You’ve heard all about dietary cholesterol’s role in heart disease, but chances are you aren’t aware of how equally bad for a healthy heart.
You may be eating more sugar than you realize. Sugar on your cereal, then in your coffee, a sugary yogurt for dessert, and suddenly you’ve had a quarter cup of refined sugar and the day isn’t even done. If you have diabetes and you are also a heavy smoker, you face an even greater risk of danger from sugar.
No one factor or “bad habit” can be singled out as the sole promoter of heart disease. There is a domino sort of effect, suggests Dr. Yudkin. High sugar intake leads to excess weight, and excess weight leads to inactivity, which may figure eventually out heart disease since so many major organs have been overstressed. But large quantities of sugar each day (six teaspoons or more) can make the risk of heart disease five times greater, says Dr. John Yudkin, who views sugar as the primary cause of cardiovascular disorders such as atherosclerosis.
In Yudkin*s view, saturated fat intake and high cholesterol are secondary to sugar as heart disorder factors. Professor Richard A. Ahrens of the University of Maryland, in an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms this view. He says there’s nothing more efficient than sugar in raising those triglyceride and cholesterol levels. As a consequence, Ahrens continues, your circulation suffers and high blood pressure may result.
How Do Diabetes and Refined Carbohydrates Affect Your Cardiovascular Profile?
Perhaps no two experts agree on what risk factors are most serious where the etiology of cardiovascular and coronary disease is concerned. But the chief factors cited usually include diabetes, as well as the following:
- cigarette smoking
- excessive low-density lipoproteins
- poor adaptation to stress
- high blood sugar
- inherited susceptibility
- Such foods are more filling, unlike sugary snacks and beverages. You eat less and the calories don’t lead to the state of obesity that so often is a step in the direction of heart disease
- complex carbohydrates seem to cause your gallbladder to eliminate more cholesterol-rich bile salts, thus lowering the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. An example is provided by Dr. Yudkin. A diet that includes a lot of brown rice has been shown to be a potent agent for reducing cholesterol levels for individuals with certain dietary intolerances.
- Some individuals profit by getting their carbohydrate from fibrous food and starches rather than sucrose because this sugar, above all others, causes the greatest variation in insulin response, along with elevated blood lipids, increased weight, and a reduced ability to prevent harmful blood coagulation. These reactions are recognized as conditions conducive to coronary heart disease.
Complex Carbohydrate: An Anticholesterol Factor
If you have a cholesterol problem, you know how many drugs modern medicine markets, supposedly designed to bring blood fat levels down. But if you are wary of “miracles” created by drugs, you may be interested in how natural complex carbohydrates can aid in cholesterol control. Here’s how fiber affects blood fats:
- Because of the rapid rate at which fiber moves through the intestines, there is reduced opportunity for cholesterol in the food you’ve eaten to be assimilated through cell walls and absorbed into the blood. Still, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of the cholesterol in your body comes from your diet. The balance is synthesized by the cells.
- If your cholesterol is bordering on high, your doctor may have discussed bile salts with you. If he hasn’t, you should know that bile salts are a by-product of cholesterol synthesis. Too much of this substance is not healthy. Neither is a diet high in fat, because it encourages bile salts to be absorbed twice. Yes, the first cycle is important, because fat in the diet cannot be properly metabolized unless bile is there to break it down and disperse it. Unfortunately, when your diet tends to be deficient in raw, crunchy, natural foods, you wind up with reabsorbed bile salts in your system. This can create a situation of too much-stagnated fat in your vascular network. The solution? More fiber, such as raw bran, at each meal, because fiber, with its sponge-like capacity, “mops” up excess bile, sterols, and cholesterol and helps to excrete them, thereby lowering fats circulating in your serum.
A good breakfast can help reduce cholesterol levels, too. If it’s been ages since you’ve filled your bowl with rolled oats or old-fashioned barley, why not get off to a good start tomorrow? And since the two carbohydrates pectin and guar do this as well, add some chopped apples and bananas to double the benefit. But don’t get samples of every whole grain on your grocer’s shelf: unrefined wheat kernels, as good as they are for you and as rich in fiber, have not demonstrated the same cholesterol-lowering effect. The ingestion of carbohydrates prior to exercise results in hypoglycemia due to a rise in blood glucose level and a rise in carbohydrate utilization by those muscles being exercised. “Fructose ingestion is associated with a modest rise in plasma insulin and does not result in hypoglycemia during exercise.”
It isn’t just too much saturated fat that elevates cholesterol and other blood fat levels. Sugar alone may be an even more important causative factor. And when eaten together with such fats, sugar can compound the problem considerably. Two bad dietary habits, in other words, are worse than one especially if you have any susceptibility to diabetes or heart disease.
Keep active, keep your weight normal, and don’t smoke. These good habits will protect you from killer diseases. For even greater protection, switch from sugary pick-me-ups and desserts to complex carbohydrates, rich in fiber: snacks like whole-grain crackers, popcorn, and raw fruits reduce cholesterol, keep all blood fats within normal range, and help keep your entire vascular system healthy.