It’s the Sugar, Not the Fat

Some of you know that I have been fighting to change my diet and weight because about three months ago my doctors suspected that I was diabetic (and had this partially confirmed with some blood work).

I have been trying to lose (and have lost) a significant amount of weight for about a year now. I have lost a total of about 40 pounds (it was 45 and then Thanksgiving happened and I can’t round down at the moment). For the first nine months, I did what amounts to a basic lifestyle change: I ate many of the same things but began limiting portions and attempting to be more active.

At this time I was already on two drugs: one for my blood pressure (which had been high in the past) and one for an irregular heartbeat and as a reaction to an episode of pericarditis that I had suffered in May of 2010.

After those first nine months, I had blood work performed. The results weren’t good.

The first test was by my cardiologist, who wanted a lipid profile and glucose reading (12-hour fasting). The results were:

(“Normal” healthy readings are in parentheses.)

  • Glucose: 200 mg/dL (65–99 mg/dL)
  • Triglycerides: 600+ mg/dL (<150 mg/dL)
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 200+ mg-dL (<130 mg/dL)

The LDL number was considered to be “unreliable” due to the super-high triglycerides number. In any case, these numbers are bad. I also had what’s called a hemoglobin alpha-1 C test, which came back at 10% (which is solidly in the “WHOA YOU’RE DIABETIC” range).

It was at this point that I was put on a couple more drugs: one to suppress glucose production by my liver (this is why I can’t drink anymore) and the other to reduce my lipid levels (a fibrate).

I also changed my diet at this point to counting carbs and watching the sugar that I was taking in. Generally, I focused my dieting on changing carbs to between 45 and 60 grams per meal, with less in the morning. I paid less attention to the fat intake in my diet and probably ended up increasing it a bit with the increase in meat I was eating.

(In retrospect, I probably should have tracked this for curiosity’s sake.)

The medical “wisdom,” backed by the food pyramid and other aids, has been to pay more attention to the fats in your diet and eat more things that are starch and carb-heavy, such as grains and fruits (yes, fruits can be “bad” for you).

I am here to tell you that this is likely wrong.

Test results after a bit wore weight loss, change in diet to a more diabetic one (I’m not perfect), and drug therapy:

  • Glucose: 127 mg/dL (65–99 mg/dL)
  • Total Cholesterol: 145 mg/dL (125–200 mg/dL)
  • HDL (“good” cholesterol): 36 mg/dL (β‰₯40 mg/dL)
  • Triglycerides: 218 mg/dL (<150 mg/dL)
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 65 (<130 mg/dL)
  • Hemoglobin A1c: 6.2% (<5.7%)

I am looking forward to seeing what other changes will affect this, but I’m already debating limiting my carbs more to see the effects. I’m pretty sure that an overabundance of carbs and not fat in my diet was the cause of high levels of accepted heart disease factors.

Anecdotal evidence, I’m not a doctor, your health is your own risk, mileage may vary, blah blah blah.

6 comments on “It’s the Sugar, Not the Fat

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  1. Congrats on your improving health, buddy! I know how hard you’re working, and your results are inspiring.

    I’m curious, though — do you make a distinction between “good” and “bad” carbs when planning your diet?

  2. Congrats man! Keep it going.

    I’ve been reading a lot lately about how bad carbs are, especially when they come from grains, and that fats are nowhere near the problem they’ve been telling us for years. One of the best things you can do is challenge some of that “wisdom” with your diet and see how you feel.

  3. Congratulations on your weight loss and your A1C looks great!!!
    The hardest part is making the lifestyle change, and it sounds like you made the transition easily.

  4. I think that “low fat” was the battle cry in the past and now it’s “low carb,” and focusing too much on one area causes people to neglect the other areas–and so the trends shift. In my experience, the “eat less food” diet worked. Lately I think that, regardless of any reporting trends about food, I can’t imagine eating more vegetables would ever be a bad thing. The more I learn about food, the more I think of becoming a(n almost always) vegetarian. Or a pescatarian?, but that’s only because I like seafood and not because it’s the most healthy choice.

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