SVG Health Update: Cut Your Risk of Coronary Disease
By Dawna Marie Trainor-Scalise
It seems as if the accepted nutritional approach of lowering damaging cholesterol via dietary intakes of cholesterol containing foods and fats may not be working as well as originally thought. Heart disease fatalities have increased in numbers over the years, with only a slight decline in the 1970s from new forms of early detection, cardiovascular surgery, prescription drugs, smoking cessation and increased supplementation use.
As we know, coronary heart disease is caused by deposits of cholesterol, fats and blood clots within the plaques of the artery walls.1 Which foods that we eat really cause the increased levels of cholesterol? How can we eat better and prevent the damage from happening?
Since the 1900s, four significant dietary changes have occurred. The daily use of sugars and sweeteners has doubled, the use of starch from grain and white potatoes has increased by 40 percent, the use of eggs has dropped considerably, and most Americans are using new vegetable fats and oils that were manufactured for convenience that the human body had never experienced before. Recent research has proven why these dietary changes directly contribute to heart disease.
According to recent research, there are a few dietary causes of raised cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease that up until recently have not been often discussed. All of these causes can easily be regulated with dietary changes and nutrient supplementation.
The primary function of dietary sugars is to produce energy, and sugar that enters the bloodstream is used immediately for that purpose. However, if more sugar is present in the bloodstream than is needed for energy production, insulin is released to balance the blood and return it to neutral levels. The extra sugar needs to go somewhere. One path that it takes is to be stored as body fat, and the other path it takes is to be produced into cholesterol. Glucose is the most common sugar consumed, and most carbohydrate eaten is eventually broken down into glucose.
Glucose must go through several biochemical steps to be broken down for use in the body. However, fructose, which up until the discovery of high fructose corn syrup sweeteners came only from the fruit we ate and as a byproduct of the breakdown of glucose, can skip all those processes and move directly into that pathway that creates cholesterol.
Since carbohydrates are eventually processed down to glucose in the body, what also must be considered is the quality of carbohydrates eaten. Carbohydrates are rated according to the speed that they digest and raise blood sugar levels. White flour products, cookies, sodas, chips, bagels, breakfast cereals, packaged convenience foods and the majority of the other popular carbohydrates consumed in America today digest quickly and therefore raise blood sugar levels quickly. Complex carbohydrates also raise blood sugar levels, but do so more slowly and evenly, so that the sugars can be used efficiently and are never present in overabundance in the blood. Care must be taken to choose complex carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Also, sugar substitutes still stimulate the same insulin response in the body as natural sugars do even though they do not contain sugar. Sugar substitutes were originally created for and marketed to those with Type 1-diabetes, whose bodies do not manufacture insulin that can respond to the substitute.
Along with excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup (which the Corn Refiners Association now insist be called corn sugars) consumption, another problem of the modern American diet is the intake of improper fats from too many processed foods.
Polyunsaturated fats are very delicate and unstable and for this reason become rancid very quickly. Food manufacturers found that in order to use them, they had to make them more stable and usable, so they created the process of hydrogenation, which creates hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats and oils.
The process of hydrogenating oils gives them a longer shelf life and makes them usable for frying. However, it also makes them more unusable by the human body. Hydrogenated oils block normal body biochemical functions and inhibit the absorption of healthy fats, namely the Omega 3s. They also decrease good cholesterol (HDL), raise bad cholesterol (LDL), raise total serum cholesterol, and raise blood glucose levels. These hydrogenated fats are found mostly in processed foods, cooking oils, margarines and products that contain vegetable shortening. Although hydrogenation destroys the Omega 3 fatty acids in the raw vegetable oils, the Omega 6 oils are not affected by the process and therefore remain intact.
Omega 6 fatty acids are present in many common everyday foods, including corn, sunflower and sesame oils, meat, dairy products and eggs. It is not a challenge to get enough of them in the daily diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are only present in coldwater fish (halibut, salmon, sardines, and anchovies), walnuts, flax, tuna, eggs and some green vegetables. It is much more difficult to get proper amounts of them every day.
The recommended ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids is 4-1 or lower.3 The average American eats more along the lines of a 20:1 ratio. This unhealthy ratio can lead to a number of highly concerning health problems, including raised cholesterol levels. Other problems include but are not limited to: rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory illnesses, joint destruction, pulmonary disease (lung), cardiovascular disease (heart), renal disease (kidney), insulin resistance and more.4
The key to consuming fats properly is to lower the intake of refined vegetable oils (hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats and oils) and increase Omega 3 consumption. Since Omega 3 fatty acids are so difficult to eat regularly in a daily diet, supplementation is highly recommended.
Along with excess sugar and Omega fatty acid imbalance, two instances of vitamin deficiency can also contribute to cardiovascular degradation. One dangerous deficiency is vitamin C, the other is the B vitamins – B6, B12 and folic acid.
Humans are one of a few species on Earth that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, therefore, we must eat proper amounts in our diets every day. Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to raised LDL cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and lipoprotein.
So what steps can you take to make sure you can have a healthy heart? B complex members B6, B12 and folic acid deficiency has been linked to high levels of homcysteine in the body. Homocysteine is a type of protein produced in the body that resides in the blood. It is an important contributor in yet another set of complex biochemical reactions in the body whose end results are two extremely important antioxidants – SAMe and Glutathione. These two antioxidants are key factors in fighting cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimers disease.
Also, where antioxidants are involved, make sure to avoid those habits that destroy them. Smoking, drinking too much tea and coffee and exposure to too much stress and pollution contribute to bodily damage. Supplementation is always helpful and since B vitamins are water soluble, it cannot harm.
Today, more than 700,000 people per year die of heart disease in the United States. More than 200,000 Americans die from stroke. And, according to government statistics, more than 58 million Americans live with some form of cardiovascular disease, which is one-fourth the population of the United States.
New research on sugars, processed foods, high starch simple carbohydrates, the imbalance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, and vitamin B6, B12, folic acid and vitamin C depletion has shed new light on the causation for high cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, new studies are also proving that the restriction of cholesterol containing foods such as eggs and meats may not have an impact of lowered cholesterol levels.
This information does not mean that everyone should feel free to eat as much meat and fat as humanly possible; everything in moderation. It is still smart to choose lean meats, which do not include fast food burgers. Fast food, including the salads, also contains a surprising amount of sugar and there is a great imbalance of fats in them.
Preparation methods of meats must also be carefully considered, as it has been proven that char grilling and frying contributes to the production of free radicals, which in turn contribute to several cancers, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers disease, chronic fatigue and more.
Lastly, although they are greatly helpful, supplements do not take the place of eating nutrient rich, quality foods.
The same nutritional changes mentioned above do more than just help your heart; they can protect youfrom other deadly diseases such as stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer and obesity. Reverting to a diet that more closely resembles that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors can greatly improve the quality and healthfulness of our lives.