America's Energy Crisis

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Scott Wharton of HealthandMen and does NOT necessarily represent the opinions of DiseaseProof or Dr. Fuhrman.

Is there ever going to be a point where we stop seeing the walls of energy drinks and energy shots at our convenient stores? When I was in my late teens and early 20 there wasn't any Red Bull, Monster or Rock Star drinks. There was only Jolt Cola. Jolt was just like any other cola, except they claimed that it packed more caffeine and more sugar than your average Pepsi. If I was about to embark on a long drive from Quantico, Virginia to upstate, New York I would grab one or two of these for the road. I wasn't much of a coffee drinker back then and Jolt Cola was my pick-me-up when I had to make long trips home. The downfall with caffeine and sugar was the crash. I would often get about 6 hours in to the trip and suddenly start to feel the crash. By the time I got home I would be either be wiped clean of any energy I had.

Truck stops used to have the plastic cases next to or behind the counter loaded with little bottles of mini-thins and similar products. They were Ephedrine or Ephedra based stimulants that were not the healthiest stimulant but then again loading up on caffeine and sugar isn't either. People started dying from overuse of ephedra and the United States took action against ephedrine because of the Meth epidemic. That's the reason you have to go to the pharmacy to get anything with ephedrine in it like Sudafed. The most you see in them now are Stackers and other caffeine, guarana and ginseng products.

These days the energy shots and drinks are still loaded with caffeine, sugar and extra vitamins. We know too much caffeine is bad for your heart and too much sugar is never a good thing for the human body, but what about the vitamins? Vitamins are good, right? That's what we're told as children. People don't know nearly enough about vitamins except for what they might hear on television and rarely do their own research. Naturally if you're told by some random person on TV that B Vitamins are good for you, then you're bound to believe that. Granted, B Vitamins are good for you and B vitamin deficiencies are, well, not good.

The funny thing that people fail to understand when they buy the energy shots like 6 Hour Energy and equivalent products is that most of that vitamin B that is supposed to give you all that energy is just going to waste. If you eat properly you get plenty of vitamin B and there really isn't much need for more. Either way, your body will get rid of any excess water soluble vitamins that it doesn't need and has no need to absorb and pees out. People that take a vitamin B supplement often know how well their body is absorbing it by the color of their urine. Riboflavin or vitamin B2 will tend to make your urine a bright yellow color.

Marketing is an amazing thing because people are so easily manipulated by things that help make day-to-day life more convenient. Fat burning pills, energy supplements and anything else that helps cope with the stress of work or life in general. When you're tired you're tired. There is no other way around it and your body needs rest. No matter how much energy supplements you take, it can not substitute the rejuvenating effect your body gets from a good night sleep. Sometimes you have to slow down, take it easy and let Mother Nature do her thing.

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Miracle Expanding Jelly Pills

Here’s more proof that humans might not be the most intelligent creatures on earth. Are you desperate to lose weight? Why bother doing the logical thing—eating right and exercising. Instead, take some magic pills. Magic jelly pills that expand in our stomachs that is. Nicole Martinelli of Wired explains:

Italian scientists are testing a new diet pill that turns into a clear, gelatinous blob the size of a tennis ball that may help shrink waistlines by giving dieters a sense of satiety.


The pill, currently undergoing clinical trials at Rome's Policlinico Gemelli hospital, would be downed with two glasses of water at the first sign of a stomach rumble.

"The effect is like eating a nice plate of pasta," said Luigi Ambrosio, lead researcher on the project at the National Research Council's Institute for Composite and Biomedical Materials in Naples. "If you sit down for a meal with a stomach that already feels full, you'll end up eating less."

The unnamed pill is made from a cellulose compound of hydrogel, a material that's powdery when dry but plumps up to a cousin of Jell-O when wet. The gel can soak up to 1,000 times its weight. A gram in capsule form quickly balloons from the size of a spit wad to a ball that holds nearly a liter of liquid.

Now, if just hearing about it isn’t gross enough, check out this photo. Prepared to gag:


I can literally see Dr. Fuhrman rolling his eyes in disgust. But permit me to be serious for a second. This just highlights how blindly obsessed people are with losing weight. I’m sure there’ll be a line of people waiting to give these jelly pills a whirl, which is sad because as Dr. Fuhrman explains magic pills just aren’t the answer. From Eat to Live:

Don't be conned by diet pills, magic in a bottle, or fat absorbers. Anything really effective is not safe, and those that are safe are not effective. To deal with the real problem, you must make real changes.

Now, when you get serious and switch to a nutrient-dense health-promoting diet, then you’ll really start to see results. More from Eat to Live:

My observations over the years have convinced me that eating healthfully makes you drop unwanted pounds efficiently. It’s as if the body wants to get rid of unhealthy tissue quickly. I have seen this happen time and time again. Eating the exact same diet, many patients drop weight quickly and easily and then automatically stop losing when they reach an ideal weight. Time and time again, I have see individuals who were not overweight nonetheless lose weigh after the switch. In a few months, however, they gravitated back to their former weight as their health improved. It is as if the body wanted to exchange unhealthy issue for healthy tissue.

(Via Diet-Blog)

People Love Them Magic Pills

Hey jack. You want some beans? I swear they’re magic. Americans love quick fixes: fast food, express lanes, quick lubes, and according to the Associated Press, over-hyped diet pills and products. A new survey shows a lot of would-be dieters still turn to the fast promises of weight-loss supplements. Many health professionals don’t think this is a good idea:

"People need to get away from magical thinking," said Saul Shiffman, a University of Pittsburgh health psychologist who helped develop the survey. "It's easy to hope for a magic pill that's going to rev up their metabolism or shed their pounds."

What is really amazing is the report points out that there is no proof that unregulated, over-the-counter products help at all. One thing’s for sure, there’s plenty of suspect diet information and supplements out there—from Atkins to Xenadrine—and you won’t find Dr. Fuhrman lending his support to any of them. Check out the Diet Myths category (and get comfortable, it could take a while) for more.

Diet Supplements for Weight Loss?

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Don't be conned by diet pills, magic in a bottle, or fat absorbers. Anything really effective is not safe, and those that are safe are no effective. To deal with the real problem, you must make real changes. Here is some data on three of the most popular remedies:

Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid): In spite of an interesting theory and some intriguing animal studies, the human studies are unimpressive. In the best study to date, 135 patients were double-blinded to receive either 1,500 mg per day of hydroxycitric acid or a placebo. They were all placed on a high-fiber, low-calorie diet. After twelve weeks, the placebo group had lost more weight.1 Conclusion: garcinia cambogia doesn't work.

Chitosan: This form of chitin, derived from the shells of crustaceans, supposedly traps fat in the intestine and is frequently advertised as Fat Absorb. A review of the data available seems to indicate that you would have to consume entire bottle every day to have much of a reduction in fat absorption. The amount of fat absorbed is minuscule and clinical data shows that Chitosan does not promote weightloss.2 Conclusion: Chitosan doesn't work.

Ephedra alkaloids (ma huang): Though this natural stimulant has a small effect on reducing appetite, the FDA has issued a warning regarding serious and potentially lethal side effects associated with the use of products containing ephedra, including arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, psychosis, abnormal liver function, seizures, rapid heart rate, anxiety, and stomach pain.3 Ephedra is so dangerous that it has been linked with fatalities--even a low dose has detrimental health effects. Conclusion: it's not worth the risk.

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Hoodia Gordonii: Natural Healthy Weight Loss Herb or Snake Oil?

Dr. Fuhrman's colleague Dr. Steven Acocella, MS, D.C., DACBN, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist, American College of Lifestyle Physicians, and a Diplomat of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, discusses a popular supplement:

An herbal extract of the Hoodia gordonii cactus was found to be useful in quelling the thirst and hunger pangs of desert nomads during times of famine. The proposed mechanism, according to Dr. Richard Dixey, a spokesperson for Phytopharm Pharmaceuticals, who heads a research team efforting the synthesis of P57, the appetite suppressing component of the plant, explains how it works:

"There is a part of your brain, the hypothalamus. Within that mid-brain there are nerve cells that sense glucose sugar. When you eat, blood sugar goes up because of the food, these cells start firing and now you are full. What the Hoodia seems to contain is a molecule that is about 10,000 times as active as glucose. It goes to the mid-brain and actually makes those nerve cells fire as if you were full. But you have not eaten. Nor do you want to."
Pretty impressive sounding stuff, but does it work? That depends on whom you ask. Naturally, any advertisement is filled with glowing endorsements. But there is only one published, peer-reviewed scientific evaluation of P57 and that was preformed on rats. This study concluded that there was evidence of drug-induced anorexia using the extract from Hoodia1. But before you run out to the health food store consider a few facts of this study. The study was conducted on rats whereby researchers injected huge dosages of P57 directly into the brains (hypothamus) of the animals and then observed their eating behaviors for several days (apologies to PETA). To date there are no credible published human trials. Basing the use of any product on a single animal trial and purely anecdotal information is risky.

Remember, the well known Leptoprin commercial, the "when is a diet pill worth 153 dollars a bottle�when it works" people? In it they state the effectiveness of their product is "backed by two major scientific clinical trials," what they don't tell you (and don't have to tell you) is that its effectiveness has also been debunked, refuted and disproved by 50 other clinical trials! It's up to us, the consumer, to do our own research.

Taking any substance that has not been thoroughly evaluated, or in which studies yield inconsistent or irreproducible results is a poor choice. Professionally I could never recommend, and personally I would never use, anything for which the credible scientific community has not reached a positive consensus. I don't experiment on my patients and I don't rely on social proof.

Smoke and Mirrors Weight Loss
The use of this substance as a weight loss aid really comes down to how you view health. The larger question we need to ask here transcends assessing if Hoodia is safe and effective, if it really works or is it is a scam. If we are desirous of losing weight and improving our health consider this:

Many of the Hoodia manufacturers boast that their product is safe because it is not a drug. And according to the Food and Drug Administration they're right; but relative to what Hoodia actually does in the body (if it really works) they're wrong. Hoodia is not a drug by FDA standards simply because it has not been approved by them (the FDA) to be "safe and effective in the treatment of aliments or conditions." Any substance that has been isolated, concentrated and ingested for the intent of producing a physiological response is a drug. I don't think anyone could have a problem with my definition here. With that said, during my pharmacology clerkship the first thing that my professor said is that every drug, no matter how trivial or potentially lifesaving has damaging negative side effects on the body that always accompany its intended beneficial use. There is always a 'health-tax' to pay with taking any substance. It's the nature of biochemistry and all drugs have negative side effects, no exceptions.

Okay, so let's say a thousand years of Hoodia use by the San tribesmen in the Kalahari Desert have got to give this stuff credibility, their Shaman can't be wrong, and it actually works well. Consider some potential negative side effects specific to taking Hoodia. Hoodia is said to suppress thirst as well as hunger. People taking it run the risk of dehydration which can lead to the development of kidney stones and other fluid related problems. More importantly, specific to weight loss, taking it over time it will do nothing to increase metabolism so you won't burn more calories at rest; as a good aerobic training regime will do for you. So, as soon as you stop taking it the body will go into a highly efficient fat-storage mode and store even more fat at an accelerated rate, the old diet rebound "yo-yo" syndrome. This phenomenon has been seen with every magic diet pill ever used. You've not changed any metabolic set points by taking Hoodia and your brain wants those stored calories back, big time. And, if you just continue taking it, it's possible that you'll begin to lose lean body mass and weight loss at that point can become deceptive and dangerous.

Also, what about those reduced calories you do take in? If you're on a reduced calorie diet style and in caloric deficit (the only way to lose weight) then you'll have to pay very close attention to what you eat to maintain excellent nutrition. A diet that does not contain the full complement of antioxidants, phytochemicals and other micronutrients and the right macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and proteins) is disease promoting. If you've reduced your caloric intake 40% by using this substance then you'll have to get all of your nutrition from 60% of the amount of food you normally eat.

The problem is that the vast majority of Americans are already not getting nearly enough of the life-extending, health maintaining food elements eating 100% of their present calories to begin with! More food, or rather more higher quality food, not less low quality food is a much better way to get the appetite centers in the hypothalamus to cooperate and to lose weight. "Turning off" hunger can be achieved by not only the caloric component of food, but the bulk volume and nutrients present in the food as well. So, you can "suppress" (or better yet satisfy) your appetite with lower calorie, higher nutrient-dense foods and at the end of the day you've not only controlled your appetite, reduced your calories (and therefore weight) but you've also improved your nutritional status. Now we're talking!

Gee, what foods have all the following attributes at the same time?

A. High bulk, like lots of healthy fiber
B. Are extremely rich in nutrients
C. Are also much lower in calories

If you don't know the answer to this food trivia question we have a lot to talk about!

When it comes to Hoodia or any other quick fix medical breakthrough�flavor of the month diet pill�we just don't get something for nothing and there's always a price to pay. The arsenal in the war against being over fat and against obesity has got to include more than just weight loss; weight loss by itself does not necessarily equate to improved health. I regularly consult with patients that have lost large amounts of weight and are very unhealthy. What's the point of losing a bunch of weight only to develop some other diet-related morbid condition? Any change in body weight, up or down, should always result in an elevation of health and clearly this is not always the outcome of change, the scientific journals are full of such cases. I have seen several patients that have resorted to bariatic surgery (stomach stapling) and lost nearly 100 pounds each and are enduring tremendous nutrition-related health problems. And the damage I seen in victims of the Atkins weight loss scheme could fill volumes, but that's another article. A diet rich in Phen-Phen and Red-Bull can pretty much guarantee you rapid weight loss but it can be a bit hard on the system. Using some gimmick to fool the body to lose weight can result in the perfect body�corpse-weight! Write that down.

The smoke and mirror weight loss results you get from taking herbs and other diet drugs might win the battle short term but because it doesn't result in elevated health we still lose the war. Clearly Hoodia will not improve our nutrition and can further compromise our health over time. The only possible way it might be useful is if we were to learn how to eat healthfully while taking it, but if you learned how to do that you wouldn't need Hoodia anyway. Trust me; I see real weight loss success every day.

Allow me to leave you with the words of that pop-culture icon and high profile celebrity promoter of Hoodia, Anna Nicole Smith: "Hoodia works; it's the new miracle diet pill that aids in weight loss by suppressing appetite!"

Sorry Anna, we're not buying and neither should you. Now, how about you get with the program and go get a copy of Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman.

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