The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1083: Should You Be Worried About Salt or Sat Fat for Your Heart?

Why don't all the experts agree about the dangers of salt or sat fat for your heart? Call in your questions about what you are doing for cardiac health.
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Should You Be Worried About Salt or Sat Fat for Your Heart?

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You’ve probably heard that lifestyle is the most important factor in keeping your heart healthy. Don’t smoke, exercise, and eat right seem simple. But what does it really mean to eat right? Should you be avoiding sat fat?

How Big a Problem Is Sat Fat?

Experts have been telling us for decades that we must avoid saturated fat. Butter, bacon, cheese and ice cream were depicted as the enemies of our coronary arteries.

Eventually, though, the nutrition experts realized that they’d erred in advising people to consume margarine instead. The trans fats in margarine and vegetable shortening turned out to be the least heart-healthy thing we could spread on our bread. So now we are all avoiding trans fats as much as possible.

But shouldn’t we still be steering clear of sat fat? And if so, what can you put on your morning toast? A trio of eminent cardiologists have written an intriguing essay titled “Saturated Fat Does Not Clog the Arteries.”  Joe and Terry discuss the implications of this essay and invite your stories about avoiding (or not) sat fat in your diet. You can listen to one of the authors, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, discuss this editorial here.

The American Heart Association disagrees. Here is its presidential advisory warning against eating saturated fat. It was published June 15, 2017.

Lowering Sodium Intake to Control Blood Pressure:

Dr. Franz Messerli is an internationally recognized expert on blood pressure. He spoke to us from his office in Bern, Switzerland, about whether it makes good health sense to cut back on salt. Which organization does he criticize for hypocrisy? Who would benefit most? Can you overdo salt restriction? If you have tried to eat less salt, tell us about your experience.

Your Calls Are Welcome:

What lifestyle changes have you made to protect your heart? How well are they working out? Is there an approach you’ve been wondering about? We are interested in your stories, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions. Tune in Saturday, June 17, 2017, from 7 to 8 AM EDT or call 1-888-472-3366. You can also reach us through email ( or Twitter @peoplespharmacy.

This Week’s Guest:

Franz H. Messerli, MD, FACC, is Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at the  University of Bern, Switzerland, and at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, New York, and Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Japan Consumes Twice As Much Salt As We Do And Have Less Heart Disease And High Blood Pressure

The question about salt intake should include a discussion about where the salt is coming from in the diet. If from processed foods, pickles, etc. then we need to cut back, but if we aren’t using table salt in cooking or at the table, we aren’t getting the trace amounts of iodine our bodies also need!

Regarding coconut oil, many people make the mistake of thinking that it’s bad because it’s saturated fat. However, there are several different types of saturated fat based on the length of the carbon chain in the fat. These are short chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids, long chain fatty acids and very long chain fatty acids. All of these are processed differently by the body. Coconut oil primarily consists of medium length fatty acids. These are quickly metabolized by the body and readily utilized for energy production.

Gary Taubes wrote a brilliant response to the outdated AHA statement based on a few old weak studies that ignores current research on fat.

There is a new book, The Salt Fix, written by a Doctor of Pharmacy and cardiovascular researcher that would add much to the salt discussion. I have heard the author interviewed, very clear explanations of reasons behind his salt recommendations, he would make a good guest.

I lost all trust in the ‘scientists’ when they told us 50 years ago that BUTTER was bad…so everyone in America started using Margarine instead. Then just a couple of years ago these ‘scientists’ said, ‘OOPS, WE LIED…BUTTER IS NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL…IT’S MARGARINE THAT’S BAD FOR YOU.”

That was a significant ERROR. Now I don’t believe any of them about anything they say. All “expert” opinions are just that…opinions.

I do not add salt to anything and seem to do O.K.
I had been taking 4 blood pressure pills daily, but since taking TIKVA I am down to 2 blood pressure pills daily land hope to soon go to one pill as my blood pressure is
still normal. It took over 6 months for it to produce these results.
All the other blood pressure supplements I tried did me very little of not good.

I don’t know what to think! Mr doctor initially put me on amlodipine for my BP, but it was making my hair fall out. Went for a stress test with a cardiologist and they switched me to losartin. That made me cough, dizzy, gave me stiff joints, headache, fatigue and several other side affects. I stopped taking all the BP meds and I’m feeling better. Problem is, my BP on the amlodipine was ~135/75. The losartin made my BP go up to 175/90! I took it for a month and stopped. I’m trying diet to bring it down naturally, low salt intake, and cut back on processed foods. My BP is running around 145-150/80-85, still too high but coming down after a month off the BP drugs. Any suggestions to help lower it naturally?

Great show, I have been suspicious of dietary guidelines for the last 30 years. One factor that wasn’t mentioned among all the lifestyle factors was the ACEs score a person has. ACEs as referred to in the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. Our ACE score has a close correlation to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and others. While our ACE score cannot be changed, the trauma we carry in our body can be treated with therapies such as EMDR, EFT (tapping) and other mind/body trauma modalities to reduce the effect of our past. The ACE study only studied the effect of experiences we can remember. there are all sorts of things that can happen pre-natal, during birth and in our first couple years that can be held in our body for a lifetime. Part of the reason for that was doctors used to believe infants could not feel pain. Medical people still think “it’s okay, at least they won’t remember the pain”. The body remembers it.
It would be great if you could have Dr. Vincent Felitti as a guest to discuss the findings of the ACE study or someone like Peter Levine to talk about the effect of trauma in our bodies.

Could not agree more! I went through a series of Somatic Experiencing sessions conducted by a student of Peter Levine’s and could not believe how much difference it made in my body overall – including my pain levels, but also my stress levels and headaches. We tend to think of mind and body as completely separate things when in fact, they are part of the same organism. We treat them separately (and ignore the mind-body connection) at our own risk.

Do you take magnesium? I would try it. Most people are deficient in magnesium and it may get your blood pressure down. Good luck.

All these comments seem to assume that there is only one kind of salt. Not true. I have decided the best kind is unrefined salt. My last lab work said I should eat a little more salt. I had almost quit using salt altogther. My take is that there is no way to know for sure how much salt we should eat.
It seems that many people eat too much salt. It is sort of an addiction. I have reached the age of 87. Old age ills are very difficult, but I think about all we can do is as much research as possible, for example sites like People’s Pharmacy. But time is not going to stop for us.

The interesting people to study would be the Japanese who eat much more salt on average than Americans and don’t get hypertension. Is this a genetic variant who don’t suffer from secondary hyperaldosteronism/related mechanism, or are these people the low salt consumers.

Discussion of what fats are safe is complex because the way the fat is used/cooked is critical. Soybean oil (a PUFA) stir-fried lightly uses the oil once and does not cause disease while the same oil in a fryer vat is dangerous after a typical hour and doesn’t get better 2 to 3 weeks later as a restaurant manager tries to cut costs to the bone. The animals fed the used fryer vat oil (without the extra step of fully hydrogenating it) get insulin resistant, ready to clot, demented and loaded with the same oils you see waddling around big box stores. You might interview the CEO of Madhouse Munchies who monitors oil for oxidation products each batch. Then interview Cape Cod Chips which used canola for years but has recently backslid to cheap, unsafe PUFA’s. (The RoundUp treated fields may be losing it after 20 years of chelation.) Salut.

We listened to the show and found it very interesting. I didn’t understand the answer to the last question that Dr Messerli answered regarding his suggestions for alternatives to Metroporol. We would like to know more.

This is a great show and conversation! It really highlights the pitfalls of consensual reality and rationality of decision making. Sometimes, It takes a “renegade” to shake up the concept of “protocol’ in reference to prescribing-especially cogent is Dr. Messerlini has a medical education that is not from US origination. Perhaps, European trained doctors are not as subject to the complicity and alliance between Big Pharma and prescribers? There is truth and authenticity available in the medical community but it takes perseverance to find those willing to provide accurate evidence-based information that has clinical or phenomenological support. Like the concept of caveat emptor or buyer beware, pharma consumers need to be savy and make choices that are based on potential side-effects and most importantly, have some exit strategy fro potential cessation! Could the current almost pandemic of auto-immune “diseases” that effect how the body regulates inflammation be the side-effects of drugs used to treat cardiovascular disease? Should the FDA really regulate the food preservative industry and consider nitrates, sodium etc as having as much potential harm as any scheduled psychotropic compound? Please, develop a strategy of cessation or alternative choice when evaluating a decision to ingest any compound. Drugs could really be cycling a vicious loop of creating further disease!

Treat the individual, not the population. People with high blood pressure should limit sodium intake. People with low blood pressure often need more salt. Inadequate salt intake can lower blood pressure to the point where there is not enough blood reaching the brain, the brain is malnourished and neurological damage and dementia follows.

If you have a tendency towards getting light headed, your blood pressure may be too low. I like the Rule of Thumb: press your index finger into your thumb pad. The indentation should pop back up in 3-5 seconds: too fast, you are probably retaining fluid, restrict salt; more than 5 seconds, your are dehydrated, drink more water and possibly add salt and other electrolytes to your water and if you are on medications that can cause dehydration, alert the physician that prescribed them, especially if you have experienced being light headed or dizzy.

So very irritating! I follow (on the web) Dr. Mercola, Dr. Greger and PP, among a few others. Re coconut oil (a sat fat) for instance: Dr. Mercola swears by it; Dr. Greger says the negatives outweigh the positives. Well, both of these doctors are quite erudite, cite tons of studies, write many books, publish many articles, really have their fingers (it seems) on the pulse of things. Yet they differ on coconut oil and several other topics. What’s a person to believe?

Just tonight on the news they had a segment on coconut oil being bad for you because it’s artery-clogging (certainly because of that “presidential advisory” by the AHA) — but I’ve read many places that the saturated fat in coconut oil is a “different kind” of sat fat which does not do damage like other types of sat fat. Well, like I said, what the heck is a person to believe??!

My doctor told me to cut down on my salt intake. At every appointment my blood pressure would be high so I would cut down on salt some more. Finally I ended up at the Express Care Office because I was feeling very ill. I was hooked up to an IV with sodium in it and was told I would feel much better when this was done. Sure enough I felt wonderful. Left that doctor. I still do not add salt to my food and I don’t eat processed foods. I read labels for the salt content but I ended the salt restricted diet. I feel much better and my last blood pressure reading was 122/77. By the way I am 75 years old.

I believe that more than anything that causes heart problems is smoking and drinking alcohol. My parents were both big drinkers and smokers. My mom passed away at 62. She had bad circulation and did not have diabetes. They removed part of her leg 3 times until they got to the hip. She developed gangrene at that point and the Drs wanted to remove even more of her lower body but my father asked them …if they did that how much longer would she live. When the Drs said about 6 months he let her go peacefully to God. This was in 1976. Maybe today with better medication it would save her but I don’t think so because she could never give up smoking or drinking. My dad died at the age of 73 from lung cancer after being a smoker all his life. I am 77 and never drank more than a glass or two of wine on occasion and never smoked. Though I have RA the rest of my health is ok for my age. Not great. Everything in moderation is a good rule to follow.

Recent studies have shown by many doctors that you have to eat fat to lose fat. Is this true? Also, supposedly, coconut oil is very good for you, even though its saturated fat?

Dr. put my husband on a low salt diet. A week later we were at ER and his sodium level was too low and he was having kidney failure. Had talked with the nutritionist before leaving hospital when he was discharged. They give you a sheet they have run off from some book but no recipes. It seems that there should be more info given. Also, there should be explanations that no salt is not correct. I began putting salt on most of his food. After two weeks his sodium level is now normal.

That gets complicated, because eating healthy and eating to lose weight are totally different. To lose weight you need to reduce calories. Coconut oil and nuts are healthy but when I’m trying to lose weight I drastically reduce the amount I eat.

I used less salt for years . As a result I ended up with a goiter. The surgeon told me that the course could have been from a lack of iodine in my system..On the plus side my BP was always 117/80 ….I use some salt in my diet now BP 135/80 I am a woman age 67

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