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Helping You Recover From Nutrition Info Whiplash

Helping You Recover From Nutrition Info Whiplash

Feeling whiplashed when it comes to sorting nutritional fact from fad? First you hear, “It’s fat that’s bad for you, not sugar!” Then, “No, sugar is bad, not fat!” You’re not alone. Almost three-quarters of folks surveyed by California researchers reported they’d heard “moderate or high levels of contradictory information about nutrition.” And they said it made them doubt health recommendations, making them less likely to be physically active or to eat healthfully.

One glaring example of why so many folks continue to feel bewildered by the health info they hear is the “Confusion Campaign” launched by the sugar industry to deflect health concerns away from their product and onto fat and lack of physical activity.

A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine says that in the mid 1960s the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) made a concerted effort to obscure emerging data that excess consumption of added sugar was a serious risk factor for heart disease. They sponsored a coronary heart disease (CHD) research project that was kicked off with a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That review singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor.

The current JAMA article then says: “The SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts. The SRF’s funding and role was not disclosedour findings suggest the [sugar] industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD.”

Ouch! Now we know (and it isn’t based on dubious research or purchased opinions) that added sugar and sugar syrups, like high fructose corn syrup, are a huge factor in developing obesity, heart disease, some cancers, dementia, diabetes, and a lousy sex life.

But don’t think that lets unhealthy fats off the hook!

True, fat can be a major source of energy, help you absorb vitamins and minerals, and keeps cell membranes and nerve endings healthy. But not all fats are healthful. Trans and man-made fats are never good for you. For every 2 percent of calories from trans fat consumed daily, your heart disease risk jumps by an astounding 23 percent.

Mono- and unsaturated fats, like DHA and ALA omega-3s and the omega-9 in extra virgin olive oil, are good for you. They help clear out artery-clogging lousy LDL cholesterol and protect the brain! That’s why studies show a low-carb diet with lots of protein and some fats can reduce heart disease risk—but ONLY if the fat is mostly from plant sources! 

What about saturated fat? It’s in many vegetables in tiny amounts, so even vegans get a little, and that’s okay. But in excess we know sat fat (and the substances that come along with it) promotes inflammation, clogs arteries and taxes the liver. Foods like beef, other animal protein, full-fat diary and processed meats are over-loaded with it and deliver additional health risks. They can change your gut bacteria to produce inflammatory substances like trimethylamine and increase your risk of breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. That’s why meat-eaters should take a page from the Mediterranean Diet and only eat lean animal protein as a side dish once a week.

Facts You Can Count On
Every day we offer you reliable health tips to provide you with a roadmap to younger and healthier RealAge. Focus on these simple guidelines, and you’ll banish confusion and feel healthier every day!

  • Avoid the Five Food Felons: all trans and most saturated fats, all added sugars and sugar syrups, and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole. Opt for 5 to 9 servings of fruits and veggies daily.
  • Get in 10,000 steps a day, no excuses, along with two to three 30-minute, strength-building sessions weekly, and 10 minutes of meditation daily.

If you've been diagnosed with coronary artery disease (heart disease), get personalized advice to keep your heart healthy and avoid a heart attack. 

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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