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Killer Toast Or What Has Carbs Got To Do With Everything?
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Image by Earthworm
Labeled as only 15 grams of carbohydrate, toast is 60% carbs as opposed to 40% when it’s bread which takes longer to digest. Toast spiked my blood sugar to 132 mg/dl which is more than ice cream at 105 mg/dl, but not as much as cooked steel cut oatmeal which tops all my readings at 155 mg/dl. (Normal is 85.) Why is this bad?

Here is the science as I have gleaned from my reading of "Good Calories, Bad Calories". I had to read parts of the book several times to keep from glossing over the technical details, but once I read slowly enough to visualize what each component of the metabolic system did, it became easier to understand.

So to begin, most food breaks down in the blood stream and becomes sugar. Sugar is already sugar so jumps right in there. Carbohydrates, especially refined, cooked carbs also turn to sugar very fast. Too much sugar in the blood registers as high blood sugar. High blood sugars are toxic to the body, wreaking havoc on kidneys and other organs.

The normal body takes care of these spikes from food by releasing insulin from the pancreas, which allows the blood sugars to be absorbed by various parts of the body i.e. muscle tissue, thus taking it out of the blood stream and converting it to fuel for the body. This is how the body regulates itself to survive during periods of no food whether for a few hours, or weeks, or months. Too much insulin and the body becomes insulin resistant; first the muscle tissue refuses to take in the sugars, so it goes to the fat tissue where it is stored indefinitely as fat.

A handful of hormones allows the energy stored as fat to be disassembled into fatty acids that go back into the blood stream where it can be used as fuel by other parts of the body. If there is too much insulin in the body, the hormones aren’t able to facilitate this transference and the fat stays locked down in the adipose tissue. (Note to my fellow organizers: one study showed that rats that had had their ovaries removed and thus were estrogen deprived, ate voraciously and stored food in their cages. Infusing estrogen back into these rats suppressed the food-hoarding. Sounds like something hoarding researchers should look into. See p. 373.)

It is possible to release fat from your body by starving yourself thus engaging one of the survival mechanisms of our bodies; this will make you hungry which is why restricting food (going on a diet) is rarely maintained and can cause psychological disorders such as depression. As food intake drops, thyroid hormone falls and metabolic rate is lowered. The starvation diet is telling the body there isn’t any food out there so stay quiet, hibernate. The longer this goes on, the more efficient the body gets at using fat sparingly.

Once the fuel is used up the body will want to replenish the lost reserves right away, at first. Being hungry serves the purpose of alerting us to find more food. The body can release fat with hard labor, but will do this sparingly, i.e., more slowly than when it made the fat in the first place, in case food supplies are really low. No food is better than a tiny morsel as far as satisfying hunger. No food tells the body to lie low, stay peaceful, maybe even die.

So calorie restriction and exercise is the hardest way to lose weight and may make you irritable on top of it. Which is why it’s so pathologically entertaining to watch all those fat people struggling on "The Biggest Loser". What the show doesn’t dwell on is that the participants are eating a comparatively high fat, low carb diet with no sodas permitted (no sandwiches, no cereals, half a tortilla, carbs mostly in veggies, etc), which would allow them to lose weight anyway. In fact it would probably be easier on them to lose much of the weight before undergoing the heart endangering marathon exercise regime, but of course, not as good TV. And thus that warning at the end about checking with your doctor before attempting this at home.

The easy way to lose weight is to eat fatty foods to satisfy appetite and restrict easily digestible carbs like toast, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, white rice, pasta—especially overcooked pasta and most of all anything with high fructose corn syrup. That stuff has a special feature; it doesn’t affect blood sugar so it gives the appearance of being healthier on the glycemic index, but the kicker is that it goes straight to the liver which converts the fructose directly to fat molecules—triglycerides to be precise. That which your doctor may point to, on your blood work, as heading into cardiac arrest territory.

Most of my peeps know to avoid sodas, but we have not yet learned about the carbohydrates, drives insulin, drives fat equation. At least I had not because I never had to care about weight loss. My problem seems to be more about the insulin resistance not allowing the muscles to build up and the fat tissues becoming insulin resistant before I could lay down any fat; this seems more typical of Type 1 diabetes. Practically speaking my blood sugars were perpetually high and I’m hypoglycemic after eating 3 Ritz crackers, knocked out as though hit by a drug.

But high blood sugars is not just about training the body to become diabetic or obese. It also weighs in on other health issues because everyone can be affected by levels of insulin and possibly become insulin resistant.

Hypertension for one. Here’s another one of those medical establishment myths debunked. No evidence has shown that eating salt results in salt in the blood, or only slightly for a short time. Reducing salt in your diet has only a marginal effect on salt in the body. However a carbohydrate rich diet prompts the kidneys to hold onto salt, rather than excrete it. The body retains water to keep the sodium concentrate constant which causes blood pressure to go up. So if you want to get off those antihypertensive drugs (a diuretic to make you pee both salt and water out) try reducing carb intake.

Heart disease: Once carbs flood the blood stream with glucose, the liver picks up some of it and transforms it into fat. This fat boat, called a triglyceride, floats around the body delivering bits of fat and shrinking as fat is dropped off. The more carbohydrates, the bigger and lighter and longer living the triglyceride boat which then becomes the small, dense artherogenic (plaque making) LDL—the bad cholesterol. If no carbs eaten, then smaller and heavier boat that ends up as large, fluffy benign LDL. Since these LDL twins are seen as one, triglyceride counts are a better indicator of heart disease.

As for Alzheimer patients. A healthy brain clears away amyloid proteins (which are made when a certain larger protein is split), but an insulin-filled brain is occupied with clearing out insulin and cannot also clear out amyloid proteins. It is these proteins that combine with glucose to form plaques called amyloid-plaque accumulation (AGEs) and that accumulation causes vascular damage in the brain.

And cancer. Fat does not cause cancer and being fat does not cause cancer, rather getting fat may be a result of cancer activity. Glucose intolerance seems to play a part in cancer. Cancerous cells are mutations that occur all the time when new cells are made, but they only become tumors once they can grow and they only grow in the presence of insulin. Cancer cells have more receptors for insulin which allows it to feed more readily on blood sugars than other cells which become insulin resistant over a short time. Cancer cells burn perhaps 30x more sugar than normal cells. Thus the "sugar feeds cancer" premise I’ve been hearing about. But no one mentioned carbs turning into sugar so quickly so I didn’t make the connection. Researches did not see the need to take into account that carbs were easily made into sugar because they were biased by the fat-leads-to-cholesterol theory so thought carbs were irrelevant.

(A note about environmental toxins was made in reference to a researcher attributing the causes of disease to external circumstances. He meant eating and lifestyle habits, but the public took it as an affirmation that the "toxic soup" we live in is a danger to us; scientists responded to this misinterpretation saying that there was no actual evidence for toxins causing disease. I believe we are subject to toxic impact as far as endocrine interrupters and birth defects, but that is not about disease.)

And tooth decay. Sugar intake parallels carb intake in baked goods, cereals, crackers, etc. So dental problems parallel these other diseases of civilization.

Longevity. The hypothesis is that he who has the most free radicals (caused by oxidation generated by cells burning fuel), is bogged down by glycation—the binding of sugars to proteins in a haphazard, plastic-in-the-ocean kind of way, attracting toxic sequelae—big word for stuff that causes infection. You can reduce free radicals by half starving yourself and burning less fuel, a strategy my 95 lb, super-active mother seems to have employed. However, reduced blood sugar and thus reduced insulin resistance leads to reduced oxidative stress and decrease in glycation. Researchers are also making a connection between insulin activity and a doubling of life span triggered by a mutation too complex for me to grok, but is about organisms waiting out a bad spell in food supply in order to stay young enough to reproduce when there is food available.

This whole story about the bodies ability to survive is not quite as romantic and action packed as the increasingly popular Paleo diet story about hunters constantly having to run down game (and then gorging on meat). From descriptions recorded by early naturalists, when there was game, it was there in such abundance that it had to be cleared away like so much underbrush by settlers trying to proceed. Running a lot and shooting off your bow and arrow makes good The Hunger Games, but is hard on your joints and may cause carpel tunnel syndrome. Better that the humans be walking together in community, from food source to food source setting traps and when the going gets tough, hunkering down in caves together communing with spirits. Life alternating between mobile mardi gras and Shamanic sheltering in place.

With agriculture came the enslavement of most humans to till the land, thus enabling some humans to develop civilization as we know it in all its material glory. Chronic disease may be the price we pay especially if we stick with conventional wisdom.

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