Carbohydrate intolerance comes in many shades and colors, shapes and sizes.
I call all of its varieties the Carbohydrate Intolerance Syndrome, or CIS. (Not to be confused with CSI, or Crime Scene Investigation . . . though, come to think of it, perhaps there are some interesting parallels!)
At its extreme, it is called type II diabetes, in which any carbohydrate generates an extravant increase in blood sugar, followed by the domino effect of increased triglycerides, reduction in HDL, creation of small LDL, heightened inflammation, etc. and eventually to kidney disease, coronary atherosclerosis, neuropathies, etc.
An intermediate form of carbohydrate intolerance is called metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes. These people, for the most part, look and act like diabetics, though their reaction to carbohydrate intake is not as bad. Blood sugar, for instance, might be 125 mg/dl fasting, 160 mg/dl after eating. The semi-arbitrary definition of metabolic syndrome includes at least three of the following: HDL <40 mg/dl in men, <50 mg/dl in women; triglycerides 150 mg/dl or greater; BP 135/80 or greater; waist circumference >40 inches in men, >35 inches in women; fasting glucose >100 mg/dl.
This is where the conventional definitions stop: Either you are diabetic or have metabolic syndrome, or you have nothing at all.
Unfortunately, this means that the millions of people with patterns not severe enough to match the standard definition of metabolic syndrome are often neglected.
How about Kevin?
Kevin, a 56 year old financial planner, is 5 ft 7 inches, 180 lbs (BMI 28.2). His basic measures:
HDL 36 mg/dl
Triglycerides 333 mg/dl
Waist circumference 34 inches
Blood sugar 98 mg/dl
Kevin meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome on only two of the five criteria and therefore does not “qualify” for the diagnosis.
Kevin’s basic lipids showed LDL 170 mg/dl, HDL 36 mg/dl, triglycerides 333 mg/dl.
But take a look at his underlying lipoprotein patterns (NMR):
LDL particle number 2231 nmol/L (equivalent to a “true” LDL of 223 mg/dl)
Small LDL 1811 nmol/l
Large HDL 0.0 mg/dl
In other words, small LDL constitutes 81% of all LDL particles (1811/2231), a severe pattern. Large HDL is the healthy, protective fraction and Kevin has none. These are high-risk patterns for heart disease. These, too, are patterns of carbohydrate intolerance.
Foods that trigger small LDL and reduction in healthy, large HDL include sugars, wheat, and cornstarch. Kevin is carbohydrate-intolerant, although he lacks the (fasting) blood sugar aspect of carbohydrate intolerance. But he shows all the underlying lipoprotein and other metabolic phenomena associated with carbohydrate intolerance.
We could also cast all three conditions under the umbrella of “insulin resistance.” But I prefer Carbohydrate Intolerance Syndrome, or CIS, since it immediately suggests the basic underlying cause: eating carbohydrates, especially those that trigger rapid and substantial surges in blood sugar.
CIS is the Disease of the Century, judging by the figures (both numbers and humans) we are seeing. It will dominate healthcare in its various forms for many years to come.
The first treatment for the Carbohydrate Intolerance Syndrome? Some would say the TZD class of drugs like Avandia. Others would say a DASH or TLC (American Heart Association) diet. How about liposuction, twice-daily Byetta injections, or even the emerging class of drugs to manipulate leptin and adiponectin? How do “heart healthy” foods like Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs fit into this? (Don’t believe me? The American Heart Association says they’re heart healthy!)
The first treatment for the Carbohydrate Intolerance Syndrome is elimination of carbohydrates, except those that come from raw nuts and seeds, vegetables, occasional real fruit (not those green fake grapes), wine, and dark chocolates.
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