One of my readers sent me a link to a segment on ABC News with Charlie Gibson showing just how disgustingly slanted and inaccurate mainstream media reports can be.
Gibson leads into the segment about two reporters who underwent self experimentation on the adverse effects of unhealthy eating. The reporters, ABC’s Yuji de Nies and Jon Garcia, set out to see what would happen if they consumed a giant meal containing over 6,000 calories. Here is the result as they reported it.
Pretty brutal, eh? But let’s shine the piercing light of good sense on what is going on here. As you might expect, the reality is vastly different from that portrayed by ABC.
First off, let’s look at the actual nutritional content of the food eaten. As reported in the piece, the total energy content of the meal was 6,190 calories, which included 187 grams of saturated fat. These were the only parameters reported. I took the time to go through the links in the article accompanying the video to find exactly where these foods came from. Here’s what I found.
The burger is an Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger (served with fries, of course); the snack is The Cheesecake Factory Fried Macaroni And Cheese; and the dessert is Uno Chicago Grill Mega-sized Deep Dish Sundae (listed as cookie below). How do I know these are the exact ones? These were the ones referenced in the CSPI’s List of Most Unhealthy High-Calorie, Fat and Salty Restaurant Foods That May Clog Your Arteries. After seeing the photos and comparing to what I saw on the video, these selections are the ones the reporters ate.
The first thing you might notice is that the total calorie count is 5,708, which is considerable, but is actually 482 calories fewer than the 6,190 reported. Second, and this is a biggie, the saturated fat content of this meal is only 88 grams, not the 187 grams reported.
The reporters stretched the truth a little in that they reported as if the Mega-sized Deep Dish Sundae were a single treat to be consumed by one person at a sitting. I’m sure it could be so eaten, but it’s actually designed for four people to share. The Nutritional Facts list the calories per serving as 690 and the saturated fat as 17 grams. I’ve used the amounts in all four servings, i.e., one entire four-person dessert, in my spreadsheet.
As you may have noticed, the total carb content of the meal is 745 grams, which converts during digestion to a little over three cups (3.1 cups to be exact) of sugar. The ABC report, of course, failed to mention the carb content of the meal and ignored any immediate effect this huge intake of carb might cause. One of the reporters, Jon, claimed that he was ‘sluggish’ and ‘tired’; the implication being that this sluggishness resulted from his huge saturated fat intake. No mention, naturally, of the enormous amount of carbohydrate and the large increase in insulin release it might cause. From what I can see from the video, Jon looks to be sporting a little abdominal obesity, which would imply a degree of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. People with this disorder tend to over secrete insulin in response to carb intake causing an overshoot and reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which will indeed result in sluggishness.
It’s pretty impressive when the lab tech holds up the tube of blood taken after the meal and compares it to the one taken before the meal. There is a lot of fat swimming in the serum, that’s for sure. What the producers of this piece (and, sadly, the doctors commenting although they should know better) want you to take away from all this by the way they set it up is that all that saturated fat went directly into the blood. And how can you argue with them? It’s there for all to see.
Problem is, that’s what blood samples look like after almost any meal, especially one that contains carbohydrates. The fat you see isn’t the fat the two reporters ate; it is the fat the liver has made from the carbohydrate. It’s the same picture a tube of blood would show after either of the two doctors had eaten a high-carb, low-fat lunch.
The blood samples were taken two hours after the meal. Dietary carbohydrate is absorbed directly into the blood and makes a pass through the liver where it stimulates the production of triglycerides, the fat you see in the blood. Fat, especially long-chain saturated fat digests very slowly, and doesn’t reach the blood until much later than the two hour mark. While carbs go directly into the blood, fats take a different route. The process that breaks down dietary fat into its component fatty acids is a lengthy process as compared to the breakdown of carbs. Once the fat has broken down, it has to combine with bile salts to make it into a form that is water soluble and can be taken up by the intestinal cells. Once taken up, unlike carbs, which are sent directly to the bloodstream, fats go into the lymphatic system, a much smaller and more static transport system than the vasculature. Once in the lymphatics, fats make their way to the thoracic duct, which empties into a large vein in the upper chest. The lymphatics are small vessels and take a long time to move their contents along since there is no heartbeat pushing them as there is with blood. As I say, the fat in the blood you see on the video didn’t come from the saturated fat in the diet, although that was definitely the implication.
But what about the ultrasound showing the blood vessels had changed? Wasn’t that because of the fat?
I’m afraid not. The fat from the diet wasn’t in the blood vessels yet, so it couldn’t be the dietary fat causing the change. So what was it?
How about a little normal physiology. Let me explain. The body gets blood where it needs to get it by opening certain blood vessels while closing others. Let me give you an example. Have you ever jumped into cold water to go swimming and noticed that not long after jumping in you have to urinate? What happened?
Your arms and legs have a radiator effect. Since these appendages have little padding the blood circulating there is exposed to the cold water, and if nothing is done, the cold water cools the blood creating a big problem. Your body compensates by shutting down the circulation to the skin and areas close to the surface in your arms and legs and shunts that blood to your core. Your core already has plenty of blood when this happens, so it has to get rid of some. It does so by sending it through the kidneys where the liquid portion is filtered out and becomes urine. Suddenly your bladder is full and you have to go.
The body has the ability to direct blood wherever it needs by its manipulation of blood vessel size. Where do you think blood is needed after an almost 6,000 calorie meal? That’s right. The digestive tract. It takes a lot of work to deal with 6,000 calories, and a lot of work requires a lot of oxygen, which comes from the blood. So after a heavy meal, the body shunts extra blood to the guts where the works is being done. It does this by opening or dilating the arteries carrying blood to the intestines and by narrowing the blood vessels in other parts of the body.
Now, think back to the video of the woman whose blood vessel (in her arm) is being examined by ultrasound. When it’s compared to the previous ultrasound, the one before she ate, notice how much faster the heart is beating. (The little swishing sounds you hear, each of which represents a heart beat, are spaced much closer together.) The heart is beating faster because the body is working to digest an enormous amount of food, and this work stresses the heart in the same way that running down the street would stress the heart. Work is work.
The digestive tract needs extra oxygen to do its work, this extra oxygen can get there only via the blood, so the intestines require more blood than normal. This extra blood gets shunted there by opening the arteries that feed the gut and narrowing those that go other places where a lot of blood isn’t needed at the moment. Such places as, say, a relaxed arm.
Anyone with a smattering of knowledge of normal physiology (and apparently an open mind) could predict that the artery in a relaxed arm would narrow after a heavy meal and that that artery would be back to normal six hours later (which it was so reported in this video).
What you’re seeing in this video is normal physiology at work interpreted as being abnormal by a couple of lipophobic doctors who should (and probably do) know better. It makes for dramatic theater, but their interpretation is nothing but prevarication or ignorance or both.
But had they reported the truth, there would have been no story. Kind of sad, isn’t it.
Monthly Book Reviews
I have been writing a series of book reviews each month that I email to subscribers. If you're interested and want to get on the list, sign up here (or above where it says Get free email alerts in the upper right). I'll send you an email notice of all new blog posts plus all my monthly book reviews. Also, you will get a link to all the previous month's book reviews I've sent. Hope to see you aboard.