Heart Health

High Carbs and Cardiovascular Disease

Do you struggle with an inability to lose weight? Or, do you suffer from depression, anxiety and mood swings? Are you constantly tired? Do you have food cravings, or are you addicted to caffeine or alcohol? Has you doctor warned you that you are developing diabetes, or that your cholesterol or blood pressure are too high? All of these seemingly unrelated conditions have a common source: the American preoccupation with low fat diets. For the past 20 years, the American public has been bombarded with the message: "Fat is bad!" As a result, our food supply is now inundated with "low fat" foods, engineered foods and foods processed to remove natural fats. In every instance, low fat foods are loaded with carbohydrates.

The result: Americans are suffering from a variety of endocrine problems and degenerative diseases directly attributable to insulin resistance, excessive intake of refined carbohydrates and a lack of proper fat in the diet.

Actually, this information is not new. It has simply been ignored by the American food industry. In 1956 Thomas L. Cleave, Surgeon-Captain of the Royal Navy and research director of the British Institute of Naval Medicine, published a paper proposing that many chronic conditions were the result of a "master disease" resulting from the rise in popularity of sugary foods. He pointed out that it requires approximately 20 years "incubation" time for the chronic diseases to manifest themselves. Interestingly, the sudden rise in popularity of sugary foods just before the turn of the century coincided with the emergence of heart disease and disorders of the digestive tract as major killers after World War I. He cited other examples as well:

1. When Iceland's diet became Westernized in the 1930s and sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption rose significantly, diabetes became commonplace in the 1950s.
2. In studies of Africans, he found that wherever rapid dietary change introduced refined carbohydrates, heart disease and diabetes began to spread approximately two decades later.
3. Finally, he pointed out that studies ranging from Kurds to Yemenites to Zulus found that the refining and processing of foods appeared to bring a rise in chronic disease in less than a quarter century. (The Kellogg Report, The Impact of Nutrition, Environment and Lifestyle on the Health of Americans, Joseph D. Beasley, MD., and Jerry J. Swift, M.A., 1989, p 331)

Closer to home, we have the example of the Eskimos. Subsisting on a diet of almost pure protein and fat, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and dental caries were unknown. With the Westernization of their diet, all of these health problems became scourges in the Eskimo culture.

Another interesting and well-documented phenomenon is the increase in heart disease with the introduction of:"refined" white flour and the dramatic drop in deaths from heart disease as the American public began to buy and consume vitamins.

Vitamin Sales and Deaths
Year Deaths per 100,000 Vitamin Sales per $Billions
1920 <10
1930 -50
1940 -130
1950 -200
1960 -210
1970 -300 <$0.1
1980 -250 $0.75
1990 -175 $1.1

Source: US Dept. of Commerce & Nat'l Center for Health Statistics

Yet, Americans are continually bombarded with health advisories to eat very little fat, less protein and huge quantities of refined grain products. I believe the current food pyramid recommends 12 to 14 servings of grain daily! Please remember, these are refined grain products with all of the vitamins and minerals removed = pure carbs! In fact, the American diet is 75% grains. And, grain has only been part of our diet since the beginning of cultivation (approximately 10,000 years ago). Prior to that, humans were hunter/gatherers. Grains were unknown except for small amounts during the fall season. We are adapted to be omnivores, with the emphasis on fat, protein, fresh fruits and vegetables.

I have recently read a fascinating book, which I recommend highly, The Schwarzbein Principle, by Diane Schwarzbein, M.D. Dr. Schwarzbein is an endocrinologist at the Sansome Clinic in Santa Barbara, specializing in diabetes. She found in working with her diabetic patients that those who followed the dietary recommendations of the American Diabetic Assn got worse! So, she began eliminating carbohydrates and increasing protein (including eggs and red meat) and fat. Her results were astounding! She has even reversed difficult endocrine conditions like Stein-Leventhal Syndrome (aka polycystic ovarian disease). And, her program has helped her patients attain and maintain normal weight. The major difference between Dr. Schwarzbein's program and The Zone Diet is that her emphasis is on natural, unprocessed foods; she eliminates the unhealthy fats and oils that are a part of Dr. Sears' program. I am integrating her recommendations into our programs here at the RFHC. The programs vary based upon your personal state of health and degree of insulin resistance.

One of the most compelling points (to me) that Dr. Schwarzbein makes is that we are misled when we look at the caloric content of foods. The average dietician will tell you that fat has twice as many calories as carbohydrates and therefore should be avoided. The truth about your metabolism is that your body needs both fat and protein to rebuild your cells. Protein and fat are the basic building blocks of the human body. So, they aren't burnt for fuel, but are used to repair your tissues.

When you eat carbohydrates, there are only 2 things your body can do with them: 1) burn them for energy and 2) store the excess away as triglycerides (storage fat).

I think one of the reasons people are confused by this concept is that they believe fat = fat = fat. Wrong! There are structural fats and storage fats. And, cholesterol, omega 3 and omega 6 oils, as well as monounsaturated oils, are all structural fats. The kind of fat we carry around on our hips or bellies is storage fat; and that is made from carbohydrates.

So, if you ingest a structural fat (like cholesterol, for example), your body doesn't burn it all down for fuel. A large percentage of it is utilized to rebuild cell walls and membranes, or to make hormones. Remember that the next time you reach for a sugary confection. Your body would benefit more from nuts, seeds or meat. Body builders know that the best way to build muscle mass is to have a high protein meal within 30 minutes of a work-out. They step up their metabolism and then provide the body with the raw products needed to build muscle strength.

If you are a vegetarian, you can still benefit by rebalancing your meals to include equal amounts of fresh vegetables (with some fruit), proteins, fats and grains. It's just a great deal harder. Most vegetarians in the U.S. err in that they eat far too many carbohydrates and too much junk food! The hardest thing for a vegetarian is to get enough protein without excess carbohydrate.

This information is life-saving, and is based upon physiology and clinical outcomes, not the latest fad or "research" funded by a giant food company. Once again, it proves that working with the way our bodies were designed is much more beneficial than trying to engineer our food. If you only remember one thing, remember this: Shop around the perimeter of the supermarket, purchasing only foods in the form that you could hunt or gather yourself. If you do that, you'll be started on the road to lasting health and well-being.

Whether you want to lose weight or have a more serious health challenge, we can help. For the most severe health problems, laboratory testing is a must! For a program individualized to your needs, call and make an appointment for a consultation today.

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