Separating Fat from Fiction
The UK is officially the fattest nation in Europe and levels are fast catching up to those in USA. Many top doctors, cardiologists, nutritional therapists and functional medicine practitioners are blaming this obesity epidemic on current dietary guidelines in the UK and USA. What we know as a fact is that, since we began vilifying fat, more than 50 years ago, low-fat, fat-free diets have been accompanied by an increase in heart disease, obesity, diabetes and numerous other chronic conditions.
Today's blog will attempt to summarise the current views of top functional medicine practitioners and many cardiologists (supported by scientific, epidemiological studies). I will highlight the true risk factors of, not only heart disease, but also many other chronic conditions.
After many years spent as a leading NHS cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra explains, in an interview with Dr Mark Hyman, that he started noticing that most heart attack patients he was treating were obese. He was also seeing an increasing number of patients with chronic diseases and multiple co-morbidities (additional illnesses). More alarmingly, in light of our current obsession with cholesterol, Dr Malhotra was seeing numerous heart attack patients whose cholesterol levels were completely normal. Many of these patients followed recommended dietary guidelines and therefore assumed that their diets were fine. Dr Malhotra decided it was time to ‘stop jumping into the river to save drowning patients, but rather to get them to stop jumping into the river in the first place’. In other words it was time to reassess root causes.
...it was time to stop jumping into the river to save drowning patients, but rather to get them to stop jumping into the river in the first place.
After studying the science and numerous epidemiological studies, Dr Malhotra concluded that this low fat message was actually causing harm. The food industry had been responding to this ‘low fat is good for you’ message by adding sugar to processed food and marketing it as healthy. We know today that there are numerous studies coming out which implicate sugar as an independent risk factor, not only for heart disease, but also formost chronic diseases. He concluded that it is much more important to consider triglyceride and HDL levels than LDL (remember – HDL is the good ‘taxi driver’ that goes around mopping up deposited cholesterol from arterial walls). More and more data is pointing to the fact that low HDL, high triglycerides and markers of metabolic syndrome are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 1, 2
In fact, pre-diabetes and diabetes have been shown to be higher risk factors for heart disease than LDL and cholesterol. 3
We have an epidemic of misinformaton around fat, sugar and statins:
o More and more studies are linking the saturated fatty acids found in full-fat dairy, yoghurt and cheese to a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This could explain the 'French Paradox' that, in Europe, the French have the highest consumption of saturated fat and the lowest cardiovascular mortality rates.
o Dietary guidelines are still sticking to the hypothesis that saturated fat increases total cholesterol and LDL levels, and that they are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, despite accumulating data against this hypothesis. In fact the Big Fat Fraud has become so ingrained in us that most people still panic when they see that their cholesterol and LDL levels have gone up.
Statins are the most prescribed and lucrative pharmaceutical drug today...
o There are hidden dangers of statins your doctor is possibly not telling you about – such as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and mitochondria damage. Statins are the most prescribed and lucrative pharmaceutical drug today but who actually benefits from statins? As we grow older, there is an inverse association with cholesterol levels. Over the age of 60, higher cholesterol serum levels lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. 4 Should we therefore be using statins in older patients? Please take a look at my article weighing up the [pros and cons of statins] and analysing recent scientific research on their true benefits and dangers.
o Different calories have different metabolic effects on the body. 500 calories of extra virgin olive oil per day as part of a healthy diet reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. 150 calories from one can of soda increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 5 Foods that have high fat have the least impact on glucose and insulin.
Please [click here to view TT's Tips on Dietary and Lifestyle Changes]. and [here for Guidelines on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet]
3 Kilmer G, Hughes E, Zhang X, Elam-Evans L (2011) Diabetes and prediabetes: screening and prevalence among adults with coronary heart disease. American Journal of Preventative Medicine40(2): 159-165.
5 Malhotra A, DiNicolantonio J, Capewell S (2015) It is time to stop counting calories, and time instead to promote dietary changes that substantially and rapidly reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Openheart2(1).