Cholesterol, life expectancy, and children: the link to toxins

When it comes to cholesterol, even many alternative-minded people see it just as something bad, a killer to be avoided as much as possible in the diet. The story seems simple enough: too much cholesterol in the diet coming from egg yolks, butter, red meat, and so on, causes cholesterol in the blood to go up. That in turn causes clogging of the arteries and, given enough time, heart disease and even early death.

While it has been shown that high blood cholesterol in young to middle aged but otherwise healthy individuals often leads to heart disease, the link between blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol in the diet has never been conclusively established. For example, when studies of the Atkins diet were finally released, they showed that blood cholesterol levels went down – not up – in people following this notoriously high cholesterol diet.

At the same time, studies of people on vegan or other very low or no cholesterol diets failed to show dramatic drops in blood cholesterol levels. In my own professional experience I have known several people over the years who switched to a vegan diet containing no cholesterol only to see their blood cholesterol levels go up rather than down.

We also hear increasingly from mainstream medical sources that high cholesterol is a problem that originates in childhood and that, conceivably, is when the foundation for heart disease later in life is laid. Read More »

Salt: friend or foe?

Just recently, a long-time patient of mine brought me a copy of an article on salt and asked me to read it. The article, entitled “Health advice takes a pinch of salt” was from a publication named The Costco Connection that I had never heard of or seen before.

My patient told me that reading the article felt to him like listening to me talk, and he was sure that I would enjoy it as well. As it turns out I did. I found the article well-written and well-referenced, and it reminded me of a similar article I had read just a few months earlier in the New York Times.

The point of the article was that salt is widely believed among medical professionals and the public at large to cause high blood pressure, which then leads to heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular ailments.

However, the link between salt consumption and high blood pressure has never been proved conclusively. The belief that there is such a link stems more from medical bias than scientific evidence. It is true that an observational study published in 1972 showed that among populations that used little added salt in their food high blood pressure was rare. One minor detail that was overlooked was that these same populations also did not eat sugar or processed food – two far more likely culprits in my opinion, than salt. Read More »

Repair the membrane, restore the body: innovative approaches to regaining optimal health and the science behind them

At one time cell membranes were believed to just be envelopes surrounding cells. However, it has been nearly forty years since the structure of the cell membrane was deciphered leading to the development of the Lipid Bi-Layer Fluid Mosaic Model. In this model cell membranes are no longer seen as merely envelopes, they become dynamic structures that play critical roles in the health and detoxification of cells, and the cells’ unique ability to work in concert – thus keeping us in good health.

Lipids – or fats – are the main component of cell membranes. Lipids in cell membranes are actually phospholipids – or a combination of fats and phosphorus – and not just fats. They don’t just sit idly by doing nothing; they contribute to every aspect of cellular energy, detoxification, and optimal function.

Healthy cell-membranes lead to healthy cells, a healthy body, plenty of energy, healthy aging, and so forth. Among other things, cell membranes incorporate hormone receptors that, if sound, will promote healthy hormone activity throughout the body.

Unfortunately the fats (or phospholipids) in cell membranes can be degraded leading to deterioration in cellular – and, overall – health and wellness.

A major reason why cell membranes become damaged is poor diet. When highly processed fats are a major component of an individual’s diet, they will be incorporated in cell membranes and cause their function to deteriorate. Excessive intake of sugars, refined carbohydrates and other processed foods will have the same negative effect.

The fats in cell membranes are very vulnerable to oxidation, so a lack of antioxidants in the diet is also a primary cause of damage to cell membranes.

Last but not least, environmental toxins like mercury and an almost endless list of chemicals present in our everyday lives can also harm cell membranes, and thus have far-reaching adverse effects on health.

The first symptom of cell membrane damage could be described as decreased energy levels or vitality, although other common symptoms include intestinal and digestive problems, chronic pain, and weakened immunity. Damaged cell membranes have also been linked with neurological disorders, autism, problems like depression or anxiety, ADHD and – ultimately – cancer, heart disease, mental decline, and more.

Forty years of research on cell membranes have significantly enhanced our understanding of their central role in health. Ultimately much of what is recommended today, like fish oil supplements, is aimed at improving cell membrane health whether we know it or not.

Meanwhile, forward thinking researchers and physicians developed the concept of Lipid Replacement Therapy (LRT) – a way to actually “change the oil” in the body. Damaged fats in cell membranes are replaced with healthy ones, gradually restoring health. Read More »

Glutathione, the master health protector, can also prevent the flu

Glutathione is a peptide or small protein that the body makes to protect itself from free radicals, oxidative stress and the harmful effects of environmental toxins. Oxidative stress refers to damage at the level of DNA and other cell structures resulting from exposure to free radicals or toxins. This damage is often where critical illnesses like cancer or heart disease originate.

Glutathione is considered to be the most powerful antioxidant in the body. It is also a detoxifier in that it binds to toxic metals or cancer-causing chemicals and safely “escorts” them out of the body. The efficiency of detoxification depends to a large degree on how much glutathione is available, and glutathione levels vary dramatically from person to person.

One cause of this variability is a difference in genetic traits. Genetic variants determine how much glutathione will be produced in a given individual and the difference is dramatic. Even under optimal conditions glutathione produced in one person can be half as much as in someone else (Richie et al, Clin Chem 42:64, 1996). Research is now showing that people with a gene variant named GAG-7 who produce the least glutathione have a higher rate of cancer (research presented at a recent conference by John P. Richie, PhD of Penn State University College of Medicine and currently submitted for publication). Read More »

Are treatments for heart disease the modern equivalent of radical mastectomy?

Cardiologist Caldwell Esselstyn, MD reminds us that it is not so long ago that the treatment of choice for breast cancer was radical mastectomy – a disfiguring surgical procedure that often caused lifelong pain and loss of function. This practice continued for decades in the face of evidence that far less invasive procedures were equally effective.

Likewise, bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, and a host of drugs continue to be prescribed in spite of evidence that nutrition can cure even advanced forms of heart disease.

You can read about this in a recent article Dr. Esselstyn wrote for the American Journal of Cardiology – – and also in his excellent book entitled “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.

This story began in 1985 when Dr. Esselstyn tried against all odds to save a group of terminal heart patients who had already been administered every type of surgery and drug known and were sent home with a prognosis of weeks, or at most months, to live.

Rather than accepting what seemed inevitable, Dr. Esselstyn had them follow a strict vegan diet. All improved. Many recovered, and the book even shows images of blocked arteries that cleared within a few years on his diet. Read More »

Dairy fat, sugar and heart disease

It used to be that the world was simple. Everyone knew that cholesterol caused heart disease and dairy fat contained cholesterol, so it had to be avoided. Then some people started to ask too many questions and it all became complicated.

One thing we came to learn is that most cholesterol is made in the liver, and the liver keeps on making it whether we eat cholesterol or not. So the question became, why on earth does the liver make all this cholesterol, endangering our health? A few interesting new studies could point us in a new direction.

In the first study (Br J Nutr 2004, Apr; 91 (4): 635-42) researchers started out with a statement of fact (from when the world was simple): “milk fat is high in saturated fatty acids (SFA) and high intakes of SFA are associated with cardiovascular diseases.”

Oddly enough, though, when they looked at the occurrence of first-ever heart attacks in a north Sweden population, they couldn’t find any link between these two. In fact, when they analyzed some recognized risk factors for heart disease, including insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic condition) they actually found an inverse correlation between them. This means that some important risk factors for cardiovascular disease decreased as people ate more milk fat.

In another study (BMJ 2003; 327: 777-782, 4 October) researchers analyzed intakes of saturated fat in more than 40,000 US healthcare workers. They then looked at rates of stroke within this group over a period of 14 years and concluded that “intakes of red meats, high-fat dairy products, nuts, and eggs were not appreciably related to risk of stroke.”

So if milk fat does not cause first heart attacks or strokes, what does? The answer to this question is probably complex and multi-factorial, but a third study (Obes Res 2003 Sep; 11 (9): 1069-103) does at least give us a hint. The study found that when carbohydrate consumption goes up, the body rapidly starts to produce fat. Not only that, but the excess carbohydrates apparently activate genetic factors that are programmed to keep on making more fats (including cholesterol). Could sugar be the real culprit? Remember, too, that when people cut fat from their diets they inevitably end up eating more carbohydrates because of the unavoidable law of nature that says you’ve got to eat something.