Life Extension Magazine February 2013
As We See It
Preparing Your Body To Eat
By William Faloon
As the New Year commences, millions of Americans resolve to lose weight.
This desire extends beyond cosmetic appearance as the public learns that surplus body fat markedly shortens longevity.
What’s missing is a before-meal strategy that enables people to eat sensibly without every excess calorie converting to storage fat.
In 2012, a study was published showing that people consuming 350 mg of green coffee bean extract before meals lost an average of 17.6 pounds while reducing body fat.1
What few comprehend is that the glucose-lowering effect of green coffee bean extract not only facilitates weight loss, but may lower vascular risks as well.
By way of example, another 2012 study found that heart attack risk increased 69% in a risk group who had only modestly elevated after-meal blood glucose levels.2
No one disputes that diabetics suffer higher incidences of virtually every disease. What researchers are confirming is that even non-diabetics with high normal glucose face shortened life spans.3
The encouraging news is that the obesity-inducing impact of after-meal glucose surges can be mitigated if one commits to “preparing their body to eat” before each meal.
In 1950, Americans spent an average 30% of their income on food.4
Food cost outlays have since dropped to 10% as more efficient ways of growing and processing foods have evolved.5 This makes excess calorie consumption affordable to most everyone in modern societies.
A consequence of food becoming so cheap is that people eat too much, causing obesity rates to explode.
One can easily draw a correlation to the reduction in food costs as a percentage of average income and the increased amounts of body fat people carry. There is more to the story, however.
Tobacco use has plummeted from over 45% in the 1950s to around 19% today.6,7 People who smoke cigarettes weigh less because they usually consume fewer calories. Nicotine also boosts metabolic rate which facilitates burning of body fat.
For decades, nicotine was the drug of choice for large segments of society. Nicotine was smoked throughout the day to induce pleasurable effects in the brain. As smoking rates declined, consumption of high-glycemic calories has become a drug substitute, as people turn to “feel good” food to replace the brain chemical alteration that previous generations derived from nicotine (tobacco).
Obesity-related disease has now overcome the epidemic ill effects caused by cigarette smoking. Just think, while 19% of the population still smokes, almost 70% are now overweight or obese, placing them at sharply higher risks of degenerative disease.8
Unless aggressive interventions are instituted, a public health disaster of unprecedented magnitude is upon us.
Consequences of After-Meal Glucose Surges
Glucose levels rise in your blood after a meal and if you are healthy, glucose will quickly drop back to pre-meal ranges. If glucose rises too much and stays elevated too long, however, a tremendous amount of tissue damage is inflicted.9-11
Diabetics have sharply higher rates of cardiovascular disease compared to non-diabetics.12,13 Yet, even in many not considered diabetic, cardiovascular death rates are 40% higher when fasting glucose levels are above 85 mg/dL.3
The Honolulu Heart Program found that the risk of coronary artery disease correlated with glucose levels measured one hour after a 50-gr oral glucose load. The incidence of fatal coronary artery disease was twice as high in patients with after-meal glucose levels between 157-189 mg/dL compared to those under 114 mg/dL.14
The Whitehall Study of British male civil servants showed that blood glucose levels of 96 mg/dL or higher two hours after a meal were associated with a two-fold increase in mortality from coronary artery disease.15
The Oslo Study indicated that risk of fatal stroke in diabetic patients increased by 13% for each 18 mg/dL elevation in after-meal glucose.16 This is corroborated by a 2012 study showing a 69% increase in heart attack risk in a risk group based on after-meal glucose levels that were only 18 mg/dL above healthy ranges.2
In an interesting study where after-meal glucose spikes were impeded, heart attacks rates dropped an astounding 91%.17 Even when someone suffers a heart attack, the amount of damage to the heart muscle is significantly reduced when steps are taken ahead of time to reduce post-meal glucose surges.18-19
The consistent finding from the scientific literature is that people with higher glucose levels suffer sharply higher vascular disease rates.
Critical Need to Impede Calorie Absorption
Doctors are so used to seeing elevated blood sugar that they seldom comment when fasting glucose levels approach or modestly exceed 100 mg/dL. Not only do these slightly higher blood glucose levels increase disease risk, but they contribute to excess storage of body fat.20
There is a tiny percentage of the population that practices rigid calorie restriction. These individuals maintain fasting glucose under 86 mg/dL and meticulously guard against after-meal meal glucose surges. Their reward for eating around 1,500-1,800 calories a day is reductions in almost every disease risk and a probable reversal of certain aging processes. Calorie restriction favorably restores gene expression that promotes youthful cellular function.21
Life Extension® has advocated moderate to intense calorie restriction since its inception in 1980. We are well aware, however, that even dedicated health conscious individuals cannot consistently under eat.
So to achieve some of the benefits of calorie restriction without suffering chronic hunger, most aging people should “prepare their body to eat” by ingesting compounds before meals that impede sugar absorption and reduce the creation of surplus glucose in their liver from other foods.
Your Liver Converts Protein Into Glucose
Animal and human studies show that those who chronically under eat have markedly lower blood glucose and insulin levels.22,23 Excess insulin contributes to the same degenerative diseases as do high glucose. High insulin also causes excess storage of cellular fat that precludes successful long term weight loss.
People who consistently overeat often have chronically elevated blood glucose, which results in the pancreas secreting a continuous flow of insulin.24-26
Even when one reduces consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates (sugars and starches), the liver continues to synthesize glucose from the protein-based foods one eats.27,28 The pancreas of course steps up insulin production to reduce this liver-generated glucose.
The vast majority of aging people thus suffer chronically elevated glucose and insulin blood levels. The tragic result can be seen in today’s soaring epidemic of obesity.
The take home lesson is that to achieve health benefits associated with low glucose-insulin blood levels; one must reduce after-meal surges of glucose into the bloodstream AND suppress the synthesis of glucose by the liver (gluconeogenesis).
Fortunately, a variety of nutrients and/or drugs (when taken before meals) can both impede glucose absorption and slash the amount of glucose synthesized in the liver. A further benefit to these nutrients (and/or drugs) is improvement in muscle cell insulin sensitivity, thus further reducing blood glucose/insulin levels.
Confirmation of Sugar’s Lethal Danger
A headline 2012 news story reported that if a person drinks just one 12-ounce sugar sweetened beverage a day, their risk of having a heart attack increases by 20%.29
This finding should not surprise Life Extension® members who have already learned that post-meal spikes in blood glucose increases risk of virtually every age-related disorder.
For example, a study we previously reported on showed that an increase of 63 mg/dL in after-meal glucose increases risk of a heart attack by two-fold or 200%.30
This consistent stream of published data is telling us to avoid any kind of sweetened beverage. This includes naturally sweetened drinks like orange juice that provide little in the way of beneficial polyphenols (like those found in pomegranate juice), but do cause glucose blood levels to spike.
What to Do If You Can’t Resist Sweets
Diets comprising of starches and simple sugars cause the majority of the population to suffer dangerously high glucose-insulin levels.24
As we age, even carbohydrate restriction does not always get us to optimal fasting glucose levels (under 86 mg/dL) because we tend to convert other foods into sugar (via gluconeogenesis).
For the past four years, I have made it a strict habit to take several glucose regulating agents before virtually every meal. The result is that a recent fasting glucose test came in at 81 mg/dL and I’ve shed considerable abdominal fat.
I cannot emphasize enough, based on the totality of the scientific evidence, the critical need to protect your bloodstream before meals against deadly glucose surges.
Drugs That Safely Lower Blood Glucose
For those who prefer to have their doctors prescribe them medications, there are two with proven blood glucose lowering effects.
The first is the glucosidase-inhibiting drug called acarbose. Glucosidase is one of the digestive enzymes that convert ingested sugars into glucose.17,31,32 Taking 25-100 mg of acarbose immediately before one eats will reduce the post-meal glucose surge. Some people complain about intestinal upset with acarbose. It should also be used with caution in those who are hypoglycemic, but otherwise is safe.
The second prescription drug to lower glucose is metformin. By inhibiting gluconeogenesis in the liver, metformin lowers blood glucose-insulin levels.33-37 Metformin also functions by other beneficial mechanisms.38-41 For three decades, Life Extension® provided evidence that metformin is a broad-spectrum anti-aging drug, yet most doctors are ignorant of its multiple benefits and often refuse to prescribe it to non-diabetics.
Metformin can be safely used by virtually everyone as long as they don’t have significant impairment of heart, kidney, or liver function and are not hypoglycemic.
Metformin and acarbose are sold as low-cost generic drugs, but many consumers are wary of prescription drugs and choose natural approaches instead. Fortunately, there are affordable nutrients that function in analogous ways to acarbose and metformin.
Natural Glucose Lowering Agents
Human clinical trials show markedly lower increases in after-meal blood glucose when green coffee berry extract is taken before an oral glucose loading test.42,43
One compelling study showed that people not taking green coffee extract had glucose levels of 130 mg/dL one-hour after sugar ingestion. In study subjects taking 400 mg of green coffee extract, glucose levels dropped to 93 mg/dL after sugar ingestion.44 The difference between having a post-load glucose reading of 93 mg/dL compared to 130 mg/dL is about a 70% reduction in heart attack risk.30
Green coffee bean extract lowers blood glucose by inhibiting carbohydrate digestive enzymes(similar to the drug acarbose) and suppressing creation of glucose in the liver (like metformin.)45-47
For many aging people, taking a green coffee bean extract capsule before each meal may be all they need to achieve healthier fasting and after-meal glucose levels.
Those seeking to reduce glucose readings down to those who practice aggressive calorie restriction should seek a green coffee extract supplement that also provides chromium,48-50 green tea extract,51-55 and Irvingia.56-58
Unique Weight-Loss Mechanisms
Chlorogenic acid in green coffee extract antagonizes glucose absorption.60 It apparently does so by shifting the glucose uptake to more distal regions of the small intestine.60 It also seems to inhibit amylase, the enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar.61
What makes chlorogenic acids in green coffee extract particularly unique is that they inhibit glucose-6-phosphatase, an enzyme that promotes glucose synthesis and release in the liver (gluconeogenesis).46,47 This lowers blood sugar levels and helps promote weight loss.
Chlorogenic acid has been shown to specifically reduce after-meal glucose peaks associated with carbohydrate ingestion.62 This lowers insulin activity and reduces fat accumulation63,64 —both associated with favorable body mass changes.
Additional research has confirmed that compounds in coffee decrease adipose (fat) tissue.64
Together, these glucose-lowering and anti-adipose mechanisms make green coffee extracts an exciting natural way to help combat unwanted body fat.
Preliminary Findings on Green Coffee Extract
A human study showed that daily consumption of coffee rich in the compounds that are found abundantly in green coffee beans resulted in a lower calorie intake—which caused reduced weight and body fat.65
In a 12-week, placebo-controlled study, scientists tested the efficacy of green coffee bean extract. Thirty overweight or obese human volunteers took either the extract or a placebo, dissolved in instant coffee. The extract produced an average 11 pound weight loss. This was paralleled by a decrease in glucose absorption and an increase in glucose utilization. The researchers reported that the lower availability of glucose that results from these effects would cause the body to increase the metabolism of fat reserves, which would eventually decrease body fat and mass.66
A 2011 review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished clinical human studies on green coffee bean extract concluded that there was an overall significant decrease in body weight. However, the scientists concluded that further rigorous research was needed to conclusively establish the weight-loss efficacy of the extract.67