Prof. Bozhidar Popov, MD, PhD: Sugar deficiency causes osteoporosis

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Prof. Bozhidar Popov, MD, PhD: Sugar deficiency causes osteoporosis
Prof. Bozhidar Popov, MD, PhD: Sugar deficiency causes osteoporosis

Prof. Bozhidar Popov, MD, PhD, is the chairman of the Bulgarian Society of Nutrition and Dietetics and head of the Department of Hygiene, Medical Ecology and Nutrition.

Why is the balance of unsaturated fatty acids in the body important? Do we need to label certain products as harmful? And more useful tips on the topic of he althy eating are discussed with Prof. Bozhidar Popov.

Prof. Popov, it is clear that unsaturated fatty acids are more beneficial for he alth than saturated ones. Are all unsaturated fatty acids equally beneficial?

- We call them essential, that is, absolutely necessary for a daily balanced diet. They are actually fatty acids with double bonds, but in principle there is a significant difference in their physiological action in the body.

The metabolism of unsaturated fatty acids is completely different, and that is precisely why they have such he althy effects in terms of vessels, fat metabolism, and overall he alth. Especially omega-3 (with 3 double bonds) acids are actually the most useful, the bad thing is that the Bulgarian practically does not take enough of them, he suffers from a deficiency. The main sources of omega-3 fatty acids are higher-fat fish and nuts.

To your question: oleic acid for example, which has 1 double bond, we get it mainly from olive oil; linoleic - with 2 double bonds, we get it with sunflower oil, so we don't have deficits from them. I explain all this because it is interesting to know that the ratio between those with double bonds and others with triple bonds, in the case of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids, is important. This ratio should be 1 to 4-5, and for us Bulgarians, it is several times higher - 1 to 15-20, in favor of linoleic acid, which is contained in sunflower oils.

Therefore, omega-3 deficiency leads to a predominance of fatty acids with two double bonds, which is not he althy. Cardiovascular disease, as well as cancer risk, increases with such a poor balance of unsaturated fatty acids.

These days they took up the topic of palm oil again, which was contained in larger quantities in waffles, for example. Very briefly your comment?

- Although it is vegetable, palm oil is rich in saturated fatty acids. Its biological qualities come close to those saturated with animal products - lard, sheep tallow. In general, unsaturated fatty acids predominate in vegetable fats, but palm and coconut oil are exceptions. Therefore, abusing them, of course, carries risks, as well as abusing very fatty meats.

Even more adverse effects on the cardiovascular system are these oils if they are hydrogenated, as they increase the level of bad cholesterol

Maybe that's why they're calling palm oil harmful again.

Look, in our science we don't use the term "junk foods". Harmful is food in which there are many chemical or toxic substances, as well as microorganisms, such food is discarded. But we cannot call natural foods harmful. Yes, some are more useful and he althy than others, that's it.

It is not correct to set such a limit, as I have said, with us in our science everything is standardized. That is, we recommend to consume less of the foods with lower he alth qualities. If a person ate one waffle today, no problem, but if he eats several waffles every day, it's already more serious.


Prof. Bozhidar Popov

You are a supporter of varied nutrition, but many people are misled by various diets on the Internet…

- Variety in food, taken in moderate quantities, provides the body with the most important essential nutrients. I am opposed to mono-diets, so fashionable on the Internet and in the media, almost no one product is favored. It can be a very good product, but only to spend days with it…

When you give the body a little, but different food, it chooses what it needs and gets rid of the excess nutrients. Sometimes the body suggests what it needs. If with some signals he suggests that he eats a lot of sweets, then he needs carbohydrates, because they ultimately provide the energy in the human body. If a person generally does not eat regularly, whenever he is hungry, he usually reaches for sweets first - naturally and instinctively, the body suggests that it needs calories to take in with carbohydrates.

And again we come to the mantra of how harmful sugars are…

- Yes, lately it has been discussed again in various columns how harmful sugars and carbohydrates are. But I will once again say that we have normalized them. It is not by chance that it is about added sugar. We are not talking about the sugar in the fruit, it has a completely different metabolism than the added sugar that we put in sweets, in tea, in milk. They are completely different in metabolism. The body also needs sugar.

After all, glucose feeds the brain, heart, muscles

The endocrine system cannot function without sugar. So if we leave the body with a sugar deficiency, it begins to suffer. New research shows that it can trigger osteoporosis. If a person systematically deprives himself of sugar, of carbohydrates, serious metabolic diseases can occur. Nothing should be ignored or anathematized as harmful.

Prof. Popov, I remember from our previous conversation that you mentioned beans as the Bulgarian superfood

- Yes, people who mostly prefer plant-based food should know that the only good protein composition has legumes - beans, lentils, peas, soy. They give to a certain extent protein, which in quality approaches the complete protein in animal products. I am also surprised by another suggestion, again from the Internet, and not only - gluten-free diets.

Gluten is an ingredient of wheat bread, in fact only 2-3% of people cannot break it down because it causes gastrointestinal discomfort in those people.

Why should a he althy person consume gluten-free products just because they were almost he althier? There is no difference. Can't urge people to focus on gluten free flours and such.

The Bulgarian people have traditions in eating, if we go back centuries. We have a lot of superfoods in our country. We're not just talking about beans and other plant products here. Our gene is tuned to them and we process them much better than some imported products, with which the body has yet to get used to how to metabolize and absorb them.

What advice will you give us - what we should eat today and now - not only for good immunity, but in general?

- In general, immunostimulating foods that give good immune protection are first and foremost whole proteins, as they build up the immune bodies. The good protein, the real one, the balanced one, the one with the 9 essential amino acids we've been talking about.

They are part of antibodies, hormones, blood cells, all enzymes. All enzymes at the cell-tissue organ level are protein bodies. So if we get enough complete protein, we will have good protection with the kind of antibodies that protect a person's immunity. But in addition to them, antioxidants, which are mainly contained in fruits and vegetables, are very important for humans.

So a good daily combination is the following: intake of complete protein, plus fruits and vegetables that supply us with these valuable vitamins and minerals with an immune-stimulating effect, is the best model for complete nutrition. Here we must include, of course, probiotics in sour-milk products.

They are also related to immunity, especially in the digestive system. Because a large part of bacteria enter through the digestive system. So many foods have a complex effect.

The richer the menu, the more chances there are to take such immunostimulators and immunoprotective nutrients that protect us from any invasion of viruses and bacteria. Or, if you will, from chemical and toxic substances that constantly surround us on a daily basis. After all, since it's about harm, quantities determine harm, as does culinary processing.