Complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and pasta, were not associated with the increased risk of heart disease. This suggests that the problem is not carbohydrates per se, but rapidly absorbed carbohydrates.
The information comes from a study of about 48,000 people who were asked about their diets in detail. Previous studies have also shown a similar link between simple carbohydrates and heart disease risk.
It is not a mystery that eating many refined carbohydrates -- bread, rice, pasta, cereal, bagels, etc. -- is not a smart move for your heart.
When you eat more carbohydrates than can be used, the excess carbohydrate energy is converted to fat by your liver. This process occurs to help your body maintain blood sugar control in the short-term, however it will likely increase triglyceride concentrations, which will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Also, insulin, stimulated by an overabundant consumption of grains, starches and sweets, is the cause of many problems.
It's responsible for many bulging stomachs and fat rolls in thighs and chins, and even worse, high insulin levels suppress two other important hormones -- glucagons and growth hormones -- that are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development, respectively.
So insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off your body's ability to lose that fat. Excess weight and obesity not only lead to heart disease but also a wide variety of other diseases.
Refined Carbs More Than Double Your Heart Disease Risk
In the above study, women who ate the most high glycemic foods had more than double the risk of developing heart disease as women who ate the fewest. Previous studies, including an excellent one published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have also linked high-carb diets, and their tendency to induce liver fat production and insulin resistance, to heart disease.
Your body is simply not designed to process large amounts of refined sugars and grains, which explains the myriad of health effects that occur when you overindulge in foods like bread, pizza, pasta, bagels, rice, pancakes and waffles without serious metabolic consequences:
- A study of more than 2,300 Italians found that high bread consumption significantly raises your risk of renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.
- In postmenopausal women, the risk of breast cancer was raised by 87 percent in those who ate the most refined sugars and grains.
- Diets high in carbohydrates that are quickly digested and absorbed, such as white bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugars and corn syrups, may produce eye tissue damage that leads to blindness.
Why Refined Carbs are Among the Worst Out There
Along with the problems with liver fat production, insulin resistance and increased triglycerides, refined carbohydrates are nutritionally devoid foods, meaning they do nothing positive for your health.
For instance, when flour is refined, the most nutritious part of the grain is removed, so the flour essentially becomes a form of sugar. Then it is typically brominated which produces toxic disinfection byproducts. Whenever you eat a slice of toast, a bowl of cereal or a half a bagel made with commercial brominated flours, picture yourself dipping directly into your sugar bowl and gulping down a spoon or two, because that’s essentially what it amounts to.
What else gets lost in the refining process?
- Half of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids
- Virtually all of the vitamin E
- Fifty percent of the calcium
- Seventy percent of the phosphorus
- Eighty percent of the iron
- Ninety-eight percent of the magnesium
- Fifty to 80 percent of the B vitamins
And many more nutrients are destroyed -- simply too many to list. White flour is often bleached during the refining process as well, a step that adds a potentially dangerous chemical poison to the end product on top of everything.
Is the Glycemic Index a Reliable Tool to Choose Your Carbs?
The glycemic index became very popular several years back during the low-carb diet craze, when both Dr. Atkins of The Atkins Diet and Dr. Agatston of the South Beach Diet began advocating the use of this index in choosing foods.
In a nutshell, the glycemic index rates foods on a scale of 1 to 100 depending on how quickly or slowly the carbs impact your blood sugar levels. Those ranked below 55 are said to be low-glycemic index foods, while those 70 and over are high.
You’ll now see many studies that divide foods according to their glycemic index and use it as a baseline for determining the role of carbs on various health problems.
The underlying premise, that some foods can seriously raise your blood sugar and as a result cause harm and damage in your body, is true. But the main problem is that the glycemic index is not a valid tool to use to determine which foods will do that for you.
A classic example is fructose, which ranks very low on the glycemic index, yet is a disaster for your health.
The fact is that numerous factors play a role in how a specific food will affect your blood sugar. The glycemic index doesn't, for example, measure how a food, or a specific ingredient, affects you over time.
Moreover, it fails to take into account the harm chemicals like sucralose, sorbitol and refined fructose contained in supposedly low-GI foods do to your body; they convert directly into triglycerides and adipose tissue instead of blood glucose, accelerating obesity, diabetes, hypoglycemia and heart disease.
Rather than using the glycemic index, you would be better off using more reliable means, and for this I always recommend nutritional typing.
Your Nutritional Type Can Help You Determine Which Carbs are Right for You
Refined carbs (again, the white bread, white sugar, pizza, bagels, etc.) are not a healthy choice for virtually anyone. So when I speak about “choosing your carbs” these will not be on the list.
Further, no matter what your nutritional type is, if you suffer from the following diseases you would best be served avoiding ALL grains, even whole grains:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
There are also many people who suffer from gluten intolerance without even realizing it. This condition can cause an array of symptoms from fatigue and depression to abdominal pain and anemia, and if you have it you should avoid all gluten-containing foods in your diet. You can read Why is Wheat Gluten Disorder on the Rise? to find out more.
So, in my experience, about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole grain and sprouted grains, because, typically, grains rapidly break down to sugar, which causes rises in insulin that exacerbates health problems.
The only consistent exceptions would be those whose nutritional type is a carb type and who don’t suffer symptoms of gluten intolerance. However, it’s still important to realize that there is a major difference between vegetable carbs and grain carbs, even though they’re both referenced as "carbs." Unlike vegetables, grains convert to sugar, which is not something anyone needs in their diet in high amounts.
In short, most people are consuming far too much bread, cereal, pasta, corn (a grain, not a vegetable), rice, potatoes and baked goods, with very grave health consequences.
Yes, this even includes organic stone ground whole grains.
That said, if you are going to eat bread, you should certainly stick with high-quality whole-grain products. You can tell whether the loaf you’re looking at is truly whole grain before you even read the label by first picking it up. Authentic whole-grain breads are dense and relatively heavy -- avoid imposters that are light and fluffy.