|“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion"|
For the past thirty years the nutritional advice given in this country has focused on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. We have been told to reduce total fat in general and saturated fat specifically. The Food Pyramid suggests we eat a diet of mostly whole grains high in unrefined carbohydrates. Following such a diet will reduce total cholesterol, although not always by that much and often at the expense of HDL or "good cholesterol." But will it really help you live longer?
Not likely. For example, over half of the people who have heart attacks do not have high blood pressure, high LDL's, low HDL's, high triglycerides, or any other recognized risk factor! (6) So what should we look at instead?
Blood Glucose 101
Blood glucose level is the amount of sugar in the blood. Physicians use fasting blood sugar to diagnose diabetes. "Normal" is typically defined as levels between 70 mg/dl and 100 mg/dl. Blood sugar levels are also often also taken after ingesting a glucose syrup. This is called a glucose tolerance test and reflects your postprandial (following a meal) blood glucose concentrations.
Glycalted hemoglobin (HbA1c) is another blood glucose test included in routine blood panels. In effect, HbA1c reflects "average" blood glucose concentrations over the past month. It is used to show how well a diabetic person is controlling his or her blood glucose.
A fasting blood glucose level of over 126 is the diagnostic cut-off for diabetes. Additionally, a blood glucose level of 200 mg/dl or more at any time is considered a diabetic blood sugar and would warrant further testing. But levels far below the diabetic level have negative health consequences.
Five Reasons to Lower your Blood Glucose
5) Postprandial blood glucose levels accurately predicts coronary atherosclerotic progression in non-diabetic, post-menopausal women.
4) HbA1C predicts heart disease and mortality even in individuals below the diagnostic threshold for diabetes.
3) Two hour glucose tolerance test (GTT) result above reading of 83 mg/dl increased the risk of stroke in a linear fashion. Notice how much lower this is than the diagnostic criteria for diabetes (126 mg/dl).
2) Researchers in Sweden found that there was a significant increase in cancer risk irregardless of body weight in people who had fasting blood sugar levels over 110 or scored over 160 in a two hour glucose tolerance test.
1) Increases in fasting glucose levels and HbA1C levels increased the risk of heart failure, mortality, myocardial infraction (MI), and stroke independent of diabetes.
Best Ways to Lower your Blood Glucose
The best way to lower your postprandial blood glucose levels is to reduce your intake of carbohydrates, particularly processed carbs such as pastas, breads, desserts, and sugar drinks. And yes, even whole grains significantly increase blood sugar, usually to almost the same level as there "white" grain counterparts!
In addition, make sure you eat enough fat. Meals containing higher amounts of fat also lower postprandial blood glucose. For example, a bagel with butter will not raise your blood sugar as high as a plain bagel and whole milk raises your blood sugar less than skim milk.
A highly effective way to add some healthy fats to your diet is to supplement before meals with a tablespoon of fish oil and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Both will lower blood glucose levels. In addition, the fish oil improves glucose tolerance and the coconut oil speeds up your metabolism. And please don't worry about the saturated fat in coconut oil! It IS NOT bad for your heart. (for more information on saturated fat check out my previous blog posts here)
Everyday there is more and more evidence refuting the lipid heart hypothesis and supporting carbohydrate restriction for weight loss and overall health, even though "conventional wisdom" might tell you different.
2) Prospective Study of Hyperglycemia and Cancer Risk. Pär Stattin, MD, PHD, Ove Björ, BSC, Pietro Ferrari, BSC, Annekatrin Lukanova, MD, PHD, Per Lenner, MD, PHD, Bernt Lindahl, MD, PHD, Göran Hallmans, MD, PHD and Rudolf Kaaks, PHD. Diabetes Care 30:561-567, 2007
3) Post-challenge blood glucose concentration and stroke mortality rates in non-diabetic men in London: 38-year follow-up of the original Whitehall prospective cohort studyG. D. Batty et al.Diabetologia.Vol 51, Num, July, 2008.
4) Association of Hemoglobin A1c with Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality in Adults: The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer in Norfolk. Kay-Tee Khaw, MBBChir FRCP; Nicholas Wareham, MBBS, FRCP; Sheila Bingham, PhD; Robert Luben, BSc; Ailsa Welch, BSc; and Nicholas Day, PhD.Annals of Internal Medicine, 9/21/2004, Vol 141, no 6, 413-420
5) Post-challenge glucose predicts coronary atherosclerotic progression in non-diabetic, post-menopausal women P. B. Mellen, V. Bittner, D. M. Herrington Diabetic Medicine 24 (10), 1156-1159.
6) Fifty percent of patients with coronary artery disease do not have any of the conventional risk factors. Futterman LG, Lemberg L.Am J Crit Care. 1998 May;7(3):240-4