Recently I opened my morning paper (Vancouver Sun, Saturday, January 22, 2011) and was jolted out of my seat when my eyes glanced at the title of a article: "Hands off my statins (and please pass the steak)." The article simply underscores the stupidity of mainstream thinking when it assumes that (saturated) fat leads to cholesterol which, in turn leads to a heart attack. This myth is so saturated (pardon the pun) in our mindset that we actually believe it - it has become mainstream dogma. The result can lead one to embrace a stupid way of living.
Andrew Brown, the author, admits to taking a statin, knowingly that he may be "imperiling" his health because of various possible side effects. On the advice of his doctor, because he had "raised cholesterol" and a family history of heart disease, Brown readily buys into the belief that a pill is the answer to avoiding future cardiac events - as he says, " I believe in it .... I'm more inclined to welcome wonder drugs with enthusiasm than to be skeptical ... I listen to the good it can do and tune out the stuff about side-effects." He also readily admits that "I'm temperamentally inclined to trust the latest products of the pharmaceutical laboratory."
Is this what the modern world has come to to be? Yes, this is indeed the world that pharmaceutical companies are trying to create. Have you noticed the advertisements these days? Pills are offered for everything. Perhaps it is a noble idea; after all, we wear glasses to see better (if needed), we use binoculars to see distance, scientists use microscopes to overcome the limitations of our eyesight. But Mr. Brown says that he has been on statins because it is "massively more convenient for me to have this backup that somehow mops up some of the fats in my diet." This is a better option than "to enforce on myself the strictures of an unpalatable low-fat diet." Brown goes on to say that "I love my food. I enjoy a varied diet that does contain cheese, cream, red meat, and butter." What???
He seems to want to eat the "low-carb" way - yet he is very afraid of its outcome. I could just see Dr. Atkins turning in his grave as if experiencing a bad dream. It sort of reminds me how often doctors allow their patients to lose weight on the low-carb diet while at the same time warning them of long-term consequences. That fat results in "cardiac events" is the prevailing myth. But in this case Mr. Brown is deprived of worry - he's got the statin; the future looks bright. Why fear heart attacks? The statin is preventive medicine. There is no mention in the article that he has a weight problem and he does admit that "I haven't, to my knowledge, had any cardiac events."
Is it possible that Mr. Brown has made this up? Could he be trying to bait the readers to write in and offer their opinions on the matter - certainly the article raises more than just health issues. It raises ethical questions regarding the artificiality of the modern world - he may take statins but others take botox. Are pills the answer? Is it as smart as putting on a helmet when riding a bike -that seems to make sense; parents watching their kids my not dispute that. But the comparison is not similar. Riding a bike does pose its risks. Eating fat does not - at least not in an absolute way.
The causal link between fat and heart disease goes back to the work of Ancel Keys and his diet-heart hypothesis. Dr. Jonny Bowden (in his book Living Low Carb) summarized the history of this notion this way: " Keys concluded that cholesterol is a cause of heart disease, saturated fat causes a rise in cholesterol, and therefore saturated fat causes heart disease. Key's seven-country study became the basis for dietary policy for more than three decades, indirectly birthed the fat phobia of the 80s, and indirectly spawned an entire bureaucracy devoted to lowering cholesterol (the National Cholesterol Education Program) and also to producing some of the most profitable pharmaceutical drugs in history."
The diet-heart hypothesis has been discredited - but the media and the majority of doctors still uphold the dogma. Why? Because they refuse to look at the history and scientific studies from that point onwards and even going backwards to uncover its threads - it has been ignored. Why? Too many careers are at stake. For doctors and the media and the drug companies and governments to suddenly turn around and say "yes, we were wrong, we take it back" amounts to career suicide and a questioning of the integrity that is demanded of our health care practitioners. Litigation would be the order of the day. For more than 40 years we have been presented with a lie- the one believed by Andrew Brown and his doctor. The scientific studies and books that are currently being published suggest that it has all been a big fat lie as Gary Taubes has boldly been asserting since his 2002 article in the New York Times. The current position of the low-carb community is this: fats (saturated & monounsaturated) are good; avoid polyunsaturated types - they are inflammatory; refined carbs are bad - avoid grains and sugar/fructose.
The way that Andrew wishes to eat - loaded on fats - is good. For millions of years of our evolution, fat has been the preferred dietary staple, supported by plants. Our bodies never evolved to eat out of a box, or a package. My advice to Andrew - throw away your pills, eat two steaks a day (with eggs), drink water, eat organ meats, once or twice a week; eat some veggies (a few berries); enjoy the sun. That's it. Oh yes, I forgot - tell your doctor to take a hike.