In the 1950’s, the American Heart Association – with the best of intentions – set about to decrease heart disease. The prevailing ‘wisdom’ at the time was from Dr. Ancel Keys – a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota – who published ‘The Seven Countries Study’.
In the study, Keys concluded that an elevated serum cholesterol was associated with heart disease. And, that diets high in animal fat promote heart disease. The Federal Government decided to adopt these guidelines and we were told to lower our fat intake in order to prevent heart disease.
Truly, a commendable recommendation. But, if you cut out fat – what do you replace it with? If you are now eating less animal protein – then, it has to be carbohydrates (remember the macrobiotic diet)?
And, when you look at the caloric model of weight maintenance – eating carbs makes sense – fewer calories per gram, and so we would become a much healthier society.
Yet, we didn’t. And, it turned out that Ancel Keys did the one major ‘no-no’ in science – he cherry-picked the data.
So, we ate more and more carbs – and, in the 1980’s, major food companies were all too happy to provide us low-fat (or no-fat) snacks which we gleefully ate (Snackwells (1984)? Potato chips made with Olestra – WOW Chips (1998)?). Yet – our combined belt sizes continued to increase. Sure, some of it could be attributed to a more sedentary lifestyle – it was certainly not all of it. The chart below shows the ‘obesity rates’ over time for adults. Obesity rates are generally ½ the rates of the overweight population – it does not tell a good story, especially when you look at the projections…
So, what is happening?
I think the one thing is that we were told what we needed to do – and, God bless us – we did. We increased our desire for carbs and thought that this was healthy. But, it bit us in the backside.
This is not how our ancestors lived. Sure, your brain needs some glucose for optimal functioning. But, your body can make that glucose (through ‘gluconeogenesis’). As mentioned before, our bodies prefer to burn glucose quickly because too much glucose is toxic to our cells – so, our hero ‘insulin’ comes to the rescue.
Yet, too much insulin can cause ‘insulin resistance’ which means that your body needs to pump out more and more insulin to remove excess glucose from your blood into your cells. This stresses the pancreas and soon – it just gets tired and it can’t do it’s job anymore (hello diabetes).
And, because you continue to ‘feed the beast’ – you just ‘programmed’ your genes to crave more carbohydrates.
THAT YOU DON’T NEED!
Your body can no longer access fat stores for energy (think of a petulant child).
But, can you reverse it? Yes you can.
Just remember – your body can manufacture the glucose it needs through the use of proteins and fats. But, you need to be more fat-adapted (moderate carb) and not overdoing the exercise (can I hear an Amen!)
Tomorrow – how do you become more fat adapted.