Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Searching for Some Truth

A friend mentioned in a comment that he read David Perlmutter's Grain Brain, and is especially interested in the studies that "show a strong relationship between high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and cognitive / neurological problems." I, too, am very interested in all of these ideas, so I decided to check out Grain Brain. Just a few pages into the book, I was thinking, "My gosh. This is some scary shit." Part of me wanted to think Perlmutter is fear-mongering and working for some big business of some kind, and that eventually I was going to get to the chapter where Perlmutter was going to try and sell me something. Granted, I'm not that far into the book yet, so I haven't come across the selling chapter if there is one, but what I've read so far has been extremely interesting, making me want to continue reading.

A month or so ago, I read Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, and one chapter in her book that really got me thinking focused on cholesterol, specifically the push in the medical community to have everyone with a low cholesterol level. I had my own cholesterol levels checked a couple of years ago. At that time, I was considered "borderline" so my doc didn't prescribe a medication for me. I most likely wouldn't have taken the medication if she had as I'm of the mind I need to help myself and this happens through what I consume. Hubby totally disagrees with me (he's a pharma rep--go figure). He has stated several times that I need to be on a statin or I'm going to develop heart disease. We've had numerous back-and-forths about this matter the last two years, but I have continued to eat my eggs, bacon, liver, and shrimp. After reading her book, and now, seeing Perlmutter echo much the same about cholesterol in his book, I'm glad I didn't make any changes to my diet simply to try and bring down my cholesterol levels.

But I am left with a question: what is one to believe about cholesterol? On one hand, there are studies that suggest high cholesterol leads to heart disease. On the other hand, there are studies that suggest low cholesterol is directly linked to diseases of the brain. The camp for low cholesterol pushes for a diet of veggies, beans, and limited meats, eggs, and seafood. The camp for protecting brain function pushes for a diet of meats, eggs, seafood, butter, and lard while limiting grains and refined sugar. How is a person supposed to know what the truth is?

My approach to eating has become one of eating real food: grass-fed meats, free-range eggs from a local farmer, raw milk from a local farmer, veggies, and fruits (though limited). Grains and sugars have been placed on the "Limit Consumption" list. I feel like my body has responded well to this approach. Since I really buckled down seven weeks ago and have taken more care to avoid the grains and sugar, I'm 13 pounds down, having lost another pound this past week. Lovely Beautiful Daughter commented last week that my jeans were getting a bit saggy; I prefer to think of them as extremely comfortable. So while I may not know what the "truth" is about diet/cholesterol and their effects on the heart/brain, I know how I'm feeling. I'm feeling pretty darn good.


Cathy said...

Ugh. Isn't it ridiculous? There are so many competing ideas and facts and many different diets that claim to be THE one. The one that will keep you from disease, heal you, cure all of your problems.

It's freaking exhausting. I am totally in the camp of: just eat real food. Whole foods. I am not grain free, nor am I gluten free and I don' t know what to think about all the studies that claim these things are destroying my gut and my brain. And let's not get started on legumes.

And all the claims about Paleo diets and eating as cavemen--what about all that evolving we did with agriculture?

Yeah. It's exhausting. Sometimes it feels like "you're damned if you do and damned if you don't."

I honestly think the key is moderation. We don't do well with this concept in this country, which is why I think we are despearate for a set of strict rules that we can folllow and know that we are RIGHT. Moderation is difficult becuase it requires self-sustaining and self-regulated discipline. It requires listening to your gut AND your brain.

JK said...

I completely agree. Moderation is the key, and I especially like your last comment: listening to your gut and your brain. My gut/brain tell me refined sugar isn't all that good for me, so I cut back on the foods that contain it. I still have a treat here and there. My gut/brain also tell me that for me, breads make me feel heavy after I eat them. I love breads of all kinds, so again, I cut back on them, only having them here and there. Works for me.

Thryn said...

Hi, J! Yay for good "real" food and your pounds down and feeling great. Here's an interesting article to add to the pot:

JK said...

Wow! That's an interesting read, Thryn! Thanks for sending it my way. I especially find troublesome the info about docs making money from big drug companies for pushing their products. Some really scary stuff.

Randall Brison said...

Yes, interesting read, and Dr. Mercola reinforces what Dr. Perlmutter says in Grain Brain about cholesterol, inflammation, and exercise (follow link near the end of Mercola article).

Perlmutter says 20 minutes of exercise a day that gets you gasping and sweating is key to protecting your brain. Mercola is more specific, advising interval training (3 minute warm up, then 8 repetitions of working hard 30 seconds followed by recovering 90 seconds).

I'm still more interested in hearing from real people I know and trust than from experts on the web. Keep telling the story, JK and friends. For me, the low carb, gluten and sugar free life has been working great.

Debbie said...

YES! Very confusing. When I met with the Advocate BroMenn Advisory Committee I am on in Dec I was told of the new "guidelines" made by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology which I have copied below. I was stunned. They basically say ALL persons over 40 with diabetes (and other suggestions listed) without any concerns about the #'s. Just saw my endocrinologist on 5/1 who us pushing me heavily to go on statins because it's "good for my heart." I kept asking about side effects. But she only said muscle aches. My numbers weren't great but not horrible either… trycyceride 48 (s/b 0-150), total chol 194 (s/b0-200), HDL 79 (s/b>40), & LDL 105 (s/b 0-130). I got out of the office without pills for now.

"The new guidelines, formulated by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, are a major departure from those in place for decades. They throw out the notion that doctors should prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs when a patient's LDL, or bad cholesterol, reaches a certain threshold — in recent years, above 130.

Instead, the new guidelines say everybody with known heart disease should be taking statins.

And for adults over 40 without known cardiovascular disease, the new trigger for statin use is a 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke of 7.5 percent or more, according to a new risk calculator. The old guidelines, using a different calculator, prescribed statin use at a 10-year risk above 20 percent, along with an LDL-cholesterol reading above 130.

Under the new guidelines, statin therapy is urged for everybody over 40 who has diabetes. The drugs are also recommended for younger adults if their LDL cholesterol is over 190."

However, I am not a fan of "studies" because they can prove anything you want them to. So, I am afraid of the "blanket philosophy" of putting everyone on statins. Seems like overkill to me without knowing the total long terms effects of these drugs. So frustrating!