|Low-Fat and Low-Cholesterol Diets|
Persons suffering from atherosclerosis often have a particularly high intake of refined sugar which, if not burned, is quickly converted into saturated fat. Animals fed sugar instead of starch develop high blood cholesterol; and the essential fatty acids in their blood and tissues decrease far more than when starch is fed. The blood cholesterol of healthy volunteers fell when they ate unrefined starches, but substituting sugar caused their blood fats and cholesterol to increase markedly. In the United States the consumption of such foods as potatoes, dry beans and peas, and whole-grain bread and cereals has unfortunately decreased steadily while the sugar intake has increased and paralleled the rise in atherosclerosis. If we are to combat this disease, natural starches should be appreciated and refined sugar restricted. The more deficient diets become, however, the greater is the craving for both sweets and alcohol.
Every Nutrient Appears To Help Prevent Atherosclerosis
Pectin effectively reduces experimental high cholesterol. Vitamin B12 accelerates the production of bile salts, thus decreasing the cholesterol in the blood. Lecithin increased markedly and cholesterols fell to normal when coronary patients were given 100,000 units of vitamin A daily for three to six months. Adequate protein causes the blood cholesterol to fall provided it is not obtained from well-marbled steaks or roasts accompanied with rich gravies and potatoes French-fried in hydrogenated fat. Alcohol not burned as calories and an excess of carbohydrate and/or protein are so quickly changed into saturated fat that they cause the blood fats and cholesterol to increase as readily as if saturated fats were eaten. Monkeys undersupplied with vitamin C produce cholesterol six times more rapidly than do well-fed animals. Severe atherosclerosis in rabbits and guinea pigs has been corrected by giving large amount - 50 times the normal requirement--of vitamin C; and the formation of bile acids and the excretion of cholesterol both increased. When patients with atherosclerosis and high blood pressure received large amounts of this vitamin, their blood cholesterols fell markedly and their blood pressure slowly dropped. The fact that toxic substances from cigarettes destroy vitamin C may in part explain why heavy smokers are susceptible to atherosclerosis.
Animals whose thyroid glands take up iodine readily are not susceptible to heart disease; and giving iodine to rats prevents atherosclerosis produced by feeding excessive amounts of cholesterol. When 12 drops of 10 per cent solution of potassium iodide were given in milk three times daily to hospitalized coronary patients, in a single month the blood lecithin increased markedly, the cholesterols dropped, sometimes as much as 125 milligrams, and the size of the fat and cholesterol particles was reduced. Heart pain decreased, and the patients felt "fresh and cheerful." In cases where the basal metabolic rate had been low, or the speed with which the body utilizes energy was subnormal, it increased 11 to 28 per cent. Though adequate iodine with vitamin E stimulates the thyroid gland and thus accelerates the utilization of cholesterol and fats, it has been particularly neglected.
Every variety of animal allowed only two meals daily develops severe atherosclerosis, but when the identical kind and amount of food is taken in small, frequent feedings, excellent health is maintained}87 Numerous small meals also correct atherosclerosis even after it has become severe. Similarly, coronary patients given six or more small meals daily rather than the same kind and amount of food in one to three larger meals have invariably shown marked decreases in the blood fats and cholesterol. Stress makes atherosclerosis worse by increasing the need for nutrients required to utilize fats; and cortisone therapy, which simulates severe stress, quickly elevates blood fat and cholesterol. Stress is not necessarily destructive provided the increased requirements are met.
Though atherosclerosis is often considered to be hereditary, when 123 persons of two families, all of whom had excessively high blood cholesterols, were given improved diets, their blood fats and cholesterols readily decreased.Such families undoubtedly have unusually high genetic requirements for certain nutrients needed to utilize fat.
When low-fat diets have been given to patients with atherosclerosis, appetites have usually become ravenous. Excessive calories, mostly from starches and sugars, have been consumed and quickly changed to saturated body fat, causing the blood fat and cholesterol to soar. The size of fat and cholesterol particles has also become much larger; the amount of cholesterol changed to bile acids has greatly reduced; and coronary patients adhering to such a diet have become markedly worse. The American Medical Association has warned physicians not to recommend such diets, but they are still being used.
Diets low in cholesterol have also achieved exactly the opposite from what was hoped. Such diets throw the liver into a frenzy of cholesterol-producing activity, causing the amount in the blood to increase. Conversely, liver biopsies showed that when volunteers were fed 3 or 4 grams of cholesterol daily-far more than would ever be obtained from foods-the production of cholesterol by the liver was "almost completely suppressed." Experimental heart disease has been produced with diets completely devoid of cholesterol. Nevertheless, low-cholesterol diets have restricted so many excellent foods that the very nutrients needed to utilize fat and cholesterol have been decreased or omitted. Eggs have been condemned, their high lecithin and methionine content ignored. Even mayonnaise has been forbidden, yet it averages 52 to 67 per cent essential fatty acids and 10 to 14 per cent lecithin. Volunteers recovering from heart attacks have consumed daily for varying periods 10 eggs, 16 egg yolks, the fat from 32 eggs, and even 9 to 60 grams of pure cholesterol; their blood cholesterols have not increased provided the eggs were cooked without saturated or hydrogenated fat.
Some experiments have shown that butter has increased blood cholesterol, yet persons in Denmark, Switzerland, and Finland eat far more butterfat than we and have much less heart disease. Certain African natives obtain 60 to 65 per cent of their calories from butterfat, but all their foods are unrefined; they have no atherosclerosis, no heart disease, and their blood cholesterols average an amazingly low 125 milligrams. In the days when atherosclerosis was unheard of in America, butter was slathered in or on practically every food not cooked in cream. Butterfat appears to be a problem only when nutrients needed to utilize it are undersupplied.
Though blood cholesterol varies constantly, that of persons with atherosclerosis is uniformly high, or usually above 250 milligrams in about a half cup of blood (100 cc). A group of patients with heart disease or cholesterol tumors had average blood cholesterols of 259 and 423 milligrams respectively; and persons over 60 years of age with cholesterols above 260 milligrams have been found to have twice as many strokes as others with cholesterols below 200. Physicians do not agree on the amount most compatible with health, but it appears to be below 180 milligrams. If a diet is adequate in every respect lowering the cholesterol to 180 milligrams or less is usually not difficult. For example, one man whose cholesterol was 330 shortly after a heart attack quickly reduced it to 170 milligrams and then more gradually to 121. Almost every week someone whose cholesterol was formerly high tells me, "My doctor says my cholesterol's now the lowest he has ever taken," and quotes a figure ranging from 130 to 150 milligrams.
None of these persons has avoided eggs, liver, or butter but they did obtain magnesium, iodine, lecithin, yeast, skim or whole milk, the antistress formula, and supplements of vitamins A, D, E, and the B vitamins. A few have taken 250 milligrams each of cholin and inositol six times daily for a short period. All were asked to reduce natural saturated fats and to avoid every form of hydrogenated fats including anything prepared with them, such as French-fried foods and package mixes; and each had 1 tablespoons of mixed vegetable oils daily. Not only did the blood cholesterols decrease, but the appearance, energy, and general well-being of these individuals can well be envied.
In correcting experimental atherosclerosis, it has been found that some fatty deposits, especially those in the arteries of the eyes and heart, remain long after the blood cholesterol is normal. Such a finding indicates that an adequate diet should be followed for months or years after apparent recovery.
Have Your Cholesterol Determined Annually
Every person with a high blood cholesterol is a potential candidate for a heart attack, a stroke, high blood pressure, and/or various abnormalities resulting from prolonged faulty circulation. For this reason, every individual, regardless of age, should have an annual blood cholesterol determination. If this figure is above 180 milligrams, immediate steps should be taken to lower it. Untold suffering and innumerable premature deaths could be prevented were such a procedure followed. There is no evidence that cholesterol alone causes general atherosclerosis, strokes, or heart attacks, but an elevated blood cholesterol invariably accompanies these abnormalities.