Exclusive Interview with Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®

Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s
21st Century Weight Loss Program

How the use of a special barley flour or flakes can promote
weight loss by lowering the glycemic index of many foods

First appeared in the December 2006 issue

Part 1 of 2 on Glycemic Control

ack in 1986, Durk & Sandy wrote a book called The Life Extension Weight Loss Program, which hit the bestseller list. Unfortunately, the budget for publicity tours was cut, and the book never got the promotion that was promised—not formally, at least. But its impact on the use of nutritional supplements for weight loss was phenomenal: it created a market where none had existed before. Of the ideas introduced by Durk & Sandy, the one that caught fire and rose to dominate the market was stimulated thermogenesis, a process by which one could increase the rate at which the body burns fat.

Now, 20 years later, Durk & Sandy have again given the subject the benefit of their research and hard thinking to create a new program, one especially suited to the times of our lives and the world as it is. The interview that follows (the first of a two-part product series) will introduce a weight loss strategy based on the concept of glycemic control. It’s designed to revolutionize the way you eat and to improve your health, without the need for calorie counting or even exercise—and without giving up the pleasures of eating!


LE: Durk, tell us about your weight loss success.

DURK: We’re introducing a new glycemic control weight loss program, a protocol that has helped me lose a lot of weight. At the outset, I weighed 234 pounds, but after about 7 1/2 months, I’m down to 203 and still dropping. During that time, I’ve never gone hungry, I haven’t done any significant exercise (although exercise is undeniably good for you), and I haven’t counted calories. There are, of course, certain “downsides” to losing weight: I keep having to buy smaller-size blue jeans, and I even had to buy a smaller gun belt for when I carry my .44 magnum out at the ranch.

Anyway, the program involves a change in diet, where you start by selecting foods with a low glycemic index. That’s a numerical rating system for carbohydrate-containing foods, based on how they affect your blood glucose levels after you consume them. It’s not a theoretical index, but one based on actual measurements in humans.

An example of a low-glycemic food is sweet potatoes, which our program would substitute for white russet baking potatoes. It also entails the use of a special strain of barley flour (or, alternatively, barley flakes—and let’s agree that from here on, when we talk about the flour, we’ll be referring to the flour and the flakes). What’s special about this barley flour is that it contains very high levels of beta-glucan, a soluble, viscous fiber that slows down the absorption of foods it’s mixed with—a truly amazing effect. When you add the barley flour to almost any food, it will lower the glycemic index. That turns what you eat into time-released food.

SANDY: Because weight loss is a complex subject, we’re going to do a series of interviews on it. In this one, we’ll discuss what makes you fat and then explain how you can reduce the amount of fat on your body. We’ve found that lowering the glycemic index of what you eat can help reduce your weight by altering the effect that food has on your body and by reducing the amount that you eat.

In the next interview, we’ll discuss the bulk of the experimental data pertaining to the glycemic control strategy, part of our 21st century weight loss program, which is fundamentally associated with the rate of glucose absorption as well as the overall caloric energy balance involved. A key point is that resting metabolism drops when glucose is low, so when people reduce calories by dieting, the drop in resting metabolism makes it hard to lose weight. The time-release factor is important as the impetus for helping to prevent this undesirable effect, but much more important is the idea that it causes (or can cause) a person to eat less. Also, however, a slow glucose release permits more to be burned, leaving less to be converted to body fat. Resting metabolic rate is not invariable, even without the use of thermogenic agents.

How You Get Fat

DURK: If you understand why you get fat, it’ll be a lot easier for you to do something about it without the pain. When you sit down to a holiday feast and start digging into that yummy russet baked potato in front of you, what happens? Why does it make you fat?

When you eat a baked potato, its starch gets depolymerized in your gut by an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, turning it into glucose. The glucose is quickly transported through your intestinal wall and is absorbed into your bloodstream. Your blood sugar goes sky-high.

SANDY: In fact, the russet baked potato actually has a glycemic index nearly as high as that of pure glucose, and it’s typically about 50% higher than the much lower glycemic index of pure sucrose (cane or beet sugar), although it can be close to 100% higher, depending on the source of the potatoes and other variables. Thus, if you eat 100 grams of baked potato, you might as well be ingesting almost 100 grams of glucose in a glucose tolerance test. Your glucose level spikes, and your body reacts by releasing a lot of insulin to prevent hyperglycemia.

Even if you eat a high-glycemic food,
simply adding the special barley flour
can lower the glycemic index. So you
end up with the benefits, but with
less fat, lower glucose levels, and
reduced insulin release.

DURK: Some of the excess glucose in your blood will be converted to glycogen, a glucose polymer that’s stored in your liver for quick conversion back to glucose on demand. Between meals, a substantial amount of that glycogen is released as glucose to fulfill the ongoing needs of your body’s cells, even if you’re not an active, athletic type. Obese people appear to store large amounts of glycogen that undergo major fluctuations during the day. This suggests that, for the obese, glycogen is a critical source of cellular fuel—and that makes it hard for them to burn the fat they’re storing.

That fat got stored in the first place owing to excessive caloric intake, especially when it was absorbed too quickly. If there’s more glucose in the blood than the cells need, and if the liver is full of glycogen, which occurs soon after a meal, the fate of the excess glucose is pretty much sealed: it gets converted to fat and stored in fat cells. Unlike glycogen, fat can never be converted back to glucose—it can only be stored or burned.

LE: Wasn’t substantial fat storage necessary for survival in the past?

DURK: Yes. Back in the Ice Age, few people grew old—it’s estimated that only 1 or 2% even reached 40. Becoming obese was not in the cards, but having a nice, thick layer of fat on your body provided good insulation against the winter cold, as well as a life-saving source of fuel when food was scarce. Just ask any polar bear, seal, or whale about the virtues of blubber.

Glycemic Control—The New Gold Standard

DURK: Our glycemic control weight loss program is a powerful tool for creating healthier, lower-glycemic foods while eating what you like. It’s based on the special barley flour, which has about twice the beta-glucan of regular barley and about three times as much as oats. Oats are generally considered to be the gold standard of low-glycemic, high-solubility, viscous-fiber foods, so we’re going to be comparing our barley flour and flakes with oats.

SANDY: Back in the 1990s, we had a product made from a strain of barley that was selected for its high content of beta-glucan. Unfortunately, the manufacturer dropped it. But the barley we’re using now has about twice the beta-glucan of the original. It’s derived from a native strain found in an area of the Himalayas around Tibet, Nepal, and India; it was extremely high in beta-glucan to begin with and was selectively bred to be even higher.

Comparing our barley flour to oatmeal, a study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in 2005 found a remarkable difference.1 In nondiabetics, the rise in glucose was only 15.5% (one-seventh as much) for the barley flour as compared with the oatmeal; in diabetics, that figure was 35%. For insulin, the corresponding figures for barley flour compared with oatmeal were 29% in nondiabetics and 32% in diabetics.

Clearly, our barley flour is a very low-glycemic food. In fact, if you look at the glycemic index (GI) of our barley flour alone as a hot cereal—with glucose being 100, white bread 70, whole-grain bread 59, and hot cereal oats 51—it comes in at 25. This is comparable to some lentils, many of which have GI values in the 20s.

Creating Time-Release Food

DURK: If you add some of the barley flour to lentil soup—and we’ve come up with a delicious version of it (see the sidebar)—the results are amazing. I didn’t feel like eating anything else for 24 hours. And if you don’t feel like eating, it’s easy not to get fat, and it’s easy to lose weight. By adding our barley flour to lentil soup, we transformed something that was low in glycemic index to something even lower, turning it into a carbohydrate time-release type of food.

Sandy’s Lentil Soup

This soup is delicious, full of healthful fiber, and easy to make.*

For about 6 servings, you will need:

2 cupslentils
1carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1medium red onion, chopped
6 cupsfat-free chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
1 tspground cumin
1 tspground coriander
1 tspground ginger
1/2 tspfreshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tspground allspice
1/4 tspcayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbspfresh lemon juice (about the juice of one whole large lemon)
6–12 tbspbarley flour or flakes
4 tbspchopped cilantro

In a large saucepan, cover the lentils, carrot, and onion with the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 25–30 minutes.

Add the butter and spices (but not the lemon juice and cilantro) and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Then add the salt (if desired) and black pepper, and the lemon juice.

Serve immediately. After dispensing the soup into serving bowls, add 2 rounded tablespoons of the barley flour or flakes (or 1 rounded tablespoon if you prefer less of the barley’s grain taste) and mix in. Finally, sprinkle a generous portion of chopped cilantro on top.


Variation: For a meat-containing soup, add desired quantity of chopped, low-fat, smoked turkey or ham to the soup when you add the butter and spices.

*Adapted from the recipe for African-Spiced Lentil Dip in Food & Wine, November 2006, p. 252.

An article from Cereal Chemistry in 1997 makes the time-release case.2 While pasta is moderately low in glycemic index for a carbohydrate-rich food, in this study plain pasta showed a significant blood sugar rise. However, just by replacing part of the wheat flour with the barley flour—the same one we’re using—the blood sugar rise was almost statistically insignificant, and it went on hour after hour. The insulin rise was much lower too.

Cholecystokinin is a hormone produced in your gut. It signals your brain, “I’m full; I’m not hungry anymore, so I don’t need to eat.” It’s a satiety hormone. In a 1999 study done with regular pasta, cholecystokinin was elevated for about 3 hours after a meal.3 But using a pasta in which some of the wheat flour had been replaced with the same barley flour that we’re using, they found that the cholecystokinin was elevated for 6 hours—twice as long.

LE: What other effects can the high beta-glucan in barley flour provide?

SANDY: Beta-glucan has remarkable effects on the amount of the carbohydrates that you digest. In another article published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2002, researchers compared the digestion of regular barley with that of our naturally beta-glucan-rich barley.4 They found that humans absorbed less glucose from the special barley than from the regular barley, because more of the former remained undigested and wound up in the colon. There it was fermented by intestinal bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids, which are very healthful; they also help make you feel full.

Also of interest in the cholecystokinin study mentioned above,2 the scientists found that the beta-glucan in the barley inhibited absorption of cholesterol from the meal, but it also apparently stimulated reverse cholesterol transport, a process in which cholesterol is removed from arteries and excreted. This may contribute to barley’s cholesterol-lowering ability.

Barley is not, however, a substitute for statins in this regard. On the other hand, if you eat meals enriched with the special barley flour, you may not need drugs to reduce cholesterol. The barley flour is capable of lowering cholesterol. In fact, the FDA actually allows a cardiovascular claim for the use of barley fiber.

DURK: To qualify, the amount of soluble fiber in the barley product must be a mere 0.75 gram per daily serving; at 30% soluble fiber, that means 2.5 grams per day of our barley flour product. This is less than oatmeal, because there’s three times as much of the beta-glucan in the special barley.

The way the claim reads is, “Soluble fiber from foods such as [product name], as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of [product name] supplies more than 0.75 gram of the soluble fiber necessary per day to have this effect.”

LE: How else can one use your glycemic control weight loss strategy?

SANDY: The special barley flour can be added to almost any type of meal that you like. You can add it to soup, for example, either before or after cooking it. It will thicken the soup like a starch would—after all, it is a barley starch. But a regular starch will be broken down almost immediately, causing a blood sugar and insulin spike, with much of that glucose ending up as body fat. By contrast, the special barley starch will meter out glucose from the soup over an extended period of time. Starch, incidentally, constitutes only about 30% of our barley flour; the rest is mostly beta-glucan fiber and protein.

Universal Method for Lowering the Glycemic Index

DURK: Now, if you’re going to be sitting at someone else’s holiday table and you weren’t involved in preparing the feast, all you need do is take a glass of something like milk or fruit juice and mix a couple of tablespoons of our special barley flour into it. Then, by drinking it before you start eating, your holiday meal will turn into a time-release meal.

SANDY: By the way, it’s still better to eat a sweet potato than a white russet potato. We’re now enjoying sweet potato French fries—we both love French fries. The only trouble is, the white potatoes have a very high glycemic index. Although the GI of those fries is lower than that of the corresponding unfried potatoes (because fat retards the rate of digestion), it’s still high. You can, of course, fry the potatoes in a healthful fat, such as a high-oleic sunflower oil, or you can bake them in the oven and avoid the fat altogether—but either way, the GI will be high.

So Durk and I are using sweet potatoes instead, because they have a much lower GI. Plus, they’re a great source of fiber, and they taste wonderful—even better than conventional fries. And by drinking a beverage with a couple of tablespoons of our barley flour, you can lower the GI even further. This is a universal method for lowering the glycemic index of your food.

Around this time of year, you’re not likely to be exercising as much as usual, but you’re still sitting in a heated office or home, moving your fingers and eyes while looking at your computer screen—that may be the extent of your exercise. And then there’s all that delicious food calling out to you. Under these circumstances, our special barley flour comes to the rescue, and it does so with almost any type of food you like. It’s so easy to add to your diet.

LE: What else can your special barley flour do?

DURK: The beta-glucan it contains is picked up by macrophages, a type of white cell of your immune system, and broken down. The fragments are presented to other white cells, which are then activated, and those activated white cells have been found to attack bacteria and virally infected cells in experimental animals. It also stimulates your immune system to attack cells infected by various viruses, including the swine flu, and a variety of bad bacteria, while at the same time encouraging the growth of good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, in your colon.

LE: Could you say that it feeds your immune system?

DURK: Yes, it literally does feed it. It’s a dietary supplement for your immune system as well as for your cardiovascular system. So this is really a win-win situation. And it’s very easy to employ.

Of course, the more you lower the glycemic index of your meals through judicious food choices, the better it will work. Even if you eat a high-glycemic food, simply adding the special barley flour can lower the glycemic index. So you end up with the benefits, but with less fat, lower glucose levels, and reduced insulin release. High glucose and high insulin are both dangerous by themselves, quite apart from their ability to increase body fat.

LE: How much of the special barley flour would one have to use to get the kinds of benefits you’re talking about?

DURK: I use about six tablespoons a day. When I have a glass of orange juice or a bowl of cereal in the morning I mix in a couple of rounded tablespoons. At lunch I take two more, and when I have dinner, I have another two. This has resulted in my dinners being considerably smaller than they used to be, which is one of the reasons my weight continues to drop.

Now, there are other reasons as well, and we’ll be discussing those in the next interview. We have a couple of additional new dietary supplements that will work with our glycemic control weight loss program. There are multiple reasons why people get fat as they get older, and there isn’t just one silver bullet that’s going to cure it.

SANDY: I like adding three or four tablespoons of the barley flakes to a high-protein, reduced-sugar cereal. Remember that the barley contains 18% protein, almost as much as meat. Moreover, like meat but unlike most cereal proteins, it’s high in lysine, so it has a high available-protein-use efficiency.

Our built-in genetic program for storing excess energy as body fat is so strong that it takes a range of strategies to circumvent it. One way is to keep the glycemic index of foods down as low as possible. And our glycemic control weight loss program is a universal method for doing that.

Let me stress, though, that if you choose lentils rather than baked potatoes to begin with, you’ll be better off, especially if you add our special barley flour. But if you really like vichyssoise (potato soup), by all means add the barley flour to it—it will reduce what would otherwise be a very high glycemic index.

Our special barley flakes make a great breakfast cereal, either alone or mixed with your favorite grain. And the barley flakes are also a wonderful addition to meat loaf, casseroles, turkey stuffing, and lots of other yummy foods.


  1. Rendell M, Vanderhoof J, Venn M, Shehan MA, Arndt E, Rao CS, Gill G, Newman RK, Newman CW. Effect of a barley breakfast cereal on blood glucose and insulin response in normal and diabetic patients. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2005;60(2):63-7.
  2. Yokoyama WH, Hudson CA, Knuckles BE, Chiu MCM, Sayre RN, Turnlund JR, Schneeman BO. Effect of barley beta-glucan in durum wheat pasta on human glycemic response. Cereal Chem 1997;74(3):293-6.
  3. Bourdon I, Yokoyama W, Davis P, Hudson C, Backus R, Richter D, Knuckles B, Schneeman BO. Postprandial lipid, glucose, insulin, and cholecystokinin responses in men fed barley pasta enriched with beta-glucan. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69(1):55-63.
  4. Lifschitz CH, Grusak MA, Butte NF. Carbohydrate digestion in humans from a beta-glucan-enriched barley is reduced. J Nutr 2002;132(9): 2593-6.

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