Tag Archives: CVD

Sleep! You can’t live without it.

Circadian rhythm refers to the cycling of hormones according to the time of day. Every hormone cycles with daylight and darkness, each in it’s own way. Our brain has a master clock, called the circadian clock, controlled by specialized cells deep in the brain. There is a direct connection from our retina (in the back of the eyes) to the circadian clock in the brain. Blue light (part of the normal outdoor spectrum of light) stimulates very specific receptor cells in the retina which in turn communicates directly with the circadian clock telling the brain whether it is day or night. To synchronize our hormones and achieve restorative sleep, we must get outdoor light exposure to our eyes (without sunglasses, early in the day) and limit light exposure in the evening.

Artificial light, especially from cell phones and other devices that emit intense blue light, shift work, late night social activity, poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and at the opposite extreme, late evening workouts,  can all disrupt our circadian rhythm preventing adequate restorative sleep. A rare genetic illness called fatal insomnia that strikes adults at middle age prevents sleep and results in death within a few months, highlighting the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation can kill a human quicker than starvation! Adequate amounts of deep non-REM sleep are required for tissue regeneration, healing, DNA repair and immune function. REM sleep with dreaming provides great benefit by organizing our memory, discharging the emotional content of traumatic events, and facilitating creative brain activity. One night of short-sleep produces a state of inattention and slow reflexes as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol intoxication. Chronic  short sleep and disrupted circadian rhythm results in increased risk of depression, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart attack and stroke, to name a few. Sleep interruption immediately halts weight loss during a calorie restricted diet (likely the result of hormonal disruption). So getting an adequate amount of restorative sleep every night is essential to good health. Here a few tips to help achieve a good night’s sleep each and every night.

  1. GET OUTDOOR LIGHT EXPOSURE ON YOUR EYES WITHOUT SUNGLASSES EVERY DAY, EARLY IN THE DAY. This helps set your biologic/circadian clock. Even on a cloudy day, outdoor light is much stronger and natural than indoor light. It is essential for setting your biologic/circadian clock. If you cannot get outside, stand or sit in front of a large window for 20-30 minutes in the morning, looking outside. Take a lunch break outside without sunglasses. Wear a shade hat instead of sunglasses. Your brain needs to experience natural outdoor light during the day.
  2. Avoid bright light in the evening, especially the light from TV, computer screens, cell phones, which all emit intense blue light and trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. Wear blue light blocking glasses/goggles for 2-3 hours before bed. (Amber tinted glasses which block blue light can be purchased on-line and can be worn over reading glasses) There is also software available that will decrease the blue light intensity of computer screens and cell phones in the evening.
  3. Practice time restricted eating. Limit all eating to an eight hour period, thus providing for an over-night fast of 16 hours. If that does not seem possible try to limit eating to a 10-hour period which provides a 14-hour overnight fast. This improves sleep, circadian rhythm, blood pressure, blood sugar and reduces stress hormones. NO SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS. NO FOOD FOR 2 HOURS BEFORE BED. For every hour decrease in eating time period from 12 hours to 8 hours you get health benefit.
  4. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  5. If you snore, are overweight/obese, fall asleep during the day, or do not feel refreshed in the morning ask your doctor to order a sleep study. Obstructive Sleep Apnea makes restorative sleep impossible and increases risk of heart attack, stroke and most chronic diseases.
  6. Avoid alcohol altogether and avoid caffeine after late morning.  Alcohol in the evening may help you fall asleep but it results in a withdrawal from alcohol during the night. This disrupts normal sleep patterns.
  7. Sleep in a cold, dark, quiet room. Use black-out curtains, no night lights, no phone charger lights, no lights of any kind should be on in the room. Any amount of light in the room impairs the production of melatonin which facilitates sleep onset.
  8. Have a winddown time every evening. Develop habits of non-stressful activities, soft music, dim light, casual conversation, enjoyable reading. Do not spend evening time dealing with finances, conflict, or emotional activity.
  9. Try a magnesium supplement before bedtime. Magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, are absorbed much better than cheaper supplements such as magnesium oxide. Magnesium L-Threonate is expensive, but it crosses the blood brain barrier into the brain with the greatest brain penetration of all magnesium supplements.
  10. Manage stress with yoga, meditation, regular exercise (but no intense exercise in the evening.) Perform most of your exercise outdoors in a green space. This provides much more health benefit than the equivalent exercise indoors.
  11. Regular contact with supportive family and friends is essential to health and reduces stress. The greatest predictor of health vs disease is the amount of social connectedness an individual experiences.
  12. Establish regular wake-up times and go-to-bed times. Regular sleep habits are essential. If you must rely on alarm clocks you do not have good sleep habits.

A few words about alcohol, caffeine and sleeping pills.

A drink or two in the evening may help you relax but it disrupts your sleep by causing a mild episode of alcohol withdrawal as your liver metabolizes the alcohol and your blood levels drop. Even this slight degree of alcohol withdrawal will impair a good night’s sleep.

Caffeine impairs sleep by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is the neurotransmitter that increases gradually during the day creating a sate referred to as sleep pressure. Some people metabolize caffeine quickly, others slowly. The slower you metabolize caffeine the longer it takes to clear it from your adenosine receptors. Without adequate sleep pressure (adenosine receptors filled with adenosine in the brain) you cannot fall asleep. Many sleep experts recommend complete abstinence from caffeine and suggest that if you need caffeine to get started in the morning you are regularly sleep deprived.

Sleeping pills of all kinds interfere with normal sleep architecture. While they facilitate falling asleep, they impair your ability to achieve deep restorative stages of sleep and can produce many undesirable side effects including addiction, withdrawal symptoms, sleep walking, sleep driving, worsening of asthma and COPD, constipation, diarrhea, daytime drowsiness, burning and tingling sensations, unusual dreams, weakness, heartburn, etc…. Most importantly they all interfere with cycling through the various stages of sleep in a normal, restorative pattern!

If you want to explore these concepts in depth here are two excellent books that discuss sleep and circadian rhythm.

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker Ph.D.

The Circadian Code, by Satchin Panda Ph.D.

Eat clean, sleep well, spend time exercising out of doors, love one another.

Bob Hansen MD

Don’t eat plastic foam in your food, another reason to avoid bread, bakery and flour foods

I recently came across an article at EWG.org, Nearly 500 ways to make a yoga mat sandwich | EWG

If you’ve planked on a yoga mat, slipped on flip-flops, extracted a cell phone from protective padding or lined an attic with foam insulation, chances are you’ve had a brush with an industrial chemical called azodicarbonamide, nicknamed ADA. In the plastics industry, ADA is the “chemical foaming agent” of choice. It is mixed into polymer plastic gel to generate tiny gas bubbles, something like champagne for plastics. The results are materials that are strong, light, spongy and malleable. “

Turns out, ADA is in nearly five hundred foods including breads, tortillas, bagels, pizza, hamburger buns, various pastries, hot dog rolls, sandwich buns, Italian bread, bread sticks, dinner rolls, croutons, english muffins, focaccia, wheat bread. Not all food producers include ADA in their products but many do, including fast food chains.

“Over the years, health activists concerned about synthetic chemicals in food have attacked the widespread use of ADA, but it did not attract nationwide headlines until Hari of Food Babe circulated a petition demanding that Subway, among the nation’s biggest fast-food outlets, stop using the chemical in its loaves. Subway responded [http://www.subway.com/subwayroot/about_us/PR_Docs/QualityBread.pdf] that ADA was safe, but even so, it had quietly been seeking a substitute over the past year. The company pointed out that ADA is “found in the breads of most chains such as Starbuck’s, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Burger King, and Dunkin Donuts.” Those other fast food giants joined Subway on the defensive.”

So head on over to the environmental working group website by clicking the link above and educate yourself. The reasons to avoid flour foods continue to mount, glyphosate (roundup), ADA, obesity, auto-immune disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, endotoxemia…..

Live clean, sleep well, love and laugh.

Dr. Bob

 

Fred Kummerow, PhD, fought the battle against Trans Fats for over 50 years.

Professor Fred Kummerow passed away on May 31 at his home in Urbana, Ill at age 102. He ate butter, red meat and eggs cooked in butter, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. He avoided margarine, french fries and other fried foods, along with cookies, cake and crackers which contained artificial trans-fats. He conducted research in his nutrition science laboratory at the University of Illinois up until his death. he authored the book Cholesterol Won’t Kill You, But Trans Fat Could: Separating Scientific Fact from Nutritional Fiction in What You Eat

Fred warned the American public and scientists in the 1950s about the dangers of artificial man-made trans fats. His research was largely ignored and criticized by the food industry and by scientists who were funded by the food industry for decades. Despite mounting evidence in both animals and humans that artificial trans fats dramatically increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and probably several forms of cancer, the FDA ignored his pleas to address the issue. In 2009 Professor Kummerow filed a petition with the FDA to ban the use of trans fats. Although federal law required that the FDA respond within 180 days to such a petition, the FDA remained silent. In 2013, approaching the age of 99, Professor Kummerow sued the FDA. Two years latter in 2015 the FDA declared that artificial trans-fats were unsafe and should be eliminated from the US food supply by 2018.

Through his lifelong work, Professor Kummerow has produced a policy change that will likely save hundreds of thousands of lives.

What are trans fats and why have they been in our food for 7 decades?

Although there are some forms of natural trans fats which are safe for consumption when consumed in whole foods, artificial trans-fats are produced by placing unsaturated fat (such as corn oil, soy oil) under high pressure and high temperature conditions and adding hydrogen in the presence of a metal catalyst. These fats were introduced to many American foods because they dramatically extend the shelf life of foods and give a pleasant mouth texture to a variety of processed foods. They remain in many foods still on the shelves today. You cannot rely on labels such as “NO TRANS FATS” OR “TRANS FAT FREE” because food companies are allowed to make this statement as long as the amount of trans fats does not exceed 0.5 grams per serving. No amount is safe!

The Institute of Medicine, on July 10, 2002 declared manufactured trans fatty acid (TFA) a serious danger to the health of our nation with a: “tolerable upper intake level of zero.”  This means there is no safe level of consumption. Despite that strong statement in 2002, it has taken the efforts of an elderly professor, including a lawsuit, to bring the FDA around to finally address the issue.

But it is not over yet, you can bet that the food industry will try to delay the implementation of the ban or possibly even argue against the overwhelming science that supports such a ban.

In the meantime read labels. If any food item contains “partially hydrogenated” oil of any kind or “hydrogenated oil” of any kind it contains trans fats. These foods are typically foods you should not be eating any way because they usually also contain added sugar, refined flour and/or refined easily oxidized inflammatory “vegetable” oils. They are not whole foods and therefore should not be consumed for many reasons. But if you want to eat cake, cookies, crackers, bread, or any other processed foods, beware and read the ingredients so as to at least avoid trans-fats.

You can read about Fred Kummerow, his life and research at these sites:

Fred A. Kummerow, scientist who raised early warnings about trans fats, dies at 102 – The Washington Post

Fred A. Kummerow, an Early Opponent of Trans Fats, Dies at 102 – The New York Times

Fred Kummerow, U. of I. professor who fought against trans fats, dies at 102 – Chicago Tribune

Fred also studied the effects of a oxysterols and oxidized low-density lipoprotein (OxLDL) both of which contribute to atherosclerosis.  In a  2013 publication Professor Kummerow stated

“levels of oxysterols and OxLDL increase primarily as a result of three diet or lifestyle factors: the consumption of oxysterols from commercially fried foods such as fried chicken, fish and french fries; oxidation of cholesterol in vivo driven by the consumption of excess polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils; and cigarette smoking.”

Yet the American Heart Association continues to recommend increased consumption of polyunsaturated fats from the likes of corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed and similar oils. I have discussed the problems with that advice here and here.

So the next time you avoid trans fats by reading food labels, think of Professor Kummerow who brought light to some very dark areas in the history of nutrition and food in the US.

Eat clean, live clean, and enjoy.

Dr. Bob

Cartoon humor: A Prescription for Health!

 

prescription-for-exercise-cropped

Hat tip to Tommy Wood MD, PhD for introducing me to this great cartoon.

So what would happen if your doctor prescribed this? Would you be shocked? Would you follow the advice? Sadly few doctors make such recommendations as explicitly as this cartoon and fewer patients follow the advice.

How important are the elements in this advice?

They are essential. We too often focus on dietary concerns at the expense of ignoring other important low hanging fruit. Early morning  outdoor exercise with exposure to natural light in a green space, even on a cloudy or rainy day, is essential for health. Why? There are many reasons. Click the link above to read fitness expert Darryl Edward’s discussion with references. In fact outdoor exercise in a greenspace is more beneficial than the same exercise indoors. The reasons are many, including but not limited to Vitamin D production.

Early daytime exposure to natural outdoor light helps to maintain our Circadian rhythm and align the biologic clock in all of our cells and organs with the central biological Circadian clock in our brain. Most folks do not know that we have a biologic clock deep within our brain and that all the organs and cells of our body also have clocks. They all need to be synchronized with each other and with the sun for optimal health. When they are not synchronized bad things happen. Night shift workers and other folks with disturbed sleep have higher rates of cancer , depressionhypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining our circadian rhythm is vital to achieving adequate high quality restorative sleep. In turn, obtaining adequate restorative sleep contributes to lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to four traditional lifestyle risk factors.

Exposure to artificial light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm and impairs the onset of sleep.

In medical school I learned that our retina has two cell types, rods and cones. But advances in science have revealed a  third cell type called retinal ganglionic cells. 

These cells are  particularly sensitive to blue light and directly connected to our central biological clock . Exposure to artificial light, especially from TV screens, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices after sunset disrupts our sleep cycle and delays the onset of sleep. That is why wearing blue light filtering glasses in the evening helps many folks to improve their sleep quality and duration.

Sleep deprivation for even one night causes elevation in interleukin 6 levels the following day. Interleukin 6 suppresses immune function and excessive levels cause bone and tissue damage (especially cardiovascular). Sleep deprivation  increases  Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin), decreases prolactin and Growth hormone , and decreases the nightly production of ATP .

Melatonin , often called the sleep hormone, is produced most abundantly during restorative sleep and essential for tissue healing, immune function, cancer prevention, and defense against tissue oxidation. These are just a few of the roles melatonin and sleep cycles play in determining our health..

So exercise outdoors in a green space daily to help synchronize your biologic clock with the sun, dim the lights in the evening and if you must watch TV or work on electronic devices before bed wear Blue Light filter glasses .

Of course eating an abundance of colorful fresh organic vegetables and fruits, and practicing some stress reduction techniques every day are equally important and essential to health and functional status.

Finally, not mentioned in the cartoon above is another healthy lifestyle choice, intermittent fasting (IF). IF will be discussed in the next post.

Until then, sleep well, exercise regularly out doors in a green space environment, eat clean, learn and practice some regular stress reduction techniques and read the next post about IF.

Bob Hansen MD

Sugar Industry paid Harvard researchers to trash fat and exonerate sugar!

By now most of you have already heard about the study published in JAMA that reveals an unsavory historical scenario wherein the sugar industry  funded an academic review paper that diverted the medical community’s attention from sugar as a vector for disease and erroneously placed it on saturated fat and cholesterol consumption. You can read about it by clicking on the following link.

How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat – The New York Times

Here is a quote from the above cited article in the NY times:

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

Here is the abstract of the article published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research:  A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network

Early warning signals of the coronary heart disease (CHD) risk of sugar (sucrose) emerged in the 1950s. We examined Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) internal documents, historical reports, and statements relevant to early debates about the dietary causes of CHD and assembled findings chronologically into a narrative case study. The SRF sponsored its first CHD research project in 1965, a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor. The SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts. The SRF’s funding and role was not disclosed. Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD. Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry–funded studies and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development.

This disturbing conspiracy reveals yet another industry sponsored distortion of science which had great impact on the health of our nation. The impact is accelerating today as the epidemics of obesity and diabetes rage out of control. But sugar consumption has not just been tied to obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Sugar added foods and beverages have likely contributed to dementia,  many forms of cancer and other chronic debilitating diseases. Sugar and refined carbohydrates mediate these effects by increasing systemic inflammation and contributing to insulin resistance. Inflammation and insulin resistance are pathways to many disease processes. Metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) is the hallmark combination of multiple abnormalities with insulin resistance as the underlying root cause. Prolonged insulin resistance leads to type 2 diabetes and contributes to heart attacks, strokes,  cancer and dementia. In fact dementia is often referred to as type 3 diabetes, mediated in large part by insulin resistance in the brain.

Here are links to discussions and videos relevant to these topics.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease Is Easier Than You Think | Psychology Today

How to Diagnose, Prevent and Treat Insulin Resistance [Infographic] – Diagnosis:Diet

Reversing Type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines | Sarah Hallberg | TEDxPurdueU – YouTube

I have previously provided links to the YouTube lectures given by the brilliant Dr. Jason Fung, These are worth mentioning again.

The Aetiology of Obesity Part 1 of 6: A New Hope

Insulin Toxicity and How to Cure Type 2 Diabetes

How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally

Nina Teicholz is also worth a watch.

Nina Teicholz: The Big Fat Surprise – (08/07/2014)

And here is an important talk about sugar, refined carbohydrates and cancer.

Plenty to chew on.

We did not evolve to eat lots of sugar! It is dangerous stuff.

Bob Hansen MD

 

 

 

STATINS OF NO BENEFIT AGE 80 AND UP, even after a heart attack!

Finally IT HAS BEEN LOOKED AT AND TRUTHFULLY PUBLISHED, statin drugs for individuals 80 years of age and older  WITH DOCUMENTED HEART DISEASE SHOWS NO BENEFIT, EVEN AFTER A HEART ATTACK

Here is the abstract from the study

Statin Therapy and Mortality in Older Adults With CAD
Abstract
Objectives: To examine the effect of statins on long-term mortality in older adults hospitalized with coronary artery disease (CAD).
Design: Retrospective analysis.
Setting: University teaching hospital.
Participants: Individuals aged 80 and older (mean aged 85.2, 56% female) hospitalized from January 2006 to December 2010 with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), unstable angina pectoris, or chronic CAD and discharged alive (N = 1,262). Participants were divided into those who did (n = 913) and did not (n = 349) receive a discharge prescription for a statin.
Measurements: All-cause mortality over a median follow-up of 3.1 years.
Results: Participants treated with statins were more likely to be male, to have a primary diagnosis of AMI, to have traditional cardiovascular risk factors, and to receive other standard cardiovascular medications in addition to statins. In unadjusted analysis, statin therapy was associated with lower mortality (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.83, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.71–0.96). After adjustment for baseline differences between groups and propensity for receiving statin therapy, the effect of statins on mortality was no longer significant (HR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.74–1.05). The association between statins and mortality was similar in participants aged 80 to 84 and those aged 85 and older.
Conclusion: In this cohort of older adults hospitalized with CAD, statin therapy had no significant effect on long-term survival after adjustment for between-group differences. These findings, although preliminary, call into question the benefit of statin therapy for secondary prevention in a real-world population of adults aged 80 and older and underscore the need for shared decision-making when prescribing statins in this age group.

In layman’s terms. This study compared patients aged 80 and older who were hospitalized with documented coronary artery disease and compared those sent home on statins and those sent home without a prescription for statins. There was no difference in death rates between the two groups. The use of statins in this situation (known heart disease) is referred to as secondary prophylaxis. Secondary prophylaxis would be expected to have greater risk reduction when compared to primary prophylaxis (no know heart disease).

I have advocated against the use of statins in primary prophylaxis. Statin Guidelines, one step forward, two steps backwards | Practical Evolutionary Health

The data in this study shows no protection from statins when used for secondary prophylaxis (higher risk group) for age 80 and above.

For more discussions on statins, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, go here. Statin Drugs | Practical Evolutionary Health

Live clean, eat clean, sleep well.

Bob Hansen MD

Why do our tax dollars continue to subsidize death, disability and disease?

Yesterday I posted a comment on Medscape after reading an article Longtime Dietary Fat Advice Unsupported by Data: Analysis . Medscape is a website with articles and news written for physicians and other health professionals. Anyone can access this information by creating a user name and password, there is no fee.

Here is my comment. It is long and technical. I will provide an explanation in lay terms after quoting myself.

Sugar, especially HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), used in so many foods is more inflammatory than saturated fat. Grass fed meat from ruminants has a fatty acid mix that is exactly the same as wild game, which we evolved to eat, along with tubers, green leafy vegetables, and fruit in season. Excess refined fructose intake AND use of modern refined “vegetable oils” along with non-healthy grains combine to cause excess caloric intake, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), obesity, metabolic syndrome and CAD (coronary artery disease). N6 PUFA (omega six polyunsaturated fatty acids) are easily oxidized. N3 PUFA (omega 3 fatty acids) despite greater number of double bonds are protected from oxidation in cell and Lipoprotein membranes by plasmalogens as opposed to linoleic acid which is not easily  incorporated into plasmalogens. The PUFA in vegetable oils (linoleic acid) is the FA (fatty acid) that is oxidized on LDL particles and remnant particles, stimulating monocytes to transform to macrophages and then foam cells. The USDA, ADA and AHA have had it upside down for decades and they still fail to admit folly. We evolved for > 1 million years without grains and they have contributed to disease. Per calorie fresh vegetables have five times the amount of fiber compared to whole grains. We do not need grains and would be better without them. They contain anti-nutrients and wheat, hybridized in the 1980s to a storm resistant dwarf plant, now has 50 times more gluten/gliadin than the old wheat. This has generated more gluten intolerance and celiac. Our greatest nutritional threats to public health include refined sugar, carbohydrates predominantly from grains and refined vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are not healthy, we did not evolve to eat them. N3 FAs are anti-inflammatory but have been competing in our diets with a sea of inflammatory N6 PUFA from unnatural refined and easily oxidized “vegetable oils”. Even though PUFA can reduce LDL-C they wreak havoc by creating ox-LDL particles which initiate the cascade of atherosclerosis. Substituting SFA (saturated fatty acids) with PUFA results in increased levels of Lp(a) and oxLDL in humans, not a good thing. Close the feed lots, stop government subsidy of corn, wheat, dairy and soy, eat meat from grass fed ruminants, wild seafood, fresh organic vegetables and fruits in season. Nibble on tree nuts. Stop creating carcinogens with high dry heat cooking methods and we will watch obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis melt away.

That was my comment. Here is some explanation.

I have previously discussed the pro-inflammatory nature of refined “vegetable oils”. “Vegetable oils” are actually not from vegetables, they are from grains, seeds and legumes. The two major sources of excess omega six polyunsaturated fats in the American diet are corn oil and soy oil marketed by various brand names such as Wesson. They are major components of margarine and other butter substitutes and are present in most salad dressings. Most salad dressings sold in our supermarkets contain high levels of easily oxidized unhealthy refined “vegetable oils” and HFCS. The use of these salad dressings converts a healthy salad into a vector for disease.

The major source of caloric sweeteners in our food and beverages is high fructose corn syrup. Both corn (oil and sugar) and soy predominate our processed food supply because they are cheap. They are cheap because our tax dollars subsidize their production. This subsidy started during the Nixon administration. Once a food subsidy is put in place it is very difficult to eliminate, Big Agriculture provides a deep pocket for lobby money and our elected officials from the mid-west bread-basket respond to $$.

Another major source of disease causing elements in the standard American diet is highly refined flour from wheat. Doctors Davis and Perlmutter discuss the problems associated with wheat-flour foods in their books Wheat Belly and Grain Brain respectively. The production of wheat has also been subsidized since the Nixon administration.

Wheat is not what it used to be. A new dwarf hybrid wheat has predominated the US market since the 1980s. Bread and pasta are not what they used to be when great grand-mother made her own bread and pasta in the kitchen from coarsely ground whole flour. But even if we all went back to making our own whole-grain bread and pasta from locally ground pre-1980s wheat, bread, pasta and pastry would still present a health risk because of issues related to intestinal permeability, auto-immune disease (now epidemic in the USA), and the presence of nasty lectins and phytates (discussed in my manifesto and previous posts).

The Medscape comment quoted above describes  adverse consequences caused by replacing saturated fat in the diet with “vegetable oils”. This is a complex subject and I will try to be brief for now but promise to expand on this in a future post.

Many factors contribute to atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. Sedentary lifestyle, stress, inadequate restorative sleep, smoking and poor dietary choices top the list. These factors also contribute to obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and many cancers.

DIETARY FACTORS:

The combination of sugared foods and beverages (predominantly sweetened with HFCS), refined flour foods, and excess consumption of the PUFA in “vegetable oils” TOGETHER  contribute to the formation of plaque in the walls of our arteries (atherosclerosis).

How does this happen?

LDL (low density lipoprotein) is a particle that transports cholesterol and triglycerides through our blood to our organs. This particle is comprised of a core and a surrounding membrane.  Here is a picture.

LDL 2

The core contains cholesterol in a storage form (esters) and triglycerides. The outer membrane includes a large protein called apoprotein B-100, “free” cholesterol molecules and phospholipids. The phospholipids contain fatty acids, including PUFA.

LDL has been demonized as “the bad cholesterol” and that demonization has mislead the public.

hdl_ldl good guy bad guy

LDL is the major lipoprotein in our blood but there are others that have different names.

Cholesterol is cholesterol, whether it is carried in LDL or HDL. When carried in the core of a lipoprotein it is carried as a cholesterol ester. 80% of the cholesterol in an LDL particle is carried as an ester in the core. 20% is carried as “free” cholesterol on the outer surface or membrane.

LDLand cholesterol molecule

HDL (high density lipoprotein) is smaller and denser. HDL has been called “the good cholesterol”, another misnomer.

HDL particles, when they are functioning correctly can protect us from atherosclerosis but in patients with diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance, HDL particles do not function well and in fact probably contribute to disease. (More about that in a future post)

But back to LDL.

Although the risk of cardiovascular disease is correlated with the amount of cholesterol carried by LDL in our blood (referred to as LDL-C), the total amount of cholesterol shuttled by LDL particles is much less relevant than one would be led to believe given the great use of statin drugs to lower LDL-C.

The short version is as follows.

Compared to LDL-C, a much better predictor of cardiovascular disease is the amount of “modified” LDL particles circulating in the blood. Oxidized LDL particles are one form of “modified LDL”. LDL can also  be modified by excess blood sugar levels (especially from HFCS). This modification is referred to as glycosylated or glycated LDL. In this latter form of modification, the major protein on the outer membrane of the LDL particle (apo B 100 in the picture above) becomes attached to a sugar and the result is an LDL particle that is not easily cleared by normal processes. The modified LDL is not “recognized” by the LDL receptors that act as entry points into our cells for proper processing. The result is that the glycated LDL particles circulate longer and are more likely to use up their anti-oxidants (Vitamin E and  Co-enzyme Q 10).

As a result glycated LDL are more likely to become oxidized. That is not good because oxidized LDL sets up a cascade of unhealthy events.

The portion of the LDL particle that becomes oxidized is the fat (fatty acid) from “vegetable oil”, specifically the fatty acid called linoleic acid. This fatty acid has two double bonds making it more likely to be oxidized than for example oleic acid, the major fatty acid in extra virgin olive oil which has only one double bond.

The double bonds between the carbons in the fatty acids are unstable and easily oxidized. The single bonds in saturated fat do not get oxidized.

All other things being equal (and you will see that they are not), the more double bonds in a fatty acid the greater chance for oxidation.

Here is a picture showing the linoleic acid, also called linoleate, on the outer membrane of the LDL particle.

LDL with linoleate

And here is a picture that shows the phospholipids that contain the linoleic acid.

LDL 3

Let’s say it again. The fatty acid found in “vegetable” oil, linoleic acid, is easily oxidized because it has two double bonds.

Saturated fats are not oxidized because they contain no double bonds.

The part of the LDL particle that becomes oxidized is the fatty acid that comes from “vegetable oils”.

A particular kind of immune cell (white blood cells called monocytes) have  special receptors for oxidized LDL particles. When ox-LDL are “seen” by these monocytes, the monocytes become transformed into macrophages. Macrophages are designed to destroy bacteria that invade our bodies. The oxidized LDL particles resemble the structures of invading bacteria. The macrophages, with very specialized receptors for oxidized LDL, “swallow” the LDL particles and release toxic chemicals to destroy “the invader”.  The macrophages then become “foam cells” in the walls of our arteries, initiating the creation of plaque. Here is a picture.

ldl_mechanisms oxidation in vessel wall

This picture depicts the oxidation occurring in the wall of the artery after LDL particles have penetrated the wall. However LDL particles can and do become oxidized while still circulating in the blood and these oxidized particles can stimulate monocytes to transform into macrophages and gobble up the oxidized or modified LDL while these particles are still circulating in the blood.

How and whether unmodified LDL particles cross the wall of arteries into the “sub-endothelial” area remains an unsolved complex issue. The picture above implies that LDL particles simply move across the endothelial cells that line the wall of the artery but that is a presumption.

Clearly, macrophages that have “swallowed” modified LDL particles have mechanisms to work their way between the junctions formed by adjacent endothelial cells.

This is an important distinction because many cardiologists believe that what drives atherosclerosis is a mass effect. The greater the number of LDL particles, the more likely they are to cross the endothelial barrier, get oxidized and retained and start the process of plaque formation. However the process is much more complex and not clearly understood.

We do not yet know or understand completely the factors that influence the permeability of the endothelium to Lipoprotein particles. We do know that modified (oxidized and glycated LDL) disrupt the protective surface of endothelial cells which is called the glyocalyx. Other factors that disrupt the glyocalyx include high blood sugars, dramatic fluctuations in blood pressure (too high or too low), oxidative stress, infections, and circulating endotoxin (which is governed by intestinal permeability).

It is clear from several studies that modified (oxidized) LDL as a single variable predicts cardiovascular disease and heart attacks with much greater accuracy than LDL-C (total cholesterol content of LDL particles). It is also clear that monocyte receptors are specific for modified LDL and that the  process that initiates the cascade of events that leads to plaque formation involves the interaction between modified lipoprotein particles and the immune system (monocytes).

Now here is another twist.

Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil are considered “heart healthy”. They help prevent heart attacks and strokes. They also decrease inflammation throughout the body thereby producing many health benefits.

BUT OMEGA 3 FAT HAS MORE DOUBLE BONDS THAN OMEGA 6 FAT (LINOLEIC ACID) YET THEY HELP PROTECT THE HEART. HOW CAN THAT BE?

How do they avoid contributing to atherosclerosis? Are they not even more readily oxidized than linoleic acid?

The simple answer is no.

The major reason is that the omega three fatty acids are protected by “plasmalogens” which are important components of our LDL particle outer membranes. Plasmalogens are found in the membranes of lipoprotein particles and in the membranes of human cells. Because of their chemical structures, omega three fats are easily incorporated into plasmalogens which protect the double bonds of omega three fats from oxidation. Linoleic acid, the predominant component of “vegetable oils” is not easily incorporated into the protective arms of plasmalogens.

This selective protection is well described on pages 141-142 of  “The Fats of Life”, written by Dr. Glen Lawrence and published in paperback in 2013. (link below)

I asked Dr. Lawrence about this issue in an email and here was his response.

“The omega-3 fatty acids are preferentially incorporated into plasmalogens, which act as antioxidants due to the double bond adjacent to the ether linkage of these phospholipids. This structure would tend to scavenge free radicals or reactive oxygen species near the surface of the membrane, rather than allowing them to penetrate deeper in the membrane where the double bonds of PUFA are located. This makes any polyunsaturated fatty acids attached to the plasmalogens more resistant to oxidation than they would be in a regular phospholipid. See pp 141-142 of The Fats of Life. The shorter chain and less unsaturated linoleic acid does not tend to be incorporated into plasmalogens.”

In summary:

  1. “Vegetable oil” is actually not oil from vegetables but rather a highly processed and refined oil. This oil contains primarily the easily oxidized omega 6 PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) linoleic acid. Oxidation can occur during manufacture,  before consumption while sitting in the bottle, but especially during high heat cooking (fried foods). Oxidation can also in your body as this fat circulates in your blood on the membrane of lipoprotein particles.
  2.  LDL particles are the major lipoprotein particles that shuttle cholesterol and fatty acids (in in the form of triglycerides) through our bodies in our bloodstream.
  3. Modified LDL particles (glycated and/or oxidized LDL) stimulate monocytes (immune cells) to transform into macrophages and gobble up the modified LDL. In addition, glycated LDL particles are more easily oxidized because they circulate longer in our blood.
  4. Macrophages become filled with modified LDL. These are called foam cells. Foam cells  initiate a cascade of events that lead to the formation of plaque in the walls of our arteries.
  5. The part of the LDL particle membrane that becomes oxidized is the phospholipid that contains linoleic acid which comes from “vegetable oils”
  6. High amounts of sugar, especially HFCS, and highly refined flour foods in our diets cause larger blood sugar fluctuations than whole foods and therefore contribute to the glycation of LDL particles. This glycation leads to more oxidation of LDL. In this manner HFCS and refined flour foods contribute to the process of atherosclerosis.
  7. High amounts of sugar, HFCS and refined flour foods also contribute to obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes which then increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  8. Several factors contribute to the disruption of the glycocalyx which is the protective surface of the endothelial cells that line our arteries. These include but are not limited to modified LDL, inflammation, high blood sugars, abnormal fluctuations in blood pressure, circulating endotoxin (associated with increased intestinal permeability), infections. Disruption of the glycocalyx contributes to the formation of plaque (atherosclerosis).
  9. Modified LDL particles might also migrate through the junctions that connect adjacent endothelial cells either inside macrophages or on their own. Many factors, known and unknown likely determine the susceptibility or permeability of these junctions to this migration.

These are the major points, but there is allot more to discuss. Substituting “vegetable oils” for saturated fat in our diets not only increases the amount of oxidized LDL but also increases a dangerous lipoprotein called Lp(a). On third of Americans have an amount of Lp(a) that is considered “high risk” for heart attack and stroke. More about that in a future post.

Then there is the process of an actual heart attack or stroke which involves disruption of plaque and the creation of a blood clot that ultimately disrupts the flow of blood and the death of heart or brain tissue. The susceptibility of plaque to disruption is a huge topic that involves high blood pressure, diabetes, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, inadequate sleep, and stress to name a few. So much more to discuss.

But getting back to the title of this post, why don’t you ask your elected representatives why our tax dollars continue to subsidize nutritional root causes of death, disability and disease?

Here are some links to papers and books that support the discussion above.

Circulating Oxidized LDL Is a Useful Marker for Identifying Patients With Coronary Artery Disease

Cholesterol deposition in macrophages: foam cell formation mediated by cholesterol-enriched oxidized low density lipoprotein.

Erythrocyte fatty acid profiles can predict acute non-fatal myocard… – PubMed – NCBI

Changes in Dietary Fat Intake Alter Plasma Levels of Oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein and Lipoprotein(a)

Low-density lipoprotein subclass patterns and risk of myocardial in… – PubMed – NCBI

Subendothelial Lipoprotein Retention as the Initiating Process in Atherosclerosis

Oxidative susceptibility of low density lipoprotein subfractions is… – PubMed – NCBI

Effects of linoleate-enriched and oleate-enriched diets in combinat… – PubMed – NCBI

Enhanced oxidative susceptibility and reduced antioxidant content o… – PubMed – NCBI

Susceptibility of small, dense, low-density lipoproteins to oxidati… – PubMed – NCBI

Modulation of Endothelial Glycocalyx Structure under Inflammatory Conditions

Oxidized Lipoproteins Degrade the Endothelial Surface Layer

S1P Control of Endothelial Integrity

Mechanical control of the endothelial barrier. – PubMed – NCBI

Therole of actin-binding proteins in the control of endothelial bar… – PubMed – NCBI

The Fats of Life, Dr. Glen Lawrence

Functions of plasmalogen lipids in health and disease

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers: David Perlmutter, Kristin Loberg: 9780316234801: Amazon.com: Books

Finally a quote from the Dali Lama (thanks to my cousin Diane for bringing this to my attention).

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future, he lives as if he is never going to die, and dies having never really lived.”

Eat clean, live clean, sleep well, exercise wisely, rest often, enjoy the company of loved ones, spend time outdoors and live in the present.

BOB