Category Archives: liver disease

Alcohol and your waistline.

accomplishMy mission this morning isn’t to debate the rights and wrongs of alcohol consumption. I’m not about to launch into a philosophical or psychological discussion about alcohol.

For some people alcohol is non-negotiable and it’s not my job today to try to negotiate that particular personal choice. If alcohol is non-negotiable for you then please save yourself a little time and trouble, stop reading now, and enjoy getting on with the rest of your day.

On 29th July 2013 an article appeared in my local newspaper about the remarkable effects of Rebalance. That morning the phone started to ring. And ring. And ring.

So many wanted to experience the benefits of Rebalance for themselves, and over the next couple of weeks my diary was full of appointments with folks wanting to know more. Most went on to become clients, and indeed they achieved success. I love those people, I love the results they achieved, but it’s not their success I’m writing about today.

In July 2013 I had to break the news to just a few people that I couldn’t help them – due to their relationship with alcohol. People like the chap who told me that he enjoyed 3 pints of beer 3 times a week, and wouldn’t be changing that. People like the lady who has 2 glasses of wine and a G&T every night to help her unwind, and doesn’t think she wants to change that. People like the lady who tells me all her friends drink, and that “it’s not my fault I have a social life“.

I’m not talking about alcoholism. This blog post is for people who stick within the limits of the recommended weekly units of alcohol, but for whom it is nonetheless a regular fact of life. It’s about helping you to understand why alcohol will likely hinder your weight loss and attempts to reach your wellness goals.

  1. Regular alcohol causes the levels of a stress hormone, cortisol, to become abnormally elevated. (As ever, at Rebalance we back up what we say, and if you’d like to read the research for yourself click here to make a start) Cortisol is especially significant for weight and health because chronically high levels are associated with a wide range of health problems, with metabolic changes leading to weight gain, with difficulty in losing weight: blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, obesity, immune system suppression, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, fertility problems, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and other conditions. (Another useful link: click here)
  2. Even moderate alcohol leads to visceral fat (link available here). We all know that of course – one of the earliest names for visceral fat was ‘beer belly’ after all! It’s this kind of body fat that is linked with many serious conditions, including: impaired glucose and lipid metabolism, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes; colon breast and prostate cancers; heart and cardiovascular disease; infections and non-infectious complications, including death. (Another useful link: click here)
  3. Alcohol is high in ’empty calories’. Drinkaware tells us the calories in alcohol are “extra fattening“, and almost the same as pure fat itself. Worse, is that those calories, being empty, provide no nutritional value, meaning that alcohol contributes nothing that our bodies can put to good use.
  4. Drinkaware further advises: “Drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol. So our systems want to get rid of it, and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.”

So that’s 4 facts to help you understand how alcohol will interfere with your health and weightloss plans. The choice about what you do with that knowledge is all yours!


The Truth About Sugar – was it useful for people living with diabetes?

fiona phillipsSo, did you see The Truth About Sugar on BBC 1 last night at 9pm?

If you did watch, and you’ve been following RebalanceDiabetes closely, you’ll have recognised a lot of the messages! So much of what I have shared with you via FaceBook, Twitter, in newsletters and in this blog over the past 2 years was covered in the programme. It was great to see those messages finally being addressed on TV. There was one huge message, however, that I whole-heartedly disagree with – but I’ll come on to that!

The way in which the messages were covered was simple, straightforward, and graphic. Some of the experiments they used to illustrate the points brought them home powerfully, I thought.

Here are some of the useful facts to keep reminding yourself of:

  • Sugar leads to body fat – quickly AND easily!
  • Sugar leads to disease!
  • There are huge quantities of sugar hidden in processed foods – even savory dishes.
  • The food industry go to great lengths to work out exactly how much sugar will make you eat more of their products – regardless of it’s effect on your health!
  • More onus should be put on the food industry to make it clear how much sugar is hidden in their products! Never mind the food industry representative saying everyone knows that a gram means – actually I don’t believe they do! I think everyone understands what a teaspoon of sugar looks like though!
  • The ONLY way to know what’s in your food is to cook it yourself and from scratch.
  • The sugars we drink cause us to eat more because they interfere with your hunger mechanism, and your body can’t tell you to stop taking in calories.
  • Drinking fruit juices means you take in massively more sugar than eating whole fruits. What I would add here though is that fruit contains the same type of sugar, and it’s just as harmful, as in juices, so fruit consumption shouldn’t be unlimited! 

So here’s the point I absolutely disagree with: Sadly The Truth About Sugar promoted the idea of artificial sweeteners. NO! There is enough research to show that artificial sweeteners still cause problems. Some of the articles I’ve shared with you over the months show that people are actually MORE likely to be obese using artificially-sweetened drinks compared with the full-sugar varieties. And research has shown that artificial sweeteners disrupt insulin – making them just as dangerous for people living with diabetes. Switching to artificial sweeteners is the one message I would love you to ignore from last night’s programme.

Otherwise, The Truth About Sugar gets my thumbs up, and I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Why swapping low-fat for low-carb isn’t enough!

fatsWe’ve seen plenty of news articles recently that confirm low carb-diets are better for diabetes than low-fat. And I agree. BUT…

…that’s not the whole story. You’ve got to understand more about the nature of fats!

A bacon and egg fry-up might trump toast and marmalade in the blood-sugar stakes, and keep you feeling fuller for longer, but it also contains massively more calories. You see, just 1 gram of carb contains 4 calories of energy. 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories of energy too. 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories of energy! That’s  more than twice the calories in fat compared with carbs or protein. And yet, I haven’t seen a single article warning readers of this fact.

Without considering portion sizes it will be so easy to take in huge amounts of calories.

Also, there isn’t enough being said about which fats are healthy and which are harmful. So I thought maybe it’s time to set the record straight here too…

Hydrogenated/trans fats are THE WORST! Artificial laboratory-made to turn an unsaturated oil into a saturated fat by adding hydrogen into the mix. It’s a way to make an oil into a solid, spreadable fat. But it’s also a fat that your body cannot process as nutrition. It’s a fat that is so toxic it will damage your liver, and will linger in your body for a long, long time. Give these fats a miss – never be tempted to use them. Remember, oils that are liquid at room temperature have to have been artificially processed to turn them into a ‘margarine’. Pure olive oil spreads, pure sunflower spreads, pure soya spreads all fall into this category.

butterSaturated fats can be processed by the body – and there’s increasing evidence that they are not harmful. Their reputation is certainly being redeemed right now. BUT, ‘not harmful’ is not exactly the same as ‘healthy’! That said, coconut oil is a saturated fat, and is also getting great press about health benefits too! Butter is once again the thing to spread on your bread – but watch out for those calories – it’s hard to stick to a light smear of butter. It tastes so good it’s too easy to slather on thickly!

Unsaturated fats have long been thought to be healthy. That’s only partly true! Omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are definitely OK – both are associated with good heart health, and, on top of that, omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Olive oil is high in these 2 omegas – that’s why it is still considered to be the healthiest oil! And of course it’s the key ingredient that makes the Mediterranean diet so beneficial!

But omega-6 – oh dear oh dear! Omega-6 is necessary. BUT omega-6 is inflammatory too!

Now, we do all need an inflammatory response – it could be a life-saver. But when we develop too much inflammation then real health problems occur. Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, cardio-vascular disease, stroke, arthritis, fibromyalgia, are all associated with high levels of inflammation. And high levels of omega-6 have now been shown to contribute to these conditions.

Before we used processed foods it’s thought we had a ratio of about 1:1 between omega-6 and omega-3 in our diets. But with processed foods our diets are way higher in inflammatory omega-6 than anti-inflammatory omega-3.  Research findings now suggest we should seriously limit the amount of omega-6 in our diets. Sunflower oil has about 26 times more omega-6 than omega-3 – definitely one to avoid! Rapeseed oil has been hailed for several years as the UK’s healthy equivalent to olive oil. Sorry folks, it’s just not true! Rapeseed has twice as much omega-6 compared with omega-3 and doesn’t begin to be the equivalent of olive oil at all.

The big downfall with olive oil, and other high omega-3 oils, is that they burn and become toxic at high temperatures, so be careful of heating them for roasting/frying. Best stick with butter or coconut oil for high temperature cooking (saturated fats are difficult to burn), and use olive oil for gentle cooking or for use cold.

Any questions? Please just ask!

Scandal of sugar as the norm!

“Being overweight is increasingly seen as the norm, England’s chief medical officer says…Dame Sally blamed the way weight was being portrayed by the media and clothes industry.”  says the BBC this week.

The statistical facts speak for themselves do they not?  Overweight is not simply being seen as the norm: overweight is fast becoming the actual norm!  According to the same BBC report 75% of adults and 33% of children may now be overweight or obese, at a cost of over £5 billion per. year to the NHS.

Just 2 days earlier the BBC reported the scandal of liver disease inaction.   The report declares:

  • Deaths rose by 40% in England between 2001-2012, from 7,841 to 10,948
  • In the past decade there has been a five-fold increase in cirrhosis among people aged 35-55
  • Deaths from liver disease are rising in the UK, but falling in most other European countries.
  • One in five people in the UK is at risk of serious liver damage

One of the biggest contributors to liver disease in the UK is obesity.  Yes – the new “norm” itself is also responsible for a high proportion of liver disease: specifically non-alcoholic fatty liver syndrome.

We increasingly know now that excessive sugar consumption is the root cause.  Dame Sally is right to point to the media as having some culpability here: not by how it portrays weight itself, but by the way it turns a blind eye to the way the food industry promotes sugar-laden foods as healthy!

With all the knowledge out there as a result of recent clinical research:

  • why is the food industry still allowed to advertise sugary, refined carbohydrate-rich foods as the healthy option?
  • why is the food industry still allowed to promote low-fat (aka sugar laden) foods as the healthy option?

It beggars belief that the food industry, the media, and the government are creating the problems of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and now, to add to the list, liver disease, whilst at the same time moaning about a lack of action.  A lack of action by whom I would like to ask?

I don’t agree that people are ignorant of their own status as overweight or obese.  I don’t agree at all!  If people were ignorant they wouldn’t be spending a fortune on the so called “healthy options” that make massive profits for the companies that continue to promote and profit from the very products that are causing the problem in the first place!

What people are ignorant of are the true scandals!  The true scandals are that despite all the evidence:

  • the food industry continues to promote sugary, refined-carbohydrate-rich foods.
  • the food industry still claims low-fat to be the healthy option (e.g. a leading brand of low-fat cream cheese contains 50% more sugar than its own full-fat version).
  • the media is happy to profit from advertising revenues from sugar-laden foods.
  • the government continues to collude with its corporate food friends who provide the most harmful foods.
  • the government will not adopt any policy to damage its relationship with the corporate food giants who continue to poison us with addictive sugar – including a suggested sugar tax.
  • the government blames misinformed people – who do try to adopt a healthy diet but fail because food messages are corrupt – for their own failures to take responsible measures to improve available food choices.
  • that obesity is the norm because the food industry, the media and the government are not behaving responsibly.
  • that liver disease is rising in the UK when it is entirely preventable – as evidenced by the falling incidences in other European countries.


Links between diabetes and liver disease

Research at the University of Edinburgh
has shown that people with diabetes are more likely to develop serious liver disease: death from liver disease is a whopping 70% more likely in those with diabetes.

How can this be?  What are the processes that lead to a build up of fat in the liver? Well, it all boils down to how the body processes sugar, and while this might differ depending upon the type of sugar, excess sugar consumption can readily lead to fatty liver syndrome.

First, let’s define “excess” when talking about sugar consumption.  Glucose is the substance the body needs for fuel – to provide the energy for every one of our bodily processes and functions.  We might get this glucose from sugar or from other carbohydrate foods, but as soon as we take more than we can burn as energy our livers have to get involved to remove the extra glucose from our blood streams, and we can say we have consumed excess sugar indeed carbs.

The liver processes different sugars in different ways.

Glucose which isn’t required to meet our immediate energy needs has to be stored.  First the liver stores this as a substance called glycogen in specialist cells sited around the liver and in our muscles.  Once these specialist cells are full – and they do have a finite capacity – then the liver converts the excess into fat, which it deposits in and around its own tissues.  This is one route to the build up of fat within the liver.

New research shows that fructose metabolism is quite different.  Whilst the body has the capacity to convert any carb into glucose, this new research, led by Professor Robert Lustig, shows that very little of the fructose we eat is actually converted into glucose to meet our energy needs.  The rest is converted directly to fat which finds its way into our liver and into our bloodstream directly.  This is a worry for diabetics – because traditionally fructose is equated with low GI and has been thought to affect blood sugar to a lesser degree.  However, the association with fatty liver syndrome is 2-fold: first it causes disease in the liver itself, and secondly this type of body fay is associated with higher levels of inflammation. Molecules called cytokines are produced by the fat cells and released into the blood stream, carrying the potential for inflammation around the body, and being linked with insulin resistance.  The double whammy for diabetics – i.e. liver disease and further insulin resistance, is therefore more inked with fructose than glucose consumption.  Of course it is fructose that finds its way into many low-fat food products.  The fat may not be present in the food itself, but your body will convert it to fat nonetheless – and the most dangerous kind of body fat!

Ordinary table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose – so both routes to fatty liver syndrome and further liver disease will apply.  The recent bad press for sugar is more than warranted – and it doesn’t impact just on those living with diabetes!