A doctor's diet secret

Predictive medicine expert Brandon Colby, MD, explains why he hasn't touched refined sugar for over a decade.

Grandiose new year promises will get you nowhere fast. In true anti-resolution spirit, we asked our Q Advisory Board members to divulge the one simple health habit they swear by. First up: Brandon Colby, MD, author ofOutsmart Your Genesand founder and CEO of Existence Genetics.

I cut refined sugar out of my diet about 12 years ago. I was suffering from ear and sinus infections and acne, but had no conception of the amount of sugar I was actually putting into my body. First, I cut out Coca-Cola and immediately noticed an improvement in my skin. As I continued to eliminate more and more sugary foods I stopped getting sick — and haven’t had a single sinus or ear infection since.

In medical school, I learned that when your blood sugar levels go up, there’s immense immune system dysfunction. When patients are in the ICU, we test blood sugar levels three or four times a day — and if they are too high, we are very careful to bring them down. That’s basically what I do with myself on a daily basis, making sure that my blood sugar doesn’t go through the peaks and troughs caused by refined sugars.

When I first cut back, I would spend hours reading ingredients and labels in the grocery store. If something contains high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, glucose or dextrose, it’s got refined sugar. I was amazed to find it in things like cured meats, mayonnaise, most salad dressings, some mustards … I don't smoke but was shocked to find out that even cigarettes are cured with sugar! I only get sick once every two or three years now, and I think having a healthy diet focused on low or no refined sugars combined with a fitness regimen has really kept me feeling and looking pretty young.

What I had to do to get to this place was prioritize my nutrition over my tastebuds. If you’re propelled by taste, it's hard to make healthy choices all the time. A McDonald's hamburger tastes amazing, but over time those cravings fade away. It's become part of my lifestyle, so now it's just what I do. Last year, I cut out unnecessary carbs (such as loading up on bread before a meal); every year, I inch forward in trying to be more and more healthy instead of digressing.

Look for more healthy habits from top docs next Monday. And don't miss a Stanford pyschologist's willpower advice.