According to the “Heart of the Matter,” American physiologist Ancel Benjamin Keys can be credited with originating and cementing the saturated fat/cholesterol theory of heart disease.
In the 1950’s, Keys produced research that showed perfect correlations between cardiovascular disease and the dietary consumption of fat in several prominent Western countries. But, there was a problem with the research. Keys “withheld the data from 16 other countries,” Marianne Demasi notes in the documentary, seen below:
The credentials of the documentary producer, Maryanne Demasi, were impeccable: She has a PhD in neurology, no conflicts of interest and a long history of investigative journalism. But the Australian Heart Foundation, the 3 largest statin makers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Merck Sharp & Dohme and Medicines Australia, Australia’s drug lobby group, complained and all the documentaries were expunged from ABC TV. Luckily they remain online.
Dr. Keys got a board position at the American Medical Association, AMA, which caused wide medical acceptance of the theory that continues today. His research also shaped the USDA food pyramid of years past, now replaced by MyPlate, which emphasized heavy portions of breads, cereals, rice and pasta.
While Dr. Keys’ research was adopted years before the invention of statins, other groups of financial beneficiaries already existed, the sugar and grain industries.
Sugar soon became a popular stand-in in low-fat foods to improve taste. In fact the dangers of growing sugar consumption inspired British professor John Yudkin to write a Y 1972 book, “Pure White and Deadly.” Fat was also replaced with carbohydrates, a move that benefited the grain lobby.
Few scientific studies have confirmed Ancel Keys’ broadly adopted but skewed research, and several have reached opposite conclusions, says “Heart of the Matter.” But the tenacity of his theory resulted in bad dietary advice.
Take the case of margarine:1 of the worst examples of switching from saturated fats to something believed to be less conducive to heart disease is the embrace of margarine, according to cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra in the documentary. When you switch to margarine and other “double-bonded” transfats, aka also called polyunsaturated and omega 6 fats, you are putting your health at risk, he says.
Such fats, which are the basic ingredients in most processed and snack foods, are prone to become rancid, causing oxidation and free radical attacks in the human body. Those chemical reactions produce the inflammation that is the real cause of heart disease, Dr. Sinatra says, adding that the damage from omega 6 fats is best combated by consuming omega 3 fats found in salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts.
In “Heart of the Matter,” David Sullivan, associate professor and lipid expert with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia, cautions against replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates because it contributes to obesity and may even make people hungrier.
Many marketers of processed and snack foods also add refined sugar and processed fructose to improve taste when they try to advertise themselves as “low-fat,” but these products are in fact the primary drivers of heart disease, as I have pointed out in numerous newsletters.
Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains creates a quick rise in blood glucose and, subsequently, a rise in insulin to compensate for the rise.
The blood sugar rise not only increases the risk of heart disease, the insulin released from these foods makes it harder to lose weight because it encourages fat accumulation, especially abdominal fat. Of course, abdominal fat is one of the major contributors to metabolic syndrome which, in turn, contributes to heart disease.
“Heart of the Matter” features several experts who dispute the saturated fat theory based on their own clinical experience. For example, Dr. Rita F. Redberg, a cardiologist who practices in the University of California San Francisco cardiology unit, says, “cholesterol is just a lab number” and only one factor in heart disease along with general lifestyle.
Sinatra says he believed the saturated fat theory, too, until he actually looked carefully at the X-rays of those with heart disease. The angiograms showed both high and low levels of plaque-filled arteries, and therefore were not predictive or helpful in deciphering the cause of heart disease. Cholesterol is only harmful when it’s oxidized, he says.
Dr. Ernest N. Curtis, a cardiology specialist, agrees that saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease and adds that human levels of cholesterol are “preset” and mostly do not come from diet. If cholesterol from food is reduced, the human body tends to compensate by replacing it to keep the same levels, the documentary’s experts agree.
Cholesterol also serves valuable functions in the human body, and elimination should not be a goal, says Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School Public School of Health in “Heart of the Matter.” Rather, it is “the precursor to many of the hormones in our body,” he asserts. Cholesterol also protects cell membranes, digests food and manufactures vitamin D after exposure to the sun.
There are more problems With the LDL Hypothesis
At the heart of the theory that saturated fat/cholesterol causes heart disease is the high-density lipoprotein hypothesis which designates high-density lipoprotein (HDL) as the “good” cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) as the “bad” cholesterol. But, says “Heart of the Matter,” the lipoproteins neither deposit nor remove cholesterol as the theory holds but, rather, simply “ferry” cholesterol in the body.
It is stress and damage on the artery wall that allows the inflammation and degradation that leads to heart disease, says Dr. Curtis.
That is why plaque is usually seen at arterial “branches,” where there is more pulsating pressure as arteries divide. Since veins escape the pressure of returning blood that arteries perform, plaque is not seen in them, he says that is unless veins are recruited to serve as arteries through bypass operations. Clearly, such surgery is not a solution to the problem.
There are also with the LDL Hypothesis
“Heart of the Matter” is not the only source of skepticism about the LDL hypothesis. Here is what Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a Scottish general practitioner, writes on the theory and its implausibility, as follows:
“For the LDL hypothesis to be correct, it requires that LDL can travel past the lining of the artery, the endothelial cells, and into the artery wall behind. This is considered the starting point for atherosclerotic plaques to form. The problem with this hypothesis is … the only way for LDL to enter any cell, is if the cell manufactures an LDL receptor, which locks onto, and then pulls the LDL molecule inside. There is no other passageway.
There are no gaps between endothelial cells. Endothelial cells are tightly bound to each other by strong protein bridges, known as ‘tight junctions.’ These tight junctions can prevent the passage of single ions, charged atoms. which makes it impossible for an LDL molecule to slip through, as it is many thousands of times bigger than an ion. This, too, is an inarguable fact.”
Lipitor was the best-selling drug in the world before its patent expired, has rested on the theory that saturated fat/cholesterol is the cause of CVD. Yet, expert after expert in “Heart of the Matter” not only say that studies show statins only lengthen a life by a few days, but they are shockingly ineffective for all but a few people, despite the hype and popularity.
Statins’ serious side effects have been downplayed by those who drank the saturated fat/cholesterol theory, either because of professional hubris or because they are directly profiting from statins.Yet, the side effects of statins are serious and include an increased risk for diabetes, decreased heart function, depleted CoQ10 and vitamin K2 important nutrients, birth defects, an increased risk of cancer, and nerve damage.
Cholesterol serves valuable functions in the human body, and elimination should not be a goal, says Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School Public School of Health in “Heart of the Matter.”
Rather, it is “the precursor to many of the hormones in our body,” he asserts. Cholesterol also protects cell membranes, digests food and manufactures vitamin D after exposure to the Sun.
Having high cholesterol may be a worry that many people do not need to have. Instead of potentially risking ones’ health by taking cholesterol lowering drugs, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels by simply following simple dietary steps and regular exercise as outlined in this Mayo Clinic paper.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively