In April 1996 the Second International Symposium on Dietary Fats and Oil Consumption in health and disease was hosted by the Southwestern University Medical School in Dallas, Texas. Nutritional researchers from around the world presented their findings on the effects of fat in the human diet. After the presentations showing the subjects following the low-fat diet hadn’t got rid of their obesity, had not lowered their cholesterol levels, had lowered their HDL levels (the good cholesterol), and had increased their blood levels of triglycerides (a major risk factor for heart disease), the moderators of the symposium pronounced the low-fat diet a failure.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a supplement to their March 1998 issue, all the papers presented at this symposium along with some of the formal discussions that took place. The following quote from the supplement would give you an idea of the thinking of the symposium participants: “at this stage there is no conclusive evidence from studies that dietary fat intake promotes the development of Obesity more so than any macro-nutrients”.
It is important to note then even though these statements are true concerning the population in general, they are not true concerning certain sub-groups. The problem with studies like these are that they generalize the findings. There are sub-groups of the population that appear to respond well to low fat, high complex carbohydrate diets. But alot of people DON’T.
In 1910 we consumed 83% of our fat as animal fat and only 17% as vegetable fat, and practically all of that came from eating the actual vegetables. Now, we get three times the amount of vegetable fat we did then, and a little more than half the animal fat. And we have added a new kind of fat, an unnatural, processed fat called Trans fat, to the mix. Trans fat, widely used for baking, turned up in all kinds of processed foods; unfortunately, according to the Second National Health in Nutrition Examination Survey done nearly 20 years ago, the largest contributions of calories in the U.S. diet are white bread, rolls, crackers, doughnuts, cookies, and cakes, so we consume-at least those of us who follow the typical American diet-a hefty dose of these unnatural fats. In order to avoid Trans fats, it’s important to look for the words partially hydrogenated and avoid any products that contain them.
Cholesterol is a alcohol. As such, it can’t travel independently in the the blood. It is basically not a fat but a waxy substance, because the blood is a water-based liquid, quite simply, oil and water don’t mix. To keep the waxy cholesterol suspended in the watery blood, the body developed water soluble carrier proteins on which the cholesterol molecules (and for that matter the actual fats in the blood, the triglycerides) can safely ride from place to place. Your most likely already familiar with these carrier proteins, called lipoproteins, by their names: high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), and the newer and less famous one, intermediate-density lipo-proteins (IDL).
Now the big question- Does cholesterol itself cause heart disease? You might be surprised to learn that this issue is far from settled. But if you were to ask 100 people at random on the street whether reducing cholesterol to the lowest level as possible is healthy, the overwhelming majority would answer yes, and they would answer incorrectly. Research suggests that the mortality risk increased when you pushed your cholesterol to low levels using an ultra low-fat diet or drugs.
Let’s look at the studies. In 1969 we have the Veterans Administration Trial. In 1989 we have the Minnesota Coronary Study. The MRFIT study was performed in 1982. The WHO multifactor study was performed in 1983. The Gotltenberg study was performed in 1986. There is the Helsinki Heart Trial, the Finnish Multifactor Trial, and each and every one of these studies failed. There have been no successful cholesterol intervention trials. The members of one of the trials who took drugs achieved 10 percent reduction in cholesterol, and the pro-ponents equated that with a 34 percent reduction in their risk of heart attack. Notably, during the five-year period of the study, 79 people in the control group (this group did nothing for their cholesterol) suffered non- fatal heart attacks, whereas only 51 of those receiving the drug did.
Twenty-eight fewer heart attacks sounds great, right? But let’s look a little deeper. How many people died in each group? You would think that far more of the control group (who did nothing) would have, since 28 more of them had heart attacks, in which case you’d be wrong. Only 42 of those not on the study drug died during the five years, while 45 in the group that took the drug died. It makes no sense to take a drug to reduce your risk of having a non- fatal heart attack if by doing so you increased your odds of dying of something else Dead’s dead, what-ever the cause. Furthermore, look at some of the other side effects these drugs have: severe liver damage, skeletal muscle destruction, acute renal failure.
Let’s look at the bright side. You can safely balance your cholesterol while you improve your overall health. The first key is determining which is the correct diet for you. There are four different body types with two basic patterns of eating with some variations. Two body types require a high complex carbohydrate with a low-fat diet. Two body types require high protein and a low carbohydrate diet. It is very important to determine which diet is correct for you. Don’t follow the fads. Just because someone has a best-selling book out and all your friends are following it doesn’t mean you should, Remember your mothers words “If everybody was jumping off the cliff, would you?”.
Along with diet, targeted nutrition is very important. You must understand that 80% of your cholesterol level is manufactured by your liver. Balancing liver function through nutritional supplementation is extremely important in balancing cholesterol. Controlling your insulin level by watching your sweets can be just as important. Also it’s important to remember cholesterol rises in response to stress. Exercise can help regulate stress. B-complex, magnesium, antioxidants, good quality fats as well as the correct ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are natures’ way of balancing your cholesterol.
We physicians with all our training, knowledge and authority often acquire a rather large ego that tends to make it difficult to admit we are wrong. So, here it is. I freely admit to being wrong. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries, today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.
I trained for many years with other prominent physicians labelled “opinion makers.” Bombarded with scientific literature, continually attending education seminars, we opinion makers insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol.
The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and a diet that severely restricted fat intake. The latter of course we insisted would lower cholesterol and heart disease. Deviations from these recommendations were considered heresy and could quite possibly result in malpractice.
It Is Not Working!
These recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible. The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated.
The long-established dietary recommendations have created epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the consequences of which dwarf any historical plague in terms of mortality, human suffering and dire economic consequences.
Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes expensive statin medications and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before.
Statistics from the American Heart Association show that 75 million Americans currently suffer from heart disease, 20 million have diabetes and 57 million have pre-diabetes. These disorders are affecting younger and younger people in greater numbers every year.
Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.
Inflammation is not complicated — it is quite simply your body’s natural defence to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process,a condition occurs called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial.
What thoughtful person would willfully expose himself repeatedly to foods or other substances that are known to cause injury to the body? Well, smokers perhaps, but at least they made that choice willfully.
The rest of us have simply followed the recommended mainstream diet that is low in fat and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, not knowing we were causing repeated injury to our blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
Let me repeat that: The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.
What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.
Take a moment to visualize rubbing a stiff brush repeatedly over soft skin until it becomes quite red and nearly bleeding. you kept this up several times a day, every day for five years. If you could tolerate this painful brushing, you would have a bleeding, swollen infected area that became worse with each repeated injury. This is a good way to visualize the inflammatory process that could be going on in your body right now.
Regardless of where the inflammatory process occurs, externally or internally, it is the same. I have peered inside thousands upon thousands of arteries. A diseased artery looks as if someone took a brush and scrubbed repeatedly against its wall. Several times a day, every day, the foods we eat create small injuries compounding into more injuries, causing the body to respond continuously and appropriately with inflammation.
While we savor the tantalizing taste of a sweet roll, our bodies respond alarmingly as if a foreign invader arrived declaring war. Foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates, or processed with omega-6 oils for long shelf life have been the mainstay of the American diet for six decades. These foods have been slowly poisoning everyone.
How does eating a simple sweet roll create a cascade of inflammation to make you sick?
Imagine spilling syrup on your keyboard and you have a visual of what occurs inside the cell. When we consume simple carbohydrates such as sugar, blood sugar rises rapidly. In response, your pancreas secretes insulin whose primary purpose is to drive sugar into each cell where it is stored for energy. If the cell is full and does not need glucose, it is rejected to avoid extra sugar gumming up the works.
When your full cells reject the extra glucose, blood sugar rises producing more insulin and the glucose converts to stored fat.
What does all this have to do with inflammation? Blood sugar is controlled in a very narrow range. Extra sugar molecules attach to a variety of proteins that in turn injure the blood vessel wall. This repeated injury to the blood vessel wall sets off inflammation. When you spike your blood sugar level several times a day, every day, it is exactly like taking sandpaper to the inside of your delicate blood vessels.
While you may not be able to see it, rest assured it is there. I saw it in over 5,000 surgical patients spanning 25 years who all shared one common denominator — inflammation in their arteries.
Let’s get back to the sweet roll. That innocent looking goody not only contains sugars, it is baked in one of many omega-6 oils such as soybean. Chips and fries are soaked in soybean oil; processed foods are manufactured with omega-6 oils for longer shelf life. While omega-6′s are essential -they are part of every cell membrane controlling what goes in and out of the cell — they must be in the correct balance with omega-3′s.
If the balance shifts by consuming excessive omega-6, the cell membrane produces chemicals called cytokines that directly cause inflammation.
Today’s mainstream American diet has produced an extreme imbalance of these two fats. The ratio of imbalance ranges from 15:1 to as high as 30:1 in favor of omega-6. That’s a tremendous amount of cytokines causing inflammation. In today’s food environment, a 3:1 ratio would be optimal and healthy.
To make matters worse, the excess weight you are carrying from eating these foods creates overloaded fat cells that pour out large quantities of pro-inflammatory chemicals that add to the injury caused by having high blood sugar. The process that began with a sweet roll turns into a vicious cycle over time that creates heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and finally, Alzheimer’s disease, as the inflammatory process continues unabated.
There is no escaping the fact that the more we consume prepared and processed foods, the more we trip the inflammation switch little by little each day. The human body cannot process, nor was it designed to consume, foods packed with sugars and soaked in omega-6 oils.
There is but one answer to quieting inflammation, and that is returning to foods closer to their natural state. To build muscle, eat more protein. Choose carbohydrates that are very complex such as colorful fruits and vegetables. Cut down on or eliminate inflammation- causing omega-6 fats like corn and soybean oil and the processed foods that are made from them.
One tablespoon of corn oil contains 7,280 mg of omega-6; soybean contains 6,940 mg. Instead, use olive oil or butter from grass-fed beef.
Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labelled polyunsaturated. Forget the “science” that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.
The cholesterol theory led to the no-fat, low-fat recommendations that in turn created the very foods now causing an epidemic of inflammation. Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake when it advised people to avoid saturated fat in favor of foods high in omega-6 fats. We now have an epidemic of arterial inflammation leading to heart disease and other silent killers.
What you can do is choose whole foods your grandmother served and not those your mom turned to as grocery store aisles filled with manufactured foods. By eliminating inflammatory foods and adding essential nutrients from fresh unprocessed food, you will reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body from consuming the typical American diet.