Anybody over the age of 50 probably feels that for the past twenty years or so, they’ve been continually hammered with advice to reduce the amount of cholesterol in their diet so as to prevent atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries) and the likelihood of death from a stroke or heart-attack. Doctors, Nutritionists, the Giant Food-Producers and the Government remind us that “fat is a killer” and if we ignore their advice we’ll be damned to suffer the mortal effects of heart disease.
It would be logical to assume then, that the advice is sound, well-reasoned and can be backed up by scientific research. But, behind the scenes the evidence doesn’t seem to be as clear-cut as the propaganda proclaims. According to medical researchers, much of the findings on Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) have been misinterpreted, promulgated falsely and where truth indicates the contrary, covered up.
In the mid 1920’s when the predicted life-expectancy was 60 years of age, coronary heart disease (CHD) had already become a major and unexplained health problem in some of the industrialized countries. Deficiency diseases such as rickets beriberi, pellagra and scurvy were also epidemic.
After decades of in-depth food research during which time vitamins, micro-nutrients and the constituents of protein were discovered, just before the advent of World War II in 1939, the British Medical Association released a report encouraging people to eat more eggs, meat and dairy products (the BMA Diet) to ensure that the full spectrum of vitamins and other essential nutrients were being consumed on a daily basis.
Free, “full-cream” school milk programs were instituted and long before the introduction of antibiotics and childhood immunization, the improved diet seemed to have eliminated most of the deficiency-diseases and dramatically reduced the incidence of the childhood diseases such as measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough and diphtheria.
Other countries followed the British lead.
From the end of World War 2 in 1945 until 1975, due to the availability of cheap, sweetened, processed foods, Americans had doubled the amount of sugar in their diet to a whopping 118 pounds per person per year and rising. The amount of unhealthy, trans-isomer fats from fried fast-foods had also increased exponentially. At the same time, the “modern” diseases emerged: allergies, asthma, attention deficit disorder, cancer and the diseases of excess − obesity and diabetes. Atherosclerosis and heart-disease were again on the rise.
Years earlier, in 1951, as a result of pathological research performed on American soldiers killed in the Korean War it had been discovered that 75% of them, with an average age of only twenty-one years, exhibited extreme examples of advanced heart-disease with significant numbers having at least one coronary artery completely blocked by a fatty, fibrous substance containing cholesterol. Yet none of those affected had shown any symptoms of heart disease. Most alarming was the fact that historically, death from heart disease seldom occurred in anybody younger than 50 years of age.
Because autopsies on older people who died from heart disease often had higher levels of blood-cholesterol than what was considered “normal” at the time, and sufferers of a fairly rare and usually hereditary disease called “familial hyper-cholesterolaemia” also seemed to suffer more from coronary heart disease, and the fact that cholesterol is present in most fats, it was hypothesized that fat and cholesterol might be to blame for heart-disease and atherosclerosis.
However, people suffering with myxo-edema (hypo-thyroidism and excessive weight gain) or nephrosis (lesions of the epithelial lining of the renal tubules) also have elevated blood cholesterol levels but they don’t have any higher incidence of coronary heart disease than the general population. Nor does high blood-cholesterol in people over 60 years of age predict CHD.
By 1990, however, thanks to the improved health resulting from the BMA Diet, life expectancy had climbed from the estimated 60 years of age pre-World War II, to 75 years of age by 1990. But in the United States of America, coronary heart disease was raging out of control. The finger of culpability was again pointed at the excess fat in the fried foods consumed by Americans.
Almost forty years after the Korean War autopsies to pin America’s heart-disease problem specifically on “fat” and “cholesterol” in the diet? What was completely ignored was the fact that Mediterranean countries, where people ate a lot more high-cholesterol foods, didn’t suffer anywhere near the same level of heart-disease as Americans did. No thought was given to the possibility that there might be “good” fat and “bad” fat or some other contributing factors!
Without any credible evidence, simply because eggs, meat and dairy products contained fats and cholesterol, it was proclaimed that those same foods were causing heart disease!
How could that be? What’s the basis for the accusation? Simply a hypothesis? Didn’t the BMA advise us to increase consumption of those same foods? What about the eradication of the diseases of deficiency?
Now, even though research has proven that not all fats are treated the same way in the body and we know a certain amount of dietary fat is essential for good health, the establishment still blames fat and cholesterol in general, for the ongoing heart-disease problem.
Well, what, exactly, is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat manufactured within the biological systems of all animals and is essential for life. The human body uses large quantities of cholesterol every day and the substance is so important that, with the exception of the brain, all cells have the ability to make it from simpler substances within the body. It plays a role in intra-cellular transport, cell signaling and nerve to brain conduction. As body-cells die, cholesterol is a major building block from which the new cell-walls are made. It’s also used to make hormones (including the sex hormones), bile acids and, in conjunction with sunlight on the skin, vitamin D 3.
Much of the information on how cholesterol functioned within the human system hadn’t even been discovered when it was blamed as the cause of heart-disease!
It’s fair to say that cholesterol is one of the most important substances in the body. So, cholesterol, in and of itself, is not bad. In fact, for every 150 pounds (68 kg) of body-weight, there naturally exists within the human system 3,500 mg of cholesterol. Each day, approximately 1,000 mg is synthesized to replace whatever had been used in normal arterial repair and cellular activities.
However, cholesterol is also found in food, the best dietary sources being eggs, meat and dairy products. If we ingest more than the necessary 1,000 mg, our organs simply produce less so as to maintain the normal chemical balance. If our daily diet provides 250 mg of cholesterol, the “system” absorbs about 200 mg of it and passes the rest through as waste and will only synthesize 800 mg. There is no evidence that all dietary cholesterol ends up in the blood supply. And if less cholesterol is ingested, the system compensates by making more, especially when the demand for arterial repair is excessive due to a faulty diet deficient in a usable form of Vitamin C.
We are the only animal that does not synthesize its own Vitamin C and it’s the one vitamin that’s essential to keep our skin and the arterial walls flexible and healthy. Damage to arteries can be caused by infectious bacteria or viruses and when a weakness in a wall is detected, cholesterol is transported directly from the liver within a Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) transporter and used to patch over the weak spot. After the repair is complete and Vitamin C levels are restored, High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) transport the used cholesterol back to the liver for recycling.
Over time, if the infection continues and Vitamin C levels are not normalized, excessive cholesterol patches may build up to the point where they block blood flow in the arteries. Those arterial blockages can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Even though most cardiovascular disease becomes evident after the age of 60, statistically, most people over that age with elevated levels of cholesterol have fewer heart attacks than those with low cholesterol. It’s also been shown that low levels of cholesterol put the body’s immune-system at risk.
So, we know that an excessive build-up of cholesterol can cause blockages to the blood supply but we also know that the system manufactures it in response to weaknesses and lesions in the arteries through which the blood flows. Clinical studies have shown that less than 20% of dietary cholesterol is absorbed into the blood-stream and the level of cholesterol in the blood is hardly affected by the amount of it in the foods we eat. So, regardless of how much cholesterol there might be in the diet, all of it is not absorbed into the blood-stream and there’s no research to prove that dietary cholesterol causes elevated blood-cholesterol.
The actual and more significant causes of coronary heart disease leading to high blood-cholesterol being the messenger of the problem, are:
Lack of exercise
Faulty diet, high in simple carbohydrates.
If all of those are corrected, cholesterol levels normalize.
So, it’s not a matter of what’s in the diet, but more a case of what’s not being provided either through deficiency in the diet or poor absorption. Instead of basing the blame on a flawed hypothesis, wouldn’t it be a stronger “hypothesis” to blame the cholesterol build-up on the underlying cause due to the dietary deficiency that triggered the body to make more cholesterol than on the cholesterol itself?
If a car is leaking gasoline due to a rusted out fuel tank, is the gasoline the problem?
Instead of laying the blame on an essential, natural substance and merely eliminating the messenger (high blood-cholesterol) of a more serious potential problem − atherosclerosis or heart disease, wouldn’t it make more sense to attack the cause of the excessive cholesterol build-up, which, would seem to be an ongoing weakness or damage in the artery walls possibly caused by a nutrient or vitamin deficiency.
Yet Government Agencies, food companies and the media continue to warn against “fat and cholesterol in the diet”. And, in so doing, instead of addressing the cause of the problem (dietary deficiencies) they’re merely treating a symptom (the excessive build-up of cholesterol) with drugs and the complete elimination of some of the most essential nutrients for our continued health and well-being.