Part of this thinking is that consumed calories — regardless of their sources — are equivalent; i.e. ‘a calorie is a calorie’. There needs to be a greater qualitative focus on the sources of calories consumed (i.e. a greater focus on types of foods) and on the metabolic changes that result from consuming foods of different types.
Calorie-focused thinking is inherently biased against high-fat foods, many of which may be protective against obesity and related diseases, and supportive of starchy and sugary replacements, which are likely detrimental.
Fructose A Greater Health Threat Than Salt
The intake of dietary fructose has increased significantly from 1970 to 2000. There has been a 25% increase in available “added sugars” during this period. The average person has a daily added sugar intake of 79 g (equivalent to 15% of energy intake), approximately half of which was fructose.
A segment of populations in most developed nations appear to be genetically predisposed to high blood insulin and triglyceride levels when consuming diets high in carbohydrate causing abnormal glucose tolerance. Reports indicate that maternal fructose intake may affect a child’s endocrinology and glucose tolerance.
In the fight to curb the prevalence of heart disease, experts warn the dangers, particularly linked to fructose, must be highlighted.
Heart disease is the number one cause of premature death in the developed world.
Dietary advice to help lower high blood pressure has historically focused on cutting salt intake. But this approach is very flawed.
In a systematic review published by The Cochrane Library, British scientists found that cutting salt consumption did not translate into lower death or heart disease risk.
A paper published in the American Journal of Hypertension warns that once average daily consumption dips to below 6.25g, the risk of heart attacks and strokes starts to increase once more. Restricting salt consumption increases levels of cholesterol and triglycerides — both of them harmful fats which cause heart disease — and also leads to insulin resistance (the early stages of type-2 diabetes). Diets low in salt also increase the levels of fat and hormones in the blood that are known to increase the risk of heart disease.
The problem is not salt, it’s the type of salt we use. It takes just half an hour for one meal high in table salt to significantly impair the arteries’ ability to pump blood around the body, alarming research has shown. Blood flow becomes temporarily more restricted between 30 minutes and an hour after the food has been consumed. Most scientific studies use processed table salt as a source of sodium which the body has a hard time physiologically to process unlike its natural counterpart sea salt.
Most salt in a person’s diet comes from processed foods, which also happen to be a rich source of added sugars, the scientists argue.
Sugar may be much more meaningfully related to blood pressure than sodium, as suggested by a greater magnitude of effect with dietary manipulation.
Previous studies such as a two-year dietary study published in the journalDiabetologia showed that food with a lot of fat and few carbohydrates has a better effect on blood sugar levels and blood lipids. Despite the increased fat intake with a larger portion of saturated fatty acids, their lipoproteins did not get worse. Quite the contrary — the HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol, content increased on the high fat diet.
Compelling evidence from basic science, population studies, and clinical trials implicates sugars, and particularly the monosaccharide fructose, as playing a major role in the development of hypertension (high blood pressure).
When Culture Becomes A Disease Risk
Sugar is so heavily entrenched in the food culture in the United States and other countries that getting people to kick the habit will require much more than simple education and awareness campaigns, the UCSF scientists have said.
In journal Nature, Robert Lustig MD, Laura Schmidt PhD, MSW, MPH, and Claire Brindis, DPH, colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), argue that sugar’s potential for abuse, coupled with its toxicity and pervasiveness in the Western diet make it a primary culprit of this worldwide health crisis.
Sugar, they argue, is far from just “empty calories” that make people fat. At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver — the least understood of sugar’s damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.
Evidence suggests that sugars in general, and fructose in particular, may contribute to overall cardiovascular risk through a variety of mechanisms.
High-Fructose Diets = Toxicty