The ghost of cholesterol has at last been laid to rest. In the cover story this issue, WDDTY panel member Dr John Mansfield has collated all the research into the nutritional causes of heart disease and produced a treatise persuasively arguing that fats and cholesterol do not cause heart disease. They are simply markers that something is awry, metabolically speaking, usually due to a deficiency of the nutrients we need to run at full throttle. Cholesterol only got the blame because of incorrectly interpreted animal research (another good reason never to rely on information from animals when you are looking for answers about humans).
The gist of Dr Mansfield's argument is that heart disease began the moment we began industrialising food, refining, processing and stripping it of heart protective nutrients like the B vitamins, chromium and magnesium. It may also have something to do with eating more protein, particularly animal protein, than our bodies can efficiently process.
As Mansfield notes, while the amount of fat in the diet has not increased significantly over the past hundred years, refined sucrose intake has increased by over 1000 percent. This alone would suggest that a high sugar and processed carbohydrate diet, rather than one high in cholesterol and fat, is the major culprit in heart disease.
If all the renegade heart researchers like Kilmer McCully, the proponent of homocysteine as a risk factor for heart disease, are even half right, the implications are staggering no less than a revolution in the way that we understand and treat coronary artery disease. It largely topples the monstrous edifice that is orthodox heart disease treatment the exclusive reliance on dangerous treatments like bypass surgery, temporary solutions like angioplasty, or the host of inhibitors and blockers, thinners and reducers the drug companies have come up with to suppress symptoms of trouble. It sounds the death knell of the lucrative, largely American initiated low fat and low cholesterol food industry, with yet more plastic food posing as a PC healthy option.
But most of all, it makes the solution to heart disease amazingly simple. All we've got to do to largely avoid a heart attack is to eat good old wholesome food and take a few vitamins.
Mansfield's message is not one that is likely to go down well among the orthodoxy, largely because embracing it would do a lot of people out of extremely well paid employment. Compared to the thousands that your typical bypass costs, Dr Mansfield reckons that getting all the tests he deems necessary to check your homocysteine and all your vitamin and mineral levels would cost, at most, lb133. Instead of a cocktail of expensive heart drugs, patients could take a few inexpensive supplements.
Diet is not the entire story of heart health any more than it is a solution to any medical problem. It's been well documented that many people develop heart disease and die from loneliness literally dying of a broken heart (See PROOF! vol 1 no 1).
But what Mansfield is basically saying is that we have to undergo a major shift in the way that we view heart disease. The biggest revolution must be in the metaphors that we choose to describe heart problems. Heart disease is not, as we've always been told, a problem of abundance, but one of scarcity, borne of this century's revolution in what constitutes "food". It is a symptom of deficiency, not greed.
Heart disease patients following low fat diets are probably only making matters worse. Rather than starving ourselves of foods vital to our health, we need to eat more heartily, nutritionally speaking, than we have for a long time.