The Next Step: Carbs and Triglycerides!
The alternate sweeteners of erythritol (sweetened with a bit of stevia) and xylitol in my primary daily drinks have helped me keep my blood sugar down. In the latest report from last month, the hemoglobin A1C was 7.0. Ideal is supposed to be like in the mid 6 range, IIRC, or less; that I think is the upper range. But it’s better than the 9.3 of over a year ago. (Fall, ’11, I was really pigging out on a lot of carbs and sugars, especially when IHOP opened nearby, and I was trying the new holiday pancake flavors, and I would get boxes of Little Debbie Banana Twins and pudding rolls, plus the routine individual Drakes’ or Hostess, and Cokes (when I heard it was good for sinuses), Dunkin Donuts’ seasonal pumpkin muffins and donuts, with usually a jelly donut thrown in for me to eat on the way to where I was going. At home, midday snack would be a half a tub of Stonyfield Farms vanilla yogurt —or a few smaller ones if that was finished; and then later tried to go “healthier” with granola bars; and agave or honey in my morning tea, and at work again, Lipton PureLeaf bottles for the middle of the day).
Last year, already trying to eat less of that stuff, when going to Dunkin, I got into their new plain french rolls (they seem surprised that I don’t put butter on it), figuring it was a healthier, less sugary/fatty alternative.
What the doctor was concerned about now, is that other figures are still high.
Cholesterol 226 (“Ref Range”, or what it’s “supposed” to be; 125-200)
HDL 39 (>40)
Cholersterol/HDL ratio 5.8 (<5.0)
and apparently the worst, triglycerides: 363 (<150).
So I wondered; what else could I be eating that's so bad? I have avoided really fatty stuff for a long time, and figured the sugar was causing everything, including the weight, tiredness, and other problems.
I begin seeing ads for this new book called Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD (New York, Rodale, 2011). This resonated with me, because a belly has stuck with me for years. I first got one at 19, back in those days I would be packing away snack cakes, especially the Drakes, when coming home from college and not having them for months; and then finding other junk when I went back, plus, for the first time in my life, unlimited soda at the cafeteria fountain, plus all the bottles I was buying at other times (And this was at the time Cherry Coke first came out!)
I gradually lost it somehow within four years, by the time I had entered the Air Force. I was doing a lot of walking, which seemed to be the only change in my behavior, other than dropping pork, from the influence of the “Armstrongism” and Adventist movements which holds to Old Testament laws. Almost disgusted from having to grill burgers everyday for these obese airmen (while the service harassed the females about meticulous weight measures), I myself had practically stopped eating meat, and ate mostly rice and vegetables, but also, similar to the soda in the college cafeteria, gained access to unlimited ice milk floats. (And I would eat bread products too, of course).
So I gained the belly back by the time I got out, and this time could not lose it for anything. Not even a marathon 23 mile walk from Bronx to Brooklyn, and several 9 mile walks from central Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, along with even a few of those charitable walk-athons around Manhattan, and pounding the ground around the neighborhood for the ’90 Census, could get rid of it. So it stayed.
The title reminds me of “pink belly!“; which big Ed repeatedly shouted as he slapped Double D (Edd)’s belly to make him reveal the location of jawbreakers the whole cul-de-sac had assumed were the prize for a treasure hunt he gave them to improve their sorely lacking intellectual skills. (This was when he told them “ACORN becomes A TREE!…” The show, for those who don’t get it, is Ed, Edd & Eddy).
It seems the one thing I’ve never tried is to reduce is the wheat. So much focus was on sugar and fat, and when eating some [less sweet] bread (like a roll or something), you figure it’s not all sugary like cake, and it’s not fatty, so to pass up cake for that, I must be doing really good! A friend of mine years ago who was trying to lose weight mentioned she wanted to eat less bread. I figured I’d have to consider that some day, but the challenge for me was still not eating too much sweets. (She was pear-shaped, but eventually did become small; though I’m not sure if that was just age or whatever).
My father used to say it looked like I had a beer belly, and I wondered why. Someone once explained to me how a beer belly is formed, from the body not being able to process so much of the drink, so it just forms fat, or something like that. So, never drinking, I wondered if I was eating something that had the same effect. Sugar of course, produces fat, but I’ve never heard of it having quite that same effect.
But in light of this info, what is beer, but fermented wheat? This is another big clue that wheat is probably the problem.
The book says that whole grain bread has a glycemic index (the amount a food raises blood sugar to 90-120 minutes after it is consumed), that at 72 is higher than sucrose, or table sugar (59), or even Mars (68) or Snickers (41) candy bars; and even higher than the white bread (69) whole wheat is supposed to be so much better than! (p.8-9, 34) (The scale is set by glucose, at 100). In healthy people, two slices (of either white or whole grain) will raise the sugar level by 30mg/dl, and in diabetics, 20-120mg/dl over starting levels! Again, I eat a turkey sandwich for lunch, and think I’m probably doing good!
So the book is good, starting off by introducing us to modern wheat’s ancestor, another grass-family relative called “einkorn”, and how wheat was genetically modified in recent generations, so is less healthy than the ancient wheat. (Modern wheat is short, where older wheat is tall).
I learned a lot of stuff (some I’ll probably have to refresh myself on) regarding biology and health, which I was never interested in, and never paid any attention to, but now these health issues in the past year+ have forced me to become more aware of it. Like I got more of an idea what some of these figures on the blood report mean.
I also had started thinking of “gluten-free” products, but he shows these still have the same aspects of wheat that cause the problem, such as amylopectin A, and the starches (corn, rice, potato, tapioca) used in place of wheat gluten. I wondered about the “sprouted grains” (“Ezekiel 4:19” brand) we had tried awhile back, but like he says (p.158) “it’s still wheat”.
One thing I don’t quite get yet is the whole discussion of LDL particles being “too small” (rather than too plentiful, which is the impression I got, from this being the so-called “bad cholesterol”, where HDL was the “good”-cholesterol”. Calculated LDL for me was 114, with the ref. range being <130, though desirable range is <100 for diabetics without heart disease. The calculation was LDL = total – HDL – (triglycerides ÷ 5). So that's 226 – 39 – (363/5) = 114).
I don't think LDL particle size is represented on there.
The book points out that this formula was based on assuming HDL is 40 or more, and triglycerides 100 or less.
The book does sound a bit sensationalistic at times (makes wheat sound almost like poison, that must be given up completely, or all the problems will relapse). Long figuring corporate powers (bearing a lot of influence in government) might be apart of the problem, I liked p 56, where he mentions the “incredible financial bonanza that the proliferation of wheat in the American diet has created for the food and drug industries”, and asks, hypothetically
Did a group of powerful men convene a secret Howard-Hughesian meeting in 1955, map out an evil plan to mass-produce high-yield, low-cost dwarf wheat, engineer the release of government-sanctioned advice to eat “healthy whole grains”, lead the charge of corporate Big Food to sell hundreds of billions of dollars worth of processed wheat food products—all leading to obesity and the “need” for billions of dollars of drug treatments for diabetes, heart disease and all the other health consequences of obesity?
and says that while it sounds ridiculous, “in a sense, that’s exactly what happened”.
He even suggests that wheat is addictive (drawing a comparison to tobacco), and truth be told, this seems to be something I can probably testify to.
He provides all the data showing how as much as this “health” consciousness was promoted, Americans continued to get fatter and fatter in a few generations. Even those who follow diets, and have eliminated fats (including the much decried meats, eggs, and cheese), sugars, and even do a lot of exercise! (He advocates most of these foods, including even avocado and coconut oil, which I’ve always heard are really bad! He says “unlimited quantity”, even!)
Like the Merck & Co. pamphet Understanding and managing your Cholesterol, has the typical “Eat often” (picture of a loaf of bread, with fruits and vegetables), and “Eat rarely” (burger, fries, cola). “Eat a helathy diet” right under this says “Eat less saturated fats, usually found in fatty meat, milk and eggs”.
I have long noticed these conflicting claims, where certain kinds of foods are held to be so bad, but then all of a sudden, some study will be reported that it’s not so bad after all, and perhaps is actually healthy for you! Not only cheese, meat and eggs, but even chocolate! Eventually, someone will claim the previous views were really right all along. And back and forth it goes. (It’s suspected by some that the manufacturers of competing food products are behind these “studies”!) You had ice cream, which is a sugary, dairy “sweet”, but it was often included in pictures of “the four food groups”, making up the ideal diet!
Aside from this media rollercoaster, I realized that almost everything I put in my mouth is wheat! (Even with the great reduction in cake). Crackers or matzoh with almond butter as snacks all day, and nice portions of pasta for lunch (for work, leftovers packed into a 3 cup/710 ml container) and dinner (often with seconds and third!) Some lunches will be a couple of turkey sandwiches (usually on whole grain bread). Again, I feel because it’s not mac&cheese or fast food; I’m doing pretty well.
So I took this book seriously, and my wife worries that with other things, I’m overdoing it. But with all the wheat we’re eating, it has to figure in this. “Too much of anything is not good”, she herself has said. And if the product is already not too healthy, then all the more!
It’s true that to suddenly change all this stuff we’re buying and eating, as well as the recipies the book offers, are expensive; like the kind of stuff we see in fancy ambient midtown resturarants.
Wondering if at least I could somehow replace the crackers, at the very end of the regular text (before the recipe appendices), he listed three alternatives: Mary’s Gone Crackers, Sticks & Twigs “pretzels”, and Flackers. So I went to Whole Foods last night (to try lemon-lime “Twist” Zevia; drinking the black cherry, right now), and they had the first two, so I got them. Pretty good! Made with flaxseed and other such stuff.
Now, I’ll look into good, wheat-free alternatives to pasta. Then, I should be set. (I want to reduce, not completely eliminate wheat, and there’s a lot to replace for just a “Reduction”). I see some listed here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/23/healthy-pasta-alternatives_n_1539953.html
In the recipes, he also has some sort of alternative “muffins” and such baked items. (Will have to read the ingredients).
The book even advocates stevia, erythritol and xylitol in its recipies (along with sucralose), and has a conversion list:
1 cup sucrose=
1 cup xylitol
1¹/3 cup erythritol
¼ cup [pure] stevia extract
¹/3 cup + 1½ tbsp Truvia
2 tbsp liquid stevia extract
1 cup stevia bulked with maltodextrin (Stevia in the Raw, etc).
1 cup Splenda