Harvard and Nurses Study on fats and carbohydrates

Harvard and Nurses Study on fats and carbohydrates


I read a lot of stuff about diabetes, and everything related. And I have a particular interest in food as it relates to diabetes, health and weight. Don’t we all?

“Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good”, an article from Harvard School of Public Health, is one of the best articles I’ve read in a while on the topic – it’s easy to read – and it expresses what I think to a tee. 

Primarily, that America got fatter when we took fat out of foods and put sugar in. That we have become obese, not due as much to eating fat, as eating refined carbohydrates. And yes, bad fats like Trans fats found in most fried and baked goods, are bad for you, but good fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil are healthy and your body needs them to function properly.

This is relevant whether you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, want to lose weight or frankly, in my book, are just walking around on the planet.

Here are a few major tale-away messages from the article:

• Bad fats, meaning trans and saturated fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. Good fats, meaning monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, do just the opposite. They are good for the heart and most other parts of the body.

• When people cut back on fat, they often switch to foods full of easily digested carbohydrates—white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary drinks, and the like—or to fat-free products that replace healthful fats with sugar and refined carbohydrates. The body digests these carbohydrates very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. Over time, eating lots of “fast carbs” can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes as much as—or more than—eating too much saturated fat. 

• It’s important to replace foods high in bad fats with foods high in good fats—not with refined carbohydrates.

It’s worth reading the entire article and if need be making some adjustments in your diet and see if they don’t benefit you.


Dr. Robert Lustig says fructose is poison, and I believe him


Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco who is carrying the charge that fructose kills. I’ve just spent the afternoon listening to a radio interview he gave recently, watching his lecture,“Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” and watching a series of YouTube mini documentaries he gives about obesity. 

In short, Lustig says sugar, specifically fructose, is a toxin given the way our body biochemically metabolizes it. That it actually turns to fat and that obesity is not the cause of metabolic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension,cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, but a marker of these. 20% of obese people will never get one of these diseases.

I agree with Lustig about sugar and refined carbohydrates being our undoing. If you read my new book, Diabetes Do’s & How-To’s, I emphatically say fat is not what makes us fat but sugar, or refined carbohydrate. Carbs cause the body to pump out excess insulin (a fat storage hormone) and carbs we don’t burn get stored as fat. Lustig will tell you the 6.5 ounce Coke that has morphed into the 44 ounce Big Gulp is the devil incarnate.

Twenty five years ago when America went on a low fat diet, people’s diets reduced in fat Lustig says from 40% to 30%. That doesn’t sound like much, but what happened is the carbohydrates we consumed skyrocketed. Take the fat out of food and it tastes like cardboard. Put sugar in and consumers won’t notice. In fact, they’ll like it so much, they’ll eat even more to it! Food manufacturers are not stupid. 

In fact, they are ingenious, and spend millions of dollars perfecting recipes that get us hooked on the sublime combination of sugar, salt and fat. But Lustig’s biochemistry lesson will help you understand why fructose is so especially causing our out of control obesity.

Lustig’s proposition is that we could not have, as a nation, and now as a global society – with American fast food now exported everywhere and the rise in obesity paralleling it – gotten obese merely from eating more and moving less.

No, he will tell you it is about what’s in our food and how the body uses it. “A calories is not a calorie,” says Lustig, yet he says they teach dietitians just the opposite the first day of school.

I am consumed (yes, pun) with this debate: what causes obesity, how are our modern day chronic metabolic diseases impacted by what we eat, obesity and how food is being reengineered and what role our environment plays. Where does personal responsibility figure into this and what responsibility does our government and food manufacturers have? A lot in my opinion, yet everyone’s hand is in someone’s pocket.

Personally, I believe if we cut refined carbs out of our diet, including sugared beverages, and ate real food – not processed or packaged – but things that grow on trees and in the ground, relatively untouched by human hands, and animals that are responsibly raised, we would not have an obesity epidemic.

Bronx, New York where diabetes thrives in a food desert

IMG_1709 Your in interaction

Saturday I gave the A1C Champion program in the Bronx. The Bronx is one of the five boroughs of New York City. The one also where diabetes has the highest concentration, largely because it is the poorest.

I was speaking at a storefront church converted from an ordinary building. Bishop David was jamming as the afternoon’s DJ. There were about ten or twelve small folding tables in front of the church on the sidewalk where people could pick up some information about diabetes. A hot buffet table was set up where the hosts were ladling out a relatively healthy lunch – chicken, rice, beans, veggies, corn.   

Before my talk, I walked around the neighborhood. I wanted to see where you could shop for something to eat and what you would find. Certainly, I’m sure, there are supermarkets not far, but within the few blocks I walked, there were several “bodegas.” Little delis like this one above where you could run in and find food – sort of. 

This is what was on offer: sandwiches on big white bready rolls and packaged snack foods everywhere, it took up 95% of the store: candy bars, chips, bakery goods and sugary soda and juices. They covered the store from top to bottom. In one store, one lone bottom shelf held a few onions and potatoes. Those were the only fresh vegetables in the store, no fruit. In another store, I saw only rotting bananas as fresh foods go. And this food desert – the Bronx – is only a subway ride from where I live.

We keep saying people need to eat healthy; yet how are we helping them to do so? I also don’t have to tell you if it costs $1 to buy an apple and $1 to buy a Big Mac, where’s the incentive for people to spend their hard-earned cash on a piece of fruit?

It saddened me to see what I read about in article after article. The food deserts in America. Those poor neighborhoods where there is no fresh food available and fast food brothels line the landscape – McDonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell. Places that seduce us with sugary, fatty, salty foods and low prices. 

Obesity and diabetes are not merely about individual responsibility – they are also about infrastructure, what the government subsidizes, safe neighborhoods with places to play. It is about getting healthier foods into poorer neighborhoods and helping people do the right thing for their diabetes. 

Yet, it also gladdened me to find the 20 people I spoke to were engaged, curious, thirsty for information and many were eating better than their parents. They shared their strategies from a one day a month “cheat day,” to sautéing fish with plenty of lemon and herbs instead of frying, replacing half the juice in a glass with seltzer and sneaking ten minute walks into the day.

The city councilman above gave a talk just before I went on and let people know how important it is to get exercise and about the parks he’s been building in the Bronx. His eyes were bright and clear as he greeted me and his passion for improving his community and helping people, was earnest. 

Saturday I traveled to a place so close to my home, yet so far from my world. But I also became a bridge for people to take a step from being under the thumb of this disease and its burdens to doing a little better. Riding home on the subway afterward, I was full from the adventure and my heart was light.