Ideal Cholesterol 199?

Alright, I’m convinced. This nation has gone loony-tunes! First, New Jersey went off the deep end with mandatory flu injections, and now, a new government report insists that a total cholesterol level of 199 is ideal. What! Mike Stobbe of Associated Press reports:
Results from a national blood test survey found the average total cholesterol level was 199. Doctors like patients to have total cholesterol readings of 200 or lower…

…The survey collects data in two-year intervals. The new results are based on a national sample of about 4,500 people 20 and older from 2005-06. The new 199 level compares with 204 in 1999-2000…

…Researchers also found that the percentage of adults with high cholesterol, of 240 or higher, dropped to 16 percent, down from 20 percent in the early 1990s.
The report cites the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs as the main reason for the reduction. Yeah—because that’s a good! In case you forgot, Dr. Fuhrman is no fan of using medicine to lower cholesterol. Take statins for example:
When resorting to medical intervention, rather than dietary modifications, other problems arise, reducing the potential reduction in mortality possible, as these individuals are at risk of serious side effects from the medication. The known side effects for various statins (the most popular and effective medications to lower cholesterol) include hepatitis, jaundice, other liver problems, gastrointestinal upsets, muscle problems and a variety of blood complications such as reduced platelet levels and anemia.
But what about this “ideal” cholesterol level, is a score of 199 really healthy? Okay, you decide. In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman discusses the cholesterol levels of populations consuming a plant-based diet. Here’s an excerpt:
A vegetable, fruit, nut, and bean-based diet has been shown to be the most effective cholesterol-lowering dietary approach in medical history. This newsworthy data with the potential to save millions of lives has been ignored by the mass media. With this dietary approach, most patients drop their total cholesterol below 150 and LDL below 100, without the need for medications. In areas of the world where people eat a diet of unrefined plant foods, people have total cholesterol levels below 150, and there is zero incidence of heart disease in the population.1
I guess if you’re consuming the standard American diet 199 is healthy—relatively speaking—it’s probably a miracle you’re surviving at all. Okay, let’s cut to the case. Here are the total cholesterols levels of people following Dr. Fuhrman’s nutrient-dense diet. Look:
These are numbers worth bragging about! Dr. Fuhrman will tell you himself, flirting with a total cholesterol number around 200 is by no means ideal. In fact, Dr. Fuhrman explains the lower your cholesterol, the better! From Can Cholesterol Be Too Low:
Typically, those individuals promoting the myth that low cholesterol levels are dangerous and the topsy-turvey "science" that saturated fat and high cholesterol are not bad, but good, are those individuals and health advisors advocating diets high in animal products, such as the Atkins devotees. Unfortunately, this advice is not merely incorrect; it is dead wrong for hundreds of individuals who heed such dangerous advice and die of heart attacks every day.

When it comes to coronary artery disease, there may be no such thing as lowering total blood cholesterol levels too far. Another recent study, published in the journal Circulation, found that the arteries in male patients with a total cholesterol level as low as 155 mg/dl benefited significantly from cholesterol-lowering medication as well.1 Both regression of atherosclerosis and a dramatic reduction in heart attacks were seen in the group treated.

While some research in the past has raised questions about the safety of very low cholesterol levels, no danger has been proven in larger, more dependable investigations.
So, in the event that someone—so overjoyed by their 199 score—decides to streak gleefully naked down your street. Politely hand them a towel and a copy of Eat to Live.
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Bad News for Toxins

Will Dunham of Reuters reports, smoking increases your risk of developing diabetes. Here’s more:
Here's another reason to throw away the cigarettes: Smoking, already known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, also raises one's risk for the most common form of diabetes, researchers said on Tuesday.

Smokers faced a 44 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to nonsmokers, the Swiss researchers found.

Dr. Carole Willi of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and colleagues analyzed 25 studies exploring the connection between smoking and diabetes published between 1992 and 2006, with a total of 1.2 million participants tracked for up to 30 years.
High ozone levels seem to explain why some residents of Sydney Australia had sudden cardiac events. Reuters reports:
A sudden spate of urgent cardiovascular syndromes resulting in severe chest pain that required emergency department visits among residents of Sydney, Australia, in 2005 has been traced to high solar radiance and ozone levels.

Surveillance data indicated an increase in urgent visits to city hospitals by individuals with chest pain assessed as "imminently or immediately life-threatening on arrival" in April and May 2005, Dr. Robin M. Turner of New South Wales Department of Health in North Sydney and colleagues report in the journal Environmental Health.

Emergency department visits increased from 4.0 per day in 2004 to 5.7 per day for the 8 weeks of April and May 2005.

Fat Ballin'

“Bulking up is dangerous to one's longevity,” Dr. Fuhrman replied when I asked him about the immense size of football players, “Linebackers often eat in a way that radically shortens their lives.” And it’s starting younger and younger. Check out this New York Times report:

Two studies this year, one published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and another in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that weight problems among high school football players — especially linemen — far outpaced those of other male children and adolescents.

Now coaches and researchers fear that some young athletes may be endangering their health in an effort to reach massive proportions and attract the attention of college recruiters…

…Another study of 650 football players in Michigan youth leagues from ages 9 to 14, published last month in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that 45 percent were overweight or obese, with the problem more prevalent among linemen, who are typically the biggest players on the team.

“That’s staggering,” said Robert M. Malina, a professor emeritus of kinesiology at Texas and the lead author of the Michigan study. “Youngsters are already being rewarded for being big and overweight before playing big-time football.”
It’s sad if you ask me, but, I don’t blame the kids. I blame the league. They must redirect the trend! Encourage teams to stress athleticism and speed and not motionless mountainous size. That’s why my favorite NFL players are guys like this:

Terrell Owens

Dallas Cowboys
Height: 6-3 Weight: 218 Age: 33

Bob Sanders

Indianapolis Colts
Height: 5-8 Weight: 206 Age: 26

Torry Holt
St. Louis Rams
Height: 6-0 Weight: 190 Age: 31

Rodney Harrison
New England Patriots
Height: 6-1 Weight: 220 Age: 34
These dudes are lean, quick, and agile. They’re not massive. They’re functionally or “deceptively strong.” That’s my fitness goal. Not to be Goliath, but rather, a fit and healthy David. Especially since, as Dr. Fuhrman points out, leaner people live longer. From Eat to Live:
In the Nurses Health Study, researchers examined the association between body mass index and overall mortality and mortality from specific causes in more than 100,000 women. After limiting the analysis to nonsmokers, it was very clear that the longest-lived women were the leanest.1 The researchers concluded that the increasingly permissive U.S. weight guidelines are unjustified and potentially harmful…

…Dr. I-Min Lee, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said her twenty-seven-year study of 19,297 men found there was no such thing as being too thin. Among men who never smoked, the lowest mortality occurred in the lightest fifth.2 Those who were in the thinnest 20 percent in the early 1960s were two and a half times less likely to have died of cardiovascular disease by 1988 than those in the heaviest fifth. Overall, the thinnest were two–thirds more likely to be alive in 1988 than the heaviest. Lee stated, “We observed a direct relationship between body weight and mortality. By that I mean that the thinnest fifth of men experienced the lowest mortality, and mortality increased progressively with heavier and heavier weight.”
Hopefully aspiring football players and the NFL awake up and put the health and longevity of athletes ahead of winning championships.

Holiday Heart Attack?

Well, I thought ‘tis the season for snowmen, fruit cakes, and mistletoe—NOT—heart attack season, but evidently December through January is prime time for coronaries. Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press reports:

But what may make the Christmas coronary more deadly than the same-size heart attack in, say, August, is a double dose of denial. It's not uncommon for people to initially shrug off chest pain as indigestion. Research suggests they're even more reluctant for a run to the emergency room when it means disrupting a holiday gathering, or if they've traveled to a strange city — meaning they arrive sicker.

Minutes matter.

"You have only a short window of opportunity to save heart muscle," warns Dr. William Suddath of Washington Hospital Center in the nation's capital — where a cardiac team on-duty 24 hours a day aims to start clearing victims' clogged arteries within 15 minutes of their arrival in the emergency room.

I guess it makes sense in this season of excess.

Soy Foods and Heart Disease

New research has determined that women who regularly eat soy-based foods lower their risk of heart disease. The AFP reports:
Soybeans -- eaten as tofu, miso soup or Japanese fermented beans known as "natto" -- have a high amount of isoflavones, a natural source of estrogen similar to the female hormone, the study found.

The risk of heart attacks or strokes for a woman who consumed soy at least five times a week was 0.39 compared with 1 for a woman who consumed the least, it said.

The results were even more striking among women past menopause, with the risk falling to 0.25, said Yoshihiko Kokubo, chief doctor of preventive cardiology at Japan's National Cardiovascular Center.
Soy—or edamame—beans are great! Tofu is cool too. But as Dr. Fuhrman points out, soy foods might be tasty, but don’t go overboard. From Eat to live:
Studies have shown soy's beneficial effects on cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors. However, there is no reason not to expect the same results from beans of any type--it's merely that more studies have been done on soy than on any other beans…

…I always recommended the consumption of a broad variety of phytochemical-rich foods to maximize one's health. Beans are no exception--try to eat different types of beans, not just soy.
This report is very similar to an earlier one claiming soy nuts can lower blood pressure in postmenopausal women. Nicholas Bakalar of The New York Times was on it:
The first group followed the same diet without soy. The second ate a half-cup a day of soy nuts while reducing protein intake from other sources. When hypertensive women were on the soy diet, they averaged a 9.9 percent decrease in systolic blood pressure (the top number in the reading) and a 6.8 percent decrease in diastolic pressure. Those with normal blood pressure also benefited from the soy diet, reducing systolic and diastolic readings by 5.2 percent and 2.9 percent respectively.
Now, this is a great time to note that not all soy foods are homeruns. As Dr. Fuhrman explains soy nuts aren’t so great. Take a look:
You should be aware that soy nuts, soymilk, and other processed soy products do not retain many of the beneficial compounds and omega-3 fats that are in the natural bean. The more the food is processed, the more the beneficial compounds are destroyed.
Lucky for us—and the women in the AFP report—Dr. Fuhrman still considers tofu and frozen or canned soybeans are a good source of omega-3 fat and calcium.