Monday, September 5, 2011

The Nutrition Debate #26: The Cause and Treatment of Heart Disease

Just in case the publisher is on vacation this week, let me be the one to state here and again, unequivocally, that I am not a doctor. In fact I have no medical training whatsoever and only took four years of both high school science and high school math on my way to becoming an architect. So, nothing in my columns is intended nor should be construed as medical advice. I offer only my opinions and the opinions of those medical doctors and scientists cited with attribution.

This is the fifth and last in the mini-series on “knowing your fats.” In this series I have quoted extensively, from “The Skinny on Fats,” originally published in 2000 by the Weston A. Price Foundation and then incorporated into a cookbook, “Nourishing Traditions”, by Mary Enig, PhD. and Sally Fallon, president of the Foundation. The quotation that follows is from “The Skinny on Fats.” It is titled, “The Cause and Treatment of Heart Disease.”

“The cause of heart disease is not animal fats and cholesterol but rather a number of factors inherent in modern diets, including excess consumption of vegetables oils and hydrogenated [read “trans”] fats; excess consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour; mineral deficiencies, particularly low levels of protective magnesium and iodine; deficiencies of vitamins, particularly of vitamin C, needed for the integrity of the blood vessel walls, and of antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E, which protect us from free radicals; and, finally, the disappearance of antimicrobial fats from the food supply, namely, animal fats and tropical oils.52 These once protected us against the kinds of viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the onset of pathogenic plaque leading to heart disease.

While serum cholesterol levels provide an inaccurate indication of future heart disease, a high level of a substance called homocysteine in the blood has been positively correlated with pathological buildup of plaque in the arteries and the tendency to form clots—a deadly combination. Folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and choline are nutrients that lower serum homocysteine levels.53 These nutrients are found mostly in animal foods.

The best way to treat heart disease, then, is not to focus on lowering cholesterol—either by drugs or diet—but to consume a diet that provides animal foods rich in vitamins B6 and B12; to bolster thyroid function by daily use of natural sea salt, a good source of usable iodine; to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies that make the artery walls more prone to ruptures and the buildup of plaque; to include the antimicrobial fats in the diet; and to eliminate processed foods containing refined carbohydrates, oxidized cholesterol and free-radical-containing vegetable oils that cause the body to need constant repair.” End of quote. Please see the Foundation website referred to above for the footnote references.

While there is not perfect concordance among the various leaders in the medical and scientific community (and even popular authors like Michael Pollan) on what to eat to avoid the Diseases of Civilization, there are remarkable similarities. Gary Taubes, and Kurt Harris, M. D., and Mary Enig, PhD, are among my favorites, but they are just a few of hundreds of authoritative resources in this emerging field. If we keep an open mind, we should all benefit from the knowledge that is becoming available. But, sad to say, it is difficult to turn the ship of state from its present course.

This is especially true 1) when convenience dictates labor-saving prepared foods, and fast-food solutions, 2) when cost is the primary driver of decisions we make at the supermarket, 3) when deceptive, misleading advertising influences the food choices we make, and 4) when agri-business has so much at stake in promoting the sale of new versions of processed foods. The result: the very foods that are billed as “heart-healthy” are in fact the ones that will lead us down the path to the modern Diseases of Civilization: metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

To avoid these outcomes, we need to take control of our own health. We have to learn how to “eat healthy.” And then we have to do it. In upcoming columns, we will continue to explore real food: What to eat, what not to eat, and why.

To get started and to monitor your progress, you should have a baseline lipid profile. I urge you to ask your doctor for a copy of your most recent lipid panel, or order one for you. Then show him column #25 in this series: “Understanding Your Lipid Profile” and discuss your profile in that context. Ask your doctor is he agrees with the analysis I offered. And ask if it would matter to him what you ate so long as you achieved that kind of turnaround in the course of say a year. I did, and you could too, if you change what you eat and follow that way of eating carefully.

© Dan Brown 9/5/11

1 comment:

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