American Heart Month: Have we been fooled for decades?

The CDC has named February “American Heart Month”. For decades now there has been a medical media parade of “heart health” information coming at us from all sides. I was shocked to discover most of the information is false as it was based on faulty research.

It’s called the Diet-Heart Hypothesis. The prescriptions for eliminating saturated fats like butter, eggs and red meat originated with Dr. Ancel Keys in the mid 1950’s. He used observational studies of select American men and Italian centenarians to discover what he thought was a correlation between eating saturated fat and suffering heart disease. He proposed his Diet-Heart Hypothesis at the 1955 meeting of the World Health Organization and by 1956 the American Heart Association was on TV informing the public that these foods caused heart disease.

Remember, a hypothesis is a proposed idea that tries to explain. Basically it’s an assumption or an educated guess, not yet a proven fact.

For over 60 years the American public has heard this message and many have subscribed to the low fat high carb diet recommendations yet we find ourselves more obese and diseased than ever before! In the 1970’s other studies came out that demonized sugar, not fat, as the culprit of heart disease but due to several factors this newer research was lost in the shuffle.

Currently, there are several quality studies in medical journals that show there is no clear cut evidence linking saturated fat consumption or cholesterol levels to heart disease. Even Dr. Keys, the founder of the Diet-Heart Hypothesis, stated in 1991, “Adding cholesterol… to an unrestricted diet has a minimal effect.”

Sylvan Lee Weinberg, former president of the American College of Cardiology stated in a 2004, “The low-fat, high carbohydrate diet… may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndromes. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations.”

As for saturated fat and cholesterol, your body needs them. If it doesn’t get enough cholesterol, the body will make it. Cholesterol doesn’t coat arteries like grease dumped down a cold drain. According to Harvard Medical School only 20% of our blood cholesterol comes from the food we eat. High cholesterol is the response to chronic inflammation in the arterial wall. The body uses 68% fibrous tissues and some cholesterol (plaque) to shore up the weakened collapsing wall. Take care of the chronic inflammation and you will take care of the plaque buildup.

Cholesterol is an important agent in the body. It is found in high concentrations in cell membranes and breast milk. It helps with brain function, bile formation and Vitamin D synthesis. It also supports the gut lining and is an ingredient for healthy hormones.

It’s a shame that several generations have missed out on wonderful tasting, nutrient dense foods like butter, eggs, dairy and meat. I am not a doctor and cannot give medical advice so read the research yourself. Don’t believe everything you hear. Be an educated consumer!

In the next couple of weeks we will look deeper into this topic by covering what actually causes heart disease and how you can make some lifestyle changes to prevent and even reverse your risk.

 

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