Monday, November 10, 2008

More Cholesterol Myth Busting?

Heart experts--using terms such as "ground-breaking" and "paradigm-shifting"--are hailing a new study indicating that inflammation, not cholesterol, may be the reason for much of the world's heart disease and that statin drugs should be prescribed for many people whose cholesterol levels are otherwise normal.

The study, involving 18,000 volunteers in 26 countries, concludes that most people might benefit more from taking a $20 blood test that measures high-sensitive C-reactive protein (HSCRP), an indicator of heart inflammation.

The Washington Post quotes all kinds of experts calling this study nothing short of the Rosetta Stone where heart disease is concerned. But anyone who's been reading Nina Planck or Sally Fallon knows there's a whole movement of folks who never bought into the cholesterol theory of heart disease and have insisted all along that inflammation--caused by an industrial diet overloaded with Omega-6 fatty acids from processed corn and soybean oils and other factory foods previously unknown to humans--is the real cause of our modern heart disease epidemic.

Many experts, in fact, have congregated around the belief that cholesterol from saturated animal fats as a cause of heart disease is unproven and largely a myth. The Washington Post makes no mention of these longtime advocates of the alternative inflammation hypothesis. But I'm guessing there are quite a few Weston Price followers experiencing an Ah-ha! moment this morning.

Why don't we all make ourselves a big bowl of whole-fat, grass-fed yogurt and ponder that.


Peg said...

wow, this is very eye-opening and makes sense i will feature this on my own blog (which is linked to yours!)

Joanna said...

These studies terrify me, because they make me realise how little we understand. But it if we hang on to the fact that the epidemic of heart disease correlates to the rise in industrially processed foods - well, the answer is in your own hands: cook your own food, go back down the chain as far as you have time to go, buy grassfed traditionally raised meat and dairy.

I am SO glad that after my husband's heart attack we decided to attend to our diet - which in practice meant cooking more. But I'm still scared to give him cholesterol-rich food too much of the time. Conditioning, but hard to shake off when your husband had a heart attack over an hour from the nearest hospital.

Thanks for this ... it needs shouting from the rooftops


Deb said...

Unfortunately the spin I saw from this study (funded by drug companies of course) is that taking statin drugs is THE way to reduce inflammation. No mention of diet or lifestyle. But I am glad the shift is away from cholesterol as a causative factor.

Ed Bruske said...

Peg, this is eye-opening and perhaps the first of many major findings to come that will indicate that the true causes of heart disease have yet to be fully discovered. Remember when they said eating margerine would solve all our problems? Now margerine is considered toxic.

Joanna, I know how you feel about eating cholesterol-rich foods. It's very counter-intuitive and perhaps not a good thing for everyone. My own intuition tells me that heart disease may stem from a complex of factors that is very much dependant on the individual, his genetic predisposition, how he reacts to the environment and the food that he eats. I'm just not at all sure the medical community has all the answers.

Deb, I had the same reaction as you--deja vu where the statin drugs are concerned. The popular media take seems to be an inside-out version of what we now know. Namely, that cholesterol can't be the main cause of heart disease and that other factors such as our industrial diet may be much more important than the latest research would lead us to believe. So where does all this inflammation come from and how is it that statin drugs are such a good remedy? That part I'm still a bit fuzzy on.

Brock said...

One of the claims made by Nina Planck is that massive death count from CHD is a new thing. In your previous post you said:

"Planck makes the case that heart disease was virtually unknown prior to the 20th century, yet by the 1950 after just two generations of industrial food, it had become this nation's number one killer."

I found that really interesting, so did a brief dig on the internets, but all I came up with are numbers from 1900 on.

I don't have the book yet -- does that cite where the original statistics can be found?


Ed Bruske said...

Brock, Nina Planck's book "Real Food" is thoroughly sourced and contains an extensive bibliography. Deaths from heart disease are given for 2002 according to the Centers for Disease control, but there is not a footnote for the statement about heart disease being rare prior to the 20th century--it's pretty much general knowledge. You might also check the American Heart Association.

Chris said...

This is great! Now that the Washington Post has legitimized this "news" perhaps I can persuade my boneless-skinless-chicken-breast-eating SIL that a little chicken skin won't kill her. I won't hold my breath waiting for the Post to inform us that we need fat to digest and assimilate certain nutrients, though.

Katkinkate said...

According to Ms Sandy Szwarc at science doesn't even support the diet-obesity or the obesity-every disease under the sun links either. The main reason heart disease (and cancer, diabetes, etc) increased last century is because of the drastic increase in life expectancy and population growth. These diseases are all diseases of age, and which one/s any individual suffers from is mostly determined by genetics. Diet style seems to have negligible to no effect (beyond getting the needed amounts of vitamins, minerals, etc). The best preventive measure seems to be regular exercise. All the hype over the last several decades is marketing for the benefit of pharmaceutical, health and fitness and insurance industries. There is a lot of money to be made in manufacturing (unsolvable and nonexistant) problems.

Ed Bruske said...

Chris, I'm a dark meat guy myself, but either way I think the skin is one of the best parts.

Kat, sorry, I don't buy the theory that all these diseases are about getting older. There were plenty of folks who lived to ripe old ages hundreds of years ago and never experienced heart problems. Conversely, my grandfather died of heart failure in his early 50s. Of course he also smoked several packs of cigarettes daily. I think the best that can be said is that there are multiple factors involved in heart disease (cancer, diabetes) and diet is certainly one of them. But there's no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry and its minions in the medical establishment are cashing in by cherry picking their favorite villains.

Wonderwoman said...

Hi Ed, I just taught a class on this subject last night. I am so happy to see your post, this information needs to get out there! The inflammation is caused by high glycemic eating. Most Americans are high glycemic eaters - insulin is what is to blame for the increased rates of heart disease. Here is one of the links from the research I did:
Please make special note of what Dr. Scwarzbein has to say on the subject at the above link. More and more doctors are coming around to the fact that heart disease is on the rise and we are eating less fat than ever before yet we are eating more and more sugar and corn products....go figure.

Ed Bruske said...

WW, we are alarmed not just by the incidence of heart disease but by so many of our friends (not at all old) dying of various forms of cancer. Our food and our environment are riddled with toxins. Best advice: eat real food, and not too much.

Anonymous said...

I like this last comment because studies now prove too low LDL cholesterol is highly correlated with many cancers. I like the new book The Great Myth of Cholesterol, although I have several books with the same theme. The major cause of heart disease is wheat. Besides drided fruits, wheat is the highest glycemic food we eat on a regular basis. Eating high glycemic foods cause high blood sugar, high insulin (which causes hardening of the arteries directly and indirectly), high triglycerides, and obesity. In fact, high insulin is the major cause of most all chronic diseases. Statin drugs just treat the symptoms, the cause is eating foods that spike your blood sugar. Saturated fats actually help prevent heart disease by lowering ALL the above symptoms.

Robert Conroy said...

All chronic diseases are caused by high insulin, which is caused by high blood sugar, which is caused by eating too high glycemic carbohydrates, which is mostly caused by wheat, the highest glycemic food we eat on a regular basis. GI white table sugar = 59 GI wheat flour = 72. Any questions?