BY DR. ROSS WALKER
BS (hons), FRACP, FCSANZ
For many years we have been bombarded with the low fat message with strong suggestions that cholesterol and saturated fats are the major culprits in the generation of cardiovascular disease. Despite this unfounded focus on low fat and no cholesterol foods, modern society has seen a major epidemic of ‘diabesity’ over the past few decades. This is, of course, the combination of diabetes and obesity. 30% of Caucasians, 50% of Asians and close to 100% of people with darker skin carry the gene for insulin resistance. Once anyone with this gene is exposed to the low fat, high carbohydrate Western diet this leads to a rapid acceleration towards metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the combination of 2 or more of the following factors
- Pre-diabetic or likely to have type 2 diabetes
- Specific cholesterol abnormalities-high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low HDL
- Abdominal obesity-more than 95 cm for a male and 80 cm for a female
- Cardiovascular disease
There is a clear link between high sugar and carbohydrate intake from other sources and metabolic syndrome. This now accounts for around 70% of modern cardiovascular disease. Even if you do not add sugar to food or beverages, 80% of your daily sugar intake comes from processed packaged food and fluids.
We need to move away from the low fat, low cholesterol message and shift to encouraging people to eat more natural food and less of it. In 2014, Cambridge University in the UK released a large study of 600,000 people looking at 72 separate trials. The striking conclusion of the trial was that there was no link between the intake of saturated fat i.e. meat, eggs and dairy and cardiovascular disease.
There is increasing work now to show that focusing on reduction of sugar and carbohydrate can return most people to a healthy metabolic profile. I encourage my patients to avoid processed packaged muck masquerading as food in a box, takeaway foods, soft drinks and commercial fruit juices, along with what I refer to as white death. White death includes sugar, white bread, white rice, pasta made from Australian wheat and potatoes and associated potato based products.
Following a diet more aligned the Mediterranean way of eating, which is the antithesis to the way most people in the modern world eat, has been clearly shown to be the healthiest diet in the world reducing risks for obesity, diabetes, all forms of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease, metabolic syndrome and many common cancers.
Combining healthy eating with a regular exercise habit and cultivating happiness in your life is the way to good health. The modern obsession with sugar has certainly been one of the major causes for our current health dilemmas.