The most deceptive term in science and the media today is the usage of the phrase “linked”, as in claiming that a particular food product is “linked” with a certain disease. Most people are left to assume that this association proves the causation of the illness. Nothing could be further from the truth. To pronounce that saturated fat is linked to heart disease, really says nothing of value. This just says that many people who consume saturated fat will suffer a heart attack. Well, everyone in the United States consumed saturated fat at some point in their life and nearly half of the U.S. population will develop heart disease. They will also consume many carbohydrates, proteins and a whole host of other garbage. If we’re going to make this kind of connection, then could we not notice that all of them also consume lots of air? Therefore, air is “linked” with cardiovascular disease. Sounds pretty insane, but about as useful as the saturated fat theory.
Why? Because not everyone who consumes air has heart disease nor does everyone who eats saturated fat. There are vegans and vegetarians that will develop heart disease and diabetes. But do people who eat the most saturated fat suffer more from heart disease? Well, according to William Castelli, MD, Director of the Framingham Study, one of the largest medical studies ever done on the effects of fat and cholesterol on the heart:
“In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the lower people’s serum cholesterol. We found that people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories weighed the least, and were the most physically active.”
George Mann, MD, Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University and co-director of the Framingham Heart Study went as far as saying:
“The diet-heart idea (the notion that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease) is the greatest scientific deception of our times. This idea has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, and yet, for complicated reasons of pride, profit and prejudice, the hypothesis continues to be exploited by scientists, fund-raising enterprises, food companies and even governmental agencies. The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century.”
Even Ancel Keys himself, father of the lipid hypothesis with his seven country study, was quoted in 1997:
“There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.”
The media loves to definitively accuse one nutrient for every disease, as if there are people whose diet are made up of just one food. For example, former president Bill Clinton was notorious for his love of fast food and especially McDonald’s fries (parody on SNL). Remember, McDonald’s fries are a high carbohydrate white potato, fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil (a trans fat). There is also a bun made of white flour and some sugary ketchup, not to mention the large sweetened soda he probably washed it all down with, yet somehow the burger patty was singled out as the perpetrator of Clinton’s heart problems.
In 1993 Clinton sought out the tutelage of Dr. Dean Ornish to adjust his diet. Adopting the rather restrictive Ornish diet, extremely low in saturated fat, Clinton still required angioplasty and stent surgery in 2010. Even after seventeen years of this tasteless, bland diet that any self-respecting maggot would turn its nose up at, Clinton’s atherosclerosis had worsened to the point of surgical intervention.
Anyone short of an imbecile would realize that this lipophobic diet was unproductive because it only restricted fat, not the carbohydrates that Clinton was so fond of. Of course no one ever accused Dr. Ornish of being short of an imbecile, so Dr. Dean concluded that his fat restriction was not harsh enough and as a result, Bill Clinton announced that he has become a vegan. Actually, this might be a brilliant move on Bill’s part. A vegan diet will lower his testosterone (a hormone made from cholesterol), thereby lowering his sex drive and could solve many of the problems that have plagued his legacy.
Certainly high cholesterol is linked to heart disease? Yeah, so is air! If serum cholesterol is the obvious culprit, then why did a study published in The American Heart Journal (January 2009) analyzing nearly 137,000 patients admitted to hospitals in the United States with a heart attack demonstrate that almost 75% had “normal” to low cholesterol levels? [source] Not much of a link, is it? The cholesterol theory was born in 1910 when Adolph Windaus discovered that cholesterol was present in arterial plaque – but so too is calcium. I have never heard of anyone suggesting a diet low in calcium, nor any pharmaceutical company proposing a calcium lowering drug.
If certain elements are elevated in the blood in association with an illness, are we always to assume that the elevated substance is the cause of the illness? For example, we will always notice that a fever is associated with an elevated white blood cell count. So based on the cholesterol hypothesis, are we to conclude that high levels of WBCs (White Blood Cells) are the cause of fever? Maybe we should develop a drug that reduces the body’s ability to manufacture WBCs and we will reduce fevers.
Why would we behave differently when it comes to an underlying cause that we cannot identify? An attempt to lower what may well be produced by the body to help combat the problem is an irresponsible and dangerous procedure. Our brains and nervous system are made of cholesterol, most of our hormones are derived from it (including vitamin D) and every cell membrane in your body depend on cholesterol to prevent it from leaking. Yet somehow, the media has demonized cholesterol as a toxin that must be stamped out in our lifetime. Low density lipoproteins(LDL) carry cholesterol to damaged arterial walls in an attempt to patch them. Inflammation is the problem, and the causes of inflammation can be numerous. High blood sugar is caustic to the arterial walls (which I will cover in an upcoming post), fat is not. Blaming cholesterol is like blaming doctors for causing all illness. After all, doctors are associated or “linked” to sick people. Maybe Pfizer will create a drug that reduces doctors!
There is another association that is better “linked” to heart disease risk than cholesterol. As I mentioned earlier, high cholesterol is not always associated with heart attacks, but elevated homocysteine levels are a much better predictor of a problem. Dr. Kilmer McCully has studied and written extensively on this association. Dr. McCully reported that children born with a double gene mutation called homocystinuria causes their homocysteine levels to be very high. These unfortunate individuals often die of a heart attack or stroke at ages as young as their teen and twenties. But is homocysteine actually the cause? Researchers have known that treatment with high doses of folic acid significantly lowers homocysteine levels in the blood. Several clinical studies have been conducted using folic acid therapy and were extremely effective at lowering the homocysteine levels of the test subjects receiving it compared to the group receiving placebo. Unfortunately, the mortality rate of the subjects with the lowered homocysteine were no better than those on placebo. [source]
We cannot single out homocysteine as the cause of the problem, because lowering the levels has not proven to cure the disease nor improve the outcome. In the same way, lowering cholesterol by use of statins has never proven to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, at least by that mechanism. There is some evidence that statins may prevent a second heart attack in victims who have previously had a cardiac event, but that protection happens too rapidly to be due to any cholesterol lowering effect. Since the broad use of statins was implemented, it’s safe to say that americans have lower cholesterol now than ever in history. Has heart disease started to decline? The mechanism that leads to atherosclerosis is certainly more complicated and elusive than the media would lead us to believe. Settling on treatments and diets based on guesses has been unproductive and may have helped increase the development of heart disease in western societies.
So the next time you read or hear how saturated fat or cholesterol, or anything else are “linked” to a particular disease, remember that hundreds of other things are “linked” also. It really just depends on what the researcher wants to accuse. Was it Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nabisco or the USDA funding the study? If so, you can bet they never considered carbohydrates or they would have found an association there also. I really can’t see how scaring people into swapping bacon and eggs for breakfast cereal and bagles could possibly profit those companies. And if it’s the manufacturer of cholesterol lowering drugs putting up the bucks for the research, you can bet your ass they never considered anything other than cholesterol to blame. Unless you read or hear the word “causes” in place of the word “linked”, the article or study has as much relevance as blaming air.