How To Kill Your Husband...

The New Food Pyramid calls for more fats and oils in our diets, not less.
The New Food Pyramid calls for more fats and oils in our diets, not less.

What???

I recall, sometime in the late 'seventies, an article appearing in the pages of Reader's Digest. On the cover was this provocative title: "How To Kill Your Husband." Of course, the article's true subject was exactly opposite: how to keep your husband alive, and it extolled the virtues of eating a low-fat diet. Fat, it argued, was the bane of our existence, and was singularly responsible for a number of maladies, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. If you really want to kill your husband, the article warned, "just feed him eggs and bacon for breakfast--every day."

Most of us, I think, took that article--and everything else appearing on the media scene decrying the presence of the now-evil fat in our diets--seriously. And we've been ultra-serious about reducing our fat consumption ever since. In fact, the low-fat ethos is so ingrained into our nutritional thinking that we automatically dismiss anything challenging it.

That said, it is my contention in this hub that it is high time we re-evaluated the low-fat requirement to reveal it for what it is: a myth. The truth is, there is no scientific basis for our continuing to eliminate fats from our diets. Furthermore, we are actually doing ourselves grievous harm by doing so. I will explain just how, momentarily.

So I'm going to resurrect the old Reader's Digest article, but with this slight modification: If you really want to kill your husband, close out this hub right now and serve your husband up some extra-lean chicken and non-fat yogurt and any of the other thousands of low and non-fat products lining our grocer's shelves.

But if you want to learn something that might save his and your own life, read on. Then, when you've done reading, go rustle up a big plate of bacon and eggs for the man you love. Chances are, he's been needing it.

Why Are Nutritionists Are Still Pushing Low-Fat?!?

It's hard to pick up any of the top women's magazines and not find a plethora of fitness and nutrition-related articles scattered throughout their pages. Okay, I'm a guy, but I still flip through the small collection of More and Vogue and Vanity Fair my wife Jeanie has gathered in our "reading room." I swear to you, I just read them for the articles and stories. Anyway, most of the time, I find them amusing. Some are truly enlightening. And then, there are some that get my blood to boiling.

The story I'm thinking of right now is from the September issue of More, the one with a very attractive Felicity Huffman on the cover. Go to page 190, and you'll find a story about how three different women managed to beat heart disease. At first, I was impressed: there was a lot of information on the different signals of heart disease (many of which are subtle or confusing, and hence often ignored), and some ueful techniques to help dodge that deadly bullet.

But then I noticed something curious about one of the stories. It involves a woman named Gina Jones who, throughout her life, exercised regularly, but ate pretty much whatever she wanted--until, in her mid-thirties, she experienced a heart attack. Doctors performed an angioplasty (an operation which makes use of a balloon in the heart to widen an artery). Jones recovered, but over the next several years, neglected to stay on her regimen of cholesterol drugs, which led to the need for two more angioplasties. The last of these was performed when she was forty-two. Finally scared literally half to death, she made and kept the commitment to stay on her drugs, and to eat a healthy, low-salt, low-fat diet.

But here's the curious part. Three years later, during a routine medical exam, Jones was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I wasn't particularly surprised by the diagnosis (I'll explain shortly). But what had me concerned, almost angry, was the off-handed disclosure of this important fact, almost as an afterthought, coupled with the obvious implication that a family history of the disease (Jones's mother had been previously diagnosed with type 2 diabetes) was to blame. Nothing else is said about it. Her story ends with the observation that Jones manages to keep her blood sugar down by a strict regimen of six small (presumably low-fat) meals a day. Apparently, the writers didn't think the matter was important enough to pursue, reasoning (I assume) that the focus of the story was the woman's heart disease, not her diabetes.

Why Would Someone Eating Low-Fat Develop Diabetes?

The question I had hoped would be addressed was this: if Gina Jones was exercising regularly and eating a low-salt, low-fat diet, why would she still develop type 2 diabetes? The obvious answer, at least according to the way the story was written, was the fact that her mother had also been diagnosed with the disease. In fact, so their reasoning appears to have gone, that had to be the only possible answer, because there is no way eating a low-fat diet can lead to type 2 diabetes.

But there are two big problems with this quick and dirty answer: 1) it presumes a predisposition to develop diabetes based solely on genetics, when in fact that causal link hasn't been proven, and 2) it presumes a low-fat diet itself will not lead to diabetes. And there's the stumbling block. Because, in fact, a low-fat diet can easily lead to type 2 diabetes, regardless of your genetics.

An Increased Risk For Diabetes Is No Guarantee You Will Develop It

There is no genetic test for diabetes. Researchers agree that you can inherit a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, but there is no scientific evidence pointing to a purely genetic inheritance of the disease. According to this article, published on GeneticHealth.com, there have historically been a number of problems in finding a specific gene which will without exception lead to inheriting type 2 diabetes. Most notably is this (from GeneticHealth.com):

"We inherit more than just genes from our parents; we also inherit lifestyle. Poor eating habits and lack of exercise are learned behaviors that children can pick up from their parents. This type of inheritance has nothing to do with genes, and makes it hard for researchers to identify a genetic risk for diabetes."

As I see it, Gina Jones might very well have "inherited" her type 2 diabetes from her mother. But it just might have been in the form of learned behaviors--which could easily (given the prevailing beliefs about nutrition) have included limiting fats from her diet.

Eating A Low-Fat Diet Does Not Prevent Diabetes

Gina's untold story--the one about her diabetes, which wasn't truly addressed--and similar stories of thousands like her, point to what many far-sighted doctors see as a global health problem: nutritionists are still prescribing a low fat diet (often combined with a low-calorie regimen) to treat and prevent diabetes. Historically, it is not clear where the belief behind this practice originated. In fact, before the low-fat era, diabetes was treated with a low-carbohydrate diet in order to control blood sugar. What caused the switch in thinking? Most likely it is the train of thought that currently links diabetes with obesity. Obesity is the fast track to developing diabetes. Treat the obesity, the reasoning goes, and the incidence of diabetes will be reduced. And, indeed, there seems to be some validity to that argument.

The problem lies in presuming a low-fat diet is at all effective in treating obesity. It is not. In fact, research studies have proven the exact opposite is true: low fat diets actually promote obesity along with the associated incidence of diabetes.

If you're having a hard time swallowing this, just take a look around you. Our nation has been on a low-fat kick since the "discovery" in the 1970s that fat was bad for us. Strangely, the rate of obesity and adult-onset diabetes began a steady climb upward at about the same time. We have been consuming less and less fat, but at the same time have been packing ever-increasing amounts of it onto our bodies. How is this possible?

It Is Carbohydrates--Not Fat--Which Cause Obesity And Diabetes

In fact, it is entirely possible to eat virtually no fat at all, and yet become morbidly obese at the same time, for this very important reason: it is carbohydrates, and not fat, which make us fat.

The basics of biochemistry prove this to be true. Here's how:

Our food is comprised of a combination of only three macronutrients (foods providing energy in the form of calories): fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. During digestion, fats are burned as an immediate source of energy, and proteins are broken down to be used as building blocks for various parts of the body. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose, or blood sugar. Like fat, glucose is also used as an immediate form of energy. But unlike fat, glucose also stimulates the secretion of the powerful hormone insulin. Insulin is an extremely important chemical whose primary duty (it actually has many functions throughout the body) is to take excess glucose from the blood, convert it to fat, and store it in the cells for later use as energy. It is important to note that calories from fats and proteins are not stored in this fashion. This is because insulin--in the role of fat-storer--is not secreted in response to fat or protein calories by themselves, as they are not converted to glucose in the same way carbohydrates are. The bottom line is this: if there is no glucose in the blood (as there would be if you consumed carbohydrates), there can be no insulin-driven storage of fat in the cells, and you will not gain weight.

But we can even go a step further and say this: limiting carbohydrates is the healthiest, most effective way to not only maintain, but to lose weight.

The simple reason for this is: for any particular caloric need (and we need at least a certain number of calories to sustain our lives), decreasing one of the three macronutrients forces an increase in the others to make up the caloric deficit. If, for example, you limit your fats, the resultant loss in calories must be made up by a commensurate increase in carbohydrates and/or proteins. And since most fats are bound together with proteins, eliminating fats often means a reduction in protein as well. The body's only adequate source of calories, then, becomes the carbohydrates.

Too Many Carbs--Too Much Insulin

And that, as they say, is when things start going to heck in a handbasket. Here are some results you can expect from adopting a low-fat, high-carb lifestyle (and please don't make the potentially-fatal mistake of believing, because you are exercising regularly and are symptom-free, or because there is no history of diabetes in your family, that these results cannot apply to you. Medical history begs to differ. Review Gina Jones's story above.):

  • A lack of fat results in decreased energy levels, a loss of essential fatty acids, a reduced absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and a pronounced deficiency in magnesium.
  • If your low-fat regimen is used in conjunction with a low-calorie diet for weight loss, you can certainly lose fat...but you'll also lose much needed lean body mass (muscle) as a result of the associated loss of protein.
  • Carbohydrates are addictive (see my article here); the more you eat, the more you want to eat, in ever-increasing amounts, stimulating an even greater secretion of insulin into the blood.
  • While insulin, in the right amounts, is a critically-needed hormone in our systems, too much insulin can wreak havoc on the metabolic system. Adverse effects include higher blood pressure, increased cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and, penultimately, insulin resistance--a condition which occurs where an over-abundance of insulin causes the cells to develop a desensitivity to it. Hence, an increasingly greater output of insulin is required to process the same amount of calories--leading to more health problems. Finally, when insulin resistance progresses to the point that the cells no longer respond to insulin, the ultimate result is a condition known as type 2 diabetes.

This is precisely how someone--like Gina Jones, above--religiously following a low-fat, high-carbohydrate program can develop type 2 diabetes, and why I said earlier that I wasn't particularly surprised by her diagnosis. Sadly, this scenario is all-too typical.

Bacon and eggs--better for you than you've been taught to think.
Bacon and eggs--better for you than you've been taught to think.

How To Save Your Husband's Life

If you think the drama of the above title is over the top, try putting yourself in the shoes of the people around the world who have lost loved ones to diabetes--1.1 million of them in 2005 alone (World Health Organization figures)--and think again. And again, when you're reaching for yet another fat-free "food" on your grocer's shelves.

Think about it. It just might save your husband's life.

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Comments 15 comments

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 7 years ago from Sydney

Well done and thank you!   I agree with you that carbs are addicting - I tried the Carbohydrate Addicts diet once, and I found that after a few weeks, the sweet tooth I thought was in-built had virtually gone.  I still like the odd sweet thing, but a mouthful is enough, whereas before I'd eat the whole packet. 

I felt so much more energetic on a low-carb diet, too.  The only reason I'm not still on it is time - I buy take-out breakfast and lunch during the work week, and low-carb choices are non-existent.

I think another reason low-fat diets could lead to diabetes is that so many "low-fat" foods are laced with extra sugar or corn syrup to improve the texture. 


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

First of all very catchy title....hehe Anyway I still feel some reduction in fats in terms of cooking is better for health. Ofcourse I agree Carbs are the main culprit. Good hub.


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

Marisa--thanks so much for your kind remarks. Nice to hear from someone who has stuck with the low-carb program long enough to realize it really works. I tried it myself several years ago, and didn't understand the detox process. So, when I ran into the usual bodily resistance, I simply assumed this lifestyle wasn't for me, and abandoned it. But health issues finally brought me back, and after studying about it for endless hours, and sticking to the commitment, I learned what needed to be done and what I could expect on the "other side." They were not empty promises. Like you, I've lost the "sweet tooth" and am very comfortable with low-carb, and I feel better now than when I was a kid!

Anyway, I have lots more articles and stories to share, and I'll have something very soon. Thanks for your interest and your fan-ship.

Bill


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

Thanks, countrywomen. I agree, there are situations when you might want to reduce your fats somewhat, particularly when you are trying to lose weight--fats, after all, are more than twice as calorie-dense as either carbohydrates or proteins. And too many calories can really stall a weight-loss program. I've found, though, that you can realistically devote 60% or more of your diet to fat calories (provided you are also restricting your carbohydrates enough to limit the insulin response) and maintain a high level of overall health.

If you want more information on the fat issue, let me know. There is an incredible amount of solid scientific information out there, and a lot of it is new enough that it still hasn't found its way to the typical grocery store yet. If nothing else, I can offer up my own story as an example. It's difficult to argue in the face of success.

Again, thanks for your interest. I'll have more, very soon.

Bill


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

I have read some of the arguements against low carb and high fat/protein diets like atkins since they are now known to have side effects. Glad to see so much info in your hub and comments. Good hub.


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

Marisa...I agree with you. The sugars, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, typically found in low-fat foods is appalling. The rationale, once again, is that it's the fat causing the problem, not the sugar (carbohydrate). Wrong. I wish people would read some of the "science" behind the nutritional advice being dispensed today by well-meaning nutritionists and even doctors whose training was either limited or based on old and inaccurate information. I think their choices would change pronto, especially if they suddenly learned they had a health problem related to their diets.

Re your problem in eating low-carb during the week: if you would like, I have some ideas about how to approach the problem. Let me know.

Bill


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

countrywomen: yep, there's a lot of information about "side effects" and dangers from low-carb eating. I'm not a doctor, but I have seriously studied low-carb for months and have lowered ALL of my cholesterol, triglyceride, and lipid levels eating very low carb, moderate fat and protein. And I've never known anyone who seriously applied themselves to the program who didn't enjoy the same success--and there are a lot of them out there.

If you want some more information, I reference a lot of it in my other nutritional hubs, and I have a boatload more not yet published. Let me know.

Bill


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

WOW!! I am so lucky to have a personal dietician now...hehe. So what brands of cereal are good to have as breakfast? Then for lunch & dinner what foods do you suggest (for vegetarians)?


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

countrywomen: click on this link http://www.proteinpower.com/forum/ then scroll down the page to where it says Let's Cook! You'll be amazed at the different foods available...even for vegetarians.

Bill


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Thanks for the link Bill.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

What a fascinating hub! Years ago I went on a diet aimed at targetting an excess of Candida, and that eliminated sugar and yeast products. I lost quite a lot of weight whilst following it, despite eating fried food and so on, and, after my body got over the shock of the new regime (about a week) I also felt really well. It's amazing how some fads (like the low-fat idea) catch on, then somehow become part of the global consciousness. We all catch ideas by osmosis it seems!


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

Amanda--osmosis, indeed. I'm not sure how it is in the UK, but here in Yankland, we have been inundated with the low-fat theology via decades of commercial imagery, vis a vis television, magazines (particularly the so-called Womens magazines), and it plays well on our apparent need to fill every second of our lives with some sort of media input (hmmmm--might have to write a blog on that subject). Anyway, it's been part of our cultural backdrop. After you've heard the message enough, it becomes almost archetypal in our psyches (who was it? Goebbels, of Nazi infamy, who said that the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed? And, if you tell a lie long enough and persistently enough, it will eventually be accepted as truth?). In fact, that's part of the problem: you can present the truth to someone, back it up with irrefutable evidence, and they still won't believe you. Psychologists refer to the phenomenon as "cognitive dissonance," and it's amazingly difficult to overcome.

Thanks for the comment, Amanda. I've got other hubs on the scary nutritional ideas we swear allegiance to. I'd welcome your comments on them, as well.

Cheers,

Bill Campbell


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 7 years ago from London UK

Love the hub, title. You make some extreamly interesting points and I am now educated!

from an optimistic, futture husband!

Thankyou:)


Vicariously Yours profile image

Vicariously Yours 7 years ago from Fort Collins, CO Author

Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Thanks for the comment.

Bill Campbell


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 7 years ago from London UK

I like what u, they say!

Knowledge sure is power!:)

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