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May 18, 2014, last updated May 11, 2016

By A. Lee, Editor and Contributing Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors, Registered Nurses, Certified trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]









Artichokes are an ancient vegetable. In Greek mythology, the
god Zeus fell in love with a woman named Cyanara. Angered
because Cyanara would sneak back to Earth to see her
family, Zeus turned her into a vegetable -- the artichoke.
Hence, the artichoke in a sense, had heavenly origins.

It is believed that artichokes were originally cultivated by the
Greeks and Africans and then were adopted by the Romans.
Today, artichokes are a staple of the Italian diet.

Artichokes Are Chock Full of a Special Fiber

Scientists have long known that fiber helps in weight
control.  Fiber keeps you full, extends the amount of time
between meals and as a result you eating less in a 24 hour
period.  But more recently, scientists have discovered that a
particular kind of fiber ---
fermentable fiber --- has an even
greater effect on weight control.

Fermentable fiber is just what its name implies ---fiber which
is fermented in your body. Fermentation is of course the
same process that turns ordinary hops and barley into beer
or grapes into wine. In your body, fermentation occurs in
your colon.  

Introducing fermentable fiber into your colon triggers the
fermentation of the fiber into…what? For years, scientists
didn’t know why fermentable fiber lowered your weight.
What product of the fermentation process does the magic
trick?


Now, a study in April 2014 from researchers at the Imperial
College of London has suggested an answer.  The magic
substance which fermentation produces which causes weight
loss is “acetate”.

For 8 weeks, the research team fed mice a highly
fermentable fiber called “inulin”.  Inulin fed to the mice
turned into acetate in their guts, and
--- voila!  --- 1 to 2
hours later, the mice stopped eating as much.

Appetite suppression occurred almost immediately. The mice
fed the inulin diet ate about 11% less each week than the
mice in the control group.  

Now, 11% may not seem like much less but  
consider this. If
you eat 2500 calories a day, 11% less would represent a
decrease of 277 calories a day, which would produce a
weight loss of 33 pounds (over 15 kilos)  a year!

Of course, mice are not humans, and more research is
needed to confirm that acetate increase in humans will also
suppress our appetites. But here is what we can do now. We
can try foods that are rich in insulin.

Insulin Rich Foods—Why You Should Eat Way More
Artichokes



























The most insulin-rich food on earth is ….drumroll… the
artichoke.  A particular species of plant called the Jerusalem
artichoke has 76% of its weight in inulin.   The Jerusalem
artichoke is actually not even an artichoke—it’s a daisy-type
flower.  

Other true “globe” shaped artichokes also are high in inulin,
just not as much. For example, the heart of a common green
globe artichoke available generally in the US has from 30 to
36% of its weight in inulin, according to a 2010 study from
Dr. Costabile of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences
in the  University of Reading, United Kingdom.

I have tried eating more artichoke this week and here is
what I found.  I ate much less food.  I prepared artichoke
and turkey meat devilled eggs as a between meal snack.  
Then, I tried to eat as I normally would. I ate my first 3
deviled artichoke egg halves around noon.  To my surprise, I
was not hungry again until close to 6PM at which time I had
my normal dinner. Later that night,  I started to watch a
movie, my usual cue for a bowl of popcorn. I find popcorn
almost irresistible. But to my surprise, even though my
daughter had popcorn and I was exposed to the smell, I was
still not hungry.

After my at-home experiment, I have decided to continue
including more artichokes’s in my weekly meals. I bought
extra artichokes at my farmer’s market and I plan to make
more artichoke devilled eggs this week.

It’s clear to me that the artichokes are in fact helping to take
the edge off my appetite.

But just because my personal experience seems to confirm
that this one study suggests is not the final word on the
matter. I also looked at other studies and at the FDA’s view
on the matter of fiber as weight control aid.

Here is what the FDA cautions about fiber:

Currently, there is not scientific agreement as to whether a
particular type of soluble fiber is beneficial, or whether the
observed protective effects of fruits, vegetables, and grain
products against heart disease are due to other components,
or a combination of components, in these diets, including,
but not necessarily limited to, some types of soluble fiber,
other fiber components, other characteristics of the complex
carbohydrate content of these foods, other nutrients in
these foods, or displacement of saturated fat and cholesterol
from the diet.


This caution was last revised as of April 1, 2013 so it was
issued
before this latest study on inulin was released in April
of 2014.

It will be interesting to follow the FDA’s view of the new
inulin research findings.  We will update you when and if any
new FDA advice is issued.


Is There a Maximum Amount of Inulin You Should Eat?

The average American diet contains about 10 to 20 grams of
fiber per day.  But, scientists believe that when humans lived
in caves, about 50,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic age,
we ate about 100 grams of fiber a day.  And, most of that
fiber was fermentable.

According to DR. S.B. Eaton of Emory University in Atlanta,
our modern diet bears little resemblance to the diet ancient
humans ate 50,000 years ago, even though we have
changed very little genetically since then. Ancient humans
had a diet with 35% fat, 35% carbohydrates and 30%
protein.  Half of their diet consisted of fruits and vegetables
(uncultivated) whereas modern diets consist of only about
16% of fruits and vegetables.  

As we noted, the ancient humans ate over 100 grams a day
on fiber but we eat only 10 to 20 grams a day. Also, ancient
humans didn’t eat any processed sugars because they hadn't
been invented yet. The only sweets they ate came in the
form of honey, which made of only 2 to 3 % of their total
calories. Now, added sugar makes up 15% of our diets.

So, in answer to the question of how much is too much
fermentable fiber, the rough guide is even if you ate about 5
times the fiber you now eat --- assuming you eat like most
Americas do --- you would  not be overdoing it,
if you were
a caveman or cave woman.

But of course you’re not a cave dweller.  Our genetics may
be the same as cave dwellers but our more stomachs
certainly have grown unaccustomed to eating 100 grams of
fiber a day.

There are precautions you should take.  Adding too much
fiber too fast to your diet can cause bloating and bowel
discomfort.  Also, if you have digestive problems or suffer
from bowel irritability, take it extremely slowly.  Only add a
few extra grams of fiber per day each week.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a
recommended daily value of fiber at 25 grams a day. That’s
not too ambitious.

Other authorities would have us aim a little higher. A 1997
study led by Dr T.M. Wolever and Dr. D.J. Jenkins of the
Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine,
University of Toronto, Ontario recommends that you should
eat 15 to 20 grams for every 1000 calories you consume. So,
on a 2000 calorie diet, you should aim for between 30 and
40 grams if fiber per day.

The Canadian study noted that the amount of fiber people
consume varies greatly around the world from 10 grams to
up to 80 grams per day in some countries.

Of the total grams of fiber you consume, you should try to
include 5 to10 grams of that in the form of fermentable fiber
such as inulin if you're trying to lose weight.

You probably are already consuming inulin and didn’t know
it.

Inulin, extracted from artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes,
has the consistency of fat but has no cholesterol and fat. For
this reason, food manufacturers have jumped on the inulin
bandwagon and have been adding inulin to various foods for
several years now. If you look at the ingredients of cereals,
yogurts, breads and other products which are advertised as
“high fiber”,   you’ll probably find a high percentage of them
contain inulin.


Easy Does It If You're Adding Inulin to Your Diet

There is no daily recommended minimum or maximum
amount of inulin --- yet.  Though inulin appears not to be
toxic, overuse of inulin can cause stomach upset
(gastrointestinal distress), according to a 2010 study from
the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the  
University of Minnesota-St. Paul.

The Minnesota study, led by Dr.  A.L. Bonnema and Dr. L.W.
Kohlberg suggests that healthy, young adults can easily
tolerate up to 10 grams per day of native inulin and up to 5
grams per day of oligofructose, the frutose derived from
inulin.

We’ll stay on top of developments for this promising new
food ingredient and keep you posted with updates.

But for now,  if you’re watching your weight, it’s a good
idea to add artichokes to your weekly grocery list.











































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These artichoke and turkey burger deviled eggs are packed
with inulin, a fermentable fiber that suppresses your
appetite. Recipe
here.