Thirty years ago, government experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insisted that fat and salt were the major public health hazards of the 20th century.
They all considered sugar “safe.”
Sure–sugar added extra calories to the diet, which could lead to weight gain and obesity. But they considered fat the bigger problem since there are more than twice as many calories in a gram of fat compared to a gram of sugar.
Clearly, this “calorie-counting” approach to preventing chronic disease did not really pan out.
They spent billions of tax dollars on study after study that failed to show a definitive connection between adult fat consumption and many cancers or other chronic diseases.
(The adult body weight and dietary fat hypotheses proved to be a complete “bust” for the No. 1 cancer in women–breast cancer. Way back 30 years ago, I published my research that adult weight and diet had no effect on breast cancer risk. And that breast cancer prevention had to begin during childhood. Now, 30 years later, cancer experts are finally admitting this inconvenient truth. I will tell you more about this sad story later this month.)
And when it comes to salt intake, study after study failed to show that salt is the cause of high blood pressure or heart disease. We also know that being overweight is not a problem for most people.
In the ensuing three decades, consumers tried to follow the misguided advice to restrict dietary fat and salt. And food manufacturers profited from new, useless, or harmful “low-fat” and “low-salt” products. Of course, the rates of chronic diseases mostly continued to increase over the past generation.
So–if not fat and salt, what causes chronic diseases in our increasingly health-conscious world?
Recent studies point to the very substance the so-called “experts” considered safe all those years–sugar.
Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations typically suffered from heart disease caused by high blood pressure (hypertension). In fact, this type of heart disease was so typical during my medical training 30 years ago that “hypertensive, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” was the most common pathologic diagnosis we gave out.
But researchers made advances in the treatment and control of high blood pressure. (Although work remains to be done.) So–fewer people today suffer from hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
Now in 2015, we see a vastly different phenomenon causing heart disease…
We now know metabolic disorders, such as Type II diabetes, is what leads to heart disease in most patients today. Diabetes is such a destructive disease, it eventually weakens even the cardiovascular system. In fact, the newest findings show that sugar, not salt, may also be responsible for high blood pressure itself.
In a new review, researchers found that the sugar in unhealthy processed foods contributes to the majority of hypertension risk. And a reduction in the consumption of added sugars, particularly in processed foods, may translate to a reduction in high blood pressure. As well as the reduction in cardio-metabolic disorders like Type II diabetes.
So the government experts were giving doctors and the public the wrong enemies to fight for decades. And the one they overlooked–sugar–is much more dangerous than the ones they chose to focus on.
Commenting on these findings to Medscape Medical News, Richard Krasuski, M.D., a cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic, said, “It is a little bit frightening that we have been focusing on salt for so long.”
Dr. Krasuski said that he and his cardiology colleagues should have anticipated such a finding for one simple reason: Increasingly lower salt intakes simply haven’t resulted in lower cardiovascular deaths over the years.
But don’t count on the government, its experts, and its co-dependents (like the American Heart Association) to get off their “low-salt” kick any time soon. Too many careers and reputations still depend upon it.
There is no controversy as to what constitutes a poor diet: too many processed foods and not enough whole, natural foods. These diets tend to be too high in both salt and sugar. Unfortunately, this fact allowed low-salt experts to promote their agenda and hide the truth for a long time. But it was the wrong “white crystals” all along.
In any case, stop worrying so much about salt…and fat. Instead, focus on cutting out the sugars, processed foods, and sodas.
Now, if we can just remove some of the fat between the ears of all the government and cardiology “low salt” experts.
P.S. Salt isn’t the only mistaken enemy in the battle against cardiovascular disease. Government health experts have also been on a decades-long warpath against cholesterol. But their greatest weapon–statin drugs–have caused far more harm than good. To learn more about how you can avoid these disasters in a pill–and repair the damage they may have already done to your body, see my special report titled The Insider’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy and Statin-Free Life.
- “The wrong white crystals: not salt but sugar as aetiological in hypertension and cardiometabolic disease,” Open Heart BMJ (www.openheart.bmj.com) 12/10/2014