Sometimes I Shake My Head in disbelief at the things that can creep, unquestioned, into a news article. Even in a paper as well-known for getting it right as the New York Times, sometimes inaccuracies get in there, and perpetuate myths.
In their Q&A Health article, “Ask Well: Reversing Diabetes” the author says “Lifestyle changes like weight loss and exercise are most likely to have an effect early in the course of the disease, shortly after a patient moves from prediabetes to diabetes and is still producing some insulin.” The fact is that people with Adult Onset Diabetes do not quit producing insulin. The purpose of insulin is to keep the blood sugar levels inside a tight range. Diabetes where the body is still producing insulin occurs because the patient’s blood sugar levels are out of range high, but it cannot produce enough insulin to cope. Think of it as the body’s ability to deal with the onslaught of blood glucose is maxed out.
It might seem like a trivial distinction, and you might wonder why I get so worked up about it, but the public’s understanding of how blood sugar regulation is accomplished is just one indication of a vast problem in public dietary health education.
Another huge gap exists between the reality and the perception where dietary fats are concerned. People think that eating fats leads to body fat. That has never even been suggested by science. My thinking is that it’s an easy line to draw, mentally, so people make the leap on their own. The government was warning us to not eat foods high in cholesterol so as to keep our blood cholesterol levels down. People just figured then that eating fat makes you fat like eating cholesterol gives you high cholesterol in your blood. Except that that is not true, either.
Your body makes its own blood cholesterol, and if it is high, it’s because you eat carbohydrates, not eggs. Cholesterol is a form of fat, and fat is made out of carbohydrates. Fructose, for instance, can only be metabolized by the liver, and it is turned straight into fat. Eating fat does not make fat. Fatty acids can be used directly by most of the organs in the body and glucose must be converted into fatty acids in order to be useful for most of your internal organs. Eating cholesterol does not make cholesterol.
The news is getting really good as far as dietary fat advice goes. Today the Washington Post has a lengthy article on how the bad advice originated on saturated fats, how the science never really supported it, and how new science is pointing at the real culprit all along, carbohydrate. Here is the article:
“If we are going to make recommendations to the public about what to eat, we should be pretty darn sure they’re right and won’t cause harm,” Mozaffarian said. “There’s no evidence that the reduction of saturated fats should be a priority.”
You have to get your energy for life from somewhere. There are three classes of food energy–fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Every day your food energy intake is split between these three types. If you lower one type, the other type must increase to make up the difference. If you lower one and do not increase another you will suffer an energy deficit, you will be starving. It is possible (I say desirable) to lower your carbohydrate intake to near zero eating real foods (not processed). It is possible to make up all of those calories by increasing your fat intake and you will suffer no ill effects. It will certainly not lead to more body fat for you to carry around. My own experience is that when I eat no carbs I slowly lose body fat. When I eat them I slowly gain body fat.
Here are the rules to live by, regarding food.
- Don’t eat any processed food. If it comes in a can, box, bag or bottle it is processed. If it has a health claim on the label then it is processed.
- Eat real, single ingredient foods as often as possible.
- Dont drink any sweetened beverage.
- Eat full fat versions of all dairy and meats. Most of your energy should be coming from dietary fats, and very little from carbohydrates.
- Make it at home, because any meal on the road will contain ingredients that violate one of the rules above.