Having ruled out trying to pack a shake with problem plagued protein supplements, I chose to build my shake around long-chain, low-glycemic carbohydrates.
We’re going to talk about a shake whose primary virtue is sustained energy, making it perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or to sustain an athlete on a long-distance run or when climbing a mountain. But by very virtue of its ability to sustain you for hours, it will help you lose weight by killing the need for between-meal snacks to keep you going throughout the day.
For years, the standard diet shake was the low-fat, high-sugar, shake-powder, “boosted” with a complement of synthetic vitamins and indigestible fiber. The idea was that you’d mix the powder with a glass of milk and replace one or two meals a day and eat sensibly for your other meal(s). And it worked, in that it could significantly decrease your calorie intake.
Some time ago, though, the ideal shake shifted from low-fat, high-sugar mix to a low-sugar, high-protein formula. Dieting on high protein shakes makes use of a quirk in the body’s metabolism to force it to live off its own fat. The primary source of energy for the human body is glucose, and most of our glucose intake is from carbohydrates. With high protein diets, though, you abnormally restrict your intake of carbohydrates (carbs that would normally fuel your blood sugar metabolism cycle) in order to force your metabolism to switch from burning carbohydrates to burning stored fat (or ketones) for energy. The result is a state of ketosis: high energy, coupled with a rapid metabolism of stored fat. And it works. It also helps lower blood-sugar levels and lower blood-pressure and cholesterol levels. However…
There are problems with the program. As the old saying goes: “In for a penny, in for a pound.” That means you must be rigorous. Any intake of high-glycemic carbs turns off the metabolism switch. Now you get none of the benefits and all of the problems, which include among other things:
- Too much protein puts stress on the liver and kidneys, lowers body pH which contributes to osteoporosis and cancer, creates a state of dysbiosis in the intestinal tract which leads to, among other things, a compromised immune system and an increased risk of colon cancer.
- Heavy doses of antibiotics and growth hormones in the high levels of non-organic protein consumed (assuming you’re not buying in a health food store).
- Increased allergies and autoimmune diseases resulting from the high consumption of dairy and/or soy. And keep in mind that milk allergy is not just based on an intolerance of lactose sugars. It is actually caused by the immune system’s response to one or more of the proteins found in cow’s milk. There are many protein allergens in cow’s milk that cause allergic reactions, which is why cow’s milk is one of the most frequent causes of food allergens in our diets. Casein and whey are the two main protein components of dairy and, coincidentally, the two main sources of protein in diet shakes (outside of soy).
- Casein (sodium caseinate) accounts for 80 percent of the protein in milk and is the most important allergen found in milk and cheese. It is worth noting that casein was at one time a key component in many glues and is not tolerated well at all by the human body. Too much casein over too long a time is a health problem for everyone. (And surprise, they add casein to tofu cheese and other “non-dairy” products.)
- Whey accounts for the other 20 percent of milk proteins. It is much better tolerated than casein, but again, if used in excess and for too long, still produces excessive Circulating Immune Complexes in the bloodstream. Whey consists of two primary allergenic proteins:
- And soy, of course, has even more protein allergens than dairy. At least 16 IgE-binding soy proteins with molecular masses from 7.5 to 97 kD may be involved in clinical allergy.1 Klein-Tebbe, J., Wangorsch, A., Vogel, L., Crowell, D. N., Haustein, U.-F. & Vieths, S. (2002) “Severe oral allergy syndrome and anaphylactic reactions caused by Bet v 1-related PR-10 protein in soybean, SAM22.” J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 110:797-804. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/5/1213S.full
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in exercise and balanced meals combined with nutrient-dense food for managing weight. But that said, I also understand that people often need a helping hand. In any case, several years ago, I turned my attention to rethinking shakes and weight-loss to see if there was a different way to approach it.
Instead of trying to create a substitute meal with lots of added protein and a bunch of synthetic vitamins, I thought it might be possible to instead create an energy shake that literally fueled the body for hours with ultra-long-chain carbohydrates–making it feel energized and satiated for 3-4 hours at a time–but without the jittery stimulant effect you get from coffee and energy drinks. This would kill two birds with one stone.
- It would work as a healthy, sustaining energizing boost that would be perfect for both athletes and anyone looking to remain vibrant throughout the day.
- And since it would keep you feeling energized and satisfied for hours at a time, it would help you lose weight since you wouldn’t feel the need for “extra” snacks to keep going.
Good Carbohydrates for Energy
Understand that your body can only use glycogen as energy. Everything must get broken down to this first. Glycogen is the simplest form of sugar in your blood. If there is too much (hyperglycemic), your pancreas produces insulin to shuttle the sugar out of your blood and into your cells, if there is too little (hypoglycemic), your body produces glucose, which gets rid of the insulin so you can build up more sugar in your blood. Hyper- and hypo- glycemia are the extreme conditions of high or low blood sugar, respectively.
The bottom line is that you need carbohydrates for energy. They power every part of your body and energize it to work, run, jump, think, breathe, and more. As long as you’re using your body, you need glucose. When you are hungry, you find it hard to think and work. That’s because you’re running out of glucose, and your brain needs more fuel.
The key to how carbohydrates are used in the body is how quickly they break down in the digestive tract. This is largely determined by their fundamental structure.
- Simple, or short-chain, carbohydrates don’t need to be broken down at all. They are instantly available to the body. These are the sugars. To say that all sugars are bad, as is often now stated, is an oversimplification of the problem. There are many times that your body truly needs an instant influx of energy foods. There are many sugars such as mannose that play a key role in our immune systems. However, there is no question that, in general, a sustained high-level intake of sugars spikes insulin levels and eventually contributes significantly to major health problems such as obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and diabetes.
Complex, or long-chain, carbohydrates cannot be utilized by the body until they are broken down. Complex carbohydrates consist of hundreds or thousands of sugar units linked together in single molecules. Theoretically, since they are not instantly available to the body, they should raise glucose levels more slowly and be healthier than simple sugars. But that is not always the case. Some long-chain carbs, such as, potatoes, bananas, all refined grains (in point of fact, many whole grains too), and maltodextrin (which is frequently added to processed foods) break down very quickly and are virtually indistinguishable from straight sugar in their effect on the body. There are two qualifiers for this.
- Fiber. Fiber cannot be digested by human beings. It has no calories because the body cannot absorb it. The more fiber present in the food, the more slowly the carbohydrates bound to that fiber break down. That’s why high fiber fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and prunes and berries tend to be very low on the glycemic index. In general, these foods, although they are pure carbohydrates, can be eaten abundantly on any low-carb program.
- Branching. If the simple sugars in a complex carbohydrate are not assembled in a straight line, but include many branches, it slows the breakdown of the carbohydrate dramatically because the enzyme amylase does not work on branches. Examples of branched carbohydrates include the gums such as guar and xanthan.
Whichever form of carb you take, after digestion, it appears in the circulatory system as glucose, on its way to the cells where it is used for energy. The key is how long that process takes. If spread out over several hours:
- There is no spike in blood sugar and insulin levels
- The body does not store fat
- You get sustained energy over a prolonged period of time
In the end, it became obvious to me that the ultimate diet/energy shake should not be built out of protein and fat, but out of long-chain, slow-energy-releasing superfood carbohydrates. However, before I could finalize the shake, there were a couple of other issues that had to be dealt with.
Superfood Shake for The Real World
First, I had to acknowledge how the shake would truly be used in the “real world.”
Ideally, this superfood powder would be mixed with fresh squeezed vegetable juice, thereby providing sustenance and energy for several hours with no chance of an insulin spike. But I also realized that we live in the real world. Very few people who need to lose weight are likely to be disciplined enough to drink large amounts of fresh squeezed vegetable juice every day. They would much rather mix their superfood with high glycemic sweet juices and fresh fruit. This, of course, would defeat the purpose.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the glycemic index (GI) measures how foods containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose. It is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Also known as “blood sugar,” blood glucose levels above normal are problematic and can cause blindness, kidney failure, or increase cardiovascular risk. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly. Low GI foods tend to foster weight loss, while foods high on the GI scale help with energy recovery after exercise, or help offset hypo- (or insufficient) glycemia–but again are problematic under normal circumstances.
What this means is that long-distance runners would tend to favor foods high on the glycemic index while racing, while people with pre- or full-blown diabetes would need to concentrate on low GI foods. Why? People with diabetes can’t produce sufficient quantities of insulin–which helps process blood sugar–which means they are likely to have an excess of blood glucose. The slow and steady release of glucose in low-glycemic foods is helpful in keeping blood glucose under control. In general, carbohydrates tend to rank higher in the glycemic index than fats or proteins. In fact, foods are ranked on the GI according to how they compare to a carbohydrate reference food which is either glucose or white bread. Glucose and white bread are both given a GI rating of 100. Carbohydrate-containing foods are typically ranked:
- High GI (70 or more)
- Medium GI (56-69)
- Low GI (55 or less).
Most carbohydrates fall in the high or medium range. Barley is a notable exception with a very low glycemic index of around 25.
“One of the oldest cultivated cereals, barley is nutritious and high in soluble fibre [sic], which helps to reduce the post-meal rise in blood glucose–it lowers the overall GI of a meal. In fact, pearl barley has one of the lowest GI values of any food that we have tested.”2 “Low Glycemic Food of the Month.” Glycemic Index Foundation.” (Accessed 13 Jan 2017.) http://www.gisymbol.com/low-gi-food-of-the-month-28/
I singled out barley’s exceptional glycemic index value because a special form of barley is actually the key ingredient that drives this formula, and we’ll talk more about it in a moment. But the formula also contains certain herbs that help to reduce the glycemic response when people blend it with fresh fruits and juices. Again, the purpose of the formula is to use slow release carbohydrates that allow the body to be smoothly energized with no jitters and feel satiated for several hours so as to eliminate the need for unhealthy snacking. Along the way, you’ll notice that each of the ingredients used in the formula also has other profound health benefits that range from inhibiting cancer to ameliorating HIV infections.
As I mentioned, a special form of barley is the key ingredient that drives this formula, and that is pre-sprouted barley (AKA Activated Barley). But before we get into the details of pre-sprouted barley, we need to look briefly at barley in general. As was hinted at by its remarkable GI number of 25, it’s an exceptional grain. Incidentally, that GI number is 22 percent less than skim milk!
Historically, barley has been used for thousands of years. The Roman army marched on it. It was the primary staple of their diet. They picked up that trick from the Greek gladiators who trained on it and were known as “barley eaters.” (So much for meat being the food of choice for macho men.)
In ancient Rome, a food made from sprouted barley, honey, and colostrum was used to sustain infants whose mothers had died in childbirth. In more recent years, that same formula has been used by the UN to prevent starvation in Third World countries.
Nutritionally, barley has high concentrations of tocotrienols and antioxidant compounds that work to suppress the activity of the rate-limiting activity of the HMG-CoA Reductase enzyme in the liver, thus reducing cholesterol synthesis.3 Burger WC, Qureshi AA, Prentice N, Elson CE. “Effects of different fractions of the barley kernel on the hepatic lipid metabolism of chickens.” Lipids. 1982 Dec;17(12):956-63. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7162370 And barley is one of the highest known sources of beta-glucans, which are carbohydrates (there’s that word again) that have remarkable immune boosting properties and have been shown to improve blood glucose and lipid levels among diabetics in clinical trials.4 Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. “Direct comparison of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin in hypercholesterolemic participants.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):380-7. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/6/1237S.full In fact, research conducted in Canada, the United States, and Australia has shown that barley can play a significant role in lowering blood cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Other studies have shown that non-insulin dependent diabetics (Type II) had improved blood glucose levels as a result of including barley in their diet.
And sprouting barley renders all of barley’s nutrients and health benefits more bio-available. Sprouting also reduces both the amount of starch and gluten in the barley, while at the same time increasing the amount of amylase, which helps break down the remaining carbohydrates.
The problem with using sprouted barley in a formula is that it’s extremely gelatinous. All attempts to dry it and package it for commercial distribution failed until a company in Sweden figured out a way to use low-temperature steam (produced in a partial vacuum) to take the barley just up to the point of sprouting — before it turns gelatinous, but after the point where all the proteins and carbohydrates have been converted, and at a temperature low enough so that no enzymes are damaged.
This turns out to be a remarkably interesting point. It’s like the food is placed in a state of suspended animation at the point where all of the energy of the grain has been marshaled to sprout — but has not yet expended that energy in the act of sprouting. The result is a brand-new superfood with unbelievable properties. It has been called Activated Barley. Think of it like a bullet in a gun.
- The bullet in the chamber is like the dry barley pearl. All the energy is dormant–unavailable.
- The bullet, after it has fired and left the gun, is like the barley sprout. All of the energy has been expended in the act of making the bullet shoot out of the gun–or in this case, making the barley sprout. The energy has been used up. Once again, it is no longer available.
- But pre-sprouted barley is different. It’s like being able to freeze time at the moment the gunpowder has fired and before the bullet has left the gun. A huge amount of energy is now locked in the chamber, available in an easily used form, just waiting to be directed in any way you want. What if you could take that energy and use it for things other than making the bullet fly? What if you could use the energy locked in the pre-sprout phase to nourish the body rather than make the barley sprout? That would be a true superfood.
The Properties of Pre-Sprouted Barley
- Like regular barley, it ranks incredibly low on the glycemic index.
- It has all of the nutritional value of barley — high levels of tocotrienols and beta glucans. In fact, pre-sprouting increases beta glucan levels by some 77% according to tests performed by AnalyCen in Sweden.
- It contains 1,000s of active enzymes.
- It is an ultra-long-chain carbohydrate that takes up to 4 hours to break down in the digestive tract — thus providing a slow, sustained release of energy and insulin.
- Because the release is so slow, it actually lowers the body’s insulin response.
- It provides over 400% more energy per calorie than any other food calorie known. (Despite what the FDA may tell you, not all calories are created equal.) As it turns out, there are two different ways to test for caloric value. The traditional way is by burning the product to determine the energy released. This is the FDA approved standard. However, a more meaningful test is to measure the metabolic calorie value–that is: how much energy the BODY can actually use or produce from the food in question. For activated barley, the metabolic calorie value is 400% higher than a standard calorie such as fat. Or to look at it another way, with pre-sprouted barley you get the same energy on 1/4 the calories VS standard calories.
Barley contains high levels of beta glucan which has been studied for its cholesterol-lowering potential on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C) and apolipoprotein B (apoB) for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction. The conclusion of a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition was that pooled analyses show that barley β-glucan has a lowering effect on LDL-C and non-HDL-C. Inclusion of barley-containing foods, then, may be a strategy for achieving targets in CVD risk reduction.5 Ho HV, Sievenpiper JL, Zurbau A, et al. “A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effect of barley ß-glucan on LDL-C, non-HDL-C and apoB for cardiovascular disease risk reductioni-iv.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Nov;70(11):1239-1245. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27273067
So, what exactly is ß-glucan? It is the predominant soluble fiber found in oats and barley and has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol and improve post-prandial insulin and glucose responses in healthy and diabetic adults.6 Tosh, S.M. “Review of human studies investigating the post-prandial blood-glucose lowering ability of oat and barley food products.” Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2013, 67, 310–317. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23422921 , 7 Othman RA, Moghadasian MH, Jones PJ. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat ß-glucan.” Nutr. Rev. 2011, 69, 299–309. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21631511 In fact, it is likely that these health benefits are the result of a synergistic effect of the fiber and the constituent phytochemicals found in barley and oats.8 Vitaglione P, Mennella I, Ferracane R, et al. “Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors: Role of polyphenols bound to cereal dietary fiber.” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2015, 101, 251–261. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/101/2/251.long The major bioactives in barley include phenolics, tocols (the fundamental unit of vitamin E tocopherols), and folate, while those in oats include actual tocopherols and tocotrienols, phenolic acids, sterols, selenium and avenanthramides.
In addition, barley contains several plant-based protease inhibitors (PIs). In the past, PIs have primarily been considered as protein-degrading enzymes. However, this view has significantly changed, and PIs are now considered to be very important signaling molecules in many biological activities such as inflammation, apoptosis, blood clotting, and hormone processing.9 Srikanth S, Chen Z. “Plant Protease Inhibitors in Therapeutics-Focus on Cancer Therapy.” Front Pharmacol. 2016 Dec 8;7:470. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5143346/ In recent years, PIs have been examined extensively as therapeutic agents, primarily to deal with various human cancers. Interestingly, many plant-based PIs are also found to be effective against cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, inflammatory diseases, and neurological disorders. The PI content of such foods, then, likely has a significant influence on human health disorders. Barley contains several PIs of the chymotrypsin family that interact with a range of proteases from human plasma, leukocytes, the pancreas, a fungal trypsin, and three subtilisins (bacterial proteases)–in addition to inhibiting several coagulation factors such as thrombin, plasma kallikrein, Factor VIIa and Factor Xa.
Stabilized Rice Bran
Stabilized rice bran is one of the world’s great superfoods and is the other main ingredient in this formula. It’s high in fiber, obviously, but also high in protein and is one of the premier sources of antioxidants — containing over 100 of them. Major health components of stabilized rice bran include:
- Hypoallergenic protein with all essential amino acids
- Rich in E complex vitamins (contains the highest natural source of tocopherols and tocotrienols in nature)
- Rich in B complex vitamins
- IP6 (inositol hexaphosphate)
- The only source of Gamma-Oryzanol in nature
- Minerals (including high amounts of potassium, magnesium and manganese) and trace minerals
- Polyphenols, phytosterols, and sterolins (high quantities of Beta-sitosterol and Beta-sitosterolin)
- Mixed carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin
- Dimethylglycine (DMG)
- Trimethylglycine (TMG)
- Lecithin (phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl serine)
- Ferulic Acid
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
Mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in brain aging and has emerged as an early event in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), contributing to neurodegeneration and the loss of physical abilities seen in patients suffering from this disease. As a result, the mitochondria in these cells displays impaired energy metabolism, low ATP levels, and decreased mitochondrial respiration inside your body’s cells.
But studies have shown that stabilized rice bran extract (RBE) protects from mitochondrial dysfunction. A 2013 study published in Pharmacological Research, for example, found that overall respiration and mitochondrial coupling were significantly enhanced in isolated mitochondria in RBE fed animals.10 Hagl S, Kocher A, Schiborr C, Eckert SH, et al. “Rice bran extract protects from mitochondrial dysfunction in guinea pig brains.” Pharmacol Res. 2013 Oct;76:17-27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23827162 This suggests improved mitochondrial function in the brains of RBE fed animals. Cells isolated from the brains of RBE fed animals show significantly higher mitochondrial membrane potential and ATP levels after being “challenged” by the introduction of sodium nitroprusside, indicating resistance against mitochondrial dysfunction. Astonishingly, experimental evidence even indicates increased mitochondrial mass in guinea pig brains after RBE ingestion. Thus, RBE represents a potential nutraceutical for the prevention of mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in brain aging and the resulting neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
And then, of course, rice bran has been shown to be cancer protective–so much so that researchers have worked to isolate its cancer inhibiting components. Specifically, researchers have known that food-derived bioactive peptides from RBE promote functional activity against diseases and present as nutraceutical agents. A 2010 study published in Peptides, was designed to isolate and fully characterize the peptide(s) derived from rice bran that have anti-cancer properties.11 Kannan A, Hettiarachchy NS, Lay JO, Liyanage R. “Human cancer cell proliferation inhibition by a pentapeptide isolated and characterized from rice bran.” Peptides. 2010 Sep;31(9):1629-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20594954 Ultimately, they isolated a novel pentapeptide from rice bran that possesses cancer growth inhibitory properties on colon, breast, lung, and liver cancer cells. They concluded that this peptide could serve as a nutraceutical agent against cancer.
Wheatgrass, Alfalfa Leaf, and Oat Grass
First, let me address why I did not include spirulina or chlorella. I love spirulina and chlorella. I use them both in my superfood formula. But they have a pronounced smell and taste. And when designing a mainstream shake for energy and/or weight-loss, taste and smell are crucial. If the people who need it won’t use it, it is a failed formula no matter how effective it might be.
So instead, I turned to the grasses. They too have a distinctive taste, but nowhere near as pronounced. And when used in support of the rice bran and pre-sprouted barley, you can hardly taste them at all. The three I decided to use were wheatgrass, alfalfa, and oat.
Wheatgrass, the young grass of the common wheat plant Triticum aestivum, has been called one of nature’s finest medicines. It contains chlorophyll, flavonoids, enzymes, vitamins such as C and E, and nutrients that are essential for a healthy body. The benefits of wheatgrass are enormous. These include correcting blood sugar imbalances, purifying the blood, enhancing hemoglobin production, neutralizing toxins, purifying the liver, and removing heavy metals from the body.
Forms of wheatgrass include fresh juice, frozen juice, tablets, and powders, with compositions varying according to their production processes, as well as to the growing conditions of the wheatgrass. Laboratory in vitro studies, mostly using the fermented wheat germ extract, have demonstrated anti-cancer potential and have identified apoptosis as a possible mechanism.12 Alitheen NB, Oon CL, Keong YS, et al. “Cytotoxic effects of commercial wheatgrass and fiber towards human acute promyelocytic leukemia cells (HL60).” Pak J Pharm Sci. 2011 Jul;24(3):243-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21715255 In animal experiments, wheatgrass demonstrated benefits in cancer prevention and as an adjunct to cancer treatment, as well as benefits to immunological activity and oxidative stress. Clinical trials show that wheatgrass may induce synergistic benefits to chemotherapy and may attenuate chemotherapy-related side effects, as well as benefit rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, hematological diseases, diabetes, obesity, and oxidative stress.
A 2006 study gave wheatgrass juice to 400 terminally ill cancer patients for 6 months. Hemoglobin, total protein, and albumin levels improved significantly.13 S. Dey, R. Sarkar, P. Ghosh, et al. “Effect of wheat grass juice in supportive care of terminally ill cancer patients– A tertiary cancer centre [sic] experience from India.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 24, no. 90180 (June 2006) 8634-8634. http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/jco.2006.24.90180.8634 Perhaps even more notable was the fact that the patients’ performance status was improved from 50% to 70% after wheatgrass treatment. As the study concluded, “Wheatgrass juice is an effective alternative of blood transfusion. Its use in terminally ill cancer patients should be encouraged.” And that study does not stand alone. Other studies also indicate that wheatgrass juice plays a large role in creating healthier blood. A 2004 study of patients with thalassemia (a hereditary blood disorder caused by faulty hemoglobin synthesis) reduced their requirements for blood transfusion while on wheatgrass.14 Marwaha, R., Bansal, D., Kaur, S., Trehan A. “Wheat grass juice reduces transfusion requirements in patients with thalassemia major: a pilot study.” Indian Pediatric 2004 Jul;41(7):716-20. http://www.indianpediatrics.net/july2004/july-716-720.htm In nearly all patients, the mean interval between visits increased, and the blood transfused decreased during the wheatgrass period. Additionally, a 2009 study with intermediate thalassemia patients was even more striking. It found that 80% of the 200 patients given wheatgrass juice becoming transfusion independent.15 S. Mukhopadhyay, J. Basak, M. Kar, S. Mandal, A. Mukhopadhyay. “The role of iron chelation activity of wheat grass juice in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome.” jco.2009.27.15s.7012. http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/jco.2009.27.15s.7012
Meanwhile, a 2007 study published in Nutrition and Oncology found that wheatgrass juice taken during chemotherapy may reduce myelotoxicity, dose reductions, and the need for immune system support, without diminishing the efficacy of chemotherapy.16 Bar-Sela G, Tsalic M, Fried G, Goldberg H. “Wheat grass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: a pilot study.” Nutr Cancer. 2007;58(1):43-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17571966
And finally, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research suggests that fermented wheatgrass extract “exerts significant antitumor activity.”17 Mueller T, Jordan K, Voigt W. “Promising cytotoxic activity profile of fermented wheat germ extract (Avemar®) in human cancer cell lines.” J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2011 Apr 16;30:42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3104483/ The study concludes that the extract requires further evaluation as a candidate for clinical combination drug regimens.
Revered as the “father of all foods,” alfalfa (Medicago sativa) has been eaten for centuries by people seeking a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins. Alfalfa Leaf helps the body assimilate protein, calcium, and other nutrients. It is a rich source of chlorophyll, and is the richest land source of trace minerals. And it is high in fructo-oligosaccharides which promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and neutralize bad bacteria overgrowth such as Candida.
Alfalfa has been used to cure a wide variety of ailments. Pharmacological reports revealed that it is used as a neuroprotective, a hypocholesterolemic, an antioxidant, an antiulcer, an antimicrobial, a hypolipidemic, an estrogenic, and in the treatment of atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and menopausal symptoms in women. Additionally, studies have shown that consumption of alfalfa extract significantly reduces glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels while at the same time enhancing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.18 Amraie E, Farsani MK, Sadeghi L, et al. “The effects of aqueous extract of alfalfa on blood glucose and lipids in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” Interv Med Appl Sci. 2015 Sep;7(3):124-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4609025/ In addition, the same study found that alfalfa supplementation reduces ALT and AST liver enzyme levels in the blood as well as promoting reconstruction of damaged liver tissue and enhanced Langerhans islets’ diameter in pancreatic tissue as well as a concomitant multifold increase in insulin secretion.19 Gray AM1, Flatt PR. “Pancreatic and extra-pancreatic effects of the traditional anti-diabetic plant, Medicago sativa (lucerne).” Br J Nutr. 1997 Aug;78(2):325-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9301421
The bottom line is that high consumption of flavonoids such as are found in alfalfa has been associated with a decreased risk of cancer. Alfalfa leaves have been widely used in traditional medicine and are currently used as a dietary supplement because of their high nutrient content. But alfalfa leaf extracts have also demonstrated cytotoxic activity against several sensitive and multidrug resistant tumor cell lines.20 Gatouillat G, Magid AA, Bertin E, et al. “Cytotoxicity and apoptosis induced by alfalfa (Medicago sativa) leaf extracts in sensitive and multidrug-resistant tumor cells.” Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(3):483-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24628411 And now, studies have shown that medicarpin and millepurpan, two flavonoids isolated from alfalfa leaves, induce apoptosis and overcome multidrug resistance in leukemia P388 cells.21 Gatouillat G, Magid AA, Bertin E, et al. “Medicarpin and millepurpan, two flavonoids isolated from Medicago sativa, induce apoptosis and overcome multidrug resistance in leukemia P388 cells.” Phytomedicine. 2015 Dec 1;22(13):1186-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26598918
Oat grass has a relaxing and stimulating action that nourishes and strengthens the nervous system and has been reported to be helpful for arthritis, rheumatism, stress, depression, exhaustion, tremors, epilepsy, palpitations, nervous headache, nervous stomach, nervous breakdown, cholesterol levels, herpes, and menopause symptoms. Oat grass is also used for thyroid and estrogen deficiency, for degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and for colds–especially if recurrent or persistent. Oat grass is extremely rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols and one powerful antioxidant called tricin, a flavone compound that exerts smooth muscle relaxing properties, making it beneficial in gastro-intestinal cramping. Green oats are also high in beta-glucan, which helps stimulate immune functions.
As previously stated, ß-glucan is the predominant soluble fiber found in oats and barley and has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol and improve postprandial insulin and glucose responses in healthy and diabetic adults. In addition, the major bioactives in oats include tocopherols and tocotrienols, phenolic acids, sterols, selenium, and avenanthramides.
The blood sugar regulating properties of Banaba leaf (Lagerstroemia speciosa L.) have been demonstrated in cell culture, animal, and human studies. In isolated cells, the active ingredient in Banaba leaf, corosolic acid, is known to stimulate glucose uptake. In diabetic mice, rats, and rabbits, Banaba feeding reduces elevated blood sugar and insulin levels to normal. In humans with type II diabetes, Banaba extract, at a dose of 16-48mg per day for 4-8 weeks, has been shown to be effective in reducing blood sugar levels 5%-30% and in maintaining tight control of blood sugar fluctuations. An interesting “side-effect” of tighter control of blood sugar and insulin levels is a significant tendency of Banaba to promote weight loss (an average of 2-4 lbs. per month) — without significant dietary alterations.
Banaba leaf has been used in traditional Oriental medicine to treat diabetes in the Philippines. The active ingredient, corosolic acid (CA), is a triterpenoid compound which has a hypoglycemic effect. Studies have shown that CA improves hyperglycemia after an oral administration of sucrose and significantly reduces the digestion of sucrose in the small intestine.22 Takagi S, Miura T, Ishibashi C, et al. “Effect of corosolic acid on the hydrolysis of disaccharides.” J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2008 Jun;54(3):266-8. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv/54/3/54_3_266/_pdf These results suggest that the hypoglycemic activity of CA is derived, at least in part, due to the inhibition of the chemical breakdown of sucrose.
And then there’s diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease) –one of the major complications of diabetes mellitus. Studies have shown that corosolic acid helps ameliorate the renal damage associated with diabetes (including glomerular hypertrophy, mesangial expansion, and fibrosis), as well as the mechanisms behind these effects.23 Li XQ, Tian W, Liu XX, et al. “Corosolic acid inhibits the proliferation of glomerular mesangial cells and protects against diabetic renal damage.” Sci Rep. 2016 May 27;6:26854. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882506/
Studies have also shown that corosolic acid works as an anti-inflammatory by regulating the phosphorylation (a process used by the body to regulate enzymes) of interleukin receptor-associated kinase (IRAK)-2 via the NF-κB cascade.24 Kim SJ, Cha JY, Kang HS, et al. “Corosolic acid ameliorates acute inflammation through inhibition of IRAK-1 phosphorylation in macrophages.” BMB Rep. 2016 May;49(5):276-81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5070707/
And finally, as an interesting side note, Banaba leaf also contains both ellagic acid and gallic acid. We talked a number of years ago about the anticancer benefits associated with ellagic acid, but it turns out, it also is effective as an HIV inhibitor, along with gallic acid. Specifically, a 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research demonstrated that Banaba leaf has a novel anti-HIV activity.25 Nutan, Modi M, Goel T, Das T, et al. “Ellagic acid & gallic acid from Lagerstroemia speciosa L. inhibit HIV-1 infection through inhibition of HIV-1 protease & reverse transcriptase activity.” Indian J Med Res. 2013 Mar;137(3):540-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705663/ Its gallic acid content shows an inhibition in reverse transcriptase, whereas its ellagic acid content inhibits the HIV-1 protease activity. The bottom line is that Banaba leaf extracts show a dose dependent inhibition of HIV-1-infection.
European Blueberry Leaf
European blueberry leaf, also known as bilberry leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus), contains significant pharmaceutical amounts of both chlorogenic and caffeic acids (20%). New studies have shown that taken together, the unique compounds in bilberry leaf help to simultaneously reduce glucose absorption in the intestines, decrease glucose synthesis in the liver, and speed up the rate of glucose metabolism. Residents of the Caucasia region of the former Soviet Union have traditionally taken medicinal teas infused with leaves of the European blueberry plant as a self-treatment for blood sugar imbalances, diabetes, and hypoglycemia. Bilberry leaf extract is also proven to reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels and is beneficial as a food for the pancreas, while helping relieve the problems associated with the kidneys and gallbladder.
Historically the leaves and fruits the European blueberry have been used to treat diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dementia and cancer. The antidiabetic properties of the plant are attributed mostly to the content of anthocyanins and polyphenols. These compounds have proven their antidiabetic potential in various studies. Their mechanism of action is to:
- Increase insulin secretion (anthocyanin pelargonidin)26 Cherian S, Kumar RV, Augusti KT, Kidwai JR. “Antidiabetic effect of a glycoside of pelargonidin isolated from the bark of Ficus bengalensis Linn.” Indian J Biochem Biophys. 1992 Aug;29(4):380-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1427968
- Reduce insulin resistance (anthocyanin cyanidin-3-glucoside)27 Fratantonio D, Cimino F, Molonia MS, et al. “Cyanidin-3-O-glucoside ameliorates palmitate-induced insulin resistance by modulating IRS-1 phosphorylation and release of endothelial derived vasoactive factors.” Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Dec 21;1862(3):351-357. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28011403
- Promote glucose absorption out of the bloodstream and liver and into muscle tissue28 Takikawa M, Inoue S, Horio F, Tsuda T. “Dietary anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract ameliorates hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in diabetic mice.” J Nutr. 2010 Mar;140(3):527-33. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/140/3/527.long
- Protect pancreatic beta cells from glucose induced oxidative stress.
Besides these effects, the anthocyanins in bilberry leaf contribute to the improvement of the lipid spectrum and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cardioprotective activities.
When you see guarana in the formula, you might think that’s where the energy comes from. As it turns out, you would be mistaken. At best, it provides a slight edge to the energy you get from the long chain carbs.
It is true that the active ingredient in guarana (guaranine) is chemically identical to caffeine — but with one huge difference. In its natural form, it is bound to the fiber of the guarana seeds. That means its stimulating component is released gently, slowly, giving you up to 5 hours of refreshing vitality.
And yes, as a dietary supplement, guarana can be an effective stimulant. Its seeds contain about twice the concentration of caffeine found in coffee seeds (about 2–4.5% caffeine in guarana seeds compared to 1–2% for coffee seeds). However, the amount of guarana per serving in this formula (200 mg) means that the caffeine hit, which would only be 5-10 mg at 2-4%, is far, far less than is found in a typical cup of coffee (100 mg). You’d need to have 10-20 shakes to get the same caffeine you get from one cup of coffee–and remember, its release is spread out over 3-4 hours. The bottom line is that the vast majority of the “energy lift” from this formula, comes from the ultra-long-chain carbohydrates, not from the caffeine in the guarana. Again, for lack of a better way of explaining it, the 5-10 mg of caffeine found in a serving of this formula merely give an edge to the energy produced by the long chain carbs. And because of the slow release of both the carbs and the guarana, that energy is accessible for a number of hours without excessive stimulation.
So, unlike coffee which is harsh, quick acting, short lasting, and can increase headaches, exhaustion, and dehydration, the energy boost from guarana is:
- Slow acting
- Long lasting
- No headaches
- Provides stamina
- And endurance
Stevia is used in this formula both to sweeten it and for its nutraceutical value.
That said, two problems prevented stevia from becoming the primary alternative to sugar years ago:
- First, for years, the FDA only authorized its use as a supplement, not as a sweetener.
- And second, although very sweet and far safer than the standard commercial alternatives most commonly used (aspartame and sucralose), it had an aftertaste that many people didn’t like.
Problem 1 went away when the FDA approved stevia’s use as a sweetener in 2008 to accommodate Coke and Pepsi. And problem 2 went away when food technologists finally learned how to isolate Reb A from stevia. As it turns out, most of the aftertaste is in the stevioside part of stevia’s sweet taste, not the rebaudioside part.
Rebaudioside A, or Reb A as it is commonly known, is the sweetest of all the natural compounds in the stevia leaf. Also, as just mentioned, it has very little of the problematic aftertaste and is 200 times sweeter than sugar–so very little goes a long way. Recent versions of Reb A available for use as a sweetener actually achieve 98% purity.
In addition to its use as a sweetener, stevia has the wonderful ability to help the body regulate blood sugar. Several researchers have reported that, stevia seems to correct both high and low blood sugar–primarily as a result of its ability to re-vitalize beta cells in the pancreas.29 Himanshu Misra, Manish Soni, Narendra Silawat, et al. “Antidiabetic activity of medium-polar extract from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Bert. (Bertoni) on alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011 Apr-Jun; 3(2): 242–248. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103919/ , 30 Abdula R, Jeppesen PB, Rolfsen SE, et al. “Rebaudioside A potently stimulates insulin secretion from isolated mouse islets: Studies on the dose, glucose and calcium dependency.” Metab. 2004;53:1378–81. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15375798 Other scientists have stated that stevia appears to lower blood pressure, but does not seem to affect normal blood pressure.31 Paul Chan, Brian Tomlinson, Yi-Jen Chen, et al. “A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension.” Br J Clin Pharmacol. Sep 2000; 50(3): 215–220. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014988/
Final Energizing Shake Formula
The end result of this formulation is a shake powder that:
- Tastes great
- Mixes beautifully
- Nutritionally supports your body’s ability to control the glycemic response even when mixed with blended fruit or fruit juices
- Creates a sense of fullness and satiety that lasts for 3-4 hours
- Loaded with hundreds of antioxidants and phytochemicals that support and nourish the body, as noted above
- Helps you lose weight quickly, easily, and sustainably
- And most importantly, provides a sustained energy release that lasts for 3-4 hours
This truly is a different kind of shake.
(Originally published 01/01/2004. Updated 01/23/2017.)
References [ + ]
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|23.||↑||Li XQ, Tian W, Liu XX, et al. “Corosolic acid inhibits the proliferation of glomerular mesangial cells and protects against diabetic renal damage.” Sci Rep. 2016 May 27;6:26854. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882506/|
|24.||↑||Kim SJ, Cha JY, Kang HS, et al. “Corosolic acid ameliorates acute inflammation through inhibition of IRAK-1 phosphorylation in macrophages.” BMB Rep. 2016 May;49(5):276-81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5070707/|
|25.||↑||Nutan, Modi M, Goel T, Das T, et al. “Ellagic acid & gallic acid from Lagerstroemia speciosa L. inhibit HIV-1 infection through inhibition of HIV-1 protease & reverse transcriptase activity.” Indian J Med Res. 2013 Mar;137(3):540-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705663/|
|26.||↑||Cherian S, Kumar RV, Augusti KT, Kidwai JR. “Antidiabetic effect of a glycoside of pelargonidin isolated from the bark of Ficus bengalensis Linn.” Indian J Biochem Biophys. 1992 Aug;29(4):380-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1427968|
|27.||↑||Fratantonio D, Cimino F, Molonia MS, et al. “Cyanidin-3-O-glucoside ameliorates palmitate-induced insulin resistance by modulating IRS-1 phosphorylation and release of endothelial derived vasoactive factors.” Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Dec 21;1862(3):351-357. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28011403|
|28.||↑||Takikawa M, Inoue S, Horio F, Tsuda T. “Dietary anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract ameliorates hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in diabetic mice.” J Nutr. 2010 Mar;140(3):527-33. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/140/3/527.long|
|29.||↑||Himanshu Misra, Manish Soni, Narendra Silawat, et al. “Antidiabetic activity of medium-polar extract from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Bert. (Bertoni) on alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011 Apr-Jun; 3(2): 242–248. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103919/|
|30.||↑||Abdula R, Jeppesen PB, Rolfsen SE, et al. “Rebaudioside A potently stimulates insulin secretion from isolated mouse islets: Studies on the dose, glucose and calcium dependency.” Metab. 2004;53:1378–81. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15375798|
|31.||↑||Paul Chan, Brian Tomlinson, Yi-Jen Chen, et al. “A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension.” Br J Clin Pharmacol. Sep 2000; 50(3): 215–220. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014988/|