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Dr. Sears' Blog

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on July 11, 2022

From Weight Loss to Plant Based, Dr. Sears is answering your questions. See some of the latest  customer submitted questions and what Dr. Sears has to say in his latest blog. 


Q: What would you say are some of the most common dieting mistakes that make it harder to lose weight?

 A: The biggest mistake is not addressing the underlying cause of weight gain which is increased insulin resistance.  Reducing insulin resistance requires a different dietary strategy than simply reducing calories.  You have to activate the master regulator of metabolism which is AMPK.  To do so cutting back on calories has to be supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols, both of which activate AMPK. The combination of the three dietary strategies is the best long-term way to reduce insulin resistance.

 Q: How do these habits make weight loss difficult or lead to weight gain? 

A: Getting adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids will likely require supplementation.  Getting adequate levels of polyphenols will require consuming far more non-starchy vegetables and fruits than most Americans currently do. Alternatively, one can use polyphenol extracts. 

 Q: What tips can you offer for breaking these habits/creating healthier ones? 

 A: Realize that reducing calories must be followed on a lifetime basis to be successful.  Adding omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols can increase dietary compliance by their activation of AMPK.  This supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols will not only burn fat faster but also reduces insulin resistance which is the underlying cause of weight gain in the first place.

Q:  What are the best metabolism-boosting foods to put on your plate every day? How do these foods help boost your metabolic rate? How can this help aid weight loss?

A: The cause of a slow metabolism is a condition known as insulin resistance. The molecular mechanism of insulin resistance is the inhibition of AMPK, which is the master regulator of metabolism in every cell.

To speed up metabolism, you must activate AMPK. One class of nutrients that activates AMPK are polyphenols. These are found in low concentrations in fruits and vegetables. The more colorful the fruits (like berries) or vegetables (like artichokes) the more polyphenols. Unfortunately, you need to consume about 10 servings of such polyphenol-rich fruits or vegetables per day to get enough to activate AMPK. However, any AMPK-activating properties of polyphenols can be inhibited by consuming excess calories or glucose. So, to speed up your metabolism, you need to consume a calorie-restricted diet low in low in starches (bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes), and rich in fruits and vegetables.

 Q: More and more people are going plant-based for various reasons whether it’s health, animal welfare, trying to reduce the carbon footprint etc. A recent study showed that a diet rich in healthy plant-based foods may lower the risk of breast cancer but not if that diet is high in unhealthy foods, particularly juice and chips. What are your thoughts on plant-based diets and how they may impact cancer risk?

A: A plant-based diet is lower in branched-chain amino acids. Branched chain amino acids can activate the gene transcription factor mTOR which promotes tumor growth, so moderating your intake of branch chain amino acids can help minimize cancer risk. As this study points out, it makes no sense to consume a plant-based diet rich in unhealthy foods. Foods rich in processed carbohydrates are high in glycemic carbohydrates which promote insulin secretion and can activate the IGF-1 pathway that also activates mTOR. Since cancer can be considered an inflammatory disease, you must follow an anti-inflammatory diet to have the maximum effect on reducing cancer development.  Such a diet is calorie-restricted but rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols all of which activate AMPK that inhibits mTOR in addition to optimizing immuno-metabolism to better eliminate cancer cells.

 Q: For vegetarians it’s a bit easier to find non-animal protein sources but for vegans trying to find adequate protein sources that are low-glycemic can be challenging. Which sources do you recommend?

 A: I think the better choices for vegans that are lower glycemic are tofu, tempeh, seitan and for those trying to minimize soy intake, supplementing with a pea protein powder. Also increasing intake of higher protein vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and mushrooms to name a few can aid fewer carbohydrates to your meal in addition to being great sources of fermentable fiber and polyphenols.



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