A restaurant sign on South Tamiami Trail has piqued my curiosity for some time. It is almost across from Sarasota Memorial Hospital and bears the intriguing name of Lonjevity Superfood Fusion Café. I became even more curious when a personal-trainer friend told me about a lecture he attended there, which he said was informative. Lonjevity is owned by Dr. Gerry Davies, an anesthesiologist by training who graduated from the University of Wales and has practiced in the U.S. for 17 years. These days, he is an advocate for an approach to eating that controls the variations in blood glucose levels, which he passionately believes is key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and body.
There is no arguing that we live in a country where obesity is an enormous problem. Most estimates say that roughly 50% of the adult population is overweight and half of those people are clinically obese. These terms are based on BMI, or body mass index, a calculation from weight and height that roughly correlates to the percentage of total weight from fat as opposed to muscle, bone and organ. The higher a person’s BMI, the higher the percentage of fat in the body. A BMI of more than 25 is considered overweight, and more than 30 is considered obese. At 5 feet, 4 inches and 125 pounds, mine is 21.5. If you want to calculate yours, visit http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/.
The premise here is unarguable: Obesity varies inversely with life expectancy and directly with heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, diabetes, premature aging and all manner of associated diseases. Davies’ proposition is that rapid change in the level of glucose in the blood is a major culprit in obesity. The body can’t store all that glucose and produces insulin, which converts it into energy, and then into glycogen or fat.
In individuals on a high glucose diet who already have a saturated body store of glycogen, most of it becomes fat. The insulin converts glucose into triglycerides in the liver and directs fat deposition in adipose tissue, particularly in the liver and other parts of the abdomen. It results in increased production of “bad cholesterol,” or low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and inhibits production of “good cholesterol,” or high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
This process — gone wrong, then, can abet the formation of the evil “belly fat.” As well, glucose is one of the main causes of chronic low-grade inflammation that research establishes as a major cause of vascular diseases. Rapid fluctuation in blood-glucose levels also results in hunger cravings three or four hours later. Davies’ recommendation is to avoid rapid fluctuation in blood-glucose levels by avoiding the foods that cause them, foods with a high glycemic index.
The enemy in this scenario is foods that produce big spikes in blood glucose, designated high-glycemic-index foods. According to Davies’ numbers, as much as 70% of the 2,800 calories a day consumed on average by Americans comes from such foods. The devil among devils is high fructose corn syrup. High-glycemic-index foods to avoid totally include sugar, white flour, potatoes, white rice, corn flour — basically “white” foods. The recommended foods are whole grains, legumes, beans, salads, leafy green vegetables fruits and nuts.
Eating healthily, then, would appear to be a matter of avoiding high glycemic index foods. Of course, it turns out not to be so simple. The index originated as a research tool. What it measures is how rapidly 50 grams of a food’s carbohydrate content will raise blood sugar levels, compared to a reference food (typically white bread). The reference food is given a value of 100, and the glycemic index of a food is expressed as a percentage of that value. What the GI doesn’t tell us is how much of the carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food, or its glycemic load. Carrots, for example, have a glycemic index of 131% compared to a baked potato at 121%. But this rating is based on the effect of eating 50 grams of carbohydrate from carrots, the amount contained in a pound and a half of them!
There is quite a bit of science supporting the idea that controlling blood glucose variations, just as one would control sodium, is a smart thing to do. And, by now, you will realize that “lean and green” dominate the menu at Lonjevity. You can learn more about it at www.longevity.net or by attending the talk that Davies gives at 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning at Lonjevity. It is, after all, his restaurant, so you can take it with a grain of salt, but there is, as my friend said, some interesting information here.
If you go
Lonjevity Superfood Fusion Café
Address: 1737 S. Tamiami Trail.
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 to 10 p.m. Friday and Sarasota and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday (in November).
Web site: www.lonjevity.net.
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