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The Truth about Cholesterol from a Heart Surgeon

Dr. Dwight Lundell has done heart surgery for over twenty years. When patients on anti-cholesterol drugs came back with a second heart attack, he knew cholesterol couldn’t be the cause of heart disease. Read his book “The Great Cholesterol Lie. Why Inflammation Kills and the Real Cure for Heart Disease” Dr Lundell notes that decreasing fat and cholesterol in the diet had no effect on the incidence of heart disease. He saw that the level of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in the blood did predict risk of a heart attack. CRP is a sign of inflammation somewhere in the body. He says aspirin helps prevent heart attacks by decreasing inflammation. He says a modern diet high in sugars and omega-6 fatty acids causes inflammation within blood vessels.

Removing a cause of deposits in arteries makes more sense than using a statin drug to block the enzyme in the liver that makes cholesterol. As mentioned in my talks and my book, cholesterol is used throughout the body and is essential for life itself. Heart attacks were rare a century ago. They increased during the 1900s as more people smoked. By 1970 most doctors said not to eat animal fat or cholesterol. This only helped the patients who also gave up smoking, exercised and ate lots of vegetables. Dr. Dean Ornish added yoga, meditation and group therapy. His strict regimen dissolved fatty deposits. Anti-cholesterol drugs and flattening out the fatty plaque with a balloon catheter has become an alternative quick fix. But it doesn’t get at causes of heart disease.

Most doctors ignored factors like excess homocysteine or effects of trans-fats like margarine on arterial walls. As people ate less fat, they ate more sugars. Sugar use went from 20 pounds per person per year in 1900 to 100 pounds in 1970 and is now over 150 pounds of sweeteners, the worst being high-fructose corn syrup. Sugars can combine with proteins and make cell walls stiff in a process called glycation. A stiff wall in an artery makes it prone to injury. If blood pressure goes up, whether from nicotine or stress hormones, vessel walls get micro-injuries, repaired by cholesterol, white cells and other components of inflammation. I agree with Dr.Lundell that we should eat like our ancestors to prevent heart attacks.

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Your Body is not a Machine

The average person has several misconceptions about how the body works.

They think that eating fat makes you fat, that you need carbohydrates for energy and that eating proteins always builds muscle.

The energy content of foods being digested and used within body cells is not necessarily the same as the values when a food is burned in a scientific calorimeter.

Too many people have gotten obese because they quit eating fat since it has over twice as many calories as a carbohydrate or protein. Better to believe the authors who say “Calories Don’t Count”. “Calories In minus Calories Used to produce energy equals Weight Loss or Gain” might be useful in calculating the calories used by a machine but it is too simplistic to apply to the thousands of chemical reactions in each cell in each organ. The Atkin’s Diet wouldn’t work if calorie content versus energy used was the only consideration.

Fat is more than a storage tissue in the human body, though It can be made from any food in excess.

Fat is the most efficient source of energy for moving muscles, especially the heart which is beating continuously. Burning carbohydrates for energy takes almost 20 reactions to get to the same active molecule in the mitochondria that can be made by removing two-carbon fragments from the fatty acids of a fat molecule. Marathon runners who rely on glycogen or glucose to keep going often get cramps from the accumulation of lactic acid, a by-product of partial burning of blood sugar. The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who can run for days use body fat for energy. All birds that fly long distances burn fat for energy.

There’s a difference between the ease of digestion of a food and how it’s later used inside body cells. Fat is slow to digest. In fact it sends a signal to the brain to slow down the emptying time of the stomach. So after a fat meal you aren’t hungry for hours. Once in the small intestine fat goes up tiny tubules, called lacteals that by-pass the liver and into a large vein directly to the heart. Meanwhile, the sugars or starches in the diet enter the blood vessels and signal the pancreas to make insulin to allow all cells to absorb blood sugar. In a sedentary person this sugar becomes fat. Most body fat is made from sweet liquids, even orange juice. Sugars are easily absorbed and are the usual source of abdominal fat. The liver often changes blood sugars into blood fats and cholesterol. The use of anti-cholesterol drugs roughly parallels the introduction and use of high-fructose corn syrup in more and more foods. At the same time manufactured foods have less fat. The rise of obesity and diabetes in the past thirty years can be correlated with the rise of sugar from the high 100 pounds per person in 1970 to the excessive 150 pounds of sugar and high fructose corn syrup per person today.

Fat from animals raised in factory farms has given fat a bad name. Cancer and other maladies blamed on animal fat are from insecticides and other toxins in the fat. The Amish and persons in other countries that grow their animals organically don’t suffer from these diseases of civilization.

The fat on the body of an obese person can’t be easily burned for energy. A person who doesn’t get enough dietary fat has many fewer enzymes in body cells that burn fat, but too many enzymes that turn carbohydrates into fats. Not eating fat can make you fatter. In fact animal experiments show that the livers of rats who got no fat in their diet had a 2000 fold increase in enzymes that make fat from sugars compared to rats on a balanced diet.

Don’t be afraid of eating fat as long as it’s organic but beware of high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats and other chemicals in manufactured foods.

Your body is not a machine. You are a mammal whose genes have developed over eons to use natural foods along with enough exercise.

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