Monday, March 19, 2012

Avoiding Dairy, Losing Fat

Have you even been going along on your normal diet and suddenly started gaining weight? You're not alone: I was again in that position last week. I was getting a wheat belly without the wheat.

During my recent illness, I put on a few pounds, but didn't worry about it. Last week, though, I started gaining a pound a day. This was not good. I didn't want to think about what shape I'd be in after a year's time. But it was funny that conventional wisdom first came to mind: eat less, work out more.

No: after two years' blogging and research on low carb diets, I'm convinced of their healthfulness and effectiveness. Working out is great for fitness and well being, but unless you're a serious amateur or professional athlete or dancer (and maybe even if you are), it's not much use for losing fat.

My carb intake was under control. But carbohydrate isn't the only thing that spikes insulin: dairy does, too. Paleo researcher Dr. Loren Cordain writes in The Paleo Answer(1)

Shortly after the glycemic index was developed in the early 1980s, it was discovered that milk, yogurt, and most dairy foods had low glycemic responses. Presumably, these foods should be healthy and should help prevent the metabolic syndrome. About five to ten years ago, however, experiments from our laboratory and others unexpectedly revealed that low-glycemic dairy foods paradoxically caused huge rises in blood insulin levels. The table below(2) shows that despite their low glycemic indices, dairy foods maintain high insulin responses similar to white bread. 
This information posed a challenge to nutritional scientists. It was unclear whether milk's insulin-stimulating effect but low glycemic response was healthful or harmful. To date, only one human study conducted by Dr. Hoppe in 2005(3) has addressed this question; it put 24 eight-year-old boys on either a high-milk or a high-meat diet for seven days. The high-milk diet worsened the boys' insulin response almost 100%, and the entire group became insulin resistant in only a week's time. In contrast, the high-meat eating group's insulin levels did not change, and the boys' overall insulin metabolism remained healthy.

Really, the low-glycemic, high-insulin response to milk makes sense: the purpose of milk is to help make a baby grow. High blood sugar isn't good for that purpose, but insulin is. As most readers here may know, insulin is a growth hormone; it also lowers blood sugar and shuttles nutrients to cells. Cells can become insulin resistant; the muscle cells tend to do so before the fat cells. When that happens, nutrients are sent to the fat cells. In the presence of too much insulin (hyperinsulemia), fat isn't released from the fat cells. And if the insulin knocks your blood sugar too far, you get hungry. In plain English, you get fat, hungry and tired. (There are other more serious effects of hyperinsulemia that are beyond the scope of this post. All the more reason to get my problem under control.)

As a lover of cream, custard, cheese, low-carb ice cream and sour cream (aka heaven in a carton), I despaired as I read Cordain's chapter on dairy. (He was just getting warmed up with the two paragraphs quoted above.) Nevertheless, I cut way back on the dairy. No more cream or half-and-half in my coffee, no more low-carb ice cream, no more cheese sauce on my vegetables. Just a pat of butter on them, and a slice of cheese on my hamburger; non-dairy hot chocolate for dessert, and almond milk in my coffee or on its own. I gave the custard to my mom. She has to take insulin, so it shouldn't affect her much.

Results: I'm down three pounds since Friday. And for the first time since I started my low-carb diet two years ago, I ate only one meal a day (with some snacks) over the weekend. It was all I was hungry for. (Remember the part about dairy spiking insulin, which can knock down your blood sugar, which can cause hunger?) I had two meals today, with a snack, and I'm stuffed to the gills. I did drench my salad with ranch dressing today--and had a midafternoon slump a few hours later.

Cutting back on dairy has been easier than I thought. Besides the coconut milk hot chocolate, I've made healthy chocolate cookies (think almond flour and stevia) and gone back to tea in place of coffee at work. Others may not be willing to give up one food or another; I'm not willing to go through life fat and sick. And as I've said before: yogurt? You might as well eat chocolate pudding.

1. The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. 2012.
2. "Glycemia and insulinemia in healthy subjects after lactose-equivalent meals of milk and other food proteins: the role of plasma amino acids and incretins" by Mikael Nilsson, Marianne Stenberg, Anders H Frid, Jens J Holst and Inger ME Björck, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2004.
3. "High intakes of milk, but not meat, increase s-insulin and insulin resistance in 8-year-old boys," European Journal of Clinical Nutrition by C Hoppe, C Mølgaard, A Vaag, V Barkholt, and KF Michaelsen(2005) 59, 393–398. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602086.


Donald Kjellberg said...

I may have to get his book. Did you purchase the package deal with 3 research papers? If you did, were they very enlightening? Really considering getting his book.

Breaking my dairy habit will be hard since I use raw, grass fed cream in my coffee and make kefir smoothies from Organic Pastures milk. I do notice a feeling of spiked glucose/insulin after drinking them. Now, I cannot attribute it to the blueberries alone. We are eliminating dairy for a week for my son. I will be interesting to find out how it affects both of us.

Have you tried bullet proof coffee, or Kruse's recipe yet?

Link to Bullet proof coffee:

Dr. Kruse's is in his cookbook.

Lori Miller said...

I got the Kindle version of the book, which doesn't have the research papers. While I don't agree with everything in the book (eg, Cordain says there's no need for supplements other than vitamin D), it's chock full of nutrient / antinutrient / toxin information I haven't seen elsewhere, even though this is up my alley. For anyone who has an autoimmune disorder or thinks they might have a food-related condition, it's indispensible.

I'd been using full-fat but pasteurized dairy; getting the raw stuff in Colorado is legal but complicated. I appreciate the link to the bulletproof coffee recipe, but I've become so sensitive to dairy (think one teaspoon of half-and-half or two tiny chocolate candies causing congestion), I don't think I could tolerate 1/3 stick of butter at one go.

I hope the dairy-free diet works out for you and your family.