By Author


of the The Nutritional Therapy Institute Clinic

(formerly The Recovery Systems Clinic)

The Diet Cure Blog

News and information about the Diet Cure by Julia Ross.

The Criminal American Diet: Who’s Responsible?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Re: A Life-Saving Resurrection of Our Traditional Diet

TIME Magazine published a revolutionary article in the June 23, 2014 issue. If you aren’t a subscriber it is almost impossible to access it, so I’ve posted the content here (though without the graphics) along with my letter to the editor. See some additional remarks just for Diet Cure visitors.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

The key neurotransmitters are made of amino acids. There are at least twenty-two amino acids contained in high protein foods such as fish, eggs, chicken, and beef, including the nine amino acids that are considered essential for humans. Other foods, such as grains and beans, have fewer aminos, so they need to be carefully combined to provide a complete protein (for example, rice and beans, or corn and nuts).  Even then these foods contain much less protein, and the carb content is much higher.

If you are eating three meals a day, each meal including plenty of protein (most people with eating and weight problems are doing neither), your positive moods and freedom from cravings can be maintained. But many people need to kick-start a brains repair job, using particular, individual amino acids.  This will allow you to quickly start enjoying eating protein and vegetables instead of cookies and ice cream. After a few months, you will be getting all the aminos you need from your food alone and won’t need to take amino acids as supplements any longer.

Restoring depleted brain chemistry sounds like a big job—but it isn’t. Three of the four key neurotransmitters are made from just a single amino acid each! Because biochemists isolate these key amino acids and extract them from special yeasts, you can easily add the specific ones that may be deficient. These “free form” amino acids are instantly bioavailable (in other words they are predigested), unlike protein powders from soy or milk, which can be hard to absorb. Hundreds of research studies at Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere have confirmed the effectiveness of using just a few targeted amino acid precursors to increase the key neurotransmitters, thereby eliminating depression, anxiety, and cravings for food, alcohol, and drugs.  (You can find out even more about aminos and behavior in my book The Mood Cure.


Monday, October 07, 2013

In a study published in October 1997, University of North Texas researcher Kenneth Blum and colleagues monitored two groups of dieters for two years after they had completed a medically monitored fast. The fasters had used the product Optifast, a powdered nutritional drink containing various vitamins and minerals, which dieters use to replace one, two, or even three meals a day. In Dr. Blum’s study, 247 Optifast graduates were divided into two equal groups. One group took the amino acids listed in this chapter. The other group took no amino acids. As we know from Oprah Winfrey’s highly publicized experience with Optifast and from the 1992 Senate investigation of Optifast and Nutrisystems, a quick regain of weight after a liquid fast is to be expected in more than 90 percent of cases. However, this did not happen to Dr. Blum’s amino acid-taking group.

At the end of two years, the amino acid takers showed:

♦  a twofold decrease in percent overweight for both males and females;

♦  a 70 percent decrease in craving for females and a 63 percent decrease for males;

♦  a 66 percent decrease in binge eating for females and a 41 percent decrease for males;

♦   the experimental group regained only 14.7 percent of the weight they lost during fasting while the control group regained 41.7 percent of their lost weight.



Friday, October 04, 2013

This may be the most exciting chapter in The Diet Cure because it will teach you how to use amino acid supplements to correct the brain chemistry deficiencies that are forcing you to the chocolate chip cookies. Soon you’ll be free of food cravings, and the depression, irritability, anxiety, and over-stress that trigger them. The Amino Acid Therapy Chart on page 122-123, will help you to spot which aminos you’ll need, at what dosages, and when to take them.

This is the secret:  There are twenty-two different kinds of amino acids in high-protein foods like chicken, fish, beef, eggs, and cheese.  You may have heard them referred to as the building blocks of protein.  Each amino has its own name and unique duties to perform, but only a few very special aminos can serve as fuels for the brain’s four mood and appetizer regulating engines.   Just five or six of these amino acids, taken as supplements, can effectively reverse all four of the brain deficiencies that cause false moods and food cravings.

Each of the four mood engines in your brain needs a different amino acid fuel.  The lower your access to amino fuel, the more false mood symptoms you can develop.  The question is how much “gas” do you have in each of your engines?  How do you know when you’ve run too low?  How can you fill ‘em up?  Which amino brain fuels do you need? 

Here is a list of all of the individual amino acids that you might need.   Match them up with your specific neurotransmitter deficiency symptoms on the Chart of Symptoms on page 123.  As you’ll see, the amino acids needed to eliminate each symptom are listed directly across from that symptom.  Once you’ve identified which aminos you’ll need, check the precautionary sheet to be sure there’s no reason for you not to take a particular amino.  Then buy or order them, trial them one by one and wait ten minutes for each one to produce its amazing effects on your mood and appetite.  

Response to Taubes/Newsweek/Daily Beast Article

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

By Julia Ross


Gary Taubes has researched an important article for Newsweek [(5/7/12) "Why the Campaign to Stop Americaʼs Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing"].  He accurately points at sugar and starch rather than saturated fat or lack of exercise, as the real weight-gain culprits.  However, Taubes, himself, makes a critical mistake.  He dismisses the overwhelming research demonstrating that these sweet and starchy carbohydrates are also highly addictive.


Taubes insists that the problem is simply our ignorance about the unique weight and diabetes promoting attributes of refined carbohydrates, especially high fructose corn syrup.  Having worked with thousands of overeaters since the early 1980s, I must disagree with his conclusion.  All of my patients have known that refined carbohydrates were their main enemies.  However, their knowledge did not protect them from the biochemical ferocity of their food addictions.


The impact of carbohydrates on the human brain’s pleasure centers is now uncontested.  In 2007, a U. of Bordeaux study found that sugar was four times more addictive than cocaine.  Many other studies compare sugar’s effects to those of opiates, because of sugar’s impact on endorphin function.  Even NIDA chief, Nora Volkow, points to sugar’s effects on our dopamine reward function.


As Taubes helpfully points out, we have been demonizing animal protein- especially red meat- for decades, despite the fact that our consumption of meat has dropped steadily since the seventies, while our weights (and carb intake) have both escalated.  I would argue that Americans have actually become protein malnourished, because our appetites for carbohydrates have so greatly increased.


The brain requires high quality protein, to keep its powerful appetite-regulating neurotransmitters adequately fueled (among thousands of other protein requirements—from muscles and bones, to hormones and eyelashes.) However, a brain that is malnourished in protein, and deficient in neurotransmitters, is a highly addictive brain, that is very vulnerable to the influence of drugs and other addictive substances, including sugar.  In our experience, increasing dietary protein is essential for the treatment of sugar addicts.


Many patients also require a “jump-start” with nutritional supplements.  By fueling the brain with the four specific amino acids that the brain requires to produce its four key appetite-regulating neurotransmitters, we have been able to easily and quickly turn off cravings for sugar and starches. I have documented this work in the latest edition of my book The Diet Cure.

Tryptophan, Serotonin, Compulsive Overeating, and Bulimia

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

For reasons we don’t entirely understand, some dieters whose serotonin levels drop lose self-esteem and become obsessed with weight loss, but do not lose their appetites. On the contrary, their appetites expand. In the late afternoon and evening, especially in winter and during PMS (low serotonin times for all of us), these dieters can become ravenous and binge on sweets and starches.

One of our clients ate regular breakfasts and lunches but dreaded her evenings, when she would binge on ice cream and cookies, whether she had eaten a normal dinner or not. Terrified of weight gain, she would throw up as soon as she ate.

In several studies, bulimics were deprived of the single amino acid tryptophan. In reaction, their serotonin levels dropped and they binged more violently, ingesting and purging an average of 900 calories more each day.22 In another study, adding extra tryptophan to the diet reduced bulimic binges and mood problems by raising serotonin levels. Most recently, a University of Oxford researcher, Katherine Smith, reported that even years into recovery, bulimics can experience a return of their cravings and mood problem after only a few hours of tryptophan depletion. She concluded, “Our findings support suggestions that chronic depletion of plasma tryptophan may be one of the mechanisms whereby persistent dieting can lead to the development of eating disorders in vulnerable individuals.”

Note that most compulsive eaters do not vomit. They keep it all down. But dieting can lower their serotonin levels, too, causing the same wild cravings and self-hate that bulimics suffer.

As we trace the fate of only one depleted nutrient, tryptophan, and the brain chemical made from it, serotonin, you can again see how easily a dieter can develop an eating disorder. If you consider how many other critical brain and body chemicals are depleted through dieting, you have a more profound appreciation of the dangers you are exposed to on low-calorie diets.

Tryptophan Depletion: The Path to Depression, Low Self-esteem, Obsession, and Eating Disorders

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Serotonin, perhaps the most well known of the brain’s four key mood regulators, is made from the amino acid L-tryptophan. Because few foods contain high amounts of tryptophan, it is one of the first nutrients that you can lose when you start dieting. Studies show that serotonin levels can drop too low within seven hours of tryptophan depletion. Let’s follow this single essential protein (there are nine altogether) as it becomes more and more depleted by dieting, to see how decreased levels of even one brain nutrient might turn you toward depression, compulsive eating, bulimia, or anorexia.

In his best seller, Listening to Prozac, Peter Kramer, M.D. explains that when our serotonin levels drop, so do our feelings of self-esteem, regardless of our actual circumstances or accomplishments. These feelings can easily be the result of not eating the protein foods that keep serotonin levels high. As their serotonin-dependent self- esteem drops, girls tend to diet even more vigorously. “If I get thin enough, I’ll feel good about myself again!” Tragically, they don’t know that they will never be thin enough to satisfy their starving minds. Extreme dieting is actually the worst way to try to raise self- esteem because the brain can only deteriorate further and become more self-critical as it starves. More and more dieters worldwide are experiencing this miserable side effect of weight reduction on the brain.

When tryptophan deficiency causes serotonin levels to drop, you may become obsessed with thoughts you can’t turn off or behaviors you can’t stop. Once this rigid behavior pattern emerges in the course of dieting, the susceptibility to eating disorders is complete. Just as some low-serotonin obsessive-compulsives wash their hands fifty times a day, some young dieters may begin to practice a constant, involuntary vigilance regarding food and the perfect body. They become obsessed with calorie counting, with how ugly they are, and on how to eat less and less. As they eat less, their serotonin levels fall farther, increasing dieters’ obsession with undereating. As their zinc and vitamin B1 (thiamin) levels drop low as well, their appetite fades. This can be the perfect biochemical setup for anorexia.

Control, which so many therapists and researchers have observed as the central issue of anorexia, often comes down to this: tryptophan (and serotonin) deficiency result in an outbreak of the obsessive behavior that we call “controlling.”  There may be psychological elements in the picture, too, but a low-serotonin brain is ill equipped to resolve them. Several large international studies of the causes of anorexia have concluded that the cause is a genetic serotonin-related mood disorder, not a psychological one


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

As the activity of the brain shrinks with dieting, the brain’s mental and emotional stability can falter—even fail. (You can recognize brain chemistry deficiency by its very specific symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, obsessiveness, and low self-esteem.) My clients who are dieters or have eating disorders always suffer from mood problems, caused primarily by protein malnutrition. The four brain chemicals that dictate your moods are all derived from the amino acids in protein foods. Even nondieters who tend not to eat enough protein can suffer from low-protein brain drain.

The Flaws in Four Popular, But Equally Unsuccessful, Weight Loss Diets

Saturday, August 17, 2013

By Julia Ross

Atkins, Weight Watchers, Ornish, and Zone dieters all garner similar benefits when on their diets of choice: modest weight loss and improved health markers. The trouble is that, for very good reasons, they can’t stay on any of these diets. According to this Tufts study  35 - 50%  of dieters quit early on.

As I mention at length in Chapters 2 and 10 of the new Diet Cure over-restricting calories inevitably results in rebound cravings, overeating, and weight gain. Why? 

What are the flaws common to these diets that make relapse so predictable? 

More importantly, are there any effective alternatives?

Flaw #1

Most of these diets provide too few calories, which triggers the famine response—slowed metabolic rate and depletion of appetite-regulating brain neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Better Alternatives

 (1) Provide over 2000 calories a day, including as much as 40% from fat, mostly saturated, and 75 grams of protein per day.

(2) Supplement with brain-targeted amino acids to create rock-solid indifference to sweets and starches in minutes. This is the jump-start all dieters need to silence their cravings. (See chapters 1 and 9 in the Diet Cure.)

Flaw #2

Most weight loss diets recommend non-fat milk products, which increase lactose (sugar) content and eliminate appetite-satisfying saturated fats. They can also perpetuate milk product craving and overeating for those addicted to the milk protein, casein (and the respiratory and digestive disruption of this common allergen.)

Better Alternative: Full fat milk products (or none at all, if milk products trigger an allergic reaction or cravings and overeating because of their casein content—see below.)

Flaw #3

Inclusion of soy products or emphasis on cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc.) Both suppress thyroid function (i.e., metabolic rate)

Better Alternative: Increase use of fish, poultry, and red meat for protein. Minimize cruciferous vegetables, maximize other vegetables.

Flaw #4

The Atkins diet is not calorie-restrictive, as its bacon-loving adherents can attest; so why do Atkins dieters fare no better than low-cal dieters? Because Atkins recommends foods that can trigger loss of control, as do the other popular diets.

Most Common Trigger Foods:

  1. Wheat (even whole wheat and the other gluten-containing grains—rye, oats, and barley--since gluten has opiate-like effects in the brain)
  2. Milk products (e.g., cheese, and artificially sweetened yogurt and ice cream) for those “blessed” by an opiate-like (exorphin) response to the milk protein casein
  3. Chocolate and caffeine - Both addictive and appetite-suppressive (Remember under-eating causes rebound overeating.)
  4. Artificially sweetened beverages or foods—the U. of Bordeaux found the “intense sweetness” of saccharin, as well as sugar, to be four times more addictive than cocaine

Diabetes Diet Breakthrough: Low-Carb, High-Fat Diets Cut Blood Sugar Levels, Weight, and Cholesterol!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

By Julia Ross

A recent study from Sweden confirms the results of prior U.S. studies 

showing that lower carb and higher fat diets improve blood 

sugar status, as well as weight and other markers.


Diabetes is a deadly epidemic, afflicting 11% of adults as well as one in every 400 children in the U.S. Conventional diabetic diets (high in carbohydrates and low in fat) are notoriously unsuccessful. In this Swedish study, insulin levels were reduced by 30% and “good” cholesterol levels improved in the diabetics on the higher fat, lower carb diet compared to those on a conventional low calorie, higher carb diet.


Earlier studies of low-carb, higher-fat (including unlimited saturated fat Atkins-type diets) came to similar conclusions. Quoting from chapter 10 in the Diet Cure: “Other studies have confirmed the superiority of Atkins-type diets’ positive impact on blood pressure and on the lowering of weight, cholesterol, tryglycerides, glucose, insulin, and A1C levels. These last three are diabetes markers. Several studies on diabetes document the benefits of lowering carbs and including fat in the diet. To quote one such study’s author, ‘When we took away the carbohydrates, the patients spontaneously reduced their daily energy consumption by 1,000 calories a day. Although they could have, they did not compensate by eating more protein and fats and they weren’t bored with the food choices. In fact, they loved the diet. The carbohydrates were clearly stimulating their excessive appetites.’”


“Four studies, three on type 2 diabetics and one on mildly obese men and women, used a high-fat and protein, low-carb diet. Their results: all subjects showed improvement in weight, as well as insulin and cholesterol levels. A fifth, Harvard School of Public Health, study ‘found no association between low-carbohydrate diets and increased cardiovascular risk, even when these diets were high in saturated animal fats.’ “

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