Inflammation and Heart Disease

This post from Dr. Dwight Lundell is about the relationship between heart disease, cholesterol, and inflammation, and how statin drugs effect all three.

Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.

Inflammation is not complicated — it is quite simply your body’s natural defence to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process,a condition occurs called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial.

What thoughtful person would willfully expose himself repeatedly to foods or other substances that are known to cause injury to the body?  Well,smokers perhaps, but at least they made that choice willfully.

The rest of us have simply followed the recommended mainstream dietthat is low in fat and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, not knowing we were causing repeated injury to our blood vessels. Thisrepeated injury creates chronic inflammation leading to heart diseasestroke, diabetes and obesity.

Let me repeat that: The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.

What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flourand all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.


Extra sugar molecules attach to a variety of proteins that in turn injure the blood vessel wall. This repeated injury to the blood vessel wall sets off inflammation. When you spike your blood sugar level several times a day, every day, it is exactly like taking sandpaper to the inside of your delicate blood vessels.

While you may not be able to see it, rest assured it is there. I saw it in over 5,000 surgical patients spanning 25 years who all shared one common denominator — inflammation in their arteries.

There is but one answer to quieting inflammation, and that is returning to foods closer to their natural state. To build muscle, eat more protein. Choose carbohydrates that are very complex such as colorful fruits and vegetables. Cut down on or eliminate inflammation- causing omega-6 fats like corn and soybean oil and the processed foods that are made from them.

One tablespoon of corn oil contains 7,280 mg of omega-6; soybean contains 6,940 mg. Instead, use olive oil or butter from grass-fed beef.

Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labelled polyunsaturated. Forget the “science” that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.

Who is Dr. Lundell?  Quackwatch has this blistering bio, which describes medical board disciplinary actions escalating to revocation of his license.  Honestly, reading that, it makes me think maybe he wasn’t so good at following their rules, but having been a heart surgeon for 25 years before any censure is evident, maybe that’s about the time he started making these anti-establishment noises.  I’m not convinced either way by any of this, but with the other information regarding inflammation and insulin resistance out there, Dr. Lundell’s ideas makes a lot of sense to me.

Dr. Dean Ornish also is a proponent of diet as a cure for heart disease.  This research article describes how recommended treatments are going to result in statin prescriptions of $30B per year in the US alone.  That’s a pretty strong incentive for a large group of people to get behind the drugs, even if they do not and cannot work as well as diet.  Dr. Ornish does not put forward the theory that inflammation is behind the problem like Dr. Lundell, but the bottom line is almost exactly the same:  Quit eating sugar and processed foods.

Dean Ornish has critics as well.  He is included in this congressional testimony by Dr. Timothy Gorski in 2001.  This testimony basically badmouths anyone who is not associated with the big money involved in health care.   However, the work of Dr. Ornish has been successful enough, and documented well enough, that insurance companies cover his treatment.

The part that is really obvious to me is that eating the way these guys propose is really not so outlandish.  It’s not like they are saying, eat only bacon! (and by the way that diet was enormously successful).   They are saying, eat fruits and vegetables.  Don’t eat processed foods (meaning, food that is derived by chemically altering its molecular structure).  Cook at home.  Don’t eat meat that is grown in unnatural ways (that is, eat grass fed beef and meat raised without hormones or antibiotics).  Kind of common sense stuff, really.


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