy and more of a big beauty contest. Attractive people have more friends on Facebook and in the real world, receive more unearned smiles and compliments, and get more breaks—including those in the legal system.

With such compelling advantages, it isn't surprising that loss of looks often leads to loss of self-esteem, stress, and even panic.

After Mel Gibson saw a photo of himself looking gray and balding as he held his baby daughter Luci, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas described Gibson's reaction in a letter sent to him:

“You were staring at the photograph of you and Luci, your beautiful little girl … and you suddenly exploded. You hurled your cell phone into a wall and started to scream, 'I look so fucking old! I look horrible! That fucking whore [presumably referring to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva] is destroying me! She's taking my looks! I hate her! She's destroying my life!'”

“You jumped up, screaming full-throated: 'Look at me!! Fucking look at me! Look how terrible I look! Answer me, God! Why did you turn your back on me!? Fuck you! Fuck you!' You stepped a few feet away and screamed into the sky, 'I'm not gonna take it up the ass anymore and say, ‘Thank you, your honor!’'”

Money can't directly buy happiness or more years of life, but it can buy access to doctors who can provide information to facilitate those things. It's too bad that über-rich Gibson and Jobs didn't spend a few of their dollars to discover what you're about to learn for free: information that will help you improve your appearance, health, and mood, and possibly give you more years to enjoy it all.

sugar + artificial colors

Sugar is yummy, but consuming it makes you less yummy. You know about how it fuels flab, but certain forms of it can also fuel the growth of cancer and accelerate aging. You know what that means: wrinkles, gray hair, and less of it, which transformed Gibson, proclaimed “The Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine in 1985, into someone who looks much different than he did a quarter-century ago. If you're a woman, you might also fear sagging breasts and other gender-linked hallmarks of aging that give women extra grief.

me and 25 years before (left)
I am not attractive, nor was I cryogenically frozen, but at least I am not much uglier than I was 25 years before (left, 6 years after HS) despite a highly stressful career, too much junk food and sun, baking off zits with several sun lamps, way too little sleep, and living with various chain-smokers. Despite all those abuses, most people age even more, sometimes not even recognizably being the same person. Five friends took the same photo every five years beginning a year after high school with the years clearly affecting their appearance, although much less than many others. Some women my age look old enough to be my mother. I did plenty wrong healthwise, so what did they and others do that was so much worse? Read this article for some answers.

What's so bad about restaurant and processed foods?

Like many processed food companies, Quaker Oats seems reputable, but it doesn't take much scratching beneath the surface to uncover sordid facts, such as how they intentionally fed children radioactive calcium and iron, violating their human rights and the Consent Principle of the Nuremberg Code. They treated kids as human guinea pigs, but they're not alone; processed food companies routinely include additives that harm people, such as the appetite stimulants that cause people to overeat, generating obesity that destroys their health and often prematurely ends their lives.

Considering their track record, and that of other major food producers, it is alarming that “food chemical regulations rely heavily on industry self-policing and lack transparency.” If people knew what was in their food, they would be horrified and motivated to avoid it.

Usually caring more about their profits than the health of their customers, restauranters and processed food companies typically take shortcuts to flavor by using too much salt, sugar, and white flour, high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy but cheap fats, MSG (often camouflaged under one of its many synonyms), and artificial flavors concocted by flavoring companies so obsessed with secrecy they won't disclose what they're putting into our bodies. I've spoken directly with major food companies such as Quaker Oats and learned that even they don't know all of the ingredients in the processed foods they make; they buy from flavoring companies.

In a 60 Minutes interview, a flavoring company representative admitted they “really don't want anyone to know” what they're putting in our bodies. Their goal is to make flavors so irresistible they're virtually addictive. Here's an excerpt from that program:

Dr. David Kessler, former head of the FDA: We're eating fat on fat, on sugar on fat, with flavor, and much of what we're eating with these flavors, you have to ask yourself, is it really food? [ … ] These flavors are so stimulating, they hijack our brain.

60 Minutes host Morley Safer: Kessler believe flavorists are accomplices—the hired guns of the food industry.

Kessler: They make food super-palatable.

Safer: What's wrong with that? don't we want the richness of good taste?

Kessler: Of course. Food has to be pleasurable; it has to be desirable, but look around, Morley, look around this country, and what do you see? [video footage of obese Americans shown] Ask the rest of the world how they view America, and they will say, “We don't want to look like that.”

NPR reported, “While doing research for his book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite,” Kessler sought “an explanation for his own weakness for junk food and why his weight swung up and down over and over again with diets following periods of excess.”

I've eaten processed foods that send my appetite into insatiable overdrive. That overeating is not solely prompted by great flavor, because I can make all-natural equivalents that taste even better yet don't compel me to overeat. For example, if I make glazed nuts, I can eat a few ounces and be satisfied, but a commercial brand contains an additive that makes me not want to stop even after eating a pound of them.

Another reason why chemically-induced overeating results from more than taste is because the desire to overeat can persist for hours after the culprit (food containing the chemical) is consumed.

unhealthy food chemicals

Unfortunately, the slew of chemicals added to our foods causes more than bulging waistlines; they can also impair our minds. For example, researchers concluded that “dietary trans-fat combined with MSG increased central [abdominal] adiposity, promoted dyslipidemia and impaired spatial learning.

Oxford University's Dr. Andrew Murray found that just nine days of a high-fat diet triggered clearly detrimental effects on exercise endurance and cognitive function in rats. Now at the University of Cambridge, Murray is performing similar studies in humans and the effects appear “to be similar to that found in the rat studies.

Other scientists found that trans fats were significantly associated with behavioral irritability and aggression. Cambridge University’s Public Health Nutrition journal published a study linking the consumption of fast-food and commercial baked goods to the risk of depression.

Food manufacturers often use legal loopholes to understate the trans fat content of their products. Considering this and the ubiquity of trans fats in processed foods, it is virtually impossible for consumers to avoid them unless they carefully make everything from scratch.

On February 19th 2012, 60 Minutes interviewed Harvard scientist Irving Kirsch, who said, “The difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people.” Pharmaceutical manufacturers cherry-pick clinical trials, suppressing the ones that show too little drug benefit or too much drug harm, while ballyhooing the more positive studies. However, with antidepressants, that effect is not much greater than placebo for most depressed people. It is not that antidepressants don't work; it's that placebos could replicate most of their effects—and obviously at less cost and with virtually no side effects.

Dr. Walter Brown, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University's Medical School, said on 60 Minutes, “The experts in the field now believe [the theory that depression is caused by a deficiency of brain serotonin] is a gross oversimplification and probably is not correct.

With antidepressants having effects not much greater than placebo, depressed people—or even folks who feel OK but want to feel great—would love to know how various foods boost mood in ways that make life less stressful and vastly more enjoyable. However, keeping up with all of the research behind those food recommendations takes more time than most people are willing to give. I'll later introduce a solution to this problem.

“[discussing the Let's Move program developed by First Lady Michelle Obama to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation] “The very first speech that Michelle Obama gave after the Let's Move [program] was announced in 2010, was to the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America and she pointed directly at them and said, ‘Look, this is YOUR problem; this happened on your watch, and you have to reformulate—we're not talking about tweaking around the edges— you have to reformulate your products to make them healthier.’ That's the last time she ever said it—why do you think that happened?”
Dr. Robert Lustig, during interview with Bill Maher, after he said, “To me, the most disappointing part of the [FED UP] movie was the part about Michelle Obama's campaign [to reduce childhood obesity]. … The food companies and the lobbyists got to the White House and the Let's Move campaign suddenly wasn't really about going after food companies—which is what it really had to be—it was about moving.”

The typical American diet is garbage. No one with common sense would feed such junk to their pets, yet too many of us somehow think we're immune to basic principles of physiology that make such eating highly inadvisable. In this regard, we're often our own worst enemies. We would be hopping mad if someone else did to us what we're doing to ourselves with poor food choices—choices we make because we're surrounded by junk food in restaurants and junk food in grocery stores.

choosing healthy or junk food

Made-from-scratch food preparation is the only practical way to avoid the slew of other chemicals added to processed and restaurant foods to enhance their taste and boost appetite. Food flavoring companies care more about their profits than our waistlines. One look around the USA is all it takes to realize they're goading us into eating more. People were no less fond of food in the 1960s when obesity was rare but pumping iron and jogging were much less popular than they now are. More than ever before, we have artificial sweeteners, other diet foods, diet drugs, weight loss surgeons, weight loss books and advice, home exercise devices, and commercial gyms galore, yet over two-thirds of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. Researchers projected that 86% of Americans could be overweight or obese by 2030.

I am convinced that American overeating largely stems from appetite stimulants added to food ingredients by food flavoring companies that sell to food manufacturers, and ultimately consumers, unaware of how those chemicals affect their appetite and inflict other deleterious effects, such as disrupting sleep.

Obesity predisposes people to multiple health problems, including serious ones such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and cancer, so it isn't surprising that the price tag for obesity in the United States is staggering: $147 billion per year in direct medical costs and about $300 billion in total costs, factoring in indirect costs such as loss of worker productivity. Another source pegs the direct cost of obesity in the U.S. as $190.2 billion per year, or 20.6% of national health expenditures. Obesity has clearly grown into an epidemic that is crushing America.

60 Minutes also interviewed UCSF Professor Robert H. Lustig, MD, an endocrinologist. Here is a partial transcript:

New research coming out of some of America's most respected institutions is starting to find that sugar, the way many people are eating it today, is a toxin and could be a driving force behind some of this country's leading killers, including heart disease. As a result of these findings, an anti-sugar campaign has sprung up, led by Dr. Robert Lustig, a California endocrinologist, who believes the consumption of added sugars has plunged America into a public health crisis.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Is sugar toxic?

Dr. Lustig: I believe it is.

Gupta: Do you ever worry that sounds a little bit over the top?

Lustig: Sure. All the time. But it's the truth.

(voice-over): Dr. Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco and a pioneer in what is becoming a war against sugar. Motivated by his own patients—too many sick and obese children—Dr. Lustig has concluded that sugar, more than any other substance, is to blame.

Gupta: What are all these various diseases that you say are linked to sugar?

Lustig: Obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease itself.

(voice-over): Lustig says the American lifestyle is killing us.

Gupta: And most of it you say is preventable?

Lustig: 75% of it is preventable.

(voice-over): While Dr. Lustig has published a dozen scientific articles on the evils of sugar, it was his lecture on YouTube, called Sugar: The Bitter Truth, that brought his message to the masses.

(voice-over): By “bad food” Dr. Lustig means the obvious things such as table sugar, honey, syrup, sugary drinks and desserts, but also just about every processed food you can imagine, where sugar is often hidden: yogurts and sauces, bread—even peanut butter.

(voice-over): [ … ] Central to Dr. Lustig's theory is that we used to get our fructose mostly in small amounts of fruit—which came loaded with fiber that slows absorption and consumption [, thus making it safe].

(voice-over): [ … ] Sugar has become a major focus in cancer research too. Lewis Cantley, is looking at the connection.

Gupta: If you limit your sugar you decrease your chances of developing cancer?

Lewis Cantley: Absolutely.

(voice-over): Cantley, a Harvard professor and the head of the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center, says when we eat or drink sugar, it causes a sudden spike in the hormone insulin, which can serve as a catalyst to fuel certain types of cancers.

Lewis Cantley: What we're beginning to learn is that insulin can cause adverse effects in the various tissues. And of particular concern is cancer.

(voice-over): Why? Nearly a third of some common cancers—including breast and colon cancers—have something called insulin receptors on their surface. Insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose [essentially fertilizing it].

Some highlights and excerpts from Dr. Lustig's presentation, Sugar: The Bitter Truth:

  • “Trans fats are clearly a disaster.”
  • “We have an epidemic of obese 6-month-olds”—attributable to baby formula laden with sugar.
  • People eat more than they did 20 years ago, even though food was plentiful then.
  • As our percentage of calories from fat decreased, the obesity rate increased.
  • The average American consumes 63 pounds of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per year.
  • Fructose consumption is much greater than it was a few decades ago.
  • “HFCS and sucrose … are both poison.”
  • “Fructose is a poison … by itself, it's not about the calories.”
  • HFCS is “so cheap that it has found its ways into everything: hamburger buns, pretzels, barbeque sauce, ketchup, almost everything.”
  • “We are being poisoned by this stuff, and it has been added surreptitiously to all of our food—all of our processed food.”
  • Small dense LDL (sdLDL) is bad; that is raised by carbohydrates [and statins, according to doctors at the Texas Heart Institute], whereas relatively benign big buoyant LDL is raised by dietary fat. [Incidentally, other researchers found that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) reduces sdLDL.]
  • Most physicians are not yet aware of the distinction between the types of LDL; they still think they're all bad.
  • “Triglyceride to HDL ratio actually predicts cardiovascular disease way better than LDL ever did.”
  • Discussing the low-fat craze, in which food processors initially thought they were doing us a favor by reducing food fat and increasing sugars to restore palatability, Dr. Lustig said, “That's the worst thing you could do, and that's what we've done, and we're still doing it, today. So when you find a mistake, what do you do? You admit the mistake and you right the ship. We haven't admitted the mistake, and we haven't righted the ship. So we've had our food supply adulterated, contaminated, poisoned, tainted on purpose, and we've allowed it [to happen] through the addition of fructose for palatability, especially because of the decreased fat, and also as a—ostensibly ‘browning agent’, which actually has its own issues, because why it browns so well with the sugar in it actually is what is going on in your arteries, because that's causing what we call protein glycation and cross-linking, which is actually contributing to atherosclerosis.”
  • “Fructose is 7 times more likely than glucose to form advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).”
  • Fructose does not suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
  • Chronic fructose exposure promotes the metabolic syndrome.
  • “Normal medical students given 6 days of high fructose feeding: triglycerides doubled, de novo lipogenesis went up 5 times higher, and free fatty acids, which cause insulin resistance, doubled. So Here's the dyslipidemia of fructose consumption. Some of the fat won't make it out of the liver, and now you've got NASH. [ … ] The hyperinsulinemia stops the leptin from acting on the nucleus accumbens, [which affects the] reward signal, so that continues your appetite, continues more fructose, more carbohydrate, generating more insulin resistance, generating a vicious cycle of consumption and disease. So here we are: hypertension, inflammation, hepatic insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, dyslipidemia, muscle insulin resistance, obesity, and continued consumption. Looks like metabolic syndrome to me.”
  • “So why is fiber important in obesity? This is my motto in the clinic: ‘When God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote.’ Because fructose is a poison, but wherever there is fructose in nature, there is way more fiber. That’s why fruit is OK, because number one, it limits how much fructose you're going to take in, and number two, it gives you an essential nutrient, and you get some micronutrients along with it, so that your liver works healthier. So here's what fiber does:
  • It reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption.
  • It increases the speed of transit of the intestinal contents to the ileum, and that raises your PYY, which goes to your brain and tells you the meal is over: that’s your satiety signal. So when you add fiber to your diet, you actually get your satiety signal sooner, because the food moves through faster.
  • It inhibits the absorption of some free fatty acids all the way to the colon, and those get chopped up into fragments called short-chain fatty acids, and those actually suppress insulin, as opposed to long-chain fatty acids, which stimulate insulin.”

Every doctor on the cutting edge who goes against the grain of conventional wisdom is called a quack by some people—usually the hidebound idiots. Dr. Lustig is no exception; this Google autocomplete algorithm suggests some people think that about him:

Robert Lustig search autocomplete

As Amy Alkon eloquently put it:

“By the way, these guys—Taubes, Lustig, and Eades—buck a lot of crap for telling the evidence-based truth (that runs contrary to the statin industrial complex, preconceived notions, long-held beliefs of careerists in medicine and "science"), and I have to say, all three are heroes for doing so. They've given a lot of people their lives back, and I encourage everybody to read their work.”

In preparation for shooting the cover photo for her latest book, she said she “felt so great from cutting out carbs, I haven't wanted to go back.” I don't think she's been in medical school, but Amy The Advice Goddess likely gives much better dietary advice than your doctor. If your doctor is like most of the ones I've seen, he makes a beeline for the carbohydrate-laden junk that drug reps use to lure physicians into listening to their latest pitch—often one for a statin.

Then ask yourself, who looks better: your doctor or Amy? Many doctors look like Poppin' Fresh, the potbellied Pillsbury Doughboy, while Amy looks hot.

“If you look up [Dr.] Robert Lustig on Wikipedia, nearly two-thirds of the studies cited there to repudiate Lustig's views were funded by Coca-Cola.”
— Excerpted from John Yudkin: the man who tried to warn us about sugar
Subtitle of that article: “A British professor's 1972 book about the dangers of sugar is now seen as prophetic. Then why did it lead to the end of his career?”
Why? Because anyone who opposes Big Food, Big Sugar, or Big Medicine will be branded as a quack.

You don't need to wait for more scientific evidence to know that Dr. Lustig is correct. Follow his recommendation, cut out the junk that supplies sugar (specifically fructose), and see how much better you look, feel, and think. My stomach was a bottomless pit until I cut out sugar and reduced carbs, after which most of my insatiable appetite vanished, wiping the smile off the face of Poppin' Fresh and the other processed food industry.

In 1974, while still in high school and years before I entered medical school, I gave a presentation on how sugar causes hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. I was so alarmed by the effects of sugar that for years afterward I refused to eat anything with sucrose (table sugar) in it; sucrose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose.

Pop Quiz

Pop quiz: How would you modify your diet to improve your mood and scholastic achievement? Everyone reading this is likely at least two standard deviations up the bell curve of intelligence and brimming with knowledge, yet judging by what I see most physicians eat, even most of them are blithely ignorant of how to eat to achieve these goals. Over 99% of relevant research conducted by scientists and published in peer-reviewed journals is ignored by physicians because the practice of medicine ignores most everything that isn't essential for a billable diagnosis and treatment for it that is often a prescription drug. The focus of medicine is skewed. If auto mechanics were as daffy as most doctors, they would do engine overhauls but not oil changes.

I graduated in the top 1% of my class in medical school, yet I graduated not knowing how to improve mood without antidepressants or other prescription drugs. Just as my title implies, I am a doctor of medicine, not health. In the many years of additional study it took to learn health, I acquired hundreds of thousands of facts that can improve health, mood, intelligence, creativity, memory, concentration, energy, performance, appearance, and longevity. Many of those tips can help prevent or adjunctively treat disease, yet physicians usually don't give any dietary suggestions beyond utterly obvious ones, such as consuming less salt for low-sodium diets, or fewer calories to assist weight loss. Optimizing brainpower seems like a pipe dream to most physicians, most of whom don't know how to do that.

To complicate this subject, there is no one optimal diet. For example, what’s best for strength and weight loss is not best for hair loss (dihydrotestosterone is not the only culprit), and what’s best for enhancing creativity is not optimal for promoting mental concentration. Furthermore, the optimal diet varies throughout the day and over time, such as during pregnancy, before pregnancy, during illness, and seasonally.

Glycemic index

Glycemic index numerically indicates how fast blood glucose rises after carbohydrates are consumed. Drs. Chiu and Willett at the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University wrote, “Considerable epidemiologic evidence links consuming lower glycemic index (GI) diets with good health, particularly upon aging,” and diseases associated with it, such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration. GI doesn't just affect people internally, but also externally, in how they appear and perform. It affects whether you're groggy and mentally fuzzy or brimming with energy and dreaming up the next big idea.

snacking on sugar

Another parameter, glycemic load (GL), factors in the amount of a carbohydrate in addition to its GI. Intelligent food choices can effectively minimize GI/GL because concomitant food intake can modify the glycemic response of a meal. GI/GL can be further improved by adding small amounts of guar gum, an almost tasteless type of water-soluble fiber, to foods.

One friend quickly lost 70 pounds after giving up soft drinks and not eating after 5 PM. Another rapidly lost his “love handles” after giving up gluten—not because that is necessarily bad, but foods containing it are often loaded with calories but not nutrition.

Additionally, the adverse metabolic effects of excessive sugar and problems induced by it can be minimized by d-chiro-inositol (DCI), which enhances insulin sensitivity. The best natural sources of DCI, such as buckwheat, are rarely consumed by most people, but they would eat more if they were aware of its benefits. DCI improves the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), ameliorating “some of the metabolic abnormalities (increased blood pressure and hypertriglyceridemia) of syndrome X.” (Syndrome X, also known as the metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance syndrome, is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The metabolic syndrome affects about a quarter of the world’s adult population, and more in the United States secondary to its increased prevalence of obesity; over 40% of American adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation defines the metabolic syndrome as central [abdominal] obesity plus any two of the following four factors: low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, or high triglycerides.)

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that brain insulin resistance is associated with cognitive decline. Other scientists found that 72% of people with Alzheimer's disease met the criteria for the metabolic syndrome. Cognitive decline is not a quantal “either you have it or you don't” problem; cognitive dysfunction sufficient to impair performance precedes frank Alzheimer's disease or precursors of it that warrant a diagnostic label. Thus, even if you don't have a diagnosable dementia or antecedent of it, you may nevertheless have a diminution of brainpower that limits your success. Since “insulin resistance in peripheral tissues could promote insulin resistance in the brain,” people and their physicians should be acutely aware of the cognitive and other risks of insulin resistance and vigorously combat that problem.

Numerous dietary agents, including some mentioned in Schiff's Diseases of the Liver, favorably affect non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that is related to insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. NAFLD is common (affecting about 23% of the U.S. population) but especially prevalent in Indian men secondary to a genetic susceptibility. Experts (1, 2) think that d-chiro-inositol may improve NAFLD, which otherwise may progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and cirrhosis.

Considering the prevalence of fatty liver disease and other diseases marked by insulin resistance, physicians should—but usually don't—suggest benign interventions such as buckwheat, a nutritious food with other compelling benefits (it supplies protein, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, bioflavonoids [rutin and quercetin], and soluble fiber). The diagnosis of NAFLD is often delayed, which increases its mortality rate via sequelae such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. NASH, obesity, and diabetes have been linked to insulin resistance in the brain, cognitive impairment, and neurodegeneration.

I could cite tens of thousands of other examples showing how physicians often fail to suggest dietary and lifestyle modifications to address common problems. For example, the risk of simple sugars is well-known, but how many physicians advise their patients on how to acutely mitigate that risk if they consume sugar? Very few.

One of the most pervasive myths is that episodic exercise is a sufficient antidote to a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is better than nothing, but exercising 12 hours after consuming pecan pie or a non-diet soft drink is too late to block many of their adverse metabolic effects. For optimal health and minimal aging, you should engage in some form of physical activity after eating. Can't do that? Eat smaller, more frequent meals. The worst thing you can do is what my relative, President Chester Alan Arthur, did: eat one large meal per day, which took him hours to eat. He died soon after leaving office.

Domestic smoke and aging

cooking smoke harms health

Small particles can cause big problems, but few people know how particulate emissions degrade their health and appearance. Years before I found research to substantiate it, I had a hunch that chefs seemed to lose scalp hair before other people their age. Cooking seems benign, but it's not.

Numerous studies have highlighted the adverse health effects of particulate emissions, especially ultrafine particles. “Research conducted in the U.S. during the past decade has shown that cooking is by far the largest source of respirable particles generated in the home.” Whether or not there is visible smoke, heating food during its preparation usually releases small airborne particles that can kill pets, injure people acutely and chronically, trigger smoke alarms, and waft onto interior surfaces, staining them.

Human effects range from eye and throat irritation, exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases, increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality (including myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, and possibly atherosclerotic plaque progression and vulnerability), cancer, neurotoxicity, and likely signs of aging such as hair loss and graying, accelerated dermal thinning, skin wrinkling, and depletion of facial subcutaneous fat.

According to The National Institutes of Health, prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) reduces IQ in children (1, 2, 3). Prenatal PAH exposure “is linked to anxiety, depression and attention problems in young children” (1, 2, 3, 4) and is associated with childhood obesity (1, 2). PAHs are common urban air pollutants but they are also domestically generated via cooking (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

A few of the many studies (text continues below this list):

Nanoparticles and neurotoxicity

Translocation of inhaled ultrafine particles to the brain

Airborne Particle Exposure and Extrinsic Skin Aging

Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair (graying and alopecia)

Pollution sends men bald

Physical and chemical characteristics of fine particles emitted from cooking emissions and its contribution to particulate organic matter in Beijing

The modern paradox of unregulated cooking activities and indoor air quality

Emission rate of particulate matter and its removal efficiency by precipitators in under-fired charbroiling restaurants

Ultrafine particle concentrations and exposures in seven residences in northern California

Personal exposure to ultrafine particles

Indoor ultrafine particle exposures and home heating systems: a cross-sectional survey of Canadian homes during the winter months

Indoor ultrafine particles and childhood asthma: exploring a potential public health concern

Effects of exposure to ultrafine carbon particles in healthy subjects and subjects with asthma

Effect of inhaled carbon ultrafine particles on reactive hyperemia in healthy human subjects

The pro-inflammatory effects of low-toxicity low-solubility particles, nanoparticles and fine particles, on epithelial cells in vitro: the role of surface area

Cardiovascular effects of sub-daily levels of ambient fine particles: a systematic review

Individual exposure to particulate matter and the short-term arrhythmic and autonomic profiles in patients with myocardial infarction

Particulate matter air pollution and atherosclerosis

Interaction between combustion-generated organic nanoparticles and biological systems: In vitro study of cell toxicity and apoptosis in human keratinocytes

Influence of particulate matter from road traffic on extrinsic aging of skin

Self-cleaning ovens hog energy but aren't entirely self-cleaning; they generate ash that must be manually removed. Furthermore, the self-cleaning process is so time-consuming and noxious that people often delay cleaning, putting up with a dirty oven and the particulates it emits. If left inside during the cleaning cycle, racks can permanently warp and discolor. Owners of standard self-cleaning ovens are advised to open windows and often leave the house during the cleaning cycle, thus making it even more of an inconvenience.

Oven cleaners are chock-full of toxic chemicals, one of which (diethanolamine) might alter brain development. Kimberly Delaney, author of Clean Home, Green Home, asked, “Should Non-Toxic Oven Cleaning Be an Olympic Sport?” Manual oven cleaning is difficult for everyone and impossible for some people with physical limitations.

Considering all of the miraculous advances in medicine, Americans should be much healthier than they are and live years longer. Most of the longevity benefits resulted from vaccines, antibiotics, improved safety, and reductions in infant and obstetric mortality. We've reaped surprisingly little net benefit from the trillions of dollars we spent on other health interventions. Part of the reason why we don't enjoy longer, healthier lives is because much of what we eat is bad for us and because we usually don't know how to neutralize or reverse many of the adverse effects of our diets and lifestyles.

In a New York Times article, Spending More Doesn't Make Us Healthier, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel said that if the United States continues its current rate of healthcare growth, healthcare will consume “roughly one-third of the entire economy by 2035 … and nearly half by 2080.”

Blah, blah, blah … but it won't happen, trust me. A few years from now, when I can fill in the gaps and replace the many things I deleted from this article, you'll see that I have good reason to be optimistic.

Restaurant and processed foods, with their sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, MSG (& equivalents), unhealthy fats, artificial flavors, and appetite stimulants (to boost consumption of all that junk), along with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and particulate emissions, add up to obesity, wrinkles, dermal thinning, facial subcutaneous fat loss and redistribution, gray hair, balding, type 2 diabetes, impaired exercise endurance, inflammation, advanced glycation end-products, dyslipidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, atherosclerotic plaque progression and vulnerability, myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, hypertension, peripheral insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, NASH, cirrhosis, age-related macular degeneration, polycystic ovary syndrome, cancer, brain insulin resistance, impaired attention and spatial learning, neurotoxicity, lowered IQ, Alzheimer's disease, aggression, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

Most doctors and dieticians chow down on the same nutritional garbage as everyone else. Hospitals serve that junk to their patients and employees. The fiction is that we can continue to consume it and yet somehow escape their damaging effects that are bankrupting us and destroying our prosperity. We'll just vote for politicians who wave their magic wands and enact laws that make those problems go away.

pills do not produce health
Doesn't work, does it?

But they won't, of course. Just ask Steve Jobs or Mel Gibson. Or probably you or someone you love. Our food is prematurely aging and killing our bodies and minds, and our nation, yet virtually everyone wants to let restaurants and processed food companies off the hook so they can continue to slit our throats by filling our stomachs with yummy junk with horrific effects. If veterinarians recommended pet food with comparable harm, we'd be furious and wonder if vets had rocks in their heads or evil in their hearts. Drs. Kessler and Lustig are waging war on the junk we eat, which is our gravest health threat, and so am I, but most doctors just hand out pills to put band-aids on the problems caused by that garbage.

There's a perfect solution to this problem, that is practical but not immediately obvious. Can you guess what it is?

Connecting all the dots in this article will take a series of other articles, which I'll post when I have time.


  1. Series on Increasing pleasure, fun, and happiness
  2. Article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine: Is Sugar Toxic?
  3. no metabolic syndrome
    She likely doesn't have
    the metabolic syndrome
    Health Problems in Teens Linked with Worse Cognitive Skills
    Excerpt: “Teens with metabolic syndrome … perform worse in school than their healthier counterparts.”
    Comment: The metabolic syndrome is very prevalent in the United States. This likely is contributing to the USA's demise.
  4. 'Cafeteria Diet' Hastens Stroke Risk: High-Sugar, High-Salt Intake Creates 'a Ticking Time Bomb of Health Problems'
  5. World's Oldest Person, Besse Cooper, Turns 116
    Her secret? “I don't eat junk food.”
  6. What Big Soda Learned From the Marlboro Man
  7. The Killer Politics of Big Sugar
  8. Former Angels No. 1 pick Ryan Bolden killed in fight over candy
  9. Refined carbohydrates can trigger food cravings, study says
  10. Dietary Fructose Causes Liver Damage in Animal Model
  11. Nickelodeon Under Fire for Junk Food Ads
    Excerpt: “SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer are shills for the junk-food industry and part of America's child obesity problem, according to one of the nation's leading nonprofit health advocacy groups.”
  12. Bye Bye Mediterranean Diet, the Poorest Can't Afford It Anymore
  13. Fast-food Employees Dish About the Menu Items You Should Never Order
  14. Why Are Beautiful People Happier? Mainly Because Good Looks Help Them Get Rich
  15. Looking Good On Facebook Excerpt: People are “considered more likeable and seen as a potential friend when they are associated with good-looking friends.”
  16. Fructose- and sorbitol-reduced diet improves mood and gastrointestinal disturbances in fructose malabsorbers
  17. Fructose malabsorption is associated with early signs of mental depression
  18. Carbohydrate malabsorption syndromes and early signs of mental depression in females
  19. Fructose malabsorption is associated with decreased plasma tryptophan
  20. Review article: fructose malabsorption and the bigger picture
  21. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease impairs hippocampal-dependent memory in male rats
  22. A high fructose diet impairs spatial memory in male rats
  23. White Blood Cells Mediate Insulin Resistance: Neutrophils' Role Is a Surprise and a Potential New Target for Treating Diabetes based on Neutrophils mediate insulin resistance in mice fed a high-fat diet through secreted elastase
  24. For Young Adults, Appearance Matters More Than Health, Study Suggests
  25. Future Health Risks for Obese Children May Be Greater Than Previously Thought based on (1) Cardiovascular disease risk in healthy children and its association with body mass index: systematic review and meta-analysis and (2) Obesity in children and adolescents
  26. ConAgra Foods sued for “intentionally misrepresenting its Parkay Spray butter substitute as fat-free and calorie-free.” With “832 calories and 93 grams of fat per 8-ounce bottle,” the “fat-free/calorie-free” spray does indeed appear to be intentionally misrepresented—something that would have been obvious to readers of my Fascinating Health Secrets book, in which I revealed years ago (1996) how processed food companies trick consumers using this tactic.

Take care of yourself. Life is short; don't make it shorter!

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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