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February 2022 Newsletter

A Weighty Subject – Part 1

Hello, this is Dr. Ellen. As we enter the second month of 2022, I am very pleased to hear how  well my first newsletter was received. That newsletter gave an overview of the immune system  and ways to optimize its function. If you missed January’s newsletter or would like to see it  again, go to my website, www.drellencutler.com, bring your cursor over ‘Dr. Ellen’s Approach’, and scroll down to and click on ‘Articles’. 

This month’s newsletter will cover some of the many useful ways which I have found can help  people optimize their body weight for better health and wellness. These approaches, in turn,  can help improve the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life. This is such  a large topic that I will be breaking it down into two parts.

Enjoy and please use the information that works for you!

Health Problems with Excess Body Fat

The fatty [adipose] tissues of your body are loose connective tissue made up primarily of fat  cells [aka adipocytes] that store biochemical energy in the form of fats [lipids]. Adipose tissue  acts to cushion different body parts, insulates the body from heat and cold, and has been found  to function as an endocrine gland, secreting hormones such as leptin and estrogen.[1] Women  have a higher ratio of body fat to lean tissue than do men and in general, body fat increases  with age.[2] There are two main categories of adipose tissue. The fatty tissues underneath the  skin are called subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT). Those that line internal organs in the  abdomen are called visceral adipose tissue (VAT).[1]

Increases in body fat can lead to an enormously wide range of maladies. Some of the many  problems that may arise or predisposed to include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart  disease, stroke, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, certain types  of cancer, kidney disease, and increased health risks during pregnancy.[3] Enlarged fat cells can  activate ongoing inflammation as well as the release of a range of factors that predispose an  increase in insulin resistance and subsequently type 2 diabetes.[4]

As VAT accumulates it can result in an increase in metabolic disturbances and even mortality.  Paradoxically, modest increase of SAT can actually decrease insulin sensitivity and risk of type 2  diabetes. Unfortunately, obesity, ageing, poor nutrition, low physical activity, and other factors  can decrease SAT’s resistance to dysfunctional changes and can then actually contribute to  metabolic dysfunctions.[1] Although both abdominal VAT and SAT are linked to increasing risk of  cardiac and metabolic problems, VAT definitely seems to be the greater risk factor.[5]

Health Solutions for Excess Body Fat

The focus of many health care professionals wanting to help individuals achieve fat loss and an  ideal body weight is on diet. This is an extremely important part of any healthy weight loss  program, but certainly not the only piece of the puzzle. In Part 1, I want to first address dietary  approaches with an emphasis on healthy weight loss and then discuss the main  supplementation I have found to be the most helpful in assisting this, namely, digestive enzymes. In Part 2, I will be discussing additional pieces of the puzzle I have used and found of  additional and many times crucial benefit – exercise, intermittent fasting, thyroid health, and an  often-overlooked but very helpful piece for successful weight loss and its maintenance, mindful eating. I will conclude Part 2 with an overview of supplementation that might be helpful in addition to digestive enzymes

Diets for Weight Loss

It seems that I hear about new diets and dietary claims for weight loss being made on an almost  regular basis. Many are based on the experience of only a limited number of individuals who  had successfully lost weight while on the diet. Many such diets claim they are ‘based on  scientific studies.’ However, the studies used to support the claims are often based on  laboratory findings or animal studies, without actual well-designed human trials to back them  up. Importantly, I would like to quickly point out that I am not an advocate of what might be  called ‘fad diets.’ Most so-called ‘diets,’ as opposed to dietary approaches, have not been found  to help achieve healthy, long-term weight loss. Because of this, I will not be discussing fad diets. 

I have always tried to individualize dietary recommendations for each person’s desired goals  and needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the optimal diet for each person. Many  focus on losing weight for the purpose of feeling and looking better. Feeling better about  yourself and how you look should include having increased vitality and functionality as well as  the sense of ‘true beauty’ radiating from within. Any dietary approach you choose to follow  should contribute to these goals and certainly not decrease them. I will address this further in  Part 2.

Whenever considering a dietary strategy for someone interested in weight loss, I always look at  the overall health benefits of that particular approach. For many years, the low-fat diet was  considered to be the best way to lose weight, with less regard sometimes given to the quality of  the rest of the diet. The low-fat diet has been questioned repeatedly, first by Atkins and  subsequently by others. One review (meta-analysis) of randomized, controlled trials[6] compared low carbohydrate diets with low fat diets. This review found that each diet resulted  in significant weight loss, but the low carbohydrate diet was associated with modest but  significantly greater weight loss. Another review of randomized, controlled trials of at least one  year duration was published the following year.[7] It found that low-fat dietary protocols did not  lead to greater weight loss when compared with higher fat dietary protocols of similar intensity.  However, in studies specifically evaluating weight loss, high fat, low carbohydrate diets  achieved modest but significantly greater long-term weight loss than low-fat interventions.  

Perhaps the three best studied dietary approaches for weight loss are the two mentioned  above, low carbohydrate and low fat, and the Mediterranean diets. A 2-year dietary  intervention study[8] found that the Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate diets were effective  for weight loss and just as safe as the low-fat diet. There was similar limited caloric intake in all  diet groups, even the low-carbohydrate, non–restricted-calorie diet; this may be advantageous  for those not wanting to be on a restricted-calorie diet. There was improvement in some of the  biomarkers monitored up to the 24-month point, despite the achievement of maximum weight  loss by 6 months. Thus, the diets and/or the weight that had been lost continued to have health  benefits.

I want to point out that the diets in the study above did emphasize eating ‘healthy’ foods.[8] For  example, those in the low-fat group were encouraged to eat low-fat grains, vegetables, fruits,  and legumes and to limit their consumption of additional fats, sweets, and high-fat snacks. And  importantly, those in the low-fat group were encouraged to eat vegetarian sources of fat and  protein and to avoid trans-fats. This means that the low carbohydrate group was directed to eat  a vegetarian diet. 

Another dietary approach to weight loss that has gained some popularity of late is the ‘Plant  Paradox Diet,’ which recommends a lectin-free diet. Lectins are found in all plants, especially in raw legumes and whole grains. Lectins have been called ‘anti-nutrients’ that may interfere with  the absorption of minerals and other nutrients. There is limited research in humans  documenting the deleterious effects of lectins on long-term overall health. In fact, some lectins  may even provide health benefits.[9]

On the other hand, the scientific literature has well documented the many benefits of eating  whole plant foods.[10] For example, most large studies of lectin-containing foods such  as legumes and whole grains found lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and  weight loss associated with them. Because of this, many in the field of nutrition believe the health benefits of eating foods with lectins far outweigh the potential harm of the lectins in  these foods.[9]

I have had a patient report to me that she lost weight because of a lectin-free diet and read  anecdotes of others having successful weight loss by going on a lectin-free diet. For those  concerned about the presence of lectins in their food, one could limit or eliminate the legumes,  whole grains, nuts, ‘nightshades’ (such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), and  other lectin-containing foods. Alternatively, they can prepare their foods in such a way as to  destroy the lectins (such as boiling beans and grains). My main concern with such a dietary  approach is the avoidance of many healthy plant-based whole foods. 

Perhaps the one dietary approach most researched and supported by that research for positive  health benefits including weight loss is a vegetarian diet. More specifically, the benefits of a  whole food, plant-based diet, aka a vegan diet, have been well-researched and received  increasing interest by the medical community. There are a growing number of medical doctors  who have become ardent advocates for this, including Dean Ornish, Colin Campbell, Michael  Greger, and Joel Fuhrman.[11] For me, this should be the foundation from which a healthy  dietary approach for weight loss is created, even if it is low-fat or low-carbohydrate.

My Dietary Recommendations for Weight Loss

This brings me to my fundamental recommendations for a healthy diet that can help shed  excess pounds. The “Dr. Ellen dietary plan” is first based on meals composed of ‘whole food,  plant-based’ ingredients. Ideally, this means plant (or mushroom) foods with as little as possible  processing. Typically, each step of processing a food changes and often decreases its nutritional  content. 

Generally, a transition from an omnivorous to a plant-based diet is associated with weight loss.  In multiple studies, there was a significantly greater weight loss in those eating a plant-based  diet vs. those eating an omnivorous one.[12]In a study of over 60,000 participants,  measurements of body mass index (BMI) found significant difference between vegans and  nonvegetarians, suggesting the ability of vegetarianism to protect against obesity as well as protection against the risk of type 2 diabetes (Pescatarian and semi-vegetarian diets seemed to  provide intermediate protection).[13] Also, in another study, over a five year period in those who had not changed their diet, the largest weight gain was seen in those eating an omnivorous  diet, and the smallest weight gain was seen in those eating a vegan diet. Of note, the vegans  were also found to have the highest intake of carbohydrates and lowest intake of protein,  opposite the intakes found in the omnivores. These findings do not support the idea that a low  carbohydrate diet is needed to lose weight.[14]

I do not see the need for animal products in general and specifically recommend against animal  proteins and fats. However, if a person feels the need to eat animal protein, animal products  should ideally be limited to once per week. But again, eating no animal products is always  preferable.

Of almost equal importance is ‘No SOS’, that is, little to no added sugars, oils, or salt. This  means no added salt and consuming little to no sugars or oils. Sugars and oils have been  extracted from the plants themselves. When they are contained within the plant source, they  are accompanied by the full array of other nutrients, including fiber. These can then be  considered whole food, plant-based ingredients. 

My own diet is whole food and plant-based, and I am more specifically a predominantly raw  vegan, which I have been for more than half my life. It has helped me retain my healthy body  weight and my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Modern technology has made  available more choices for a raw vegan, including low temperature dehydration to create raw  veggie chips and ‘crackers,’ and freezing and freeze-drying to retain all the nutrients in berries  and other fruits and vegetables year-round.

I have found that raw veganism has helped me (and others) attain and maintain a vital and  healthy weight. Likely a major reason I feel great on a raw vegan diet is that the naturally  occurring enzymes in raw foods are left intact and not denatured by the heating process.  Research has also shown that a raw vegan diet can improve heart health, reduce the risk of  diabetes, and improve digestion. However, it is important for all vegans in general to  supplement with vitamin B12 and likely vitamin D, which I usually prefer in its D3 form (which is  not plant-derived). Studies have also reported that raw vegans may be low in certain minerals, such as iron, calcium, and zinc.[15,16] These may need to be addressed as well.

Digestive Enzymes

In working with patients, I have discovered a consistent fact. No matter what the dietary  approach, most people have found that their weight loss was more successful and that they felt  better when taking a full spectrum of digestive enzymes before each meal. Initially, many  sometimes forget to take their enzyme supplements before eating, but as time goes by it  becomes easier to remember because of the anticipated benefits of taking them. 

There are three main categories of digestive enzymes:

  • Carbohydrate digesting enzymes such as amylase (breaks down starches), lactase  (breaks down lactose in dairy products), and invertase (breaks down table sugar)
  • Protein digesting enzymes such as protease (breaks down proteins) and peptidase  (breaks down shorter parts of proteins) 
  • Fat digesting enzymes called lipase 

I have seen digestive enzymes be an integral part of accomplishing successful and maintained  weight loss. There is little doubt that digestive enzymes can help improve digestion and overall  gut health.[17] A well-balanced blend of digestive enzymes can help you lose and maintain  healthy weight loss by improving nutrient absorption and removing waste products, enhancing detoxifying mechanisms of the body, increasing fat burning, and supporting a healthy microbiome and decreasing Inflammation.[18]

Another very important benefit of including digestive enzymes in a comprehensive weight loss  program is decreasing the likelihood of developing food sensitivities which, in turn, can adversely affect your gut microbiome and immune system.[19] Food sensitivities, in turn, can lead to changes in appetite and weight gain. This is a detailed subject which I will go into more  deeply in a future newsletter. For now, feel free to look at my chapter discussing how to “Reduce Cravings and Lose Weight” in my book, “Micro Miracles”.[20]

As I mentioned above, my next newsletter will be Part 2 on the topic of weight loss. I want to  address the other interventions for weight loss including exercise, intermittent fasting, thyroid health, additional types of supplementation, and mindful eating. 

Before ending this newsletter, I want to let everyone know about Dr. Cowan’s Garden. I have been using their products and recommended them to others. I use several of their organic,  nutrient-dense vegetable powders. They also offer other products including a 100% grass fed ghee, about which I have received only positive feedback. Just click on the link  https://lddy.no/13nzs to view their products. When you purchase product, enter:  DRCOWANSGARDEN at checkout and receive 15% off your entire order.

By the way, in the near future, I am going to resume teaching ECM to healthcare practitioners.  If you are a healthcare practitioner or know of one interested in my work, please contact  Cynthia at cynthia@drellencutler.com.

Be well, be healthy, and remember…

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop.”
– Confucius

Dr. Ellen


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