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Dietary Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Have Little Bearing on Heart Disease

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The Atkins diet may not be so dangerous after all

 

I received an e-mail from Doctor’s Guide the other day that reported on a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2002 Scientific Sessions regarding cholesterol and the “Atkins” diet. The first sentence of the article states:

“Obese patients who followed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate "Atkins diet" for six months lost more weight and experienced more significant favourable changes in lipid profiles than did those who tried a low-fat diet for six months, according to one study.”

The conventional wisdom that a low fat diet is imperative to avoiding heart disease has greatly changed the eating habits of millions of Americans. One need look no further than the huge number of products that proclaim “low fat” to appreciate how well established this thinking is. It seems to me that if the aim of the low fat diet is to lower cholesterol or, as the article puts it to promote “favourable changes in lipid profiles”, the last outcome we would expect from a high fat, high protein diet would be favorable results. And yet that is precisely what happened. So what is the message we should take from this? Other than “cholesterol levels don’t matter much” (a debate for another time), surely we could suspect that the promoted low fat diet approach may be wrong. I think so. Our body’s metabolic processes determine our serum cholesterol levels, in their various forms, for reasons. It would appear that lowering your cholesterol level is a more complex situation than merely lowering the fat content of your diet.

The famous “Framingham” study confirmed this. The Bolen Report states:

"At Framingham, we found that the people who ate the most saturated fat, the most cholesterol and the most calories weighed the least, were more physically active and had the lowest serum cholesterol levels."

- William Castelli, M.D., Director of the Framingham Study. The Archives of Internal Medicine, July 1992, Vol. 152, pages 1371-72.



I sent this information out to my newsletter recipients. I received some responses that I think you will find interesting:

Dear Rusty:

I have been on a low carb diet for years. I started on a low fat diet per my doctors advise about 10 years ago because of high cholesterol. I did loose 20 pounds, because the calories were cut, but lo and behold my lipids just kept getting higher.

One day I heard Barry Sears on the TV talking about the Zone diet, I immediately started this diet and within 3 weeks I had a totally normal lipid profile. I stayed on that particular diet for several years, only to fall off the wagon and resume junk food eating. After a year and lipids OUT OF CONTROL, along with raised insulin levels, I went on Neanderthin diet.

I had my lipids done on a Monday and again the following Monday. Total cholesterol dropped from 500 to 187 in 7 days.

Today I am somewhere between Neanderthin and Atkins. I enjoy a high fat, and moderate protein diet. All blood work is normal as is my weight.

Thanks for the article!

Gwen

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Hi Rusty,

In retrospect, it's obvious.  Our evolutionary developement had pretty well reached it's present stage by 20,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of grinding stones is about 9,000 years ago.  

Without grinding stones it would be very difficult to eat grass products (grain and sugar),  which are extremely high in carbohydrates, and appear to be compromising the health of consumers, especially the older ones.  Further, most people compound this problem by using only devitalized grains.  I presume the extracted goodies go to chicken feed...?

It seems that our ancesters, the hunter gatherers, were the first health food nuts, and did not suffer from excessive abdominal fat.  They probably regarded fat as a luxury from the rigours of chewing free range meat.

Not only does the Atkins LOW CARBOHYDRATE diet improve one's figure, but it has many other health  benefits, once the grain and sugar addictions are broken.   Even though I've been taking over 36 grams of  sodium ascorbate per day, I think the Atkins diet, which I started about 6 weeks ago, may be much more significant.

LINDA

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Hi Rusty -

I very much appreciate receiving the occasional "C for yourself" emails.  We have been avid supporters of the use of vitamin C and vitamins in general. 

I recently opened a women's health and fitness center.  I don't have a specific "diet/food" plan that we follow.  We do focus on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and educate on good food choices.  For example, we believe in the importance of proper intake of fruits, veggies and whole grain breads.  We also watch for proper hydration.

The point I'm trying to make is:  I'm really confused about whether the Atkins diet is such a good thing.  I do believe that we need fat in our diet but don't we need the right kind of fats?  We need the essential omega fatty acids, and the mono and polyunsaturated. Not the saturated and trans-fatty acids.

I'm not totally familiar with the Atkins program so I need to be careful not to judge.  However,  I can't see where eating a bunch of saturated, artery-clogging fatty deposits can be good for you.  I have members who are on this plan and one members talks about all the bacon and other fatty meat she eats.  She also talks about how she eats little/no carbohydrates.  Why did God put grains on this earth?  This has to mess up your body.  Maybe I'm not understanding the Atkins plan fully.  I still believe in moderation and the proper intake of food from all of the food groups.  We talk about the meditarranean diet a lot.

Please advise and give me your feedback.  Now when it comes to vitamin C, we believe in moderation BUT we also firmly believe that the RDA's are much lower that they should be.  We also believe in megadosing when we start to get sick.  We have had amazing results with vitamin C. 

My belief is to include plenty of fats in your diet but stick to the healthy fats/oils and refrain as much as possible from the rest.  Please advise.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Sarah Uhler

Sarah,

I make no claim of expertise regarding all things nutritional, but I will give you my opinion for your consideration.

First, your approach in general seems fundamentally sound and I am sure benefits those that follow your lead.

Second, whole grains. I, too believe whole grain products make for good food, but only up to a point. Our bodies evolved before grains where a staple, before farming and before "bread". Our bodies are not engineered for bread and like products to be a staple of the diet. This is why so many people have difficulty with wheat products although many don't attribute their mood problems, ADD, or even hypoglycemia to food intolerances.

Third, saturated fat. You state "I can't see where eating a bunch of saturated, artery clogging fatty deposits can be good for you." Well, I think this new study of the Atkins diet reinforces that saturated fat in the diet may not cause artery-clogging deposits. I don't believe so. I believe that our bodies produce the artery-clogging deposits (specifically lp(a)) on purpose - to patch a compromised arterial wall from leaking. The etiology of which is primarily chronic vitamin C deficiency.

The Atkins diet is more in keeping with an evolutionarily correct diet. You may enjoy my article on this.

I hope this helps and I look forward to your comments.

Rusty

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