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Nutrition Past and Future

15 The Journalist Gary Taubes 15: Pesky Facts

Up until now we’ve been sifting through the dusty old treasures from the medical literature which have been collected by the cholesterol deniers over the years. Upon closer inspection, we’ve discovered that their most precious little gems are in fact flawed and cloudy and lacking in value. Before we briefly step away from the topic of cholesterol, I think now is a good time to gaze upon the genuine high-quality pieces from the literature that tip the scales in favor of diet-heart. I have made many videos about diet-heart, presenting you the viewer with a huge amount of material that you can further investigate if you are so inclined. This short video condenses some of my favorite cholesterol research, most of which I haven’t yet shared with you. This video will only give you an incomplete picture of the science, but really, any effort to tell the diet-heart story will be incomplete, even my Primitive Nutrition project. The science of diet-heart is that vast. With that in mind, here are just a few fine jewels from the diet-heart collection. Gary Taubes will not find them to his taste but I think they are beautiful.

The low carbers and I can agree on some things from time to time. Some of their favorite studies are my favorites, too. Gary Taubes was impressed with that old experiment that put Vilhjalmur Stefansson on an all-meat diet for a year. He and his partner were said to be in good physical condition at the end of that year, which was all it took to impress Taubes. He tells us that Stefansson’s gingivitis cleared up on this diet. Low carbers seem to be more interested in diets that are good for the teeth rather than the heart or the pancreas. I can brush my teeth but I can’t brush my arteries so I don’t understand this thinking.

Taubes didn’t tell his readers that this meaty diet completely jacked the cholesterol of Steffanson’s partner and made his blood cloudy with lipemia. And as soon as he got off that crazy meat diet, his cholesterol came back down. The researchers attributed this observation to his extreme fat consumption while eating all that meat. You will see in a later video that this meaty diet also damaged his glucose metabolism, but this video is about cholesterol. This study shows quite clearly what the effects of saturated fat on cholesterol are. It’s not a pretty picture.

Many metabolic ward studies since then have established beyond the shadow of a doubt that specific saturated fatty acids do raise serum cholesterol when consumed. This meta-analysis from 1997 examined 395 such experiments, including diets using both food and liquid formulas.

The effects of various fatty acids on cholesterol were clear. Lauric, myristic, and palmitic acids raise cholesterol. Complex carbs lower cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fatty acids lower cholesterol even more. This is just reality. Respected people with letters after their names still struggle to come to terms with this reality anyway. They are best ignored.

This effect of saturated fat on cholesterol can be observed at the population level as well. On the island of Mauritius, the government switched their rationed cooking oil from palm oil to soybean oil. Consequently, mean population cholesterol levels fell from about 213 to 182. Unfortunately, they subsequently were caught up in the nutrition transition now sweeping Asia, so their story does not have a happy ending.

Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Study is the best known population-level research revealing clear relationships between serum cholesterol, saturated fat consumption, and deaths from coronary heart disease. Because this was a cross-cultural comparison that predated the obesity epidemic and the use of statins, it will likely forever remain the best epidemiological research on diet-heart.

In my opinion, a close second place in that category is The China Study. Oh, yes, low carbers. I’m going there. Remember, the reason low carb and saturated fat apologists are so united in opposition to T Colin Campbell is because he published findings like this, revealing that rural Chinese at one time had very low blood cholesterol levels as well as very low rates of heart disease. This makes Campbell an irritating person who goes around repeating some very pesky facts. It’s hard to sustain nonsense low carb beliefs when confronted with this information, so a way must be found to discredit the man and distract from his work. If you aren’t the sort to grasp at straws then you should focus on those pesky facts instead. Coronary heart disease mortality among rural Chinese men was found to be one-sixteenth that of American men. Do the low carbers think Campbell made this up?

That would not be plausible. You can see that back in 1947, more than 30 years before Campbell first set foot in China, the Chinese were acknowledged to have very little atherosclerosis when examined at autopsy, much less than was found in Americans.

In 1941 a doctor named Snapper who worked there extensively wrote about the rarity of angina and heart attacks among the Chinese.

Why did he think this was so? He said the Chinese ate more polyunsaturated fat and less cholesterol, so they consequently had lower blood cholesterol concentrations. Was this the sinister vegan science of 1941? Let’s get real.

Campbell and Snapper were not the only ones who noticed the low rates of heart disease in rural China. This doctor’s recollections tell us Dr. Campbell would have found even lower rates of heart disease in China had he begun his project earlier. This doctor saw diets in China becoming fattier in the 1970s. He also remarked on regional differences in disease and diet that are reminiscent of the observations made in The China Study. “The northerners tend to eat more animal fat than the southerners; this seems to explain why, in Sinkiang, the nomads who eat mainly animal fat have seven times as much coronary artery disease as the cadres and why, in Choushan archipelago, the fisherman who eat very little animal fat have the lowest prevalence of all.” That’s from 1974 and I’ll bet that’s pretty annoying, isn’t it, low carbers?

The effects of cholesterol in China are still obvious in the present day. As you can see, the Chinese no longer have especially low cholesterol, but they are still better off than the people studied in Framingham, Massachusetts. Their cholesterol is clearly lower than ours.

Consequently, the 10-year incidence rate for coronary heart disease in Framingham was five times greater than what was observed in China. This paper was published in 2004.

Of course, diet-heart has been and is being demonstrated in animal experiments every day on a vast scale. Those who casually dismiss this research should not pretend to respect the theory of evolutionary.

As you know,  diet-heart has been demonstrated quite thoroughly in humans as well. You have seen the autopsy evidence already. Now you see the measurement of plaque in the living using modern instrumentation. In this study of over 13,000 individuals, artery wall thickness was measured using ultrasonography. After adjustment for age and energy intake, animal fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol, as well as scores derived from a predictive formula for diet-heart developed by Ancel Keys, were all positively related to artery wall thickness. Thicker walls means more disease and all those fats were associated with them. The authors stated that these associations persisted after further adjustment for smoking and hypertension and were consistent across their race and sex categories.

Ultrasonography was used over the course of at least one year in this study to monitor the progression or regression of plaque in a coronary artery.  It was found that in order for atherosclerosis to not progress any further, LDL should be around 75 or lower.

Currently this is approximately the recommended level only for those at a very high risk of a heart disease event. The most at risk are apparently the only people who should not have ever-worsening damage to their arteries, with plaques becoming stiffer and more inflamed day in and day out, according to official recommendations.

Personally, I would like to have whatever plaque I’ve developed over the course of my life from eating animal foods start to go away even though I am at very low risk of an event, so I have adopted a lifestyle that puts my LDL below 75. My standards are a little higher than normal, I guess. What are your standards for yourself?

If anyone doubts that the lowering of LDL allows arteries to heal, let them look at the dramatic recovery that was accomplished in this trial. All this progress happened in only three weeks. These people dropped their LDL by using high dose statin therapy. I’ll skip the statin drugs and stick with high-dose plant-food therapy instead. My therapy is yummy.

I mentioned the great Michael Brown in a prior video. Dr. Brown is, of course, one half of Brown and Goldstein, the pioneering researchers into cholesterol homeostasis and heart disease. I am showing you this slide to impress upon you that this man is no animal rights crusader. Those are mouse livers. Brown has conducted research on animals. Let’s hear what he has come to understand through his many years of research.

BROWN: The real news is that we shouldn’t really need these drugs, that for those of us who have normal genes, the reason why our blood is being filled up with cholesterol is because we are basically eating too much cholesterol and too much animal fat. And if you look at populations where the diet is lower in cholesterol and fat, they don’t need these statin drugs, they have low cholesterols in their blood, and they have (a) twenty times lower rate of heart attacks than we do in the United States.

This is where you can find this brief yet powerful talk by Dr. Brown on iTunes. This man is a true expert on cholesterol and heart disease. Gary Taubes is not, and his opinion of himself and his quotations of Francis Bacon don’t change that fact. Taubes doesn’t know much about fiber, either. I’ll explain in the next video.