Monday, May 21, 2012

Why We Get Fat Part 3

In Part 2 we looked at how eating meat-rich diets with limited carbohydrates will help you lose/maintain weight. Animal protein and fat is what our bodies are genetically adapted to processing.  Our human ancestors walked this planet for 2.5 million years and Rice-A--Roni wasn't always on the menu.  It's only in the last 12,000 years that agriculture products have been a part of our diets.That may sound long, but it's really only half of one percent of our existence!

 ( Look bro, if you can't get this fire lit, we're never going to get the S'mores done on time )

Which brings us to the health aspect.  Not only is America the most obese nation on earth but we also have the highest rates of many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc.  For the past 50 years many doctors, nutritionists and government officials have blamed these illnesses on meat consumption and more specifically red meat.  They presumed that the high fat content of meat and in particular saturated fat was almost certainly the cause of rising cholesterol levels among the population.  But there is little scientific evidence to support this presumption.  The most up-to-date research and clinical trials ( all in the last five years ) provide evidence that meat is not to blame at all...and it is actually very likely ( although there isn't enough research today to say with 100% certainty ) that eating carbohydrates is really what's behind all of our health problems, many of which are tied directly to obesity, which carbohydrates are also responsible for. 

( No, Rob Thomas.  This is how a heart breaks. )

I want to revisit the idea of good fat vs bad fat. In general terms we think of lowering LDL cholesterol as a good thing, and raising HDL (to a certain extent) as a good thing.  Carbohydrate rich diets have been shown to raise your LDL and lower your HDL..both unwanted effects.  And current research points to low HDL as the most significant factor related to heart disease, especially in women, so much so that it is the only truly reliable predicting factor. People with genes that lend themselves to unusually high HDL rarely ever develop heart disease.  It would appear that low HDL levels will more likely lead to heart disease than high LDL levels…and yet LDL is considered the "bad cholesterol".

Take Lard for instance.  Lard was presumed to be bad for us ( because of its high saturated fat content ) but science has evolved and recent studies show that it's actually good for us to consume Lard.  When people consume high amounts of protein and therefore animal fats ( Lard ) LDL cholesterol increases slightly ( a slightly negative effect ) and HDL increases significantly ( a positive effect ).   

Lard is composed of 47% Monounsaturated fat…which is considered "good fat" …it raises HDL and lowers LDL…90% of that is the same oleic acid that's found in olive oil.  Another 40% of the fat found in Lard is Saturated…but 33% of that is stearic acid that's found in chocolate and is now considered good fat because it will raise HDL and have no effect on LDL ( a good thing and a neutral thing ).  The remaining 13% of fat in Lard is Polyunsaturated which lowers LDL and has no effect on HDL ( a good thing and a neutral thing ).  In total, more than 70% of the fat in Lard will improve your cholesterol profile compared with eating the same amount of carbohydrates.  The remaining 30 percent will raise LDL but also raise HDL ( a negative thing and a positive thing ).

Lets revisit the results from the diet study in Part 2 again.

We already looked at the meat-rich Atkins diet as being the most effective for weight loss.  But lets look at these other numbers.  Subjects on the Atkins diet experienced slightly increased LDL (a slightly negative thing ) but also significantly increased HDL ( a positive thing ).  Remember that doctors now agree that heart disease is more closely associated with low HDL levels as opposed to high LDL levels.  Triglycerides went way down, ( high triglycerides is a strong indicator of obesity and is directly tied to chronic illnesses ) and blood pressure went down.  

The results of the study above are presented in a video on Youtube called "The Battle of Weight Loss Diets: Is Anyone Winning at Losing?"  by Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center...and an avid vegetarian of 25 years. His concern was that a diet like Atikins, rich in meat and saturated fat could be dangerous to one's health.  He describes the triumph of the Atkins diet over the other's as "a bitter pill to swallow."  

( Now do you see what I'm talking about people?  Could it be any clearer? )

A more personal example can be found on my friend Alllison Robert's blog. Allison follows a Paleo lifestyle which includes eating lots of meat and fat but little carbs.  She just had her bloodwork done and posted the results on her blog. The cholesterol numbers were impressive. The nurse told her she must be doing a good job staying away from saturated fats.  Allison punched her in the face while screaming "I RENDER MY OWN LARD!!!".  That's how cavemen solved their misunderstandings.  Keep up with her blog for more things Paleo.  

So I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that if you spent a lifetime eating bacon and eggs every morning instead of Special K and a banana,  you would be at a significantly lower risk level for heart disease.

( I like my eggs and bacon to have faces like the animals from Bambi.  Mmmmm.  Deer meat )

In Part 2 I mentioned that there were 229 hunter gatherer cultures that remained largely unaffected by the Western diet well into the 20th century. Nutritional anthropologists studied their diets and found that many of them were getting 80% of their caloric intake from meat; animal protein and fat. And some, like the Inuits, were eating far more fat than protein.   Traces of Western diseases like obesity, cancer and heart disease were extremely rare among the cultures involved in the study. 

Now I make you read the book even though you wanted to read my blog summarizing the book! 

What scientists have measured since then is what we call a nutritional transition, "and it's invariably accompanied by a disease transition as well --the appearance of a collection of chronic diseases that are now known as Western diseased for just this reason.  These diseases include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias...These diseases and conditions are common in societies that eat Western diets and live modern lifestyles, and they're uncommon, if not nonexistent, in societies that don't.  And when those traditional societies take up Western diets and lifestyles --through either trade or emigration...these diseases will appear shortly after."  

To quote Why We Get Fat more loosely...

Modern evidence to support this idea is common.  Take breast cancer. In Japan, this disease is relatively rare. But when Japanese women emigrate to the United States, it takes only two generations for their descendants to experience the same breast-cancer rates as any other local ethnic group.  There are similar trends among the Inuits, in whom breast cancer was virtually nonexistent until the 1960s.  Colon cancer is ten times more common in rural Connecticut than in Nigeria.  Alzheimer's disease is far more common among Japanese Americans than among Japanese living in Japan.  It's twice as common among African Americans as among rural Africans.  Pick a disease from the list of Western diseases, and a pair of locations -- one Westernized and one not, compare people in the same age groups, and the disease will be more common in the Westernized locations and less common outside them.  

What if... in the next few decades research concludes that consuming refined carbohydrates undoubtedly leads to these diseases. Can you imagine buying a package of spaghetti with a loaf of french bread and both have a warning label similar to that of cigarettes on the packaging?  I think that was an R.L. Stines' Goosebumps story wasn't it?

In Part 4 we will look at why exercising has certain health benefits but shouldn't necessarily be included in a plan for weight loss!

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