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Ask Oz and Roizen: Surgical Outcomes and Heart Problems Related to Low Carb Diets

Ask Oz and Roizen: Surgical Outcomes and Heart Problems Related to Low Carb Diets

Learn what the experts have to say on these important health topics.

Q: My husband is usually an up-beat guy and he has battled prostate cancer with good results. Now he’s looking at colon cancer surgery and he’s really down in the dumps. When I tell him that he needs to keep a positive attitude, he just looks the other way. Any suggestions? — Carol Q., Brooklyn, NY

A: Oh, yes. Tell him that he can do a lot to make sure his cancer surgery has the best possible outcome. What we docs call psychosocial risk factors play a big role in recovery from surgery and cancer. They include mood, the ability to handle stress, support and resources, and a history of drug, alcohol or smoking addiction along with standard medical risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes.

According to research by Johns Hopkins Medicine published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, people headed into cancer surgery who have just one psychosocial risk factor, for example they are depressed or have high blood pressure—and who don’t address it—are 28 percent more likely to have a complication following surgery. Two psychosocial risk factors make you over three times more likely to have complications. But it doesn’t have to be that way—for your husband, Carol, or anyone juggling such health challenges.

He can begin a practice of meditation to ease stress and depression; upgrade to a plant-centered diet and eliminate inflammatory foods such as red meats and added sugars; and help set up his post-surgery care plan with friends, family and a visiting nurse service all pitching in to help you out. If he smokes, has diabetes or hypertension he can work with his doc to get those all in the best control time allows before the operation.

If his doctors agree, it may be important for him to reduce his risk factors before having surgery. If he addresses his risk factors, observational studies show his chances for a full and healthy recovery skyrocket.

Q: I’ve been doing this low-carb, high protein diet and I’ve lost weight and gained energy but a friend of mine—my workout buddy—tells me not to over-do it because it could backfire and be bad for my heart. What’s the real story? — Robert, Y., San Diego, CA

A: Your workout buddy is correct. High-quality protein from plants and lean animal sources like fish and poultry is always important, but you need high-quality carbs, too. According to research from China presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting, shorting yourself on carbs from grains, fruits and fibrous vegetables ups your risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib). That can lead to blood clots and stroke.

From 1985 to 2016, researchers looked at 14,000 subjects who did not have diagnosed AFib at the onset of the study and found that those people who reported low carbohydrate intake were 18 percent more likely to develop AFib than those with moderate carbohydrate intake. They were also 16 percent more likely to develop AFib than those with high carbohydrate intake. Moderation of healthy foods is key.

What’s the connection? The complex carbohydrates, like fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains reduce inflammation. Cutting back on them and replacing them with protein and fat may be why, the researchers point out, a low-carb, high-protein diet encourages inflammation, oxidative stress—and AFib.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of total daily calories. So, if your daily intake is 2000 calories that means you should consume between 900 and 1300 calories, or 225 to 325 grams, from carbohydrates. One carb servings equals 15g of carbohydrates: 1 cup barley is three servings; 1 medium nectarine is one serving. For a complete listing of foods that contain carbohydrates and how many per serving, check out https://health.gov and search for “Choose Carbohydrates Wisely.”

Our advice: Don’t turn your back on the heart-loving, anti-inflammatory powers of complex, unprocessed carbs.

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