Diet And POOR Health -connecting the dots

Pyramids, Leptin, Ghrelin, Insulin, Obesity, Inflammation Syndrome, Cancer, GERD, Adenoidal facies, Sleep, Fasting & Alzheimer’s …. by André Hugo

In the paragraphs below I will discuss these seemly disparate concepts and relate how they are interconnected by poor diet choices and jointly orchestrate some of the most severe health risks prevalent in the world today.

Food Pyramids

Between 1943 & 1952 Stanford, Harvard & Cornell Medical Schools independently published their diets for obese people, recommending that carbohydrates should be avoided but not limiting amounts of meat, fish, birds, all green vegetables, eggs and fruit (excluding grapes & bananas) – These guidelines are now generally accepted except, with the caveat that fruit should be restricted, because of the high fructose (sugar) levels in fruit (1,3,5)

In spite of these recommendations the USDA adopted the Food pyramid in 1997 (1) which promoted as the healthy way to eat, a diet with largest lower 1/3 of the food pyramid being carbohydrates, the middle third fruit and vegetables and the smallest, upper 1/3 proteins & fats

Most of the medical world bought into this fallacy, resulting in ever increasing levels of obesity, heart disease and cancer (1,3,5)


Leptin is a 16 kDa protein hormone produced by white adipose tissue as well as the cells lining the wall of the stomach, that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, including appetite and metabolism.

When leptin is working correctly, it’s very effective at telling us we are “full” after a meal.

The ObLep gene (Ob for obese, Lep for leptin) is located on chromosome 7 in humans

Protein and to a lesser extent fat, trigger the satiety hormone leptin. So protein and fat are appetite-suppressants, whereas carbohydrates do not trigger this signal

Even though leptin is a signal that decreases appetite, in most cases, obese people have an abnormally high concentration of leptin and their cells develop leptin resistance, making obese people resistant to the effects of their food intake (3,9)


Ghrelin is a 28 amino acid hunger-stimulating peptide and hormone that is produced mainly by P/PD1 cells lining the fundus of the human stomach and epsilon cells of the pancreas.

Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after meals so Ghrelin tells us we are hungry or low on energy. Stress and lack of sleep can alter ghrelin levels and unfavorably increase our sense of hunger.

Animal models indicate that Ghrelin may enter the hippocampus from the bloodstream, altering nerve-cell connections, and so enhancing learning. So learning may be best during the day and when the stomach is empty, since Ghrelin levels are higher at these times.

Protein and to a lesser extent fat suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin. So protein and fat are appetite-suppressants, whereas carbohydrates are not. The combined actions of Leptin and Ghrelin make it difficult to overeat protein and fat and easy to overeat carbohydrates.


Insulin is a peptide hormone (51 amino acids molecular weight 5808Da) produced by the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, which is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen inside these tissues.

Insulin blocks the use of fat as an energy source by inhibiting the release of glucagon.

Carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, sugars and fruits are the main cause of high insulin levels. The more refined and sweeter they are the more insulin is secreted (1- 4)

Even before you eat - especially carbohydrates - blood insulin level is raised in anticipation (1)

Insulin removes blood sugar (glucose) from the blood partly by trapping glucose in fat cells

High blood glucose is toxic to all organs, not least the brain.

Hormone dependant lipase (HPL) can extract glucose out of the fat cells for energy, but only in the presence of low insulin levels in the blood


A hormone, LPL (Lipoprotein lipase) works to make us (and our fat cells) fatter, whereas Hormone sensitive lipase HSL works to make us (and our fat cells) thinner

Insulin switches on LPL and switches off HSL and also works to create new fat cells

When you exercise LPL (lipoprotein lipase) decreases on our fat cells and increases on our muscle cells. This releases fat from our fat cells so we can burn it in our muscle cells. Unfortunately this reverses when we stop exercising and LPL activity on the fat cells shoots up to restock whatever fat they lost during the workout

After exercise we get hungry because the muscles crave protein after exercise to restock glycogen, fat and protein for rebuilding (1)

Exercise is very good for you for many reasons but not for weight loss

High insulin levels increase the LPL activity on the fat cells especially those around the abdomen, so pre-diabetes, diabetes type 2 and insulin resistance make you fat

Fat accumulated around the intestines (omental fat) acts as an endocrine organ producing hormones called adipokines. This contributes to metabolic disorder by leading to a chronic sub-inflammatory state that could play a central role in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (5)

Metabolic disorder exists when an obese person has type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and high blood pressure. When your metabolic disorder is cured, you will feel more energetic and you will be much more inclined to have some exercise

Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels and is generally limited in adults to areas like wound healing and rebuilding the endometrium before during and after menstruation. For fat cells and cancer cells to grow larger new blood vessels are formed and prolific angiogenesis is a feature of an aggressive cancer or rapid omental fat cell growth in obesity. Anti-angiogenic drugs are available but certain foods like cooked tomato (lycoprene), strawberries, cherries, herbal teas, olive oil, dark chocolate and many others are as effective in inhibiting angiogenesis.

Inflammation Syndrome

Many people with weight problems have got food intolerances so it’s safer to eliminate the major causes of food intolerances/allergies - these are grains, dairy and legumes. Nuts can also be a problem but most people with nut allergies know about them (3,5)

There is growing evidence that a diet high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids is largely to blame for a shift in the ratio between Th1 and Th2 immune cells and causes increased production of IgE and certain cytokines, predisposing people to allergies (5)

Inflammation from food allergies/intolerances is thought to play an important role in atherosclerosis, arthritis, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome as in Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis) and a host of other health problems (5)

Leaky gut syndrome: Can be caused by food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, stress, stomach flu, antibiotics, and just about anything that irritates the gut lining. Leaky gut refers to an abnormal permeability of the stomach and intestinal wall, allowing incompletely digested proteins to enter the blood stream. These proteins trigger an immune response and increase the likelihood of additional food allergies (5)


There is a strong association between obesity, inflammatory disease, gerd and cancer.

The term Metabolic syndrome describes the association between obesity, insulin resistance, and the risk of several prominent chronic diseases, including cancer.

Obesity has been linked to cancer of the kidney, liver, prostate, esophagus, colon, uterus and breast (11)

In a Harvard School of Public Health study on 79, 000 men it was shown that men who consume 2-3 servings of cooked tomatoes per week, have a reduced risk for developing prostate cancer by 40-50%. This is due to the anti-angiogenic properties referred to in 5 above.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic symptom of mucosal damage caused by stomach acid coming up from the stomach into the esophagus.

GERD is usually caused by abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, impaired expulsion of gastric reflux from the esophagus, or a hiatal hernia.

Another type of reflux, which causes respiratory and laryngeal signs and symptoms, is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) or extraesophageal reflux disease (EERD). Unlike GERD, LPR is unlikely to produce heartburn, and is sometimes called silent reflux.

In addition to the discomfort of heartburn and regurgitation numerous other symptoms are caused by acid reflux including necrosis of the esophageal epithelium, strictures of the esophagus, intestinal metaplasia,esophageal adenocarcinoma, chronic cough, laryngitis, asthma, erosion of dental enamel, dentine hypersensitivity, sinusitis, pharyngitis, globus pharingeus and globus hystericus (feeling of choking/ foreign object in throat), recurrent ear infections and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (from inhaled acid).

Obesity and inflammatory foods are causes of gerd, thus connecting this dot to the association.

Adenoid facies

This is an archaic term used to describe patients who exhibit a long, narrow face, short upper lip, open-mouth breathing, and a hyperactive swallowing pattern associated with adenoid hypertrophy. Hypertrophy of the nasopharyngeal pad of lymphoid tissues is the most common cause of nasal obstruction in children. The mouth is always open because upper airway congestion has made patients obligatory mouth breathers. Persistent mouth breathing due to nasal obstruction in childhood may be associated with the development of craniofacial anomalies such as the adenoid facies (also called the “long face syndrome”). The most common presenting symptoms are chronic mouth breathing and snoring” The most dangerous symptom is sleep apnea.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease has been implicated in inducing both adenoid and sinus infection, which explains this link in the chain (13).


Nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux (nGER) has received increasing interest as a predisposing factor for respiratory diseases and sleep disturbances. The possible role of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) contributing to nGER is of special interest (14)

Keeping a normal sleep cycle is extremely important. A pitch-dark room is recommended so that your body can form melatonin, which enables sleep (4). You should have a naturally higher cortizol level in the morning, to get you up and hyped for the day (aided by caffeine). Cortizol naturally drops to medium levels by mid-day, dropping to low levels at night. Stress, insulin and keeping irregular hours disrupts your sleep and spike belly-fat creating cortizol (9)

Just one night of missed or inadequate sleep is sufficient to make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic. Sleeping more might cut into your social life, but so will cancer, diabetes and dementia (3)


  • FASTING inhibits Insulin-Like Growth Factor IGF-1, which causes obesity, senility, aging & cancer

  • Fasting stimulates phagocytosis, which speeds up repair & reduces inflammation (arthritis)

  • Fasting promotes BDNF (Brain derived Neurotropic Factor), which promotes the conversion of Stem cells to Nerve Cells in the Brain Stem & Hippocampus (improved learning @ memory)

  • BDNF is also a feel good hormone, which is an anti-depressant

  • Fasting + Exercise results in improved muscle protein synthesis & better anabolic response to post exercise feeding. Also results in a greater % of fat being burned instead of recently consumed carbohydrates.

  • Fasting triggers hormesis - when the body is exposed to the right level of trauma or toxins it responds at a cellular level by repair & strengthening by activating a stress response & switching on genes that protect & repair

  • Fasting before chemotherapy slows down the metabolism of normal cells but not cancer cells so fasting increases the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs against a variety of cancers

Alzheimers disease (AD)

Insulin resistance and its role in inflammation, and impaired insulin function in the brain are now understood to be underlying pieces of the Alzheimer’s puzzle (10).

If the uptake of glucose into brain cells is diminished, energy metabolism is hindered with significant consequences to the brains capacity to generate the connections vital to memory and learning and this eventually progresses to cognitive impairment or dementia.

In AD, insoluble amyloid plaque formation is preceded by the production of Amyloid-Beta Derived Diffusible Ligands (ADDLs), which are thought to be the primary mediators of the neurodegeneration in AD.

ADDLs prevent insulin receptors from accumulating at the synapse making them unable to respond to insulin and thus insulin resistant. This loss of insulin function in AD, is described by several researchers as brain specific “type 3 diabetes” (1,10)

So any diet which results in a chronically high insulin blood level, will predispose one to Alzheimer’s disease.


  1. Why we get Fat and What to do about it: Gary Taubes

  2. Changing Beliefs: Tim Noakes

  3. The Paleo Solution: Robb Wolf

  4. The 4-Hour Body: Tim Ferris

  5. The Inflammation Syndrome: Jack Challem

  6. The 4-Hour Body Review: Eric Parker

  7. Anti-thyroid isoflavones from soybean: isolation, characterization, and mechanisms of action, Divi RL; Chang HC; Doerge DR, National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, AR 72079, USA, Biochem Pharmacol, 1997 Nov, 54:10, 1087-96)

  8. The Battle of the Weight Loss Diets. Presented on YouTube by C Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center

  9. Master your Metabolism: Jillian Michaels with Mariska van Aalst

  10. Insulin, Brain Function and Alzheimer’s disease: Is Insulin Resistance To Blame for Alzheimer’s: Ralph Sanchez,

  11. Metabolic syndrome, hyperinsulinaemia, and cancer: Am J Clin Nutr, 2007 Sep;86(3):s867-71: Hsu IR, Kim SP, Kabir M,Bergman RN

  12. Prevalence of Upper Respiratory Symptoms in Patients with Symptomatic Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease:; Theodoropoulos DS et al

  13. ENT manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux in children – Caruso G, Passali FM: Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2006 October; 26(5): 252-255

  14. Nocturnal gerd, lung function and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea: Results from an epidemiological survey - EmilssonOI et al; Respir Med. 2012 Mar;106(3):459-66. Epub 2011 Dec 23.

  15. Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumours and Sensitize a Range of Cancer Cell Types to Chemotherapy. Science Translational Medicine, Feb 2012 – Lee C; Longo V et al. Univ. of Southern California

  16. Ted talk:

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