Stop eating so much sugar and fat!


We crave fat. When we eat it, our bodies produce something called endocannabinoids, which resemble the active ingredient in marijuana. And that makes you want to eat more fat.



We were born to be hunter-gatherers, as my student/assistant Noah reminded me the other day. (He’s taking pre-med classes, and is also a varsity football player, so he knows his stuff.) The closer we keep to the Original Human Diet – complex carbohydrates, proteins – the more naturally our body responds to them.  (Noah claims he eats nothing but oatmeal and brown rice and chicken.  I have seen him eat chocolate, however.  Hmm.)  With unlimited access to fat and sugar . . . well, unpleasant things happen, like obesity, and diabetes, and fatty liver. We were not intended to have quite this much sucrose in a given day. As for fat – well, it was pretty scarce back on the savanna when our ancestors were chasing gazelles. Grandma and Grandpa Australopithecus gobbled it all up as soon as they found it, and their bodies taught them to crave more.



And we, their descendents, still crave it.



My Polish grandmother used to eat lard on bread. “Lard is rich people’s food,” my mother said.






I’ve never gone quite that far, but I recall buying a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts in one of those big pink-and-orange boxes, and eating all twelve while on the phone. (This was back in my plump-and-pleasant days, naturally.)



Nowadays I’m skinny and agile, and if any gazelles come past, I will lope after them and run them down.



Anyway: eat less fat. And sugar. They’ll kill you.



Sugar is not your friend


There was an article in the Times recently about sugar being a toxin. (I’ll link to it here, but the Times now has its Gottverdammt “paywall” in place, so you may or may not be able to access the link. Sorry.)



Yes, you heard me. Sugar is a toxin.



The article actually explained this, in terms that a semi-educated blockhead like me could understand.



In short: not all carbohydrates are metabolized in the same way.



Your body wants glucose for energy. It gets a lot of glucose from metabolizing starch from food like potatoes, and grains, and other plant foods. Starches are basically long chains of glucose molecules. Yum! your body says, and takes the starch apart into its constituent glucose molecules. It has lots of ways of doing this; even saliva does it, a little. Since (up to very recently in human history) most of our glucose intake was in the form of starch, our bodies have evolved very neatly to perform this task.



Sugars are a little different. Sucrose – table sugar – is a double molecule: one molecule of glucose, one of a different sugar called fructose, linked together. Glucose is an all-purpose molecule, and can be metabolized pretty much anywhere in your body. Fructose can only be processed in one place: the liver.



And here our troubles begin.



Sucrose is half fructose, as I said. And I’m sure you’ve heard of “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS), which is cheap to make, and is actually sweeter than regular sugar. Well, now let’s say you have a nice Snickers bar. Right away you’re flooding your system with a burst of glucose, which sends your poor pancreas into conniptions, so it sends out a lot of insulin to help regulate the glucose metabolism process. And then, of course, there’s all that fructose heading for your liver for processing.



If this goes on too much, it leads to a condition called “fatty liver.”



Also – delightful! – with so much insulin washing around in your system all the time, your body’s cells can become what’s called “insulin-resistant.” Your pancreas pours out insulin all the time, but it’s not accomplishing what it’s supposed to do.



Related conditions: obesity, obviously. “Metabolic syndrome,” a risk factor in heart disease and diabetes. And, more recently, a very distinct link to some kinds of cancer.






Solution: eat less sweet stuff. Mostly plants, as Michael Pollan says.



No problem, baby. I love sweet potatoes and black beans.



You can just call me Mister Health.




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