Hang on … are fats now considered good for you and carbohydrates bad? Or is it the other way around?
Health experts have shifted recently in their theories about sugar, fat, and the root cause of obesity and heart disease, so much so that Dr. Jerry Gore, co-founder of the Center for Holistic Medicine in Riverwoods, and his associate, Katie Bogaard, a naturopathic practitioner, attempted to set the record straight at a free presentation entitled “Choosing the Right Sugars and Fats,” held at the Northbrook Public Library on September 7.
“Fat was demonized in the 1990s, but we now know the sugar industry paid researchers to say fat was to blame,” said Gore. “Sugar makes you gain weight. It’s not fat, it’s sugar.”
During the course of their one-hour lecture, delivered to an audience of approximately 70 people, the pair set out to debunk outdated nutrition myths about good versus bad fats, and shed light on the long-term health risks of excessive sugar consumption.
“We want you to educate yourselves so you can use sugar and fat as friends, not enemies,” said Gore. “Our goal is for you to be healthy and avoid some of the illnesses that are plaguing the United States right now, many of which are due to sugar and bad fat intake.”
Using a series of lists, graphs, and charts projected overhead, Gore and Bogaard explained that many ailments are the results of sugar-induced inflammation inside the body. Hypertension, asthma, acne, acid reflux, and memory loss are all medical conditions linked to what Gore terms “silent” inflammation. When left untreated, inflammation leads to insulin resistance, which causes metabolic syndrome, which in turn, precipitates illness. According to Gore, 1/3 of the U.S. population has metabolic syndrome, putting millions of people on the cusp of multiple diseases.
“Don’t worry about what might happen with North Korea,” joked Gore. “This crisis is happening right now.”
Gore said Americans consume an average of 160 lbs. of sugar per year today, compared with just 5lbs. of sugar per annum back in 1890.
“One can of Coke has 11 teaspoons of sugar in it,” said Gore. “Can you imagine, sitting there, putting 11 teaspoons of sugar in your mouth? We need to start thinking about how this is affecting our children and grandchildren.”
Gore and Bogaard outlined the differences between simple sugars, which are found in foods like candy, cakes, syrups, fruit juices, and regular carbonated beverages, and highly preferable complex sugars, found in quinoa, millet and barley.
“In addition to putting us on a blood sugar rollercoaster, simple sugars also stimulate the pleasure centers in our brain which triggers overeating,” said Bogaard.
Even natural sugar substitutes like stevia can set up the brain for cravings throughout the day, said Bogaard. She and Gore recommend sweeteners with health benefits like honey, molasses and dates, but only in moderation.
The pair also explained technical terms like Glycemic Index, which measures the extent to which a food increases a person’s blood glucose level, versus Glycemic Load, which also takes into account the amount of carbohydrate in a food. Glycemic Load, say Gore and Borgaard, is the more accurate indicator of how a food will affect blood sugar levels.
“Low Glycemic Load foods, like kidney beans, green peas and watermelon, contain a good balance of sugar, protein, good fats and fiber,” said Bogaard.
Gore and Bogaard also worked to clear up confusion about good versus bad fats. Contrary to popular belief, they say it’s polyunsaturated fats like safflower oil and soybean oil, as well as trans fats such as hydrogenated palm, soybean and cottonseed oil that should be avoided. Saturated fats like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, beef fat, and butter are actually good if consumed in moderation.
“If you’re going to eat a French fry,” said Gore, “you’d be much better cooking it in coconut oil than vegetable oil.”
The pair explained that polyunsaturated fats are unstable and therefore vulnerable to oxidation – whereby oxygen present in other food molecules, the air, or the cooking process renders the fat rancid. Scientists believe this oxidation is linked to heart disease, cancer, and aging.
“Oxidized fats are bad fats,” said Gore.
Meanwhile, saturated fats, once thought to be unhealthy, have been linked to weight loss, cancer prevention, and inflammation reduction.
Both Gore and Bogaard see patients regularly at The Center for Holistic Medicine, where Gore is a co-founder and medical director. There, Dr. Gore practices both general medicine and psychiatry from a holistic perspective, leading a team of doctors that blend traditional and alternative medicine. Gore is also the author of Holistic Medicine: Physical Health, Peace of Mind & Clarity of Consciousness.