Sorting Out Truths and Alternative Hypotheses About Nutrition
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Starting Atkins has been very odd for me. This way of eating has gone against what I thought were the fundamentals of healthy eating and I was afraid of how it would effect my health in both the long and short term. The most successful diet I have ever been on prior to Atkins was South Beach, but I remember I doubled my grocery bill. It was more low-fat and somewhat low-carb and incorporated "healthy fats". This diet allows unlimited fats in the form of butter, olive oil, coconut oil, meat and eggs. Cholesterol and saturated fat!!!! OMG I am eating my way to a heart attack. And seriously, whole wheat bread is good for you! Fiber!
A little digging and I feel like I am trapped in some bizarre nutritional information conspiracy. The cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis was never proven. Cholesterol is more complicated than just a number (currently a ratio of HDL to LDL) and it is produced by the body and plays a key role in repairing cells, especially where there is inflammation. There are a variety of saturated fats, many of them raise HDL (the good stuff) and the rest of them raise both HDL and LDL, so it sort of cancels itself out. Higher cholesterol in women may actually be protective. The only proven risk correlation for cholesterol is in middle age men who are already at risk of heart disease. And, of course, whole wheat bread raises blood sugar levels more quickly than table sugar, which increases insulin, which regulates when your body decides to store energy as fat. Without insulin, my body is actually regulating this fat-storage thing much better. Honestly, its all been mind-bending and I don't have a firm grasp of it.
I have a lot of nutrition-savvy friends in my life who are not a bit pleased with my eating habits. My mother, a WW-loving lifer (she lost 10 pounds on it, therefore it is the way) is actually super supportive because I am finally losing weight. When I come to visit, she stocks up on my favorite staple foods (bacon, eggs, cabbage, cauliflower) and brings me Costco packs of meat when she visits. But my coworkers and friends kind of keep quiet, and will occasionally say something that shows they clearly disagree with how I'm eating. For example, I brought in Chicken Paprikash this week for my lunch, and my coworker sniffed it and looked interested, asking how I made it. I told her the ingredients, and when she heard butter, she made a face and turned away. "Butter...gross." Both she and my friend have mentioned cholesterol. When my coworker said it, I kind of ended up in a rant that made no sense and immediately wished I had kept quiet. Something about cholesterol is made by the body for a purpose, and the cholesterol and fat we eat are not going straight from our food into our blood stream or belly. It does not cause heart attacks. I wasn't articulate and nobody really responded when I finished. I could hear them silently saying to themselves "Cray-cray. Well, its her funeral." When my friend said something last weekend, I pretty much said that it shouldn't hurt my cholesterol and I'll send her an article. She doesn't really care, so I'm not sending her anything right now.
BUT...I need to learn to talk about this without sounding like a crazy person. So I am compiling a list of websites and articles here to read and re-read and refer people to.
Gary Taubes: http://garytaubes.com/
Weston A. Price Foundation: http://www.westonaprice.org/
More links later. In a few months, I will go get some full blood work and share them here and on some other boards. Sadly, I have no "before" numbers, so if my numbers sucked before but suck less now...le sigh. Well, then I'll get them re-tested in another 6 months.