Heart Disease and Diet: Foods Not To Eat

Can Your Diet Create Heart Disease?

Heart Disease seems to be on the rise in many countries.  For example, a 2013 study in Canada showed that nine out of ten Canadians have at least one  risk factor for heart disease or stroke, and that these risk factors are rising dramatically in young people.  Heart attacks are not unknown in people in their twenties, and are becoming quite common in those in their thirties.  Not so long ago, it used to be unusal for people under the age of forty-five or fifty to have a heart attack.

Possible reasons for this rise in heart disease in younger people are: rising stress levels in young people, and a rise in the number of risk factors for heart disease including hypertension, obsesity, diabetes, and (as we have seen in previous posts) atherosclerosis, aka hardening of the arteries, in all ages.

In fact heart disease is rising in all ages, a  2009 study showed a more than twenty percent increase in Canadians since 2000, with a twenty percent increase in men, and just over a two percent increase in women.   Obesity in current  young people is expected to  increase the prevalence of heart disease by five to sixteen percent by 2035.

What role does diet play in all this?

A lot.  Over the last 100 years in Western countries the average diet has changed  from one of natural foods to a diet of many processed foods. Foods are said to be  ‘processed’  when raw food ingredients are transformed into different forms.  Processed foods often contain additives, artificial flavorings and other chemical ingredients rhat are not normallyrecognised as food.

Foods With A High-Glycemic Load:

As people have lowered their intake of fats, which are very high in calories, they have turned to carbohydrates to make them feel full.  And not just to any carbohydrates, but in increasing numbers to the high-glycemic carbohydrates (those that quickly raise the blood sugar) in processed foods.  If you think that bran flakes make a healthy breakfast, think again.  They may be somewhat  better than cornflakes (which raise the blood sugar almost as much as a sugar mixture does), but they, like cornflakes, put stress on the arteries and reduce  arterial functioning.

Soft DrinkOther common sources of high-glycemic carbohydrates are soda, fruit juices and energy drinks, cakes, doughnuts, candies and cookies (biscuits in the UK); in fact almost any carbohydrates that come in a package, including white pasta, bread and quick cooking white rice.  Any carbohydrate that is quickly digested and absorbed contributes to the glycemic load, and so to arterial inflammation and on to heart disease.

One study of 244 seemingly healthy women, found a significant association between high levels of glycemic load and arterial inflammation as measured by levels of C-reactive Protein (CRP), with those with the highest levels of glycemic load having almost twice  the CRP level (3.7 mg per litre)  than those with the lowest glycemic load (1.9mg /litre).  The results were worst for those with diets high in glycemic load who were also  markedly overweight (Body Mass Index greater than 25) – their CRP (average 5.0 mg/L) was more than three times the level (1.6 mg/L)  for similarly overweight women whose diets were low in glycemic load.

Trans Fats:

You should also avoid trans fats,  the common name for unsaturated fats with trans-isomer) fatty acids.  Trans fats occur during the processing of polyunsaturated fatty acids in food production.  Some processed monosaturated fats can also contain trans-fats, but almost all saturated fats do not   The exception is conjugated limoleic acid (CLA), a ‘good’ trans-fat which is made naturally in the milk and flesh of grass-fed, pasture-raised, cows, but in not in grain-fed or factory farmed animals .  All other trans-fats can increase the risk of heart disease by raising  LDL cholesterol while lowering levels of  HDL cholesterol (the good guys).  The Nurses Health Study, which followed 120,000 female nurses for more than 30 years, foud that each 2 percent increase in trans-fats consumed, doubled the risk of heart disease.

Foods with the most trans-fats are non-dairy creamers, most margarines, cake mixes, ramen noodles, soup cups, packaged baked goods such as Twinkies, chips, and crackers, many breakfast cereals, energy bars, and fast food.  In the latter category a medium order of fries contains 14.g grams of trans-fat, and Kentucky Fried Chicken Original Recipie chicken dinner containd 7 grams of trans-fat.  The ideal intake for humans is O grams.

To find out if store-bought food contains trans fat, look on the lable for hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils – they are trans-fats.  Even if the lable says ‘no trans fats, check for these two ingredients.  Apparently manufactures can state  “no trans-fat”  provided there is less than half-a-gram per serving.  In general people eat more at a sitting than the serving size given on the package.   Over the day you could end-up eating several grams of trans fat.

Also, if you value your heart,  give up fast food.

Processed Meat:

Processed meat causes inflammation and is also bad for the heart.  Processed meat is any  meat preserved by curing, salting, smoking, or with the addition of chemical preservatives, such as those found in salami, sausages, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and bacon.  Harvard researchers analyzed 20 studies that included total of 1,218,380 people from 10 countries on four continents. They found that each 1.8 ounce daily serving of processed meat [about one hot dog or a couple of slices of deli meats] was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease.  No relationship was found between heart disease and non-processed red meat.

Omega-6 Fats:

Omega six fats are found in vegetable oils such as: canola and soybean oils. Because they are pro–inflammatory they should be balanced with the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in a ratio between1:1 and 1:4. In the average westernized diet, the ratio is anywhere between 15:1 and 25:1, which causes inflammatory states in the body, and can lead to heart diseaseYou, which is a disease caused by inflammation.

Because Omega-6 fats are found in most processed foods, you should use Omega-6 fats sparingly.  the best ones to use are cold pressed unrefined oils such as sesame oil. You can substitute monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and macademia oil for omega-6 fats when frying.  Cut down on the omega-6 corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil and canola oil.

The next post will cover what foods to eat to prevent, and help heal, heart disease.  However, if you  already have heart disease, you should consult a dietician – your  doctor or hospital may suggest a good one.

Information from this post was taken from from the book The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden, and Stephen Sinatra

Soft Drink photo credit: Indigo Skies Photography via photopin cc






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