Inflammation, Not Cholesterol is at the Root of Cardiac Disease
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in nearly every cell of the body and is essential for good health.
Our body uses it to make hormones, protect your cell membranes, digest food and manufacture Vitamin D after exposure to the Sun. The liver manufactures most of the cholesterol the body requires from nutrients extracted from food.
All meats averages 25 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce. Dietary cholesterol is absorbed at different rates, between 20 and 60%, depending upon the individual person
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans addressed past vilification of dietary cholesterol, announcing “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.”
These same guidelines also advise limiting sugar to no more than 10% of our daily diet, which is approximately 50 grams of sugar, or 200 calories, in a diet consuming 2,000 calories each day.
This level is far higher than what is healthy as net carbohydrates are a prime factor in the development of inflammation.
Recently published research from a clinical trial sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:NVS) demonstrates a reduction in recurring heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths in participants who took a targeted anti-inflammatory medication that did not lower cholesterol levels.
The study was encouraging as it scientifically demonstrate the association between inflammation and cardiac disease.
A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital was the culmination of a nearly 25-year cardiovascular research work. The trial was designed to test if reducing the amount of inflammation in the body would also reduce the risk of a recurrent heart attack or stroke. The researchers enrolled 10,000 people who had previously had a heart attack and had persistently elevated levels of C-reactive proteins, a strong bio-marker of inflammation.
The participants were split into 4 groups, all of which received aggressive standard health care, 3 groups were administered the drug canakinumab at various levels and the 4th placebo group received no drug.
The drug, currently priced at $200,000 a year by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, demonstrated an ability to reduce inflammation with a reduced risk of cardiac events and reduced the need for interventional procedures, such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.
The hypothesis of whether an intervention that reduces inflammation could potentially reduce risk of a recurrent heart attack was tested using a medication already approved for use to target the immune system without affecting the lipid level.
While the drug demonstrated a reduced risk in some patients, 1 of the side effects was a higher risk of fatal infection.
Once the researchers identified the results as they related to cardiac health, they also did an investigative analysis and found participants taking the medication had a reduced risk of lung cancer rates and deaths.
The lead researcher in this study is also involved in another evaluating the effectiveness of low dose methotrexate, this is an inexpensive common cancer and rheumatoid arthritis drug in cardiovascular disease. These results are due to be completed in 2 – 3 yrs.
The idea that inflammation is important in the development of disease and in the importance of cardiac health is not new, but it has now found an avenue for exploration in the pharmaceutical industry.
These and other studies confirm the hypothesis that inflammation is one of the major underlying factors behind cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes and many other conditions.
Chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy and migraines are also rooted in the inflammatory process in your body. Unfortunately, while many are suffering from these types of conditions, understanding how to eliminate the inflammation is not generally understood.
And many physicians turn to pharmaceuticals that carry a significant number of side effects.
The source of inflammation in the human body is usually driven by lifestyle choices, especially those that affect your intestinal tract.
Notably, the surface of our gut may cover 2 tennis courts when laid out flat. This is an amazing amount of surface area that resides in your abdomen and is responsible for protecting our health.
The degree of permeability, or how much your intestines will allow through breaks in the cell wall, is dependent on a variety of factors, including the food we eat and the stress we are under.
This disruption in the interconnections between the cells in the intestines may result in small holes that allow food particles and bacteria to enter your blood stream and trigger an immune response, also called leaky gut syndrome.
This is a serious problem that triggers inflammation in the body and increases the risk for illness. With repeated damage to the microvilli of the intestinal walls, they begin to lose the ability to do their job.
This impairs the ability to digest food properly or absorb nutrients.
One of the food groups that factor into the development of leaky guy syndrome is grains. Although advertising often touts the health benefits of eating whole grains, a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that whole grains, lectins and legumes are responsible for the development of leaky gut syndrome and the resulting inflammation.
In many cases your physician has an insufficient understanding of the dangers of using pharmaceutical interventions to treat inflammation and disease.
Medical doctors often prescribe a quick pill, possibly believing patients may be more willing to take a pill than to change their eating habits or lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, each of those Rx’s come with side effects, some of which are more dangerous than the original condition they were intended to treat.
Side effects from other anti-inflammatory medications have resulted in the medication being pulled from use, such as Vioxx, taken off the market after it was found the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Statins are another medication prescribed with the mistaken idea that reducing your cholesterol levels will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Dr. Dwight Lundell, former chief of staff and chief of surgery at Banner Heart Hospital in Arizona, took a stand against statin medications, believing they were doing cardiology patients more harm than good.
This goes against years of physicians prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and strongly recommending diets that severely restrict any fat intake.
Physicians have been bombarded with pharmaceutical sponsored literature and seminars insisting heart disease is the result of 1 factor: elevated cholesterol levels.
Statins not only have dangerous side effects, but they are not effective against preventing heart disease. If you assume falling cholesterol levels are proof you’re getting healthier, you are wrong.
The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a study performed between Y’s 1968 and 1973 that examined the relationship between diet and heart health. The researchers used a double-blind randomized trial to evaluate the effect of vegetable oil versus saturated fats in coronary heart disease and death.
The results were left unpublished until Y 2016, when they appeared in the BMJ.
An analysis of the collected data revealed lowering your cholesterol levels through dietary intervention did not reduce your risk of death from coronary heart disease.
The researchers concluded: “Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes.
Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.”
The researchers found that for every 30-point drop in total cholesterol, there was a 22% increase in the risk of death from cardiac disease.
On autopsy, the group eating vegetable oil and the group eating saturated fat had the same amount of atherosclerotic plaques in their arteries, but the group eating saturated fat experienced nearly 50% the number of heart attacks as the group eating vegetable oil.
After scientists recommended Americans stop eating meat, eggs and saturated fats, intake of sugar and other carbohydrates spiked.
In response, the obesity rate in the country exploded, as did the number of people who suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Over 50 years of research point to another culprit in the advancement of disease, and it is not cholesterol.
Instead, cholesterol is a response mechanism activated by your body when a blood vessel is injured through an inflammatory process. Once the lesion occurs, the body sends cholesterol to cover the area and prevent further damage, much like a scab after you cut your skin.
Beverly Teter, lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, has spent years studying how different types of fat in your food affects your long-term health. Over the years she has found that people with higher levels of cholesterol live longer.
It is the inflammatory process in the body that 1st triggers an injury to your arterial walls. No matter how low your cholesterol numbers go, the body will still use the cholesterol it has to repair the arterial wall.
Cholesterol also plays other protective roles against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems and in the production of vitamin D.
Be aware that without inflammation, arterial walls do not become injured and there are no atherosclerotic plaques laid down that may eventually block the artery.
Statins work to lower your total cholesterol number, but cannot stop the injuries to your arteries from inflammation.
So, this artificial reduction in total cholesterol has little to do with your overall risk of cardiac disease.
As you evaluate your risk of cardiovascular disease, there are specific ratios and blood level values that will tell you much more than your total cholesterol number.
The size of your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, for example, is more important than your overall total LDL level. Large particle LDLs are not harmful to your health while the smaller, denser LDL particles may create problems as they squeeze through the lining of your arteries, oxidize and trigger inflammation.
An NMR LipoProfile that measures the size of your LDL particles is a better assessment of your risk of heart disease than total cholesterol or total LDL.
It is your life, your lifestyle, your health, your responsibility.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively.