heart health | Integrative functional medicine blog

"Any fool can Know. The point is to understand" - Albert Einstein

The sugar industry framed fat for heart disease

The average American eats 20 teaspoon of sugar per day. This is the equivalent of 1/2 of a cup of sugar.

A new investigation reveals the sugar industry successfully blamed fat for heart disease using skewed science, when sugar is the main culprit.

I don’t know how “new” this study is. We’ve actually known this for a pretty long time. But, that is how many things in traditional healthcare work. They find out certain health beliefs are really antiquated.

This corporate deceit triggered more than 50 years of a nutritional “low-fat” policy that helped make Americans the
fattest and most chronically ill population on the planet, thanks to diets high in sugars and processed carbohydrates. Sadly, it’s an ideology still touted today in many doctors’ offices. Old habits die hard. Specially with doctors.

Using tactics similar to those of the tobacco industry, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the role of sugar consumption in raising levels of fat in the blood and did not disclose findings that linked sugar with heart disease.

The industry’s own animal studies showed high-sugar diets increased triglyceride levels, thus raising the risk of heart attack and stroke, and also increased the risk of bladder cancer. They pulled the plug on the study before it could be completed.

The Washington DC-based Sugar Association said the study was stopped because it was over budget and coincided with restructuring of the Sugar Research Foundation. It also said scientific recommendations to limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories are “out of bounds.” Very convenient!

Had the study been completed, it could have led to further research and policies that put the welfare of American citizens — not the sugar and processed food industries — first. Thats a novel idea. But you know how it goes, profit before people.

This could have saved millions of Americans and their families from the heartbreak and devastation of sugar-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

We can see another telling example in a 2018 European
study that shows a significant correlation between the amount of processed foods people keep in their homes and obesity and related diseases. Though Americans and Europeans have, surprisingly, eaten roughly the same number of calories over the decades, significantly more Americans than Europeans are obese and ill thanks to corrupt marketing and nutritional policy.

While the policies of the last several decades have steadily made Americans fatter and sicker, they have also been fuel for the multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry that arose in response to the collective weight gain. Sugar content simply replaced fat calories in fat-free foods dominating the shelves.

The trouble with foods high in sugar and processed carbs (which are essentially sugar once ingested) is not only do they make people fatter, but they also trigger a hormonal cascade that increases sugar cravings while turning off the satiety hormones gastrin and leptin so that one feels constantly hungry. Diets have been shown to fail most people in sustained weight loss and even trigger eating disorders.

The low-fat, high-carb diet sends you on a downward spiral that ends with a foundation for chronic disease based on high inflammation, accelerated brain degeneration, and metabolic imbalances.

In functional medicine, we see myriad chronic disorders that can be significantly ameliorated or even reversed simply by stabilizing blood sugar and saying goodbye to the Standard American Diet (SAD) in favor of a whole foods diet. Sometimes this is a simple endeavor, other times, such as in chronic issues, you will need a lot of help and more than simple “diet modification”.

Ask my office for advice on the best diet for your chronic health condition

Here is a short list of some books on the topic of sugar and how they affect health that may be of help.
Grain brain
Eat fat, get thin
Why isn’t my brain working
The end of Alzheimers - Probably one of my favorite most recent books. its a little more technical for the average reader but really good!

These books are not specific to just sugar and its dangers but a large part of them deals with sugar.

Now go eat some fat!

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Is coconut oil really bad for you?

OH boy! Here comes the controversy. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently announced coconut oil is bad for you. Well maybe not so much controversy.

Keep in mind that this is a statement that has come from the same advisory organization that endorses breakfast cereals loaded with sugars and artificial additives. So take what they say with a grain of salt, or maybe a grain of sugar would be better.

It’s important to look at this coconut oil advisory in context:
Saturated fats have been proven repeatedly not to be bad for your health or raise the risk of heart disease when you eat a diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates and high in omega 3 fatty acids (such as from cold water fish and raw nuts).

The real culprit withhwart disease is not just how much fat, cholesterol or whatever lipids we are talking about, but more so how much inflammation do you have in combination with those lipid levels.

Sugars and carbs biggest heart disease culprits

In fact, studies also show it is sugars and excess carbohydrates that inflame the arteries, leading to arterial plaques, trigger production of the “bad” types of cholesterol, and promote obesity.

Likewise, polyunsaturated fats, which the AHA recommends in place of coconut oil and other saturated fats, are high in omega 6. Although we need a healthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, the average American eats far too much omega 6 already, thus promoting chronic disease.

Seems like they are trying to create more new patients, or maybe not. I didn’t say it, it wasn’t me!

Inflammation, not cholesterol, is a culprit

Excess omega 6, which is ample in polyunsaturated vegetable oils, is linked with chronic inflammatory disorders, such as fatty liver, arthritis, and irritable bowel disorder. Chronic systemic inflammation has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, cholesterol has been found
not to be a factor in heart disease risk. What matters are levels of inflammation (as measured by CRP or homocysteine on a blood test) and levels of the “bad,” or dense, LDL from eating too many sugars.

Here is a great analogy that I often use in my practice to convey how fats and inflammation work in the body. Lets say you have a piece of metal sitting outside and the metal gets exposed to air and water, which causes the metal to rust. This is what is called oxidation.

Now lets take that and apply it to the body. If we think of the fats in our body as the little pieces of metal and think of inflammation as the air and water. The inflammation will cause the fats to oxidize (or rust) and cause heart disease like plaques, atherosclerosis, strokes, etc.

Heart diseas

Big difference between saturated and trans fats

Although it’s not clear which saturated fats were investigated in the study criticizing coconut oil, the majority of studies linking saturated fats to heart disease include hydrogenated, or trans, fats. Trans fats are inflammatory, artery-clogging, brain damaging fats that should be avoided at all costs. It is incorrect to group them with natural saturated fats.

Let me be a little more clear. This is not a green light, alls clear, full speed ahead to eat as much coconut oil as you want. In fact coconut oil can be really bad for your heart health. BUT! This usually happens when you start consuming large amounts of coconut oil combined with a diet and lifestyle that continues to be inflammatory.

Remember, inflammation is the big bad wolf in this story!

Health benefits of coconut oil

In a nutshell, if you manage your blood sugar levels with moderate to low consumption of complex carbohydrates, you avoid sugars and processed carbohydrates, you eat plenty of omega 3 fats, and your diet includes 7 to 10 servings a day of vegetables and low-glycemic fruit, chances are you can safely enjoy liberal amounts of coconut oil, and probably even should.

In fact, coconut oil has been shown to have
healthy heart benefits even. The heart prefers the fatty acids found in coconut oil as a source of fuel.
Coconut oil is also known to:

  • Increase metabolism
  • Curb appetite
  • Fuel the brain
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Fight bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections

The AHA diet raises risk of heart disease

Unfortunately, the AHA promotes pro-inflammatory foods that are high in sugars, processed carbs, and omega 6 oils — the very foods most associated with chronic diseases. Keep in mind that some of the recommendations made by the American Heart Association may have some sort of financial incentives.

To their credit, however, they also promote 7 to 10 servings of produce a day and ample omega 3 fatty acids, both of which are excellent anti-inflammatory approaches that support heart health. Seems to me they are kind of trying to have their cake and eat it too.

If you follow the AHA advice to replace calories from healthy natural fats with AHA-approved foods high in industrialized oils and processed carbohydrates, you may find both your blood test results and symptoms worsen.

Don’t do it. If you think you need some help with your health give my office a call. I even do online consultations.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen

Be Healthy, Be happy.

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Lowering cholesterol naturally doesn't have to be hard.

high cholesterol

I see tons of patients with high cholesterol and they are often either the easiest or the most difficult patients I see. Many patients accustomed to todays allopathic method of healthcare think that medications fix problems.

I have news for you.