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Has the Flip-Flop on Saturated Fat Made Your Head Spin?

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If you are not confused and maybe even exasperated over all the flip-flops over food in recent months, we would be amazed. The latest head-spinning headline appeared in the New York Times this week: "Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link."

For years doctors and dieticians had a mantra for healthy eating: Stay away from foods containing cholesterol and saturated fat; they will clog your arteries and lead to heart attacks. It was an article of faith. Most Americans believed this and embraced skim milk, low-fat yogurt and cut back on red meat.

The French, on the other hand, were loathe to give up their Brie, Camembert, paté, boeuf bourguignon and chocolate soufflé. Cardiologists were puzzled by the "French paradox." Despite such foods rich in saturated fat, French heart attack rates have been considerably lower than those in the U.S.

The new study published in the conservative journal, Annals of Internal Medicine (March 18, 2014), has nutrition experts and physicians shaking their heads in disbelief. The authors reviewed 72 studies involving over 600,000 volunteers. These studies represented the best research available examining the relationship between diet and heart disease. The conclusion: there is no convincing evidence that a diet containing saturated fat leads to heart disease. That seems like heresy of the highest order.

The researchers also noted that polyunsaturated fats low in cholesterol such as corn or safflower oil do not appear to protect people from heart attacks. This too contradicts the nutritional principles that have reigned in the U.S. for decades.

The only culprits that stood out in this mass of data were trans fats. The researchers found a clear link between consumption of foods high in trans fats and heart disease. Americans were once encouraged to consume margarine and shortening made of hydrogenated vegetable oil loaded with trans fats on the understanding that these low-cholesterol solid fats would be better for the heart than butter or lard. Such advice now seems to have been based more on belief than evidence.

This new analysis will no doubt make many people uncomfortable. It's only the latest, however, in a long series of reversals that have health professionals reeling and consumers roiling.

In recent years we have seen the pillars of dietary dogma collapsing. Here is a list:

Eggs:

Before, cholesterol-laden yolks were thought to clog your arteries and lead to heart disease.

Now, eggs are considered an excellent source of high-quality protein.

Coconuts and avocados:

Before, these foods were off limits because of high saturated fat content.

Now, they are considered OK with potential health benefits.

Nuts:

Before, these were high fat treats, thought to raise cholesterol, heart attack risk and cause weight gain.

Now, nuts are known to contain good fats and data prove people who eat nuts lower their risk of heart attacks!

Shrimp:

Before, shrimp were believed to be sinful, high in cholesterol and dangerous for those at risk of heart disease.

Now, they are considered a good source of protein and raise good HDL cholesterol.

Butter:

Before, butter was a no-no because it is high in sat fat and cholesterol.

Now, butter is better than margarine made from trans fats.

Salt:

Before, salt was bad, raising blood pressure and causing heart disease.

Now, data indicate that there is a sweet spot. Going too low on sodium increases the risk of death!

Coffee:

Before, people were told to lay off the java because it raises blood pressure and harms the heart.

Now, coffee is a known source of dietary antioxidants. It helps prevent diabetes and may partially protect against neurological diseases like Parkinson's and dementia.

Chocolate:

Before, chocolate was frowned upon as fattening and bad for the skin. It was also viewed as contributing to indigestion and reflux by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter. Chocolate was featured on many lists of foods that people prone to migraine should avoid.

Now, chocolate with more cocoa flavanols than sugar is known to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It may help maintain good cognitive function and reduce the risks of stroke and heart attack. While some individuals may find that chocolate triggers reflux or a migraine, most people handle it without difficulty.

Whole Milk, Cream & High-Fat Yogurt:

Before, high-fat dairy foods were believed to contribute to heart disease and obesity.

Now, studies show that both kids and adults who consume high-fat dairy are actually skinnier than those who consume skim milk and low-fat dairy products. The new research (above) shows that saturated fat found in high-fat dairy does not cause heart disease.

 

BOTTOM LINE:

What are we to make of all the food confusion? If there is a take-home message from all this, it is that evidence trumps belief. For decades "experts" have made assumptions about various foods. Because egg yolks contained cholesterol, they decided that eggs caused heart disease, without any data to support that hypothesis. When research actually revealed that eggs do not cause heart disease, there has been a begrudging retreat from the hard line advice to shun eggs. But old ideas die hard. There are still many health professionals who caution against eating foods like avocados, nuts and shrimp, despite data to the contrary.

We suspect that the evidence from the new meta-analysis about saturated fat and heart disease will be challenging for most people to accept. After all, it contradicts everything we have been told about a heart-healthy diet for more than 50 years. Accepting this new analysis of 72 studies involving more than 600,000 people would mean that our thought leaders and policy makers got it wrong. In such scenarios we would prefer to shoot the messengers and pretend that the data do not exist. The story is likely to disappear without a trace and many nutrition experts will pretend it never saw the light of day. Some are already proclaiming that the meta-analysis is flawed and nonsensical and should be ignored.

What should you do? We follow the advice of Robert Lustig, MD, author of the book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease and Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food, An Eater's Manifesto. They make it very clear: "EAT REAL FOOD!" If it comes in a package with a long list of unpronounceable chemical ingredients, think twice or three times! Grandmothers instinctively knew that food grown in the garden and prepared with love was better than anything produced in a factory. Joe's mother always believed butter was better than margarine and it turns out she was right.

What do you think? We would love to get your response to this essay. How do you deal with the food flip-flops of the last several years regarding nuts, chocolate, coffee and coconut? What do you make of the new saturated fat controversy? Share your comments below.

If you agree with the mantra to "Eat Real Food!" you may find our books, Recipes and Remedies from The People's Pharmacy and Favorite Foods from The People's Pharmacy worth checking out. Here are links to all our publications.

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48 Comments

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I have come to the conclusion that it is best to eat whole foods, in moderation, and less processed food. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits with a little meat. I know I should cut back on all the sugary desserts but this is my challenge.
Thank you for keeping us up to date.
Joan

Do doctors really know what they're doing? I think the answer is painfully obvious.

THis is powerful Info, I think many people will find it hard to swallow some of it .Great job Guys you are doing great sharing this knowledge.
Thanks.
Boodo.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE:

Thank you Boodo. Our messages frequently challenge conventional wisdom, but we think there are more and more people like you with open minds and curiosity who welcome a different perspective.

Should you wish to share our electronic newsletters with a friend, please let them know that they can subscribe.

In the upper right corner of this blog next to the headline you will find four icons. The first is an envelope that will allow you to email this message directly to someone who would find it thought provoking. You can also share via Facebook or Twitter.


Stay informed with us, The People's Pharmacy. You won't find this kind of information anywhere else on the web.

Pieces of this conclusion have been coming in for years, like eggs being good for you. I already eat a lot of saturated fat, but I am very happy to learn about this study. One reason is that it contributes to people's happiness -- because what more than anything else makes food taste good? Saturated fat! However, a large part of the food industry rests on customers believing they should avoid saturated fat and eat sugar and corn syrup all day long, so people will continue being confused, and no doubt my supermarket will continue to carry an entire wall of 0-fat yogurt and none whatsoever with fat in it.

As someone who has tried to eat a healthy diet which included 'no eggs, butter, whole milk,etc.' I am now going back to how my grandparents ate - WHOLE FOODS, I avoid processed foods, GMO contaminated foods, and try to buy organic whenever possible.

I believe that it is the chemicals, pesticides, food dyes, sugar, and preservatives added to our foods that have been causing the epidemics of heart desease, diabetes, obesity, etc, instead of the food sources being blamed in the past. That is why when real food of the blamed categories are tested, the flip flop occurs.

It is not red meat but the chemicals, hormones and GMO foods being fed to the cattle before it comes to the butcher that is the problem. Same with things like wheat and corn that are mostly GMO's now and not the natural food of our grandmothers' day who had no problem with gluten.

The eggs when range chickens lay them are much better for you than eggs and the meat of chicken from those that are fed GMO corn or grain and given hormones.

Perhaps the French are eating fresh, lovingly prepared at home foods instead of all the processed, chemicalized foods from manufacturers we Americans eat?!?!

Michael Pollen's book, "In Defense of Food" demonstrated that it is real food that we are meant to eat, AND not an overabundance of any one food item. Trans fats, sugar, corn and soybeans in addition to chemical "stabilizers" and preservatives have been used to make foods last longer and they have been our downfall. Portion sizes got out of hand as well. However, I think we will learn ultimately that sugar is the worst of all for us, and not just the artificial sugars. And it is hidden in so many things. Real, whole food is the key.

Thanks for your proactive approach to information and getting the word out!!
Diana

It is especially difficult for me to believe the reversal in theories. I once was employed by the Mass. Dept. of Public Health as a promoter of the fats, sodium, smoking, and exercise theories. In preparation for the job, we had to read many scientific articles that supported the "facts" that we were promoting.

I am suspicious that the food industry may be behind the current push! Maybe not. Time will tell.

I am wondering whether the lack of exercise and sitting for hours in front of "screens" isn't contributing to the current obesity problem. And could statins be contributing to the current rise in Type 2 diabetes?

I do not doubt that eating a well balanced diet is a good principle to follow. As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out!

Yet-tea-yack-Yack it goes on, there is no end.
Everyone profits or gets published from these studies, so they serve a purpose.

Use common sense and make your own choices.
At 83yrs I'll enjoy and benefit from a simple plain Mediterranean diet and a some red wine every day.

It is harder and harder to get "real" food. GMOs, preservatives (wood-chips in your grated cheese) and chemicals galore for "improved taste and shelf-life" along with pesticides sprayed before or after harvesting make buying anything not grown in your own backyard a crap-shoot.

You have to spend so much time reading labels in the store you have no time to actually cook what you buy. And you go blind from the infinitesimally small print. The government requires the companies to pout it on the label but nobody guarantees that you can actually read it! And even then the government allows "catch-all" phrases and the concept of "proprietary information" creating phrases like "natural flavorings" to cover a myriad of sins.

What do these studies make of the evidence that vegetarians and vegans are healthier (including re heart disease) and live longer than others? Maybe the issue isn't the saturated fats (evidence has been coming out for a long time that sat fats from animals are harmful to the body is ways that sat fats from plant sources aren't), but the way these foods affect gut bacteria and inflammation.

Animal foods nourish the harmful kinds of gut microbes, while plant foods nourish the beneficial kinds. There's more and more evidence that gut bacteria determines a lot of things about our health.

Also, I wonder what they used as the threshold for "low fat" here. The last time a "big study" came out saying that eating lower amounts of sat fats had no benefit, I think they used below 25% or 30% of calories as the cut-off for low fat, and that's NOT low fat. I wonder how many of these studies had an Esselstyn/Ornish-style diet as what they really tested.

You bet I'll share your newsletter. The drumbeat intensifies: eat real food. After years of reading labels, I've learned not to even buy anything that has a label, because it is not merely the (indigestible) ingredients in a processed food, but also the process it underwent that makes the food not food anymore and very likely inflammatory.

Example: processed oils such as canola, and grocery store dairy. The new studies referred to in your essay are part of the righting of the ship so much needed amid the tempest of industry-oriented "studies" that disrupted a millennium of wisdom.

Processed food is the scourge of our time. When do you research an illness, searching for a cure (and not just "disease management"), when the advice does not include "avoid processed foods?"

All this new information is confusing. However, my Grandmother always said that the best advice for diets, and everything else for that matter, is moderation in all things. I believe this, but I, too, have been taken in by so much information during the last 50 years. Real food, non-processed food, is much better and I try to use these foods in cooking. Your e-mail is very helpful and I thank you for it.

In reference to vegans and vegetarians as being generally healthier: Maybe it isn't meat, but the way the meat has been produced.

High levels of steroidal compounds, fed to the meat-animals to produce higher amounts of marketable body parts would lead I suspect to less healthy animals and meat. Vegans and vegetarians are pretty careful about their protein-reduced diets and tend, I suspect again, to eat higher quality foods.

As a carnivore I will eat anything if it will stop moving for a moment.

A.X., what evidence is there that vegetarians live longer and are healthier? I don't notice such a thing among people I know, so let's see the large controlled studies. I myself have been healthier (and thinner too) since I've added more saturated fat to my diet, including plenty of meat. But probably not everybody would react that way.

I believe that people are different from each other in what foods are better and worse for them, but all the advice we hear is global: "everybody" should do thus and so. I don't eat sugar at all because it is terrible for me, for example, but it seems some people can eat sugar in moderation. I think studies like this one are useful, but nobody should take a study, no matter how large, as the last word on how he or she personally should eat. Junk processed food isn't good for anybody, but some people can tolerate it better than others. I'd say you should eat real food, as several commenters have been saying, and see what you like best, what seems to have a good effect on you, and what makes you feel terrible. Then you'll know what to eat. (I've found that my homemade dark chocolate made with coconut oil makes me feel great!)

I remember being confused when the food pyramid came out that had grains as the largest part: I'd grown up with the admonition that eating lots of "starchy" foods caused weight gain. Still, it was allegedly based on science so I believed it and cut down on meat, eggs, butter, eggs. That didn't affect my high cholesterol test results so I was told to take statins.

When eggs were exonerated, after many years of people denying themselves the pleasure and protein of this once again healthy food, I became skeptical of every other food-based advice of the medical profession.

I eat real food and steer clear of anything processed as much as possible. I feel healthy and it's wonderful after years of worrying stress about the high cholesterol and crumbling bones.

The statins and bisposphonates I took gave me awful side effects and I decided the quality of my life is far more important than the length of it: ditched the drugs, avoid the tests, feel great, enjoy life so much more now. I may be an ostrich with my head in the sand but I'm a lot happier.

I agree with the person who wrote that labels are so tiny, they are hard to read. It is also hard to find the information we want to read. So, eat only things with no labels. Great idea. Now we need to be sure things without labels have no pesticides and are local (tiny stickers).

I also agree with the person who said we hardly have time to cook after the complicated shopping. And NEVER EVER trust food that has been prepared by a restaurant. Who knows what they are using and what they did to it.

Still, with all the challenges, I eat too much anyway. Funny how that happens. I'm trying... everything in moderation.

Even the French conduct research because they want you to spend money buying their wine, cheese and tasty foods and traveling to their lovely cities. There is no doubt in my mind there is good health in France. I didn't need research to tell me it's a Lovely place! and Yum! (except for all the cigarette smoking... but that's a topic for another day :)

My dad was 54 years old when I was born. He grew up on a farm and ate what they grew in a garden and what animals they raised for meat. In adulthood he ate the same types of foods. Eggs, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, a little meat, poultry, or fish and sometimes homemade dessert made up his diet. But I never saw him eat large portions of anything. Three meals a day, seldom anything but water in between meals and a very active life style kept him slim and fit. He lived to be 92. I believe balance, moderation, "nature made" foods and sensible exercise are what our bodies need.

I began eating and cooking according to low fat principles in 1986 after watching my mother die of heart disease. Our family has issues with high blood pressure and heart trouble, so I figured that was one way for me to minimize risk. Now I am at the age where my parents both had high blood pressure, and I do not.

Cardiac calcium scans show zero plaque in my coronary arteries. Is that the result of my diet for 25 years? I never drank milk as a child (lactose intolerant) and used powdered calcium in my orange juice as a substitute. I don't have osteoporosis or cavities. Go figure.

Now I try to eat unprocessed foods as much as possible. Never ate "junk food", never smoked, exercised plentifully in my middle years. I have health issues--joints, arthritis, reflux, etc.--but no one can avoid them completely. I would say that moderation is the answer, and avoidance of excess sugar, or artificially sweetened foods. As Americans, we are constantly exhorted to gluttony. Resist.

Over 20 years ago I fed my hubby according to the low cholesterol guidelines and saw his numbers reach almost 350. I talked to our family Dr. and he agreed that it wasn't working and we should go back to the way people ate over 100 years ago. Namely natural fats.

We got rid of all the oils, other than Extra Virgin Olive, and started using organic coconut and palm oil, real butter and drippings from organic bacon. We make our mayonnaise with nut or avocado oils.

The results? Over a few years his numbers dropped over 100 points and he has no cardiovascular problems. His number stays around a good healthy 225.

Unfortunately it didn't help my low cholesterol. Mine is still about 110 and I am the one who has suffered from stroke and heart attack.

The good news for me is that I've lost about 100 pounds during this experiment. I use about 3 TB of coconut oil every afternoon in my homemade hot chocolate.

I spent quite a bit of time in France in the 1990s, and went to cooking schools there. In Paris and in rural area, the adults over 40 or 45 are not slim and healthy. At every meal they clutch the area of their livers and complain of crise de foie (liver crisis) This declaration of bad health begins about the time the menu arrives and continues through dessert.

It is to acknowledge that they are not eating healthy. Daily intake of pate, high fat French cheeses, beef and greasy sauces, rich desserts and the unpopularity of gyms and exercise in France shows up soon in their bodies. French people over 40 are usually out of shape, like barrels with arms and legs.

They are not as horribly, grossly obese as some Americans, but they are not in good shape. If you notice, the French are rather dumpy looking and they do not age well. Their love of food is a national source of pride, food is the international language in France. If you appreciate their food, they will appreciate you and go all out to see you have a food bounty at their table. It is for the honor of France it seems to me, national French pride.

Outside of Paris, the French are friendly and hospitable, but proud. I have enjoyed the rich, fat food I have had there, but I am mostly vegetarian now and doubt I would enjoy it now if they have not modified their diet. I don't like desserts at all now.

If the French are still consuming their usual rich, fatty diet, then they are still dumpy and out of shape. What you read about the French eating large amounts of butter, eggs, cream. The holy trinity of French cooking, and being so healthy is not true. In the past the rich food they ate showed up on their bodies by 40 to 45 and they were not healthy, may be going out of style now. If you look at people who eat commercially factory raised feed lot beef, pork, and have a high animal fat diet, you will see they are not healthy. They look like what they eat: fat, beefy, bloated, porkers, a side of pork hanging in a butcher shop.

Vegetarians are slim, energetic and healthy. And they don't stink like meat eaters. I have a sign on my refrigerator, "'You are what you eat, but I'm not one to brood,' the minute I read that I ate pretty food." That means unprocessed, clean, healthy, organic food fresh from the earth.

As usual, the medical establishment is way behind many of those in the "alternative health" field. Makes you think.

I guess if we wait, or live, long enough, whatever it is we aren't supposed to eat will become okay to eat! This reminds me of the Woody Allen movie, "Sleeper" in which his character wakes from a frozen state to find out that all the things they weren't supposed to eat, before his frozen state, were now good for us. The movie is worth watching for that part alone!

I am totally in the camp with CRL. Although, I would make one addition to the list of epidemics named (heart disease, diabetes, obesity). I would add cancer. It's unfortunate real food is so hard to come by these days. Do the best you can by starting with foods with no label, and if there is one, read it very carefully. But along with eating all that real food, drink plenty of plain ole water.

I would also add the importance of exercise. The body is meant to move. My mantra is "the only way to keep moving is to keep moving." For you sedentary ones out there, take it to heart; it works. Make your days of sitting for extended periods a thing of the past. It makes me angry when I hear or read advice given for insomnia and the word "exercise" is never mentioned. Go figure!

Hmm, assumptions to ponder based on recent science floating the air waves: only trans fat contribute to heart disease (is obesity no longer an issue for heart attack / stroke?); more people should take statins even though they might cause muscle pain, diabetes and ALS; sugar industry doesn't want us to know the real danger is our high triglycerides caused by the sugar/high fructose corn syrup in beverages and processed food and hires scientist to assure us sugar is healthy; it is illegal in the US to be informed that the vegetables and whole grains we are now supposed to eat are all GMO'd and loaded with herbicides, pesticides and are possibly more estrogenic; all non-organic meat animals are raised on antibiotics, hormones and gmo grains: American infants show less brain development that those of nations in which the mothers eat mostly fish (Japan)(recent PBS documentary); Americans have higher blood levels of estrogenic compounds due to the plastic and canned containers that have been banned in other countries. PARANOID CONSPIRACY THEORIST

My cardiologist tells me not to believe that coconut oil is beneficial to people; that it is the highest form of saturated fat of all the oils. She says to put coconut oil on the skin not in the body. Your thoughts?

People's Pharmacy response: Coconut oil IS a great moisturizer. Nothing wrong with eating it occasionally, but we subscribe to moderation in most things.

When I was breastfeeding I had some training to help other moms, and a large group of online moms to consult with. A classic example of ignorant pediatrician talk was telling a mom that if her baby was not gaining weight at a really high rate it was because she had "low-fat milk".

In fact, babies gain more weight on low-fat milk than high-fat milk.

When a baby nurses, the initial milk that comes down has very little fat in it. As the baby continues to nurse, each succeeding "let down" has higher and higher fractions of fat. There is a very well-know problem where a woman will have an overabundant milk supply, and her baby will get all the calories it needs in the first couple of minutes, and very few of those calories will be from fat.

These babies will then nurse longer to get enough fat, and will consume extra calories to get the minimum of fat. There are other symptoms -- green, stinky diapers, for example -- but the main one is that women with overabundant milk have giant Buddha babies!

Just ask moms -- we've known that low-fat = fat baby for forever!

Humans have always been prone to conformity. They follow the fad that seems to have the most credibility or is gospel from experts (those who live more than fifty miles away and speak in language that only they understand). It might be of note that all of the rejuvenated food items are NATURAL. Need I say more? Whenever you see the phrase, "the mechanism of its' action is not completely elucidated" The experts are saying in scientific terms that they don't understand all they know.

This is the greatest article you have ever provided your readers! I can now eat some of these foods for the first time in years. It just goes to show that a little ignorance on the part of so-called " medical experts" can lead to widespread misinformation lasting for years.

I never did quit eating eggs or butter. Also bought real mayonnaise. Still drink milk although I do get 2% now. Am 75 and in good health. Have exercised quite a bit through the years and kept my weight within reason. Eat red meat (looking for grass fed now) and bacon occasionally. I believe moderation in most things is good. Love your web site.

I'm glad to see that common sense may be rearing its head about fats, eggs, etc. I'm more concerned about the trans-fats, chemicals, harmful additives, food pathogens and GMOs in our food supply, then I am the healthy saturated fats and cholesterol in foods. I eat a healthy whole food diet, mostly organic and don't fall for some of the so-called diet advice from people who may have an agenda.

It's good to hear "professionals" professing what I've taught my family all along. My husband insists on statins, etc that the doctor recommends. The same doctor shakes his head and laughs when I refuse to be a test tube. Hubby's health is getting worse, mines getting better. Hubby is starting to listen to me some. We're both in our 60's and retired. He has taken over the kitchen.

I'm working on convincing him to use frozen food rather than commercially canned or boxed foods. Use the closest to what God gave us that he can. God made our bodies, God gave us everything we need to take care of them. Man's messed it up by trying to second guess God. Guess what? Hubby's coming around slowly. I was raised in the country, raised, canned/froze most of our veggies. We eat a lot of wild game, backyard chickens, raw milk, etc. He's a city boy. 'Nuff said. I've followed you for years and usually agree with you. Keep up the good work. CRL hit it on the head. There's nothing wrong with animal fat.

Agribusinesses use synthetic hormones to get the animals to market faster. Guess where these synthetics end up? The fat! It's these synthetics that are the problem. In case you wonder about my credentials, I have injected cattle, fed calves & chickens and know what's in them. I have hand-milked cows. I also have a degree in biochem and qualified to be a registered dietitian, but disagreed philosophically and didn't pursue it.

cmw: The problem with plain, ole water is that it isn't. I was raised on well water. After moving into town and nothing available but municipal water I find I have to use an herbal teabag and some stevia in a half gallon of "water" to make it palatable. Fill a sink with dishwater, leave the room and come back. The chlorine smell is intolerable.

I also don't tolerate fluoride very good. Water's full of it. I can at least find toothpaste at the health food store without it, but I prefer salt & soda. That's what my kids used and reached adulthood without any cavities.

In Dec 2013, I read a book called Grain Brain by a Dr Perlmutter. I found it to be so powerful, that it changed me in many ways. Read this book to find out why the FDA has failed the American public. Drug companies rule our society it seems, not science and research.

Seahurst, see my comments above. My cardiovascular problems are due to trauma from my shoulder harness during an auto accident (impact at 45 mph) in 2006. My blood vessels are squeaky clean much to the amazement of the cardiologists I've seen. Because of the squashing of my heart I had nerve nodes spread all over so suffered from Atrial Fibrillation and Tachycardia. My heart attack and stroke were due to these problems not from high cholesterol or inflammation. Ablation took care of that problem.

The only other heart problem is due to the diet drug fen-pfen taken for a few months some twenty years ago. My mitral valve is finally going to have to be replaced. I had heart Drs. wanting to work on the valve 20 years ago but the valve has done OK, but now I'm on the slippery downward slope. I'm facing open heart surgery within the next few months.

I have been taking 2-3 TB of organic coconut oil for about 14 years. I'd tried several brands. The result of this regimen is that I have incredible skin for a 68 year old and have lost about 100 pounds. I have an afternoon treat of hot chocolate made with the oil, a couple dashes of cinnamon, a fat pinch of sea salt, boiling water, 6-7 tsp. heavy cream and stevia for a sweetener.

My cholesterol level is only 110 and if anyone knows how I can increase it up to at least 150 let me know. The only time it went up was about 18 years ago when I got into a microwave popcorn habit. It was the nasty hydrogenated oils. My Dr. had a fit so we bought a corn popper and the number went back down right away. I eat plenty of saturated fats and it makes no difference. I've had the same family Dr. since '87.

One other thing that may have made a difference is that I exercise daily. Yes, even when the heart was so bad and I couldn't do 20 minutes on my treadmill, I at least did my bouncing on the Rebounder. My ankles never swelled and I never had problems with fluid around the heart which apparently is common with the A-fib and Tachy.

My body doesn't like medications so I am taking nattokinase, serraptase, vitamin E, Omega 3 and ginko. The blood tests are great. This did not make the Drs. happy but I have a Cardiologist now who is very supportive. We just need to figure out how to deal with the pain. The meds don't work on me-not even Oxycodone or the newer versions of pain meds. Anybody have ideas for alternative pain relief?

I wholeheartedly agree with others that whole , real foods (organic when possible, homemade as much as i can) are the way to go. I feel so much better in the few years since i have shoppped & cooked this way, but find it frustrating to deal with doctors who want to treat my slightly high cholesterol, freak out that I serve my kids real (not skim) milk. I hate to eat out, and love to exercise, and my family is better off for it!

Dr. Atkins already had this figured out, and took a flogging for it. He was right about insulin resistance, right about the body's need for fats, right about the anti-fat movement driving up the sugar in foods.

I have made it to age 73; in spite of doctors! Best advice...stay away as much as possible and use your own brain to think things out.

@fbl; Saw your note regarding pain relief and had the same problem. Since being a zombie is not on my agenda, I did some research. The best thing that I have found is Turmeric. I take 2 grams (2,000 mg) a day in four divided doses. I use a blend with Piperine. Makes it more effective. It will not completely deaden the pain, but, you will feel so much better that it sort of fades into the background. For your heart, try the same dosage of Taurine. I am not a medical practitioner, just a healthy 85 year old.

As for the cholesterol, I sort of have the same problem. I tinker with my cholesterol a bit to keep it from getting too low. You could raise it a bit by cutting down on the saturated fats and changing your butter for margarine. Trouble is that we eat too healthy. Talking to a doctor about real healthy food is akin to waving a cross at a vampire.

RLB, thank you for your advice. I've been using curcurmin (the active part of Turmeric) for many years for pain relief. It will take it down a couple levels, which is more than I can say for drugs. I have tried some more concentrated forms but my tummy doesn't like them. My current remedy will NOT be enough when I go through the surgery so if you or someone else has suggestions, please bring them on.

I've been taking taurine for several years and don't know if it helps but with everything else I'm taking I've done amazingly well with the heart...despite some of the meds my prior cardiologists had me take. I'm still suffering from Xarelto, a blood thinner I stopped taking over two years ago.

Finally someone has the information correct-----I eat things in moderation----Have always liked butter, not that artificial stuff, have always eaten nuts, and eggs I love----people get too hyped with all these studies and do not's that it is like a merry go round-----and it can screw up your body chemistry when you start drastically changing your diet to suit their findings, which by the way are not always correct, as we have been reading.

We need to get to know our bodies and try to treat it like you do your car! Keep the tires inflated with the proper air pressure, change the oil when needed---and definitely put gas in it so it will run!!! What else is left but daily maintenance --we can do the same with our bodies----daily maintenance. What is good for one person may not be good for the next one. We are all different and have different body chemistry. In other words what is good for one person may be the opposite for the other.
HB

All I have to say to you is THANK YOU to the tenth power for publishing the facts about health care issues.

I agree with points that many of you have made:

- Eat whole minimally processed foods as free as possible from chemical additives
- Everything in moderation
- Sensible exercise
- and especially Judy's comment: "I believe that people are different from each other in what foods are better and worse for them, but all the advice we hear is global...you should eat real food...and see...what seems to have a good effect on you, and what makes you feel terrible. Then you'll know what to eat."

I was raised on fresh vegetables and fruit and home canned a lot of it. Mom always said eat everything in MODERATION! I have always been very healthy and have never followed any of the "FADS".

I eat Bacon, eggs, avocados, nuts whatever takes my fancy. I just don't become a "pig" about it. The Basic vegetables and fruits are the diet I try to eat by. This works.

makes sense to me.

I am trying to gain weight so began eating lots of eggs, butter and fermented cheeses such as Brie, Edam and Gouda ---- all containing high saturated fat. Also all have Vit K2. known to keep calcium from building up in the arteries thus preventing heart disease and osteoporosis. To my
great surprise and also my Internist - my triglycerides dropped 30 points and for the first time in 8 years, I had LDL below 200!!!!!! Vit K2 should be studied and persons should include it in their every day diet to control heart disease and stroke -- Look up an amazing article about the action of Vit K2 by Dr James Howenstein and its ability to keep arteries clear of plaque.

Quite by accident I discovered something else vitamin K does. It helped my skin. Most of my life the backs of my arms were like elephant hide. Not nice! I started taking vitamin K and voila! Baby skin on the back of my arms. Also my fibroids and fibrocystic breasts are almost cleared up.

Unfortunately my supplier reformulated their K and all of sudden my arms were elephant hide again. I called them and what they did was reduce the K1 part of their formula. Now I take a separate K1 along with the K formula and the skin is good.

On another note-all my skin is very good, especially at age 68. I don't avoid the sun and swim regularly. I think what also helps my skin is my daily hot chocolate habit. I make it with 2 TB of coconut oil. A hotted cup, coconut oil, stevia, boiling water and 6-7 tsp heavy cream. I've lost about 100 pounds since I started that almost 15 years ago. No I did NOT diet and in fact swore never to diet again.

You guys are right on target. The scientific methodolgy for the low fat diet of Americans is very poor and from a historical perspective very well presented in Nina Teicholz's (a research journalist own study into fats) book entitled: The big fat surprise: why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet. it is amazing and a sad portrait of where we have gone wrong in this country and in our diet to our own health's deterioration.

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