We are completely off the mark when it comes to blaming dietary cholesterol (Myth #1) and saturated fat (Myth #2) for heart disease.
For an in depth study on the science behind what we are going to touch on in Myth #1 and Myth #2 look to Chris Kresser’s free e-booklet on The Diet Health Myth.
Also look at the book Ignore the Awkward: How the Cholesterol Myths Are Kept Alive by Uffe Ravnskov MD PhD.
We’ve been told for the last 50 years that we need to avoid red meat, eggs and basically any or all fats, especially saturated fats.
The media has shouted from the roof tops that it’s all about cholesterol and when you control your cholesterol intake you are on your way to beating Heart Disease.
But the truth is your body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in your blood. When cholesterol in the diet goes down, your body simply manufactures more. When cholesterol in the diet goes up, the body makes less.
In cholesterol studies volunteers are feed 2-4 eggs a day. These studies show that dietary cholesterol has very little effect on blood cholesterol levels in about 75% of the population.
The remaining 25% of the population are referred to as “hyper-responders”. These hyper-responders do see an increase in blood cholesterol when dietary cholesterol goes up but it’s modest, AND it does not affect the ratio of LDL to HDL or increase the risk of heart disease.
So the truth is you can stop flushing those egg yolks down the drain because cholesterol is the wrong target.
How about saturated fat?
In 2010 the Journal of Clinical Nutrition did a Meta Analysis that looked at almost 350,000 people. During 5 to 23 years of follow-up, 11,006 developed Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke. The researchers concluded that intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, or Cardiovascular Disease.
And if that is not enough in 1991, Ancel Keys, the doctor generally accredited with the original diet hypothesis wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine that said,
“Dietary cholesterol has an important effect on the cholesterol level in the blood of chickens and rabbits, but many controlled experiments have shown that dietary cholesterol has a limited effect in humans. Adding cholesterol to a cholesterol-free diet raises the blood level in humans, but when added to an unrestricted diet, it has a minimal effect.”
Ancel Keys is to the diet hypothesis, like Darwin is to the theory of evolution.
And how about Sylvan Lee Weinberg in 2004 in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, former president of the American College of Cardiology and outspoken proponent of the diet-heart hypothesis saying,
The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, Type 2 diabetes. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations.
The Real Cause of the Cardiovascular Epidemic
If you have been reading any of the “alternative” publications like Alive or Pathway’s Magazine, it will not come as a surprise to you that the real culprit (or target) needs to be inflammation.
And it’s the inflammation from our modern day lifestyle that is causing our endothelial lining to attract cholesterol.
The inside layer of our blood vessels are covered with a specialized layer of cells called endothelial cells. Like any tissue, inflammatory markers act like battery acid and destroy these delicate cells.
Cholesterol is a major component in wound healing. So when this inside layer of tissue is damaged, cholesterol is laid down to begin the healing process. This is a normal, healthy reaction.
So of course, we are going to find loads of cholesterol in the plaque deposits inside arteries of the average Canadian if they are in a chronic state of inflammation.
But saying cholesterol causes heart disease is like saying firemen cause fires. The reason fires are caused by firemen is because every time a house burns down, there are all kinds of firemen around.
Just because cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime, doesn’t mean it’s the cause. This just doesn’t make sense.
Firemen don’t cause fire’s, they are there in response to the fire. Just like cholesterol is only at the site of damage in response to the damage.
The body is only doing what comes naturally when it’s damaged, trying to heal.
Artificially lowering cholesterol does not prevent heart disease; it’s the wrong target. We need to deal with the inflammation.
When we remove the inflammation, the body will not need to put a “scab” on the damaged tissue because the tissue is not getting damaged in the first place.
The 7 key things that cause inflammation in our bodies.
1. Acidifying your biochemistry from consuming white flour, white rice, white pasta, white sugar, white vinegar, table salt (some doctors and nutritionists call these the acid addictions).
2. Excessive caffeine (more than 2 cups a day), especially without rehydrating. If you read this link, understand that it’s directed towards excessive caffeine. I feel there is adequate benefit of responsible coffee consumption, just like the benefits of red wine. A glass of wine a couple times a week is a lot different than an addiction. For many Canadian’s coffee is an addiction.
3. Alcohol (OH is pure sugar) so it will respond the same way in acidifying our biochemistry as the acid addictions mentioned above. When the pH of our body is acidic, it causes an inflammatory reaction in every cell, tissue and organ.
4. Stress, or rather the stress response and that comes in many different form’s. One that is not obvious is over-exercising.
Our Canadian recommendations vary but I will summarize the last decade. 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week, generally at an intensity that is uncomfortable for the average person.
I’m not quoting Health Canada here, this has been reported to me by my patient’s over the last 10 years. This is what their fitness trainer is doing with them so they loose weight or get “fit”.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization’s rec’s are 60 minutes a day that include 15 minutes at an “intensity” that makes it “hard” to breathe.
Canadian recommendations causes stress, WHO’s recommendations don’t.
5. Poor sleep (See my post on how to get a good night’s sleep here)
6. Blood sugar dys-regulation (Insulin and Leptin, see Nutrition Hack #2 here)
7. Crossed neurological signals (amygdala and hypothalamus) from postural patterns and subluxation. This is the topic of my next blog in this series that tackles myth #3 that cardiovascular disease is all about your cardiovascular system.
It may seem like a long, complicated list but all you really need to do is to follow the 100+Living Plan and all these things will look after themselves simply, over time.
I’d love to hear your comments about what made sense to you and I’d love it even more to hear how you are tackling these cardiovascular myths in your life.
100+Living may seem like “outside the box thinking”, but really it’s applying science in a way that is more in line with our body, not working against it!