There is considerable evidence that the lipoprotein abnormalities (high LDL and low HDL) that are linked to heart attack deaths in adulthood begin to develop in early childhood and that higher cholesterol levels eventually get “set” by early food habits.1If you’re building a house and you lay a bad foundation, over time, bad things will happen. Need proof? A new study has uncovered lots of young adults with clogged arteries. Reuters reports:
The researchers said their findings suggest a four-decade-long trend of declines in heart disease may be about to come to a screeching halt.Now, the authors of this study cite junk-food as a culprit. Perhaps triglycerides should be added to that list. First, let’s find out what they are and why they are bad. Take it away Dr. Fuhrman:
They studied autopsy reports from younger people in one Minnesota county who died from accidents, suicide and murder and found most had clogged arteries and more than 8 percent had significant disease…
"…The dietary quality has deteriorated over the last 15 years," Dr. Philip Mellen of the Hattiesburg Clinic in Mississippi said in a telephone interview.
"In our study, the youngest age group was the age group with the worse disease," he said. "This age group will have major problems as they continue to age."
Triglycerides comprise the largest proportion of fats (lipids) in the diet, in the adipose tissue, and in the blood. Immediately after a fatty meal, triglycerides rise in the bloodstream. We store triglycerides in our fatty tissues and muscle as a source of energy, and gradually release and metabolize it between meals according to the energy needs of the body. Only a small portion of your triglycerides is found in the bloodstream. High blood triglyceride levels are reflective of increased body fat stores. High triglycerides further promote and contribute to atherosclerosis in people with high cholesterol.And what foods are the major harbingers of triglycerides? The insidious and always bad, white flour and refined grains. Dr. Fuhrman talks about them:
White flour and other refined grains such as sweetened breakfast cereals, soft drinks, other sweets, and even fruit juices are weight-promoting and not only lead to diabetes, but can raise triglycerides and cholesterol levels, increasing heart attack risk.So, it should be no surprise that new research is linking triglyceride levels to the risk of coronary disease. Ed Edelson of HealthDay News reports:
"Triglycerides traditionally have been viewed as second-class citizens," said Dr. Michael Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and lead author of the report in the Feb. 12 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.. "LDL cholesterol has always taken center stage. We know that LDL is intimately involved in bringing cholesterol to scavenger cells, which deposit them to form plaques in the arteries. This study shows that triglycerides in and of themselves are also lipids to blame."News like this HAS to inspire people to clean up their diets—right? Not necessarily, because in many cases even a diagnosis of heart disease isn’t enough to prompt a change in diet. Anne Harding of Reuters explains:
The original study was designed to test the effectiveness of two LDL-lowering statins, Pravachol and Lipitor, in reducing recurring coronary disease after a heart attack. The new study went over the data on the 4,162 participants in the trial, looking at the association between triglyceride levels and the incidence of heart problems and death.
"The patients who had heart attacks came back after 30 days," said Miller. "We measured LDL levels and triglyceride levels and followed them over the next two years, evaluating for the occurrence of new events and death. If a patient had triglyceride levels below 150 [milligrams per deciliter], there was a 27 percent lower risk of having a new event over time. After multiple adjustments, for such things as age, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, the risk reduction was 20 percent."
A one-year follow-up study of patients with heart disease found that few are meeting recommendations for fruit, vegetable and fiber intake, and they were eating a "disturbing" amount of trans fat, Dr. Yunsheng Ma and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester found.Sad, but I think I’ve said it before. You can show people all the research and reports in the world, but until pandemonium hits their doorstep, they won’t do a freaking thing and even then, who knows.
They surveyed 555 people about their eating habits one year after they had been diagnosed with heart disease using coronary angiography. All had suffered some type of cardiac event, such as heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm, or chest pain.
To gauge the quality of their diets, the researchers used the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), which measures several aspects of heart-healthy eating such as fruit and vegetable consumption, amount of trans fat consumed, and ratio of white to red meat eaten.
On average, patients scored 30.8 on the AHEI, out of a possible 80. Just 12.4 percent were eating five or more servings of vegetables a day, while 7.8 percent were eating at least four servings of fruit each day. Fewer than 8 percent met recommendations for cereal fiber consumption.
And while public health guidelines recommend getting less than 0.5 percent of total calories from trans fat, people in the study consumed an average of 3.41 percent of their calories in trans fat form.
1. Vikari JS, Raitakari OT, Simell O. Nutritional influences on lipids and future atherosclerosis beginning prenatally and during childhood. Curr Opin Lipidol 2002;13(1):11-18.