The Heart of the Matter (Part I)

Learning about my own symptoms, blood test result history, and state of health has helped me to learn about the variables that contribute to being healthy. They aren’t always what they seem to be.

I want to expound on the fact that my triglycerides ( the amount of fat in my blood) have decreased over the past six years in spite of all of the butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and  mac nut oil  I’ve been eating almost daily for about a year now.  Triglycerides are the best predictor of nascent heart disease:  higher triglyceride levels increase chances of that excess fat hardening in and clogging up your arteries.

So I’ve been eating more fat, and less fat is showing up in my blood.  Why would that be? Let’s take some general “before” and “after” pictures of my diet and lifestyle:

  • When I was 21, I ate Larabars, Stonyfield farm yogurt, Natural Ovens bagels, dark chocolate, peanut butter, walnuts,  tofu, fake soy meat,  fruit, wheat pasta, POM juice, broccoli, and carrots. My triglycerides were 65 mg/dL.
  • When I was 25, I started to decrease my sugar intake when I figured out I had Candida. I didn’t give up sugar or grains entirely (I still ate oatmeal, apples, cheerios, dark chocolate, etc) but I definitely started to transition into a low carb and high fat diet. My triglycerides were 54 mg/dL.
  • I am 26, and I eat  3-5 daily servings of vegetables along with 2-4 eggs, nuts, and the fats mentioned above. I will have the occasional starchy acorn squash or sweet potato about twice a month. My triglycerides are 45 mg/dL.
  • It should also be noted that when I was 21 I did more exercise than I do now. (And, to add to the irony further, my current weight is 10 pounds less than my weight then).

So then what’s the difference? I have switched from grain-based carbs to vegetable-based carbs, removed the sugar, and replaced carbs/sugar with fat for my energy source.

My experience is not an isolated incident. There are several other studies manipulating the same variables that yield similar results:

  • In a low carb/high-fat vs. low fat/high carb study, the low carb/high fat group had a significant reduction in triglycerides, blood pressure, and VLDL (the worst of the bad cholesterol) after six months.
  • This study links carbohydrate restriction with reduced body weight, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
  • A meta-study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition summarized data from 21 cardiovascular disease studies entailing 350,000 people over a span of 14 years and the results are in: saturated fat does not cause heart disease.
  • Given all the mainstream emphasis on low-fat diets, I was surprised to read that even the American Heart Association says that a diet composed of 60% or more of carbohydrates is at a higher risk of developing unhealthy triglyceride levels.

Wow. My understanding of excessive sugar consumption is expanding: it isn’t just about managing a predominately female issue like Candida (although men can are not exempt); it’s about preventing cumulative and fatal illnesses like heart disease.

The key question is why does excessive carbohydrate consumption increase triglyceride and blood pressure levels? And why doesn’t saturated fat consumption increase triglyceride levels?

It certainly makes sense to think that eating foods with saturated fat and cholesterol would contribute to heart disease: the plaque that hardens in the arteries is composed of fat and cholesterol.

However, the development of heart disease is a consequence of interdependent factors: chronically increased insulin levels feed into inflammatory and oxidation responses which create a breeding ground for raised triglycerides, blood pressure, weight, etc.

To be continued…

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