Cardiac expert says sugar more dangerous than smoking


SUGAR IS a “drug” that is more dangerous to health than smoking and elevated cholesterol combined, a leading cardiovascular expert has told an international conference in Galway.

Centenarians who are free of cardiovascular disease usually had low sugar and low insulin levels, Sherif Sultan of Galway University Hospital’s Western Vascular Institute said yesterday.

A successful cardiovascular anti-ageing diet involves reducing calorie intake by 30 per cent, increasing green leafy vegetables by 60 per cent and cutting back on refined sugar intake by 90 per cent, he told the institute symposium, which was attended by more than 100 of the world’s experts in the field.

Decelerating insulin increase is “key” to cardiovascular “anti-ageing”, Mr Sultan said. The level of insulin sensitivity of the cell was one of the “most crucial markers of lifespan”. Metabolic or insulin-resistance syndrome affected more than 60 million North Americans and one in four adults over the age of 35, he said.

This metabolic syndrome may be the cause of up to 50 per cent of all cardiovascular-related deaths, but it could be reversed with a diet high in unsaturated fat, low in protein and moderate in carbohydrate, he said.

“Exercise, weight management and metabolic vascular nutrigenomics [the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression] help to normalise blood glucose level and increase insulin sensitivity,” Mr Sultan continued.

Insulin should only be used for a “short time”and treatment for diabetes should focus on exercise, weight loss and stress reduction.

Mr Sultan said highly absorbable receptor-specific nutrients could mimic a natural process in the body which accelerated cell repair and encouraged function of the mitochondria.

He noted that US medical programmes had already adopted this approach. Health insurers were reimbursing consumers in 28 states for substances such as L-arginine, the amino acid which changes into nitric oxide and relaxes the blood vessels. The amino acid is also used to cure chronic fatigue syndrome.

“We have to treat heart disease in a preventative, physiological way rather than using the expensive technology of the 1970s and 1980s,” Mr Sultan said.

“It is unfortunate that multinationals have brainwashed the public into thinking that certain drugs are the only answer.”

Mr Sultan said he believed that certain drugs prescribed for heart disease were doing more harm than good. Cultured stem cell therapy had also “failed to deliver”, while more than €3 billion had been “squandered” globally on human gene trials.

The World Health Organisation estimated that at least 17 million people died from circulatory disease each year, far outstripping deaths from all forms of cancer combined, Mr Sultan added.

“Is Ireland prepared for this? The Minister for Health Mary Harney has fast-tracked the cardiovascular strategy, but will she implement it?” he said.

Italian vascular surgeon Dr Paolo Zamboni described to the two-day symposium a new “keyhole” technique to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition which affects up to 2.5 million people worldwide.

Dr Zamboni, a professor at the University of Ferrara in northern Italy, said he believed many types of MS were caused by a blockage of the venous pathways that remove excess iron from the brain.

He took 65 patients with “relapsing-remitting” MS and performed an endovascular operation to unblock restricted bloodflow to the brain. Some 73 per cent of the patients had no symptoms two years after the surgery.

Dr Zamboni’s wife was among those on whom he operated and three years later, she had no symptoms, he added.