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Fats, Carbohydrates and Heart Disease: New Research

February 15, 2011 No comments

Bad-LDL's-Cartoon[Click on the image to Enlarge]

New Research Challenges Dietary Status Quo

In the 1950s, the well-known American scientist Ancel Keys made a correlation between dietary cholesterol and heart disease in ‘The Seven Countries’ Study. This now famous study led to the promotion of a low fat diet as a healthy heart diet, which is taken as a given nowadays. Processed foods were modified to remove most of the fat, which was replaced with carbohydrates – primarily sugar – to make the food more palatable. We were instructed to eat a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates for a happier, healthier heart. We did as we were told. Since ’The Seven Countries’ study, however, heart disease rates have not plummeted as expected, despite the global dietary trend. Scientists have continued their research efforts to combat these statistics, resulting in a significant discovery:

New Cholesterol Research:

Firstly, the Seven Countries study has been found to have been incompletely carried out in a number of ways which brings the once clear correlation between cholesterol and heart disease into question. But more importantly, new research has revealed that the low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is thought of as the “bad” cholesterol, actually comes in two types rather than just one: ball
  • Large buoyant LDLs (Pattern A) - imagine light, bouncy beach balls
  • Small dense LDLs (Pattern B) - imagine smaller, evasive golf balls
The smaller pattern B LDL particles have been found to be more susceptible to oxidization in the circulation than their larger Pattern A counterparts. They are more likely to lead to the development of atherosclerotic plaque, since their smaller size allows them easier access into the blood vessel walls. ..The smaller ‘golf ball’ LDL’s are now becoming recognised as the ‘bad’ ones in terms of heart disease risk

So the smaller ‘golf ball’ LDL’s are now becoming recognised as the ‘bad’ ones in terms of heart disease risk; while the larger, ‘beach ball’ LDL particles are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Crucially, this new research has discovered that the LDLs the body produces are influenced by diet:
  • A diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat leads to a larger number of the small dense variety of LDL - not good for the poor old heart.
  • While a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates causes more of the large, buoyant types of LDLs, and a happier cardiovascular system. Obviously it is still important to get a good balance of high quality undamaged fats in the diet and avoid highly processed foods.
89906242(1)This now poses the question of whether we should revert back to the diet of our ancestors. Have historical dietary recommendations actually contributed to heart disease rates over the past 60 years, rather than reduced them? These questions are being answered by well known experts in the field like Dr Robert Lustig (Pediatric Endocrinologist, Obesity Clinic at UCSF Hospital), Dr David Ludwig (Pediatric Endocrinologist, Obesity Program Director at Boston Children’s Hospital), Dr Gerald Reaven (Endocrinologist known for his work with Diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome), and Gary Taubes (Scientist & author of ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’). In light of the current obesity and diabetes epidemic, this research is central to our health and wellbeing.

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