Q: Is it true there are foods that are designed to be addictive? — Joy D., Annapolis, Md.
A: It's true, some food manufacturers engineer products to contain (from their point of view) the optimal balance of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Then you feel maximum “crave” and keep eating, drinking and buying more of their products. It's what they call your bliss point!
We kid you not; they aim for that sweet spot that keeps you coming back for more. It's why you'll find sugar in spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, ketchup, yogurt and — watch out for this! — low-fat, processed, frozen foods that say 'Healthy' or “Lean” on the package.
Sugar substitutes are another ingredient the food manufacturers use to entice you to eat and repeat. These fake sugars trick your body into thinking that you've had real sugar, but then leave you wanting more, more, more.
And here's a (horrifying) fun fact: The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to change the “standard of identity” of milk so that “any safe and suitable sweetener, including non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame” can be added to milk without listing the ingredients on the label. We say you can't put any additive into a food and not identify it on the label — that's a health hazard.
Fortunately, it's easier to break bad-for-you food habits than you might think: You need to make a 168-hour commitment.
For one week give up all sugary and artificially sweetened foods. Want a sweet? Grab a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. Your body will detox as those hours tick by, and pretty soon you'll be loving how much better you sleep (no blood sugar ups and downs) and how much happier you feel (as inflammation goes down mood goes up!). Now, that's sweet!
Q: I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about six months ago, and my doctor said if I don't get my blood sugar under control, I could be looking at amputation of a foot or leg! What's he talking about? — Steve J., Sandusky, Ohio
A: Chronically high blood sugar damages the cardiovascular and nervous systems in such a way that over time your blood can't deliver healing oxygen, nutrients and immune system factors to your lower limbs.
Nerve damage makes it difficult to feel a cut or scrape, and you might not notice that it has become infected. Then, if that wound can't heal, amputation might be the only way to prevent gangrene from spreading throughout your body.
But there's good news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report amputation rates for people with type 2 have fallen 65 percent since 1996 — and there's no reason you can't be part of that good-news trend. You can do it with effective glucose control and statins (they reduce cardiovascular problems) and by paying careful attention to any cuts, scrapes or blisters that you get on your feet or legs.
1. Bring your A1C (your average glucose level over a two- to three-month period) to 7 percent or less if your doc says it's OK. If your A1C is elevated, every 1 percent reduction cuts your risk of complications such as nerve damage and poor circulation by 35 percent! How? Read on!
2. Eliminate the five food felons: added sugar, sugar syrups, (most) saturated fats, all trans fat and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole. Blood sugar will stabilize, and you'll lose weight.
3. Aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. When you are starting out, build up to that number gradually. And ask your doctor about inserts for your walking shoes to sidestep foot irritation. Inspect your feet every day; if a blister, scrape or cut appears, have a medical specialist evaluate and treat the wound.
4. Stick to your medication regimen, and ask your doctor about taking a statin. This keeps your circulation flowing. Aim for triglycerides of around 100, and (lousy) LDL cholesterol down to about 70.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.