More evidence that drugs are not the answer: obesity negates benefit of LDL lowering


Data collected between 1988 and 2006 and presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting last month showed modest improvements in two risk factors for cardiovascular disease: the number of Americans who do not smoke increased from 45% to 50%, and the number of Americans who have achieved optimal (below 100 mg/dl)  LDL levels increased from 22% to 28%.

But these improvements are counteracted by the rapidly growing prevalence of obesity that has occurred in the same time frame. 

American adults’ average body mass index (BMI) went from 26.5 to 28.8 (25 and above is overweight, 30 and above is obese). Incidence of overweight in children went from 20% to 35%.

What have been the consequences of this increase in body weight?

“Obesity is not benign.”

-Dr. Tiffany Powell, lead author of the study1

Obesity robs people of their quality of life as they age – as reported in the International Journal of Obesity, obese individuals had double the rates of disability compared to normal-weight individuals.2

The number of Americans with healthy blood pressure has fallen by 5%. The number of those with good blood sugar control have decreased by 9%. Most alarming is that left ventricular mass in children, a predictive indicator for future heart disease and stroke, has also risen - their hearts are being forced to work too hard to pump blood to their excess body fat.

How will this affect the incidence of cardiovascular disease in this country?

“Many people feel the decline in [heart] risk factors is leveling off and there will be an acceleration of cardiovascular disease.”

-AHA spokesman Dr. Roger Blumenthal1

A large part of the problem is that our society views these factors – hypercholesterolemia, poor blood sugar control, hypertension, obesity – each as a separate issue with its own drug-based method of management. But they are not separate. The truth is, the same nutrient-rich, vegetable-based diet combined with regular exercise is effective in preventing and reversing all of these conditions. 



2. Walter S et al. Mortality and disability: the effect of overweight and obesity. International Journal of Obesity (2009) 33, 1410–1418


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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Cindy - December 15, 2009 7:53 PM

More proof of Dr. Fuhrman's message: the prescription is nutrition. We want it to be so easy--just take some meds. Keep spreading the good word! Thanks.

Rick - December 15, 2009 8:53 PM

How about a warning on junk food like cigarettes ?

Gilles Arbour - December 15, 2009 9:14 PM

"...the number of Americans who do not smoke increased from 45% to 50%,"

Are you sure about these numbers? I find it very hard to believe 50% (1 out of 2) of Americans are still smokers! That can't be right.


An estimated, 20.8% of all adults (45.3 million people) smoke cigarettes in the United States.

Cigarette smoking estimates by age are as follows: 18–24 years (23.9%), 25–44 years (23.5%), 45–64 years (21.8%), and 65 years or older (10.2%).

Cigarette smoking is more common among men (23.9%) than women (18.0%).

Cigarette smoking is more common among adults who live below the poverty level (30.6%) than among those living at or above the poverty level (20.4%).

But anyway I completely understand this is not the main issue here and obesity is a devastating problem.

Deana Ferreri - December 16, 2009 12:14 PM

Giles, yes 50% does seem high, but this is indeed what the researchers reported. The data came from the National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey. Because this was presented at a research meeting and only an abstract is available, we can't be sure exactly how they compiled the data on smoking.

But yes, as you mentioned the important part is that rising obesity rates have prevented cardiovascular disease risk from decreasing.

Abstract from meeting:

Deana Ferreri - December 17, 2009 10:49 AM

More about percentage of smokers:
It's possible that the researchers defined "smoker" and "non-smoker" not necessarily by current smoking status - possibly by having ever smoked regularly for some defined period of time. For example, a "smoker" could have been someone who smoked regularly for 5 years or more. This definition would be relevant when talking about cardiovascular risk, but would include a higher percentage than current smokers.

As you can see here, the NHANES asks several questions about smoking habits:

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