The Schwarzbein Principle
Q I’m currently in the process of getting certified as a holistic health coach. I’ve been vegan for a year and a half and veggie for 7 years. In my course, we’re reading “The Schwarzbein Principle” which emphasizes a balance of carbs, proteins, and fats to balance our insulin and glucagon levels and decrease the metabolic aging process. She emphasizes fats and proteins (much in the form of animal products) and says that our belly is our insulin meter. By taking in so many carbs over protein and fat, we increase our insulin levels, which creates insulin resistance, which increases belly fat, and also makes our serotonin levels go up and down. This affects our moods, anxiety, depression, and sleep. I’m incredibly conflicted by what I’m learning in my course and what I’ve always read about being vegan and eating healthy, raw, plant-based foods. Obviously being vegan, it’s much more difficult to balance our proteins (fats are a bit easier). The idea of increasing carbs and decreasing fat doesn’t seem to make sense since fat and cholesterol are such necessary components of human nutrition. Regardless of where the carbs come from (fruit, whole grains, etc) our body still recognizes them as sugar. How are vegans to create this balance? I’ve always struggled with belly fat, despite the fact that I supposedly eat healthier than anyone I know and I work out (I’m also a certified personal trainer). I’ve lost 35 pounds (before becoming vegan), but most of it came from other parts of my body, not my belly. When I became vegan, I maybe lost 5. What I’m learning makes sense (eating a ton of saturated fat from animal protein does not…) in terms of balance. I’m curious to know what you think about this and how you propose vegans obtain this balance. Thank you for your insight.
A Why do people insist upon making me learn things? I mean, I don’t know about the Schwarzbein principle. So, I had to do some RESEARCH. Oy! Makes my head hurt. However, here is what I think after reading their website and my own work as an RD.
- Dr. Schwarzbein is a great marketer. Every page has photos of her products and suggests that only her test and package can make you better. She does have a lot of good information as to how your guts digests. However, I will not list her website because it reeked of visual infomercial. [As opposed to my website, http://martydavey.com]
- I have no idea what your weight is or lean body mass, so commenting on whether you need to lose weight or tone your belly is beyond my ken. On the other hand, I will address this at the end.
- You are almost at the point of understanding how vegan foods and omnivore foods differ. So, I will explain how that relates to this principle.
- Cholesterol intake is not necessary.
Wow, this makes nutrition so complicated! Let’s get back to basics. [Like my CD on Organic Gardening from the Ground Up!] Because you have so many ideas going on, I am going to cut up your question a piece at a time and start each answer with the quote from your question. Everybody with me? Let’s tackle this momma.
In my course, we’re reading “The Schwarzbein Principle” which emphasizes a balance of carbs, proteins, and fats to balance our insulin and glucagon levels and decrease the metabolic aging process. She emphasizes fats and proteins (much in the form of animal products) and says that our belly is our insulin meter. By taking in so many carbs over protein and fat, we increase our insulin levels, which creates insulin resistance, which increases belly fat, and also makes our serotonin levels go up and down. This affects our moods, anxiety, depression, and sleep.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [PCRM] has 2 great studies about type 2 diabetes and the fat connection. Type 2 diabetes is directly correlated to insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, it is like a bouncer [insulin] outside the hottest club [cell] in town [your body]. There are all these glucose molecules trying to get into the club [cell]. When the town [your body] was young, there wasn’t as many glucose trying to get into the club. The bouncer [insulin] would let everybody in. But, more and more glucose kept showing up. And not on just Friday pizza beer night. But also–Monday, I-hate-being-back-to-work donuts; Tuesday, work-piled-up-fries and burger lunch; Wednesday, I-just-worked-out-ice cream bar; Thursday, it’s-almost-Friday-take out-with-Super Size Soda, etc.
Now, insulin isn’t letting almost glucose in the cell. No matter how many mitochondria [your energy power houses and cellular VIPs] that live inside the cell and that glucose can personally text.
Well, after these PCRM studies we know see that it is fat consumption that is the real problem. The participants in the study went from a standard American diet to a low fat vegan diet or used the American Dietetics Association guidelines for diabetics. If the problem were carb intake, everyone eating the low fat vegan diet would have gone into a diabetic coma from so many carbs.
It didn’t happen. The results showed a decrease in the need of insulin or medications, leveling off of glucose spikes, weight loss and a drop in A1C levels. The vegan group’s results were significantly better than the ADA guideline group.
To use our Club analogy, it wasn’t the bouncer keeping the glucose from the cell’s techno dance floor, it was the fat gumming up the doorknob and not letting it open. When the fat was decreased for the vegan group, the glucose could enter the cell. The stuff and mechanisms [mitochondria and organelles] inside the cell worked more efficiently. This made the whole body work better.
This study, which was repeated, makes me think that your institution is not informed on this type of research.
The idea of increasing carbs and decreasing fat doesn’t seem to make sense since fat and cholesterol are such necessary components of human nutrition.
Okay, I answered this to some degree with the PCRM studies. I just want to add that your body will make all of the cholesterol you need. You do not have to eat any. Cholesterol comes from anything with a liver. As a vegan, you don’t eat anything with a liver. Your liver makes all you need.
I’m incredibly conflicted by what I’m learning in my course and what I’ve always read about being vegan and eating healthy, raw, plant-based foods.
When I was studying to become a registered dietitian, I was the only vegan in my program. I was one of a couple of vegetarian/vegans in my department and a couple of those were just trying to shove their animal eating guilt-trip off by usurping the name. When pressed by a professor, they readily agreed that eating fish was important. I realized that I had to disavow what I knew to pass the BIG test. I drank the American Dietetics Association kool-aid, took the test, spewed out what they wanted and moved on. In fact, I just took another test qualify for a specific area of practice. Here was the most annoying question, not verbatim:
Bobby, 10 year old, has a slight deficiency in calcium, high cholesterol and a fiber intake of almost nil. You would suggest:
More meat products
More olive oil
More low fat dairy and vegetables
More grains, vegetables and fruit
I thought, gee, he needs to lower his fat, increase fiber and support his calcium a little more. Well, there’s cholesterol in milk and no fiber. Meat has no fiber, neither does oil. Must be the last one. NOPE — low fat dairy and veggies. Guess who was a corporate sponsor for the on-site training to complete the certification? [Zero points if you didn’t guess the Dairy Council. By the way my DVD, Million $$ Nutrition on a Food Stamp Budget has videos and recipes without any dairy.]
If you want this certification, I suggest drink the kool-aid and pass the test. Then, go on to be brilliant. However, there is nothing wrong with questioning authority when you can state chapter and verse where your science is based. You will endure ridicule, but ultimate respect if you stay to supported science.
In my course, we’re reading “The Schwarzbein Principle” which emphasizes a balance of carbs, proteins, and fats to balance our insulin and glucagon levels and decrease the metabolic aging process. . . .Obviously being vegan, it’s much more difficult to balance our proteins (fats are a bit easier)
When you eat animal products you can put a lot of your foods in neat little boxes like carbs, fats and proteins. That is because animal flesh products don’t have carbs, or fiber for that matter. Omnivores, generally, don’t eat a lot of nuts and seeds with this diet so fats come in butter or that stuff in the bottle used for sautés. Carbs come from everything else. There is a denial that there is protein in vegetables or fruit. [The protein in romaine is 4g for 2 cups, and sweet potatoes is 2g for 1 cup]
When you are a vegan your carbs, [beans], have protein. Your proteins, [quinoa], have fiber and carbs; your fats [nuts] have protein and . . . well, the whole thing just refuses to be compartmentalized. You, dear writer, need to realize that you are not eating the foods purported by this “holistic” dogma. This leads to your frustration because you are trying to take a diet made of plant foods which have all the macronutrients [carbs, fat, protein] integrated like spokes on a wheel and you want to break it up to fit into checkers squares. It just isn’t going to work. And for the record, proteins can get broken down into sugars. Proteins can be converted into fats. Fats get broken down into glucose. Go check out your biochemistry book. If this program does not require biochemistry, shame on them. Take the course anyway. You need it.
Your foods are whole combinations of nutrients. They conform to your dental anatomy and your intestinal anatomy. I agree that some foods are more concentrated in carbs, proteins and fats than others. On the other hand, why do we feel this need to take a food and make it a sum of parts, instead of whole food?
When Dr. Schwartzbein writes about inflammation being the mother of all health problems, I want to send her a copy of The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas. It clearly illustrates and is backed by multitudes of studies that animal foods cause inflammation. So many auto-immune diseases I research keep connecting with dairy. I don’t from what research which she based her principle. Cardiac health, atherosclerosis in particular, is directly related to animal product intake. Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have great books on this subject and the long-term success they have had with nutrition and no buy-in from supplements on their websites. [My website, http://martydavey.com has information on supplements for vegetarians/vegans. Oops! I don’t have any for sale. Gotta work on that one.]
Regardless of where the carbs come from (fruit, whole grains, etc) our body still recognizes them as sugar. How are vegans to create this balance? . . .I’m curious to know what you think about this and how you propose vegans obtain this balance.
This “balance”, in my lowly opinion, comes from eating a variety of foods every day. Check out The New Becoming Vegetarian, by Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Molina, RD, MS. It is easy to read and in very simple language tells you what you need. If someone thinks they need to take care of a digestive problem, I tell them to eat everything as basic as possible – steamed grains, beans, small amount of walnuts, raw or steamed fruits and veggies. Add fresh herbs for flavoring. I am amazed at the healing ability of this easy recipe for gut health. The aforementioned book helps people begin to understand the shift of how to think about nutrition through a vegan perspective and the authors do not have a product line to sell you. [Memo to self: email Brenda and Colin for percentage of sales directly produced from this article]
I’ve always struggled with belly fat, despite the fact that I supposedly eat healthier than anyone I know and I work out (I’m also a certified personal trainer). I’ve lost 35 pounds (before becoming vegan), but most of it came from other parts of my body, not my belly.
I am loathe to answer this part because, despite the jabs I make at healthcare practitioners – myself included- who push product after product, I actually made a DVD, part science and part exercise, called, Why do I have Stubborn Belly Fat when I do a Million Crunches a day. It is for sale on my website, http://martydavey.com. The editor of VegFamily sent me this question with, “you can promote your DVD at the end.” So, I feel somewhat vindicated, but somewhat equal to Dr. Schwartzbein in the shameless-self promotion arena. Conversely, I do not have a line of nutritional support products or yoga mats. I have turned down offers to be a spokesperson for supplement companies. [Hmm, perhaps I need a kick in my entrepreneurial hormone receptor.]
That being said, Dr. Schwartzbein writes a lot about the hormone, cortisol in her newsletters. An increase in cortisol can lead to an increase in appetite. I agree with her about cortisol and have the studies cited on my DVD. So, if you, dear writer, are stressed you can have elevated cortisol levels, thus leading to belly flab.
Also, you could have Flabby Aerobic Instructor Syndrome from the same exercise at the same stress level. Your body is used to your routine and it needs a shake up. I wouldn’t even mention this except that 3 certified trainers enlightened me about this syndrome. So, like dietitians, trainers are not perfect. The aforementioned trainers also explained that you cannot spot lose, but you can spot build. For example, if you are doing crunches, [thus the DVD name “. . . doing a Million Crunches a Day”] you can build the belly muscle underneath the flab. You may even lose some of the flab, but you are building the muscle, so your “Pooffer” doesn’t decrease.
A final main reason for a flabby belly is not strengthening the back. I have more people who do crunches, but have poor posture. I work the core from the back. I don’t do crunches. I do exercises and yoga poses using fire breathing on the DVD. Strong back muscles work like a girdle to hold everything up.
My last thought is what will this certification do for you, and isn’t there one that incorporates a vegan aspect? When I thought about becoming a dietitian, I actually just wanted the science behind my veg life added to my bodywork practice. However, I couldn’t reap any monetary reward from getting a master degree in dietetics or practice, ethically, with a correspondence certificate in nutrition. My trainer friends said their gyms would not hire me because I did not have that RD. The respect from my colleagues would garner me clients. I think that was a major factor in the route I took. I’m sure you did your due diligence, but for others thinking about taking this type of coursework I would strongly suggest you look up the legal ramifications for a scope of practice. Also, does the public understand what your title means? Does it have credence in the marketplace?
Dr. Schwarzbein has a lot of useful information on her website about basic digestion. On the other hand, any step forward in understanding her principle comes with a cost. Therefore, I am not entirely qualified to dissect her principle since I wasn’t willing to pay for it. I think the most important thing is to understand where her ideas intersect with your lifestyle and drop the rest after you finish your studies. Of course, that is what all good practitioners do — research, formulate opinion, discourse with colleagues and keep learning