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dietary fat -vs- dietary carbohydrate: the new yorker clears up (or maybe muddies) the debate



  Jerome Groopman writes for the New Yorker.  He also happens to, “hold the Dina and Raphael Recanati Chair of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and is the chief of experimental medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center…. and has published more than a hundred and eighty research articles.  His research has focused on the basic mechanisms of cancer and AIDS.”  In other words, he’s way smarter than you or I will ever hope to be. I bring this up to discuss his recent article Is Fat Killing You or is Sugar? What We Do and Don’t Know About Dietary Science.

If there’s one thing that we know for sure about the field of nutrition, it’s that there are any number of camps that they often disagree with each other — often times radically.  For instance, there are still those out there like Pritikin, Ornish, McDougal, Furhman, and others promoting a high carb / high starch diet, with limited or no animal-based foods.  Much of Groopman’s article is aimed at people in the other camp — the camp that says a GRAIN-BASED DIET that’s heavy in sugars (or at least heavy in high glycemic-index / glycemic-load starches) is the root of our epidemic of PRE-DIABETES, DIABETES, and OBESITY. Although I am not going to deal with the whole article, I am going to touch on some high points.

We see right away that Dr. Groopman is interested in this topic because it hits close to home. His family heard the message of DR. ANCEL KEYS in the “early ninteen-sixties,” buying in to the ‘WAR ON FAT‘ and radically changing their diets, converting to the low fat lifestyle (the ‘FAT FREE‘ lifestyle would come later, in the late 1980’s).  Despite his father’s best and strictest efforts, he died of a heart attack in his mid fifties.  After invoking the seemingly unlimited powers of GENETICS concerning his personal cholesterol levels, Groopman tied these events together by extolling the virtues of STATINS. The following is the first of the three points I want to make about Groopman’s article.

  • DIABETES IS NOT A SUGAR PROBLEM:  Groopman makes the statement, “Though there’s a clear correlation between diabetes and obesity, no one has yet discovered a causal link.”  Here’s the reason — one that I have talked about on more than one occasion. Diabetes is not really a “sugar” problem.  Sure, you’ll be labeled as having Diabetes if your fasting blood sugar goes over 125, but this doesn’t really explain Diabetes.  Even though SUGAR AND JUNK CARBS are in themselves extremely inflammatory (HERE), they are not the only driver of inflammation out there — they are merely the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.  The bottom line is that Diabetes is an inflammatory problem much more than it is a sugar problem (HERE). Once you see how many crazy, weird things can potentially drive SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION, you can start to see why this issue can become confusing — especially when it (Diabetes or Insulin Resistance) is found in people of NORMAL WEIGHT.  Although it certainly won’t solve all these drivers, the PALEO DIET is beautiful because it cuts out the most potentially inflammatory foods.   While a huge step up from the SAD (Standard American Diet), the Mediterranean Diet that Dr. Groopman keeps going back to, will adversely affect those who are gluten or FODMAP sensitive — at least when done here in America, using AMERICAN GRAINS.  This is why I believe that everyone needs to do an ELIMINATION DIET to figure out what these inflammatory foods may be, as they are different for different people.
  • CALORIES ARE NOT ALL EQUAL:  Groopman makes a statement that I quite agree with. “Research has shown that calories eaten are only part of what determines weight. Our metabolism reflects an interplay of things like genes, hormones, and the bacteria that populate the gut, so how much energy we absorb from what we eat varies from person to person.”  As far as weight gain is concerned, the number of calories consumed is not nearly as important as the type of calories consumed.  If people don’t understand the effect that said calories have on their ENDOCRINE SYSTEM and GUT (including one’s MICROBIOME), it will be tough to conquer the battle of the bulge.  For instance, sugars and most grains — especially CORN and GLUTEN-CONTAINING GRAINS — increase the body’s insulin levels, often dramatically (HERE).  This is why if people will eat foods that don’t hype their endocrine system (i.e. GOOD FATS and PROTEIN); as long as they have the right bacteria in their Gut (HERE), they can eat just about all they want and get downright skinny in the process.  This is largely how a KETOGENIC DIET works as well as being why cardiologist Robert Atkins was so ahead of his time.  It’s also why someone can consume mass quantities of good fats, losing weight and normalizing their blood work in the process.  Although Groopman talks about Taubes’ book The Case Against Sugar at length in this article, the book that best deals with the concept specifically touted by this bullet is Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories.  I wrote about the various ways sugar affects the body (including Alzhiemer’s Disease and PCOS) just a few weeks ago (HERE).  Shifting to the next bullet, take a look at the cancer-quote below.

“…cigarette smoke contains carcinogens, molecules that have been shown to directly transform normal cells into malignant ones by disrupting their DNA. There’s no equivalent when it comes to sugar. Taubes surmises a causal link by citing findings that cancer cells need glucose to thrive, and absorb more of it than other cells. But this proves nothing: malignant cells consume in abundance not only carbohydrates like glucose and fructose but other nutrients, like vitamins. To imagine that, just because cancer cells like glucose, elevated levels of it might prompt healthy cells to become cancerous is to take a vast, unsubstantiated leap.” 

  • SUGAR FEEDS CANCER; OR DOES IT?  When it comes to fighting off INFECTIOUS ILLNESS or Cancer, fortunately we were created with an amazing immune system (HERE and HERE).  This is because we all have mutations occurring all the time.  And contrary to what EVOLUTIONISTS would have you believe, said mutations do not lead to the advancement of the species.  In the vast majority of cases, they lead to a nasty array of diseases based on genetic foul up, including Cancer (HERE).  Thus, we don’t need sugar to start or create the Cancer — there are plenty of other things we are exposed to all day / every day that can do that.  All we need is for THE SUGAR that’s already present, is to feed it — sort of like taking a very small fire and dumping gasoline on it.  What do we know about the affinity of Cancer for sugar?  Instead of me answering that question, I’ll let the Nobel Prize winner from 1931, Dr. Otto Warburg, do it for me (HERE).  Suffice it to say, Pet Scans (CT SCANS used for detecting cancer) work because of this principle.

Dr. Groopman’s article makes a lot of good points and shows that he is committed to the “Best Evidence” as found in peer-review.  While I am a huge fan of peer-review (my site literally discusses thousands of studies), I also am aware of just how financially conflicted so much of the biomedical research can be —  particularly when it comes to Big Pharma (HERE).  My point here, is not to sell you something (i.e. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS).  My point is to give you some information that might just help you help yourself.  If you are struggling with chronic conditions of various sorts, THIS POST might be right up your alley.


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