coronary heart diseaseTag Archives

Looking at the USDA Dietary Guidelines

Today’s reading included a blog post by Denise Minger looking at USDA recommendations. The USDA recommends reducing saturated fat in the diet as well as reducing overall fat content. In their library of supporting documents, only one of the 12 studies cited actually supports these recommendations. The one study that does, a meta-analysis of studies, is later contradicted by a larger meta-analysis that shows no improvements. The first study is apparently confounded by publication bias. To further confound such studies, the USDA presented a pie chart showing where saturated fat in the American diet comes from. Grain-based desserts and pizza provide the largest portions of saturated fat in the American diet. But I just learned from the “Forks over Knives” post that China Study II positively correlates wheat with heart disease death and deaths from all medical causes. In fact, wheat correlates with heart disease better than any other food. Those grain-based desserts and pizza that we’re getting our saturated fat from have a lot of wheat in them. Meanwhile, animal protein and animal fat were negatively correlated in that study, meaning that death rates were lower. That’s an interesting finding from a scientist who promotes a vegan diet. So anything showing that saturated fat is harmful is likely confounded by the junkie carbohydrate and wheat intake that often accompanies the saturated fat. Furthermore, studies supporting increased intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils are confounded by the overall healthier habits of those consuming those oils. When the data are corrected for these healthy habits, the benefit of the vegetable oils disappears.

By the way, the cited USDA studies and also Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s results cited in “Forks over Knives” blog post would support my modifications to the NutriSystem diet for attempting to keep my cholesterol levels healthy. This further increases my optimism that I have made the right modifications. We’ll see when I get the results back from this coming Thursday’s blood draw.

As an interesting aside, the USDA was unable to be conclusive as to whether fruits and vegetables are actually good for you. They say further study is needed. Very interesting indeed! Results from China Study II would support the inclusion of green vegetables, at least, since they are negatively correlated to deaths from all medical causes. Fruit is positively correlated with deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in that same study, though. Have I not said before that fruit poses problems due to the sugar content? That’s why I decided to eliminate fruit from my modified diet. There are better sources for the micronutrients fruits provide among the vegetables, and I do make sure to include those.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.
Denise Minger. The New USDA Dietary Guidelines: Total Hogwash, and Here’s Why, Raw Food SOS.
Denise Minger. “Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique), Raw Food SOS.

Critiques of the science behind plant-based diets

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about dietary studies. A blog of particular interest is Raw Food SOS by Denise Minger. One of her posts tore apart Ancel Keys’ 22 country data. That data is often cited as proof that dietary fat causes heart disease. By the time Denise Minger got done with it, the data from the 22 countries more likely proved only that richer countries that could afford better medical care were better able to determine cause of death. In other words, the Keys study and data were rendered meaningless.

And another post dissects the movie Forks over Knives and critiques the science in that movie. So far, it isn’t looking good for the movie. Forks over Knives promotes a plant-based or vegan diet. I tried a vegan diet for about three months not so long ago. I ran into problems with it. I began developing a physical form of depression. Fortunately, my mood was still generally good. I had my blood checked, and my cholesterol had dropped too low. The total was 147. My psychiatrist was concerned. He wants to see the total be at least 160. Low cholesterol is associated with depression and other mental disorders. So I stopped being vegan and eventually recovered. As you can tell, I am not a fan of veganism. For me, at least, veganism is a dangerous diet. Generally, though, depression is more common among vegans, so it isn’t just me. One of my lowest total cholesterol readings, 125, coincided with my first round of NutriSystem back in 1990 or so. It also coincided with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And that, folks, is why I have adjusted my diet. I’m trying to keep my cholesterol levels from falling. I’ll have blood drawn to test cholesterol on Thursday to see if my strategy is working. I’m optimistic. My mood has been good so far this round.

Denise Minger. The Truth About Ancel Keys: We’ve All Got It Wrong, Raw Food SOS.
Denise Minger. “Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique), Raw Food SOS.
Chris Masterjohn. My Experience With Vegetarianism,
Shin JY, Suls J, Martin R. Are cholesterol and depression inversely related? A meta-analysis of the association between two cardiac risk factors. Ann Behav Med. 2008 Aug;36(1):33-43. Epub 2008 Sep 12.
Michael Pekker. Could Eating A Vegan Diet Cause Depression? Clinical Depression: Symptoms and Treatment.

Your doctor’s advice may not be so great

While reading Trick And Treat by Barry Groves, I found information about an important study of heart disease interventions done in Finland. This study is important because the intervention group in this study was given the current standard of care for the prevention of heart attacks. One group was given the standard heart disease interventions: blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, advice about diet and exercise. The other group was given no interventions. The study shows that while risk factors were improved, the number of deaths including from heart disease was actually higher in the intervention group. In other words, the standard interventions ultimately had the reverse effect of what was intended. Something in the standard treatments isn’t right.

From the book:

One [study] that did seem to support the “healthy” recommendations was a Finnish trial involving 1,222 men published in 1985. Men in the intervention group were seen regularly and advised about diet, physical activity and smoking. Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels were treated with drugs. The men in this group did as they were advised and, as a result, the “predicted risks” for CHD were halved during the trial. It was hailed as a great success because: “The program markedly improved risk factor status.” In other words, they succeeded in changing their subjects’ diets, and so on. In December 1991, the results of a 15-year follow-up to that trial were published. During this period the intervention group had continued to be instructed on diet, smoking and exercise and treated for high blood pressure and cholesterol when present. Were they healthier? Did they live longer? The results are show in the table:

Deaths during 15-year follow-up
Intervention group Control group
Total deaths 67 46
Heart disease deaths 34 14

These figures show that not only did those who continued to follow the carefully controlled, cholesterol-lowering diet had more deaths in total, they were also more than twice as likely to die of heart disease as those who didn’t – some success!

Dr Michael Oliver, Professor of Cardiology at Edinburgh University’s Cardiovascular Research Unit, commenting on these results in the British Medical Journal, wrote that:

This runs counter to the recommendations of many national and international advisory bodies which must now take the recent findings from Finland into consideration. Not to do so may be ethically unacceptable. We must now face the fact that the evidence from large, well conducted trials gives little support to hopes that altering the lifestyle of the community at large, when started in middle age, will reduce cardiac deaths or total mortality.

Barry Groves. Trick And Treat – how ‘healthy eating’ is making us ill. 2008.
Barry Groves’ site:
Miettinen TA et al. Multifactorial Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases in Middle-aged Men, JAMA. 1985;254(15):2097-2102.
Strandberg TE, et al. Long-term Mortality After 5-Year Multifactorial Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases in Middle-aged Men, JAMA. 1991;266(9):1225-1229.
Oliver MF. Doubts about preventing coronary heart disease. BMJ 1992; 304: 393-4.

Critique of studies on which our “healthy diet” advice is based

I just read Dr. Mercola’s critique of the principal studies on which our “healthy diet” advice is based, The Cholesterol Myths that May be Harming Your Health.  It would seem that there’s a lot of misleading information being promulgated.

To start with, Dr. Ancel Keys cherry-picked his cases for the Seven Countries Study back in 1953 when he told us that higher fat intake correlated to higher rates of coronary heart disease.  Had he used data from all 22 countries that had data available, no correlation between dietary fats and coronary heart disease would have been found.

Analysis of the Framingham Study showed that lower blood cholesterol levels were associated with a lower cardiac risk.  What they did not tell us was that the same study determined that the more cholesterol and saturated fat people ate, the lower their blood cholesterol levels.  And yet we were told to lower our cholesterol and saturated fat intakes.

And finally, while the “MrFit” Study did show a marginal decrease in coronary heart disease for those who ate a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet, there was an increased all-cause mortality rate for those who followed such a diet with an increase in deaths from cancer, brain hemorrhage, suicide, and violent death.