The packet of chips or helping of fries you just snacked on, may have appeased the hunger pangs of the tummy and provided your brain with a reward , but for the liver, the results of your last meal represent a big battle.
Digestive juices breakdown the food
In high school biology, the emphasis was on the activities of the digestive tract.
- The grinding, ripping and shredding of the chunks of food, to allow them to slide down the oesophagus and into the stomach were followed by …….
- The chemical digestion of the food by a myriad of enzymes to produce the individual constituents……..simple sugars, amino acids, fatty acids and triglycerides
- The final phase was the passage of these tiny molecules, out of the GUT and into the bloodstream, to be USED by the body.
Traditionally this is where the story ends……….
THE FUN begins post absorption
But from the body’s perspective, this is really where THE FUN begins.
The packet of chips or serving of fries, effectively dumps mass quantities of sugars and fats into the bloodstream. These high concentrations of “nourishing” nutrients, are potentially toxic, so there is a scramble to get the chemicals processed and packaged smartly, to minimize their toxicity.
The battlefield is primarily the liver. Key players in this epic crusade include insulin.
The size and nature of the meal determine the dimensions of the clash and the degree of oxidative stress experienced. The cells lining the blood vessels are in the frontline of this oxidative onslaught , so they are the most vulnerable.
Delays can have disastrous consequences, as oxidative stress creates strain in the delicate pipes. Wear and tear in blood vessel pipes, as a consequence of the assault, requires routine maintenance.
Cholesterol dispatched to patch the pipes
LDL cholesterol particles are dispatched from the liver, to repair the weak spots, so as to avoid ruptures down the line. Regrettably, the continuous patching with cholesterol plugs can over time impede the flow of blood through the vessels, resulting in blocks and/or breaks.
These blocks and/or breaks result in heart attacks, strokes and thrombosis.
High carbohydrate meals produce biggest aftershocks
Meals loaded with carbohydrate, are the most work for the body, especially when the body’s response is tardy due to the metabolic imbalances.
The chief cause of delays, is insulin resistance, but sleepless nights and vegetating on the couch can also contribute to hold-ups.
NB. In diabetes, the insulin response is either absent (type 1) or in sufficient (type 2) to deal with sugar spike so sugar levels remain elevated for extended periods of time, not just briefly. Prolonged sugar highs magnify the cardiovascular consequences and damage delicate blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and nerves leading to retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathies.
Post-prandial dysmetabolism the real cause of heart disease
We have been programmed to believe that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease and health gurus wage war against it. But cholesterol is a consequence not a cause of the trouble.
The way to fight heart disease is to stop the outrageous post-prandial sugar spikes.
Practise the rule of thirds at every meal and eat to reduce inflammation and cardiovascular risk.
Dietary strategies for improving post-prandial glucose, lipids, inflammation, and cardiovascular health. J Am Coll Cardiol. (2008) 51(3):249-55. O’Keefe JH, Gheewala NM, O’Keffe JO.
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