Lowcarbezine! 26 July 2000

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Hey, Gang --

Whew!  I swear, if I didn't already need a vacation, getting ready to go
on vacation would *make* me need a vacation!  I've spent the day running
back and forth to the laundry room in between writing this newsletter,
to make sure I've got something to *pack*!

So enjoy this week's issue, 'cause after this, there's no Lowcarbezine!
until August 16th.  You kids behave yourselves while I'm gone, you hear?

Read on!



All contents copyright 2000 by Hold the Toast Press.  All commercial
reproduction and/or use is expressly prohibited.  As always, feel free
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Frequently Asked Question

What about those over the counter diet pills I see everywhere these
days, the ones that claim to raise your metabolism?  Do they work?  Are
they safe?

Well, kind of.

This sort of diet pill, typified by Metabolife, seen in mall kiosks
everywhere, and Metabolift, put out by Twin Labs and found in health
food stores, falls into the category of "thermogenic".  In other words,
it causes your body to create fractionally more heat, and as a result,
you burn off more calories, and if all goes well, you lose weight.  This
can be a useful thing, and I am not unequivocally against the use of
these products.  However, there are some hitches, and some very real

First, the cautions, since they're the most important thing.  You MUST
NOT use this sort of product AT ALL if you are pregnant or nursing, if
you have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, any sort
of psychiatric condition including -- but *not* limited to --
depression; glaucoma, prostate enlargement or any trouble with
urinating, any sort of seizure disorder, Parkinson's disease, frequent,
recurrent headaches; or if you are on MAO inhibitors.  If you're
medicated for asthma or allergies, or taking cold medication, you must
check to see if your drugs contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, since
these thermogenic products contain ephedrine, and you could take an

Is that clear?

Further, do *not* decide that since a little of this stuff is an aid to
losing weight, you'll take a whole bunch and lose a *lot* of weight
really fast.  Once again, you could end up very dead.  It is not at all
unknown for people taking overdoses of this stuff to have heart attacks
-- it's even happened to teen agers.  "If a little is good, a lot will
be better" is just plain foolhardy.  Do this to yourself, and you become
a candidate for the Darwin Awards.

And don't be suckered into a false sense of security by salespeople or
network marketing representatives who tell you, "But it's all
*natural*!  It's *HERBS*!  It can't hurt you!"  This is utter
poppycock.  (And if you knew the derivation of that word, you'd know
just how strongly I feel about this.)  "Natural" does NOT mean "safe".
Rattlesnake venom is natural.  Death angel mushrooms are natural.
Botulism toxin is natural.  Cocaine, heroin, and tobacco are natural.
Natural means *NOTHING* in terms of safety.  And herbal drugs are still
*drugs*, and can be mighty powerful.

Okay.  Now that I've instilled a proper respect for these products in
you, I'll proceed with the rest of the info.

The most common herbal drug used in these products is ephedra, or ma
huang (the Chinese name -- pronounced "mah wong").  The substance in
ephedra or ma huang that causes the thermogenic effect is called
ephedrine.  Ephedrine falls into the class of drugs known as
"sympathomimetics", which is to say that they mimic the effect of the
hormones that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, the best known
of which is adrenaline, also known as epinephrine.

This means that your heart will beat faster and stronger, and your heart
will pump more blood, which is why it's vital for people with heart
disease or high blood pressure to stay strictly away from the stuff.  It
also means that you will feel more energetic with low doses, and
well-nigh unbearably jittery with high doses.  Ephedrine also dilates
your bronchial passages (breathing tubes), which is why it's used for
asthma.  If you're not an asthmatic, you might well notice that you can
breathe more deeply; I suspect that an unsung part of the
metabolism-speeding effect of these products is the increased oxygen

So, will they speed up your metabolism?  In most cases, yes.
Apparently, one of the many biochemical differences between those of us
who gain weight easily, and the sort of folks who can eat pretty much
whatever they want and not gain weight has to do with something called
"postprandial thermogenesis".  What that means is that after eating,
metabolism speeds up a bit, but it speeds up a whole lot more in some
people than in others.  In many obese people, there just isn't much of a
rise in metabolism after eating, so that we burn off fewer of the
calories we've just eaten.  We may also feel a bit sluggish compared to
the "race horse" sort of people who can't gain no matter what they do.

 Here's what it says in my *highly* authoritative herb book   (_The
Healing Power of Herbs_, Michael T. Murray, N.D.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1559587008/lowcarbohysoluti )
regarding ephedra for weight loss:

"The degree of heat production -- whether it be high or low -- is
determined by the sympathetic nervous system.  This portion of the
nervous system controls many body functions, including metabolism.  In
other words, the reason why many obese individuals have a "slow
metabolism" is because of a lack of stimulation by the sympathetic
nervous system.  Ephedrine can activate the sympathetic nervous system,
thereby increasing the metabolic rate and thermogenesis.  This results
in weight loss by addressing the underlying defect in metabolism."

However, the clinical studies have been inconsistent in their results,
some showing greater weight loss with ephedrine, and some not showing a
lot of difference.  There is some speculation that this is because only
some obesity is caused by a low level of stimulation of the sympathetic
nervous system.  (We're back to "Every body is different" again, aren't

Combining ephedrine with the class of drugs known as methylxanthines,
which includes caffeine and theophylline, dramatically enhances the
effect of the drug.  There also appears to be some enhancement with
aspirin.  The combination of ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin is
commonly referred to as an "E-C-A stack" or just a "stack".  Many of the
herbal products on the market contain not only ephedra or ma huang, but
also willow bark (a source of a naturally occurring chemical similar to
aspirin) and some source of caffeine, often guarana or kola nut.  (Don't
mistake this last for "gotu kola" -- a useful herb, but it has no
caffeine.)  You can look for a product that has all three ingredients
already "stacked", or you can take a product that only contains
ephedra/ma huang, and take it with a caffeine-containing beverage and a
half an aspirin.

Studies have been done over the space of several months, and found no
significant changes in heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose,
insulin levels, or cholesterol levels.  This is very reassuring.

You *must* search out a product which is "standardized" -- which is to
say, it must have a consistent amount of ephedrine in every tablet.
Twelve milligrams (mg) of ephedrine per tablet is a good level.  Until
recently, pharmaceutical, synthetic ephedrine was widely available, and
was made in 25 mg. tablets, scored so that they could easily be broken
into halves or quarters, for a lower dosage.  A twelve milligram tablet
of the herbal product lets you approximate a half of a pharmaceutical
ephedrine, or take two to get a dosage equivalent to a whole one.  Do
NOT buy any product that does not tell you how much ephedrine is in each

Further, do not take more than 25 mg. of ephedrine at one time.
Personally, I can't take that much, or I get jumpy/irritable/achey.
Taking a thermogenic product 2-3 times a day is about right.  Keep in
mind that the stuff is speedy; take it much past 3 or 4 in the
afternoon, and you're looking at a really good chance that you're not
sleeping that night.

All of which leads me to my biggest problem with ephedrine, and the
E-C-A stack:  For me, the dose which causes weight loss is within
spittin' distance of the dose that makes me uncomfortably speedy.  I
find it useful to allow a little bit more dietary leeway, but not for a
whole lot more than that -- if I take enough to lose much weight, I find
I have trouble sitting still to work, I suffer insomnia (and I *do* mean
"suffer"), I grit my teeth, and my shoulders get tied up in knots.  Not
worth it to me.  You'll have to see if an effective dose for you is
comfortable enough for you to tolerate, or not.

There is another substance being touted as being similar to ephedrine in
its thermogenic effect -- it's called synephrine, and it's derived from
a fruit called "citrus aurantium", commonly known as bitter orange.  I
did a few Medline searches, and couldn't find *any* medical journal
articles on the stuff, while numerous studies have been done on
ephedrine.  I've tried bitter orange, and haven't found that I lost a
lot of weight, but it also seems less speedy to me than ephedrine, so if
it really does work, it could be a more comfortable alternative.  In the
meanwhile, be aware that all of the cautions which apply to ephedrine
apply to bitter orange and synephrine, too.

One more thermogenic to be aware of:  It's beginning to look like green
tea may have a thermogenic effect out of proportion to its caffeine
content.  Two studies found increased fat burning and body temperature
in subjects who took green tea extract over those who took just
caffeine, or took a placebo.  Scientists speculate that this may have to
do with chemicals called catechin polyphenols.  Since green tea is *way*
safe, contains beneficial antioxidants, and even appears to prevent some
kinds of cancer, this may be the best bet of all.  Cheap, too.  If you
don't like green tea as a beverage, you could try one of the green tea
extracts on the market.  Me, I'm shifting some of my addictive tea
drinking over to green tea, to see what happens!

I see thermogenics as a potentially useful adjunct for low carb
dieters.  They are *not* a substitute for diet and/or exercise, and they
are not without their risks, but with sensible, careful use, those who
do not have medical conditions which contraindicate their use may find
their success enhanced.

Just don't be a dope about it.

Oh, one final note:  Thermogenics are hot-hot-hot as MLM or network
marketing products these days.  Many of these products are good
(although some want you to take what I would consider dangerous doses --
one very popular network marketed thermogenic has 22 mgs. of ephedrine
per tablet, and the label suggests you take *two* at a time!  Don't do
it!), but they are invariably overpriced.  Shop around.  If a product
has 12 mgs per tablet or thereabouts of ephedrine, it'll do the trick,
especially if taken with a cup of coffee and a half an aspirin.  You may
want to buy all three together in one tablet or capsule; again, shop for
price.  Other ingredients may or may not be helpful, but the
ephedrine/caffeine/aspirin combo is the main thing.  Don't pay more than
you have to.


Spotlight Low Carb Food-of-the-Week!

This is a new feature -- I thought I'd give you a little extra
information about various low carb foods, to help jump-start your
imagination where recipes and menu planning are concerned.  This week's
food:  Spinach!

Spinach is one of those foods I *HATED* as a child -- but then, I'd only
had cooked spinach with a little butter.  I still don't like it that
way!  On the other hand, it's one of the most popular vegetables, and
even my dad -- arguably the World's Pickiest Eater -- likes it.  Here's
some nutrition facts about spinach:

*Spinach is very low carb -- both the label on my chopped spinach, and
my food count book say that it has 2 grams of carb and 2 grams of fiber
per serving, which, of course, totals out to *zero* usable carbs!  On
the other hand, _Food Values of Portions Commonly Used_ says that a half
a cup of cooked spinach has 3.2 g of carb, and only 0.5 g of fiber --
which still makes it a very low carb food.

* Spinach is a good source of iron, vitamin A (actually beta-carotene,
which the body can use to make vitamin A), and potassium. It's also a
pretty fair source of magnesium.

* It also has a pretty good amount of calcium for a vegetable, but
contains a chemical called oxalic acid, which makes the calcium harder
for your body to absorb.  Don't count on spinach as a great source of

* If you've ever found spinach to be bitter or astringent, that's the
oxalic acid.  By cooking it in milk or cream, you can neutralize that
acid and make the flavor much milder.  That's why creamed spinach is
such a popular way to cook it.

Spinach is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, so try it
stir-fried!  Heat some peanut oil in a skillet or wok, add a clove of
crushed garlic and fresh spinach, and cook only very briefly -- a couple
of minutes at most.  Add a small splash of soy sauce, and serve!

Or try sautéing spinach in butter with a little garlic,  and add a
couple of chopped anchovy fillets at the end, for Sicilian Spinach.

Spinach is wonderful on pizza -- this is the first way I actually
*liked* cooked spinach.  So if you're buying a low carb pizza kit,
consider putting frozen chopped spinach (thawed, of course!) on top of
the sauce, under the cheese.

If you're bored with your standard tossed green salad, try spinach salad
for a change.  Fresh spinach with a few sliced scallions, tossed with
vinaigrette dressing, topped with crumbled bacon and sliced hard boiled
eggs is terrific.  Or simply throw some fresh spinach in with your

Or make a Pecan Spinach Salad -- wash and dry two pounds of fresh
spinach.  Sprinkle them lightly with salt or Vege-Sal, and squeeze them
a bit with clean hands -- they'll wilt a little and shrink in volume.
Now add 8-10 sliced scallions, 1/4 good olive oil, and 1/4 cup lemon
juice, and toss well.  Top with 1/4 pound toasted, salted, chopped
pecans.  Out of this world!  ( Credit where credit is due -- I got this
idea from -- dare I plug her book *again*?  Peg Bracken's _The Compleat
I Hate To Cook Book_.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0883657945/lowcarbohysoluti   She
calls it Syrian Pecan Salad.  By any name, it's great. )

Want a new omelet idea?  Make just the spinach/cream/cheese part of the
Skillet Chicken Florentine in today's Cooking Low Carb, and use it for
filling omelets!

So eat your spinach!


Cruise!!!  Cruise!!!  Cruise!!!

Come cruise the Caribbean with me!  You know you want to!!  We're going
to have whole lot of fun, learn a lot, get away from *WINTER* (which
*is* coming, you know!), get rid of the holiday stress, get the New Year
off to a *great* start, sample new low carb products, learn way-cool
breathing exercises to accelerate metabolism -- all on an outrageously
luxurious and beautiful floating resort called the Carnival Victory, the
newest, largest, and most luxurious ship in the Carnival fleet!  You
have to see this ship to believe it!  And we're going to Mexico, Grand
Cayman, and Jamaica!  How cool is *that*?!

So come meet me!  Get an autographed preview copy of my second book!
Meet new low carb pals!  Knock off another five pounds!  And have a
*ball*!  We sail on January 7th, 2001 (You'll want to be in Miami by the
evening of the 6th -- we can arrange that, too.) for a full week!

But you want to get your reservations in *now* -- before August 5th.
Why?  Because just like with airlines, you get a better rate with cruise
lines if you *book in advance*.  So book *now* -- your deposit is fully
refundable through October 15th, should anything untoward happen.  Check
out all the details of the cruise at
http://www.holdthetoast.com/cruise.html .

C'mon, which would you rather be doing come the second week in January?
Shoveling snow?  Or sailing blue waters with me and a whole bunch of low
carb diet pals?


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

So far I've had two people write me and tell me that since they've gone
low carb, their hair has started falling out.  Now, this is not a common
problem, and certainly I have *pounds* of hair after 5 years of eating
this way, but any problem I've heard about twice is sure to be a problem
for more of my readers than that.  So I did a little reading, and I've
come up with a suspected culprit for the problem.

There are a few vitamins that have hair loss among their deficiency
symptoms; in particular, biotin and inositol.  These, by the way, are
among the vitamins that are commonly left out of cheap, drugstore
one-tablet-a-day vitamin supplements.  There are good low carb sources
of these vitamins, but they're not among the foods that everyone eats
every day -- liver, in particular, is a good source of both of these.
So is "food yeast", sometimes called "brewer's yeast" or "primary grown
yeast" or "torula yeast" -- dried, dead yeast used as a protein and
vitamin supplement.  (NOT baking yeast, which you should not eat raw!
It's alive, and it will grow inside you.  You've heard of yeast
infections, right?)  Nuts are a good source of biotin, too.  Egg yolks
are a good source of biotin, and also of sulfur, which strengthens hair
and nails.  Cantaloupe, peanuts, and cabbage are other good low carb
sources of inositol.

Chlorine deficiency can cause hair loss, but unless you're omitting salt
from your diet, chances are slim that you're chlorine deficient.

So if your hair isn't quite what it should be since you went low carb,
be sure to include plenty of eggs, liver (if you're willing to eat it;
many people aren't,) nuts, cantaloupe (which is one of the most
nutritious, lowest sugar fruits available), and cabbage.  Or, if you
hate all these things, or simply aren't willing to take the care to work
them into your diet regularly, buy a better quality vitamin supplement!
You can, by the way, also buy supplemental sulfur in a form called
"MSM", and it's terrific for making hair and nails grow fast and strong.

If you like, both liver and food yeast are available in tablets.  You'll
need to take a *lot* of the tablets -- at least a half-dozen to a dozen
a day -- since what these are is compressed *food*, and you'll need to
take enough to get a whole serving.  Both smell *dreadful* in the
bottle, but me, I can swallow virtually anything in pill form.  I take
liver tablets.

So make sure you're getting your biotin and your inositol, and plenty of
sulfur, along with your protein, and your hair should once again become
your crowning glory.  Assuming you're better at blow drying than I am,
that is... ;-D


Reader Review of _How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds!_

Don't let the cover fool you! This book gets 10 stars!

 I bought this book and read it in 2 days. It should be a "must" have
for any low-carb dieter. Dana gives info on all the various low carb
diets out there, so you can choose  which works for you. She gives you a
wealth of information that I didn't find in the Heller's book or the
Eades book. She tells you what works and what doesn't.

I almost didn't buy this book because the cover looked, well, weird.
Never judge a book by its cover! The inside flap has a wonderful before
and after shots of Dana, and she is quite pretty. The book had cute
little cartoon guys and girls that made me smile.

If you're still in doubt, read through Amazon's listing of her table of
contents. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I almost gave up my low carb
diet in spite of the benefits because I was struggling with some things-
but Dana cleared up some things. Like I was gnashing my teeth a lot, and
Dana gave a lot of info on supplements (do not buy the store
multivitamin junk- not sufficient at all!). I gnashed my teeth because I
was not getting the correct minerals and vitamins. Read the book, find
out more!

This book is awesome! I have lost 15 lbs in 2 months and this book will
help me reach my goal, and live happily ever after. What more could you
ask for?

Amy W from MI    July 4, 2000

Thanks, Amy!!  And good job!  (Gosh, I love these reviews.  Makes me
grin like a dope all day long...)  By the way, my cover looks like that
because it's a two color cover, instead of the four color (full color)
covers you're used to.  Hey, I paid to publish the thing myself, on a
shoestring, and full color covers are expensive.  Sometime in the future
I'll upgrade the cover...

You can read this and other reviews of _How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet
and Lost Forty Pounds!_ at

And you can read the first chapter of _How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and
Lost Forty Pounds!_ for FREE at http://www.holdthetoast.com !  You can
order the book through the order page on the website, through
Amazon.com, or -- and this is a *very good deal!* through Carb Smart, at
http://www.carbsmart.com .

If you'd like to order the book through a local bookstore, you should be
able to do so virtually anywhere in the USA -- just give them the title,
_How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds!_, and the ISBN
(0-9668831-0-1), and tell them it's available through Baker and Taylor
-- that's our wholesaler!

International readers, I'm afraid you'll have to order through the
internet, or by sending us a check or money order here at Hold the Toast
Press -- we don't have an international wholesaler yet. :-(  But we've
shipped as far as Japan!  We'd be happy to ship to you!


Book Review

Last week I wrote about the big gap between the government's dietary
recommendations and the diet most low carbers eat, and gave suggestions
as to how one might construct a low carb diet that was somewhat closer
to those guidelines, without eating all those grains and beans they want
us to eat.  I suggested plenty of vegetables and some fruits, plenty of
monounsaturated fats, more fish and less red meat.  ( I also said that
if you're clearly carb intolerant, getting those insulin levels down is
*paramount*, and if what it takes to keep you happy on your low carb
diet is sausage every morning and steak every night, so be it. )

I should have just referred you all to _The GO-Diet_, by Jack Goldberg,
Ph.D.  and Dr. Karen O'Mara.  (Goldberg-O'Mara -- GO-Diet, get it?)  If
you're pretty sure you're carb intolerant, but you're really nervous
about all that saturated fat, this is the book for you.

The cornerstones of the GO-Diet are:

* No more than 50 g. of usable carb per day.
* No more than 12-15 g of usable carb at any one meal.
* Plenty of low carb vegetables, some low carb fruits, lots of nuts and
seeds.  This means plenty of fiber.
* Lots of monounsaturated fats -- those nuts and seeds, plus olive oil
and avocados.
* Less red meat, more fish
* Lots of cultured milk products -- yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk.

This last will surprise many of you, since these products list on the
label the same 12 grams of carb per cup that milk has.  Goldberg and
O'Mara have a simple and fascinating explanation for why this is not
really the case:  When food is being analyzed for its protein, fat, and
carbohydrate content, carbohydrates are determined "by difference" --
whatever isn't fat or protein, water or minerals,  is assumed to be
carbohydrate.  With milk, this is true -- 12 grams of lactose per cup.
However, in these cultured milk products, Goldberg and O'Mara assert,
the lactose has been largely converted into lactic acid, giving these
foods their trademark sour flavor -- and leaving them very low carb.
They tell you to count just 4 g of carb per cup.

They go on to cite the many health benefits they feel that these foods
convey, including a strengthened immune system.  They make a pretty good
case.  Accordingly, I've had yogurt a few times in the past week; kinda
nice to have it again.

NOTE:  This does *not* mean that you can eat the sweetened yogurt --
Dannon and the like -- that you find on the grocery store shelf.  Not
surprisingly, that stuff is *loaded* with sugar.  ( I believe Dannon
makes an aspartame sweetened yogurt.  Don't know if these folks consider
it acceptable.  Don't see why not...)  Plain yogurt can be flavored with
a few mashed berries and some artificial sweetener or stevia, or a
little vanilla and some sweetener, likewise.  Or you can eat plain
yogurt, of course, or use it in place of sour cream in salad dressing
and as a topping.  Keep in mind that if you heat it, the beneficial
bacteria are killed.  (For the record, buttermilk is good in salad
dressings, too, especially ranch dressing.)

Anyway, the GO-Diet wants you to get 8 ounces a day of cultured milk.
If you're sick and tired of eggs for breakfast, you might want to
consider yogurt with strawberries or blackberries for breakfast.

The rest of the Go-Diet is about what you'd expect -- explanations about
the importance of lowering insulin levels, case studies explaining how
bloodwork improves on low carb diets, etc.

This is a good book for anyone who is interested in low carb, but still
is *really* nervous about all that meat that Doctor Atkins is pushing,
or anyone who's concerned *both* with eating low carb, and staying a
little closer to the "standard" nutritional guidelines.  There's still
none of those grains and beans the USDA keeps trying to get us to eat by
the carload, but still, the nervous will find this approach reassuring.
Check it out at


That's it for this week!  See you on August 16th!

Dana W. Carpender

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