As well as other grains and sugars–they all make a major contribution. And heart disease is certainly NOT about “high cholesterol.” So let’s discuss how these “foods” take you down the path of increasing potential for coronary atherosclerosis, the stuff that ruptures like a little volcano within the artery wall and causes heart attacks. For simplicity, when I say “wheat,” I mean wheat, grains, and sugars.
Wheat consumption causes heart disease because it:
- Provokes extravagant formation of small LDL particles—This well-established connection is due to the amylopectin A carbohydrate of wheat and related grains. Table sugar, sucrose, also contains 50% fructose which also provokes small LDL particles. Recall that small LDL particles are more adherent to the artery wall, more likely to gain entry into the artery wall and tissue, are more powerful triggers of inflammation, are more prone to oxidation and glycation—“glycoxidized” LDL particles, and last 5-7 days in the bloodstream, compared to 24 hours of large LDL particles triggered by fat consumption. The extended “lifespan” of small LDL particles means that indulging in wheat or carbs even once per week causes sustained elevations of these particles 52 weeks per year. It also means that repeated wheat or carb consumption over the course of a week means that the number of small LDL particles will “stack,” i.e., accumulate and build in number.
- Triggers glycation—Once again, the amylopectin A of wheat raises blood glucose that, in turn, irreversibly glycates the proteins of the body. Small LDL particles triggered by wheat’s amylopectin A are 8-fold more glycation-prone than large LDL particles, making them much more atherogenic, i.e., atherosclerotic plaque-forming.
- Provokes increased liver de novo lipogenesis—Also due to amylopectin A, this is the liver process of converting carbohydrates to triglycerides. Some of the triglycerides are released into the bloodstream as triglyceride-rich very low-density lipoproteins, VLDL, while some triglycerides become trapped in the liver, the process that causes fatty liver. VLDL particles are potent causes of coronary disease, as well as the particle responsible for converting large LDL particles to small LDL particles (via a several step process in the bloodstream).
- Is a major trigger for insulin resistance—Insulin resistance underlies a long list of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, high blood triglyceride levels, inflammation, even Alzheimer’s dementia. Wheat consumption causes an exaggeration of insulin resistance that further adds to small LDL and VLDL.
- Triggers formation of visceral fat—Visceral fat is inflammatory fat that surrounds the abdominal organs and yields multiple inflammatory mediators. Even worse, inflammatory visceral fat can also surround the heart, a major risk for coronary disease. Here is one of many studies that have associated increased pericardial (around the heart) fat with increased severity of coronary disease; although observational, the magnitude of difference suggests that this is indeed a real association.
- Encourages consumption of sugars—That, in turn, encourages development of small intestinal bacterial and fungal overgrowth, SIBO and SIFO , processes that hugely amp up body-wide inflammation, yet another driver of insulin resistance, weight gain, and other phenomena. Growing evidence suggests that the metabolic endotoxemia of SIBO is also a contributor to coronary atherosclerosis and cardiac events. Increased consumption of sugar is triggered by gliadin-derived opioid peptides that act as potent appetite stimulants.
There’s more, mostly related to the amplification of inflammation, but you get the idea. All the while, we have organizations such as the American Heart Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Diabetes Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics all advocating a lifestyle of reduced fat and saturated fat with plenty of “healthy whole grains.” I hope that you are beginning to appreciate just how destructive this advice can be.
We, of course, do the opposite and banish all wheat, grains, and sugars while enjoy unlimited fat, whole foods, and address the common factors that permit insulin resistance such as vitamin D, omega-3, and magnesium deficiency. If you were tracking lipoproteins, rather than silly kindergarten-level cholesterol values, you would witness the sorts of dramatic transformations that occur in this lifestyle, such as eradication of small LDL particles, rise in HDL, marked reductions in triglycerides and thereby VLDL, drop in blood sugar, drop in HbA1c (a measure of ongoing glycation), reversal of insulin resistance, weight loss from visceral fat, normalization of inflammatory measures.
You think Lipitor or a low-fat diet accomplish anything close to that? Fat chance.