Welcome to the final post in our series entitled “Cholesterol: Is It Really That Bad?”
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” -Winston Churchill
Over the course of the last month we have explored the evolution of fat consumption and the obsession with cholesterol reduction in our diets. We have considered the definition of cholesterol, what cholesterol is, what purpose it serves in our body, as well as the less talked-about studies that reveal concerns over low cholesterol and its inability to predict heart disease. But why be concerned so much with cholesterol? What is the big deal if you do lower your cholesterol? Why are we still even talking about cholesterol?!?!?
It seems like most everyone bases their dietary and health decisions around their cholesterol levels. Our food choices seem to be focused on whether or not what we eat is going to raise or lower our cholesterol as if a heart attack hangs in the balance. Food is comprised of fat, carbohydrate and/or protein. By decreasing our consumption of one (fat), it means that we likely increase the consumption of the other two (protein and carbohydrate).
Whether or not you choose to look at the correlations with heart disease, obesity and diabetes rates are rising at alarming rates ever since USDA guidelines led to reduced fat and increased carbohydrates in the 1970s. Pick up a textbook or google the hormonal impact of excess carbohydrates on the body, or simply check your own blood sugar after a “heart-healthy” breakfast of oatmeal, orange juice and an a banana. On second thought, don’t do that, just watch the video below, and you will see evidence that maybe increasing your carb intake isn’t the best idea.
This means you can eat fat and not feel guilty anymore (unless it’s unsaturated fats originating from vegetables or soybeans, or trans fats like margarine or the stuff found in almost all processed foods, but other than that you will be better than fine)!
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! – WELL, AS LEAST IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT – NOW YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE!
As we have mentioned before, it is difficult to think that dietary fat might be good for you and safe to consume since doctors, media and food companies are so focused on pushing their message of fear against fat and cholesterol. So here are the bottom line facts, facts to be used to google, discuss with friends and even share with your doctor.
Dr. Fred Kummerow shows heart disease is NOT caused by consuming dietary cholesterol.
– American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 1979
An 8-year $415 million study that measured the impact of the low-fat diet on 48,835 women concluded that the low-fat diet did NOT result in a decreased risk of heart disease(Journal of the American Medical Association, February 7, 2006).
A 10-year study of 52,000 participants showed that women with high cholesterol (above 270 mg/dL) had about a 30% less chance of dying from heart disease, stroke or heart attack than those women with normal to low cholesterol (<193 mg/dL) (Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, August 2011).
DO WE SEE ONLY WHAT WE WANT TO SEE OR WHAT THEY WANT US TO SEE?
(In the photo above, do you see an old man? Or a man, woman, and sleeping dog?)
Nearly 3 out of 4 patients hospitalized (136,905 patients in total, admitted between 2000-2006) for a heart attack had normal levels of total cholesterol, LDL levels in the “healthy” range, and were already taking a cholesterol-lowering medication or had naturally low cholesterol. Also, almost half of the patients had LDL levels considered “optimal” (lower than 100 mg/dL) (American Heart Journal, January, 2009).
After first reading about this study in Jimmy Moore’s book, What the HDL is Wrong With my LDL, I couldn’t help but to look up a news headline from January 2009 to see how the media covered it. Of course I was suspecting to read an enlightened doctor commenting that maybe there was something about fat and cholesterol that needed to be reexamined in lieu of this ‘startling new discovery’, but alas I was wrong. “Almost 75 percent of heart attack patients fell within recommended targets for LDL cholesterol, demonstrating that the current guidelines may not be low enough to cut heart attack risk in most who could benefit,” said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, Eliot Corday Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Science at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study’s principal investigator.
Then it triggered an Abraham Lincoln story I had read about the son who ran panicked out of their barn screaming for his dad, “Pa, Pa, the farm hand and sis are in the hay mow and she’s lifting up her skirts and he’s letting down his pants and thy’re afixin’ to pee on the hay.” “Son, you got your facts absolutely right, but you’re drawing the wrong conclusion.”
Maybe we all see only what we want to see?
I read the above study and conclude that maybe cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease risk. Dr. Fonarow concludes that the current guidelines for cholesterol must not be low enough and even notes that only 21% of the patients were taking a cholesterol-lowering medication even though half had a previous cardiovascular condition and should be treated accordingly. Dr. Fonarow has conducted research for GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer and serves as a consultant and has received honorarium from pharmaceutical companies Abbott, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Schering Plough companies. The aforementioned study was supported by the American Heart Association in part through an unrestricted education grant from the Merck Schering Plough Partnership.
HOUSE OF CARDS
If dietary cholesterol/saturated fat is the danger it’s supposed to be, then producing and replicating studies that show the effectiveness of a low-fat diet or how protective low cholesterol is in regards to heart disease shouldn’t be a problem—yet it is!
Ancel Keys is credited with being the father of the Lipid Hypothesis from his work done in the 6 and 7 Country Studies he performed. As a main driver towards our country’s first, formal dietary guidelines in the 1970’s, we forget that he neglected to publicize all the countries he studied:
AND even if we leave out Keys’s later admission in which he essentially says, “we’ve known along that dietary cholesterol has no impact on heart disease rates” shouldn’t we at least give credence to the following:
The MONICA (Monitoring of Trends and Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease) study (conducted by the World Health Organization in the 1980s) showed that countries whose people consumed the greatest amount of saturated fat tended to have higher cholesterol levels but LOWER rates of heart disease. Most interesting was that Switzerland had the highest cholesterol average at 250 mg/dL but the second LOWEST rate of heart disease in Europe.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
People ask us on a daily basis, well shouldn’t I still take my cholesterol-lowering drug anyway, you know, just in case? It is outside of our scope of practice here at The Exercise Coach® to offer any recommendations on this matter and will leave those decisions to you and your doctor. However, the more information the better. Also, read what a doctor and great friend to The Exercise Coach®, Dr. Michael Eades, had to write most recently on his blog concerning statins. You can also read his analysis of the well-publicized Jupiter Trial on the effectiveness of statins in reducing overall mortality as well.
The point to all of this is to show that at the very least there exists two sides to the cholesterol debate and that it is possible that fat, specifically saturated fat, isn’t the harbinger of death it is made out to be and it in fact may be the key to helping you feel healthy again. Our members at The Exercise Coach® know that fat is a crucial element to our Metabolic Comeback program, a key to providing long-lasting and sustained energy throughout the day that keeps us full and satisfied and protects AGAINST the risk of heart disease (Check out our testimonials for more on that).
For 15+ years The Exercise Coach® has asked people to think outside the box, to think that all the benefits of exercise can be realized in two 20-minute bouts a week, to think that muscle quality is more important than movement quantity™. It took a while, but people are starting to catch on. Like our exercise program, all we are asking is for you to try it. Talk to your Exercise Coach® staff about our 30-Day Metabolic Comeback. My 66 year-old father tried it and after years of battling weight gain, high blood pressure and taking a cholesterol medication, he finally conquered all 3 and was taken off all medications. In his follow up visit with his cardiologist, his doc said, “Unbelievable Tony, your results are phenomenal!! What did you do?” He replied, “I finally came to the right conclusion!”
Read the rest of this series: