Dr. RonEach month I will select research studies and interesting articles on the latest news in functional medicine and nutrition.  This will include cutting edge science, some classic studies from the past, and interesting articles on exciting emerging foods and products that may help improve human health.

If you’ve come across any studies or articles that you think are worth citing and are relevant to my work, do share.  I do want to provide a disclaimer that some of the links may not include what I consider high quality studies, but instead interesting content that gets us to think about current health issues differently.

How Hunger Can Help You Exercise

Man runningThis is a fascinating study done in mice that showed that limiting access to food, like is popularly done through a form of fasting called time-restricted eating, increases motivation to exercise by increasing levels of the hormone ghrelin.

Ghrelin gets a bad rap as the hormone that makes us hungry and prone to overeating, but it actually drives us to move more.  If we can use that surge in energy to exercise, rather than head towards the pantry, then your body can utilize its own internal stores for fuel.  Often you will find that after exercise you feel satiated rather than hungry. Not mentioned in this article is that fasting can also raise adrenaline levels which can also help provide the motivation to move more.

I definitely notice increased energy when I fast and I literally have a hard time sitting still.  That’s why I’ve been lecturing on and posting (on Instagram) various ways in which I stay active while working.  If you still feel sluggish during your fasts, you need to pay attention to what you are eating during your “feast’” windows.  If it’s excess carbs or highly processed foods, you will feel tired. In addition, if I don’t sleep well, then fasting often makes me even more fatigued.

Fish Makes Kids Smarter, Despite Mercury Concerns

FishDespite all the fears of mercury toxicity, multiple studies show that women who eat fish during pregnancy have smarter kids and kids who eat more fish also get an IQ boost.  Read this fascinating NY times review article on how fish can make young ones smarter, both inside and outside the womb.


Ketogenic Diet Rescues Cognition in Elderly with mild Alzheimer’s Disease and Metabolic Syndrome

Healthy vegetablesI’ve discussed in the past the compelling linkage between insulin resistance (Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc.) and Alzheimer’s disease.  This is a fascinating case study of an elderly woman with a high risk Alzheimer’s genetic variant called Apo E4, was diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and also had insulin resistance defined by a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome (MetS).  A 10-week ketogenic diet intervention along with physical and cognitive exercise not only significantly improved her metabolic syndrome numbers (triglycerides, glucose, etc.), but also improved her MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) from a 21/30 to a 28/30.

Yes, the physical and cognitive exercisers are mild confounders, but I think it’s clear that improving her insulin sensitivity had a direct impact on cognition.  These effects are far superior to any of the current Alzheimer’s drugs on the market. Doctors need to seriously consider a supervised, healthy ketogenic diet as a firstline intervention for Alzheimer’s, especially in individuals who have concomitant insulin resistance, who would likely be the most responsive

HIIT Boosts Memory, Even in the Elderly

GearsOne of the top questions I get from my older patients or any patients for that matter, is how to improve memory.  They hope I’ll give them a magical pill, but one of the most effective ways to boost memory is by boosting their exercise regimen and incorporating some HIIT training as shown in the study. The study was done in otherwise healthy older adults between ages 60-88 over 12 weeks and found that 3 sessions of HIIT (4 sets of high-intensity exercise on a treadmill for 4 minutes) per week improved memory better than a single moderate-intensity continuous aerobic session for nearly 50 minutes.  Now keep in mind that moderate intensity continous exercise is important for heart health and chronic disease prevention, but incorporating some HIIT training appears to have some additional cognitive benefit.  It’s also a nice time saver given it takes about half the time.

Sleep deprivation and work stress make high blood pressure more dangerous

Sleepy ManI’m seeing a surge in high blood pressure in the clinic, especially in young adults.  This used to be a disease for “old people.” What’s even more startling is I’m starting to see elevated blood pressure in teens as well.  We already know that high blood pressure increases heart attack risk, the study shows that high blood pressure when combined with sleep deprivation and work stress has an even greater impact on cardiovascular disease risk.

If you have high blood pressure, you need to do everything possible to modify work stress (and overall stress) and improve sleep.


Can avocados help manage obesity and diabetes?

avocadosThis study found that a unique compound in avocados called avocatin B (AvoB), which is a fat molecule only found in avocados, appears to help with weight loss and insulin resistance.

One of the defects in insulin resistance, the underlying process that triggers Type 2 diabetes, is that the mitochondria (powerhouse in our cells) cannot efficiently and completely burn fats.  It appears AvoB helps our mitochondrial engine correct this defect by allowing more complete oxidation (“burning”) of fatty acids.

Now before you start clearing the grocery store shelves of avocados, the researchers did mention that it would be difficult to get enough avocados through diet to get sufficient AvoB to impart its benefit, which is why they are developing a special supplement which has been approved in Canada.

I think the larger point is that consuming healthy fats in the diet like avocados can potentially improve mitochondrial function, which in turn prevents the accumulation of toxic fatty acid byproducts which can cause insulin resistance.

Data-driven definition of unhealthy yet pervasive ‘hyper-palatable’ foods

Burger and friesWhen addressing diet, we often fixate on macro and micronutrients but don’t always pay attention to hyperpalatability.  There are many foods that may fit your macro/micronutrient profile, but because they are hyperpalatable, they drive more downstream hunger and cravings.  I get sent a lot of food samples from low carb/keto companies like energy bars, drinks, etc. that may fit the keto or low carb criteria, but they often leave me unsatiated and craving more food shortly after.  A perfect example are bars and shakes made with artificial sweeteners that are even “keto-friendly.”

This may work fine for people with good will power, but I’m not one of them. Hyperpalatable foods make me overeat and I have a difficult time moderating. This article addresses how such a large percent of our food supply fits the hyperpalatability criteria.