To Your Health/Live Longer: Sugar & Salt

Our government bet wrong.

Back in the late 1970s, the U.S. government embarked on a war on the fats in our diet and ignored sugar, an ill-fated decision. What replaced the fats in our ice cream and salad dressings? The answer most often was, and remains, sugar.Some salad dressings have so much added sugar we should really consider them desert.

High sugar content in our diet have helped to increase incidences of diabetes, obesity, even hypertension. Fats slow gastric emptying and make us feel full quicker. Simple sugars are very quickly absorbed into our blood stream and stimulate insulin secretion. Insulin blocks other hormones that make us feel full and, in fact, make us even hungrier by decreasing our blood sugar often below our baseline.

We were also told that for hypertension salt was the enemy; in that context, we forgot about the role of simple sugars.

Dietary efforts to control high blood pressure have historically focused on limiting sodium, but the added sugar in processed foods may contribute more to hypertension than added salt.

Fructose in particular can uniquely increase cardiovascular risk by inciting metabolic dysfunction and increasing blood pressure variability, myocardial oxygen demand, heart rate, and inflammation. Compelling evidence from basic science, population studies, and clinical trials has linked sugars, particularly the monosaccharide fructose, to the development of hypertension. Moreover, evidence suggests that sugars in general and fructose in particular, may contribute to overall cardiovascular risk through a variety of mechanisms.

Several hundred years ago, hypertension did not exist, but as soon as sugar consumption started to increase so did hypertension, gout, obesity, and diabetes. Why then was our government so focused on fat as the culprit, even sponsoring the production of high fructose corn syrup? The only place in our bodies that can metabolize and use fructose is the liver. If we take in fructose in excessive amounts, it is converted into fats in our liver. So again, it is not the dietary good fats that cause a problem, but excessive amounts of simple sugars including fructose.

Starting now, we need to emphasize diets that call for eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with good dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and certain vegetable oils (like olive oil), and limit our intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meat. Once again, the Mediterranean Diet is the model.

We should also strive to eat foods as they come out of the ground.

Is it natural for fish to eat corn, which is the case with farm raised fish? Is it natural for cows to eat corn? No, anatomically, cows were not built to eat and digest corn. Should we consume white bread or white pastas or white rice? When we harvest wheat, it is brown. Why would we knowingly remove the beneficial parts of the wheat including the fiber and wheat germ? Eat whole oranges and fruits, but be careful about juicing. Juicing removes beneficial fiber that has been shown to reduce blood pressure, inflammation and other heart-health benefits. Yes we can enjoy deserts, but consider consider whole fruit an option. Sugary goodies are best considered rare treats.

Because we were so misled by our government’s recommendations from the 1970s, we now need to reevaluate our eating habits all the time. Otherwise we are pouring salt into the wound.

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