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Is it the Fat or the Sugar Making Us Fat?
A few weeks ago, the journal Annals of Internal Medicine published the results of an analysis of 72 different clinical studies which evaluated the relationship between dietary fat intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke).
The conclusion of the study found NO EVIDENCE to support that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.
You may think that this is just another controversial study, and in the near future it is possible a new study may show that consuming bad fats causes heart disease and other medical conditions. But these findings dispute current public belief.
For more than 30 years, we have been told that eating fats is unhealthy for us. So what happened? Why is it that fat is now good for us? What has changed?
The offender, causing weight gain, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, is the excess of refined sugars in our food.
Before, I began explaining how we end up in this situation, it is very important to explain how sugars are metabolized in our body. The process is very complicated, but I will summarize it in laymen’s terms.
There are different types of sugars (carbohydrates): simple & complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates or plant-based carbohydrates contain more nutrients, fiber, take longer to digest and keep blood glucose levels more stable.
Simple or refined carbohydrates, found in fruits, dairy products and starchy vegetables also contain nutrients and fiber, however, they are digested faster, increasing blood sugar levels more quickly.
The elevation of the blood sugar triggers the release of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and is responsible to move the glucose (sugar) obtained from the food into the cells. The cells are then able to use the glucose for energy. An excess of glucose not utilized by the cells will be stored as fat. Therefore, the excess of natural, refined or processed sugars consumed not utilized will be stored as fat in the body.
Insulin is released by the load of simple carbohydrates in the bloodstream, not as much by protein or fat. Excess stored fat causes obesity. Individuals that tend to eat large amount of simple carbohydrates tend to have higher insulin levels. Unfortunately, when the blood sugar level drops due to the effect of the insulin, it can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue or hunger. Most of the people experiencing these symptoms will eat snacks or meals high in simple carbohydrates, helping relieve these symptoms.
Most of them are unaware that they are creating a vicious cycle, producing high insulin levels.
Chronic high insulin levels cause insulin resistance, which is the culprit for weight gain and cardiovascular disease, among other diseases previously mentioned.
Low-fat/low-calorie diets were recommended in the 1970’s due to the increase of mortality due to cardiovascular disease. Autopsies revealed dense plaques of cholesterol in these patients’ coronary arteries (heart blood vessels). The FDA and the Department of Agriculture changed the nutrition guidelines and recommended changes in the daily value for fat, salt and cholesterol.
Once a large portion of fat was removed from the food, it became flavorless. Food manufacturers started adding simple sugars to their products and beverages. High fructose corn syrup is sweeter and inexpensive compared to sugar cane and beets. New products labeled as “Healthy” started to become available in supermarkets, low in fat but very high in added sugar. Another phenomenon that occurred during that time was the increase of fast food and chain restaurants. Americans were eating more and not necessarily the best quality food.
The rates of obesity in children and adults have increased by 214% between 1950 and 2000. Sixty percent of the American population is overweight or obese.
A well balanced diet rich in plant-based complex carbohydrates, lean protein, fruits and essential fats is crucial to avoid diseases correlated to obesity. Type 2 diabetes, a disease that was more common in adults 40 years or older, is now diagnosed in children. Carbohydrates, as well as fats are nutrients required to allow our body to function properly. However, the amount and type of simple sugars added to the food has made certain commercial packaged food toxic and hazardous to our health.
Avoid commercial food and beverages as much as possible. If you are preparing your own food, it will save you money, but more importantly you are working toward achieving a healthy body. Also, adding an exercise routine will provide you with excellent health benefits allowing you enjoy life to your fullest potential.