The shortcomings of cholesterol-lowering medications are all over the news lately, but rather then continue the beat down. Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times Well Blog wants to know, is it possible to lower your cholesterol without drugs. Here’s a bit:
In fact, many doctors think dietary changes are too difficult for most of their patients. While they typically encourage better eating and a diet low in saturated fat, they also prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins as a faster way to lower bad cholesterol.
But many people can’t tolerate statins and their side effects. Others simply don’t want to take a pill every day or shoulder the cost of a prescription. For those patients, dietary changes may be a better option.
In 2006, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study of 55 patients with high cholesterol who, over the course of a year, started eating a diet rich in soy proteins, fiber and almonds. All those foods may have cholesterol-lowering properties. Twenty-one patients managed to lower their cholesterol by 20 percent or more by the end of the year. The researchers noted that whether the patient was motivated and actually stuck with the diet most of the time was key.
Kudos to Tara! There needs to be more talk about this, because as Dr. Fuhrman explains, dietary intervention is the best way to lower cholesterol and prevent and reverse heart disease. Check out this excerpt from Cholesterol Levels and Heart Attacks:
Make no doubt about it: lowering your LDL cholesterol below 100 offers powerful protection against heart disease. The evidence is overwhelming today that heart attacks, which kill half of all Americans, are entirely preventable. Heart disease is a condition that is preventable and reversible through aggressive nutritional intervention and cholesterol-lowering.
Now, in this post Dr. Fuhrman points to some specific foods that have well-documented cholesterol-lowering properties. I’ve clipped this snippet from Ideal Cholesterol 199? Have a look:
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
Clearly, if we attempt to rival the low cholesterol of populations that eat mostly natural plant foods and do not have heart disease, we are always looking at total cholesterols below 150 mg/dl. The average cholesterol level in rural China, as documented in the massive China Cornell Project, was 127 mg/dl. Heart attacks were rare, and both cancer and heart disease rates plummeted as cholesterol levels fell, which reflected very low animal product consumption. The lowest occurrence of heart disease and cancer occurred in the group that consumed plant-based diets with less than two servings of animal products per week.
Alright, now this is where I feel for Tara. In the comments of her post she encountered the persistent of lunacy of the low-carb consortium. Here’s the comment and Tara’s response from the Well Blog:
Commenter: Alternatively, you and Jane Brody could look at the growing mountain of evidence that the diet you think is “healthful” is actually the problem…evidence which includes Brody’s own health!
Or you could read the most important book on diet in the last century, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.
But you won’t; you’ll keep passing out the same old misinformation.
Nor will you publish this comment.
Tara: Of course I will publish your comment, and I think your point, if you strip away the personal attacks, is a good one. Nutrition writers like myself certainly have been complicit in confusing people’s notions about what constitutes healthful eating. (Although I’m curious about what I’ve written that offends you so.) I’m not sure I agree that Gary Taubes has written the most important book on diet (I’m a fan of Pollan as readers of this blog know). However, Mr. Taubes has certainly raised many important issues in his work. I agree, as Mr. Pollan writes, that the culture of nutritionism — viewing food as a sum of its nutrient parts — has been largely detrimental to the nation’s health.
Tara, I feel for you. This nonsense and its lemming-like supporters pollute the information super highway. Before I go any further, here’s Dr. Fuhrman dropping the hammer on Gary Taubes’ “most important book on diet in the last century.” From Nutrition Science and Gary Taubes:
Amazing how stupid people are. Gary Taubes is a known Atkins' devotee and nutritionally naïve and led by the Atkins' crowd. Now he has his own book. All I can say is that this makes me look like a genius comparatively when I am only stating the obvious. All I can say is: Health = Nutrition / Calories.
Your health is predicted by your nutrient intake divided by your intake of calories. Health = Nutrition / Calories, or simply H = N/C, is a concept I call the nutrient-density of your diet. Food supplies us with both nutrients and calories (energy). All calories come from only three elements: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Nutrients are derived from non-caloric food factors—including vitamins, minerals, fibers, and phytochemicals. These non-caloric nutrients are vitally important for health. Your key to permanent weight loss is to eat predominantly those foods that have a high proportion of nutrients (non-caloric food factors) to calories (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins).
I think Tara did a great job handling this over-zealous loon and luckily for her he wasn’t as radical as most of them. Just get a load of these vitriolic comments from one of DiseaseProof’s low-carb blog-trolls. Oh! Despite the different names, it’s all the same person:
RN: “STOP lying to people. NOW! Support your contention NOT SUMMARIES of summaries The blind leading the blind…I can and WILL argue this all day because I UNLIKE Dr. Fuhrman CAN back up my views.”
Susan: “FUHRMAN FRAUD.”
Razwell: “Persons who claim "paradise health" by following a certain diet are CHARLATANS.”
What does all this prove? That no matter how much you back up your claims the crazies, the cultists, and the sensationalists will do their best to disrupt your day—just another day in the life of a health-blogger!
1. Breslow JL. Cardiovascular disease myths and facts. Cleve Clin J Med 1998:65(6):286-287. Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J. et al. Diet, lifestyle and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China Study. Am J Cardiol 1998; 8210B):18T-21T.