From the revised version of Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protection for Life, now available!
We know that populations worldwide with very low cholesterol simply do not have heart attacks. For example, in rural China where the average total cholesterol was found to be 127 and very little animal foods are consumed, less than 5% of the population suffered from heart attacks. These findings, from the China Project, suggest that even small intakes of foods of animal origin are associated with significant increases in plasma cholesterol concentration, which are associated, in turn, with significant increases in heart disease mortality rates.1
By comparison, in the United States more than 40 percent of the population dies of heart attacks. It is a simple fact that if you eat American-style food you will die an American-style death. Don't expect to escape from the biological laws of cause and effect. The Standard American diet is also responsible for our relentless epidemic of obesity and cancer. This book is all about taking charge of our own health destiny through excellent nutrition and not waiting helplessly until a major disease strikes.
In the famous Framingham study, 35 percent of heart disease occurred in those with total cholesterol levels in the range of 150 to 200 mg/dl, but no heart disease deaths occurred in those whose total cholesterol levels were below 150 mg/dl.2
Multiple dietary intervention trials have taken place in our country with diets suggested by the American Heart Association that only offer small improvements over what Americans usually eat. These moderate, politically-correct dietary recommendations have failed to show substantial benefits. Therefore, most medical authorities and physicians place no importance on dietary modifications and instead rely almost exclusively on medications since the "typical" dietary recommendations do not lower cholesterol effectively. Certainly, the "ideal" cardio-protective cholesterol ranges cannot be achieved with traditional dietary recommendations.
The vast majority of people are not aware that the proper diet can heart-attack-proof their body. They do not know that there is a more effective option than the American Heart Association's dietary guidelines. I have no problem with people choosing to eat a diet that places them at risk of heart disease, or people choosing to smoke or to not exercise, that is their right. However, at the very least they should be correctly informed of the dangers of their choices and not have doctors, dieticians and health authorities let them think they are doing all they can to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, economic and political forces make it difficult for Americans to be clearly informed that heart disease is nutritionally-induced by our outmoded and incorrect dietary model. For example, six of the eleven members, including the chairman, of the USDA's Dietary Guidelines Committee in the year 2000 had financial ties to the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Not surprisingly, the foods these industries produce figure prominently in government dietary recommendations in spite of their documented links to increased health risks. Similar problems exist in recommendations by non-profit health organizations who receive funding from industry. Sadly, even the American Heart Association advocates a diet that actually has been shown to increase heart disease.3 The researchers concluded that "the response to the AHA diet is too small to have any value in the clinical management of adults with high cholesterol"
Another problem is that in America, we have been told that compared to the standard American diet, the Mediterranean diet lowers heart disease risk about 30 percent, the Asian diet lowers heart disease risk about 35 percent and the Polynesian diet lowers heart disease risk and so on. I am not satisfied with just reducing my risk somewhat. I want more for myself, my family, and my patients.
My point of view is this--let's use modern nutritional science to the fullest extent and not be satisfied with reducing our risk by 20 to 50 percent; let's reduce our risk by as close to 100 percent as possible. It is possible for you to live a long life with your intellect intact until an uneventful death, without strokes, heart attacks, cancer or dementia. Only nutritional excellence, not drugs can offer all these protective features.
In this day and age, we can use the best features of diets from around the world, and we can use a variety of great-tasting regional recipes. If we understand the precise qualities of each of these diets that account for the benefits and avoid the worthless parts, we can get radically better results. The fact is, every heart disease death is a tragedy, because it simply did not have to happen.
1. Campbell TC, Junshi C. Diet and chronic degenerative diseases: perspective from China. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59(5 Suppl):1153S-1161S.
2. Gordon T, Castelli WP, Hjortland MC, et al. Predicting coronary heart disease in middle-aged and older persons. The Framington study. JAMA 1977 Aug 8;238(6):497-499.
3. Ramsey LE, Yen WW, Jackson PR. Dietary reduction of serum cholesterol concentration: time to think again. BMJ 1991;303(6808):953-957.