It's Monday – and time for another Real Food Quote Monday (RFQM). Today, I'm continuing what I began a couple weeks ago and continued last week, sharing from Dr. Mary Enig's and Sally Fallon Morell's book, “Eat Fat, Lose Fat.”
In Chapter 2, their goal is to debunk the lipid hypothesis through answering four questions – or as they put it, exploding four myths. Last week we discussed the lipid hypothesis (“the theory that saturated fats and cholesterol in our food raise cholesterol levels in the blood, leading to heart disease”), and we showed that the assumption that saturated fat elevates cholesterol is not true.
Here's a quick recap of the myths Chapter 2 addresses:
- Myth: High fat foods cause heart disease.
- Myth: High cholesterol causes heart disease. (Topic of this blog post.)
- Myth: High-fat foods increase blood cholesterol.
- Myth: Cholesterol causes plaque buildup in arteries.
This week, we're going to move on to the second myth.
Myth: High Cholesterol Causes Heart Disease
Atherosclerosis is the process of progressive thickening and hardening of the walls of medium-size and large arteries. So we must find out: does cholesterol cause thickening and hardening of artery walls, and therefore heart disease?
The authors reviewed scientific literature – even literature supporting the lipid hypothesis – and found that there is much data refuting the claim that cholesterol causes atherosclerosis and heart disease.
The first study that Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig reviewed was the Framingham Study. This was the first major government-sponsored study on heart disease. It began in 1948 and lasted for 30 years. Researchers studied 500 residents of the Framingham, Massachusetts town to look at all the factors that might contribute to heart disease. Here's what the evidence showed.
- After 16 years, there was little difference in cholesterol between those who had heart attacks and those who did not.
- After 30 years, the men older than 47 years died just as often (from heart attack) whether their cholesterol was high or low.
- After 30 years, those whose cholesterol had decreased had an 11% higher risk of dying (from any cause) than those whose cholesterol had increased.
So, cholesterol was not implicated as a factor contributing to heart disease. Yet, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute made a joint statement in 1990, claiming that this very study revealed that a 1% reduction in cholesterol corresponded to a 2% reduction in coronary heart disease. Incredible!
The authors reviewed more scientific studies and literature. Here are some of the findings.
- Researchers found just as much artery blockage in people with low levels of cholesterol as those with high levels.
- For women, high cholesterol is not a risk factor for heart disease; in fact, low cholesterol is!
- Low levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- Low levels of cholesterol increases the risk of death from all causes.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs offer no benefit – the rate of death is the same as if one was not taking of these type of drugs.
Conclusion: Cholesterol Does NOT Contribute To Atherosclerosis And Heart Disease
So, we've learned that 1) high fat foods do not cause heart disease and 2) high cholesterol does not cause heart disease. This is monumental in how it flies in the face of conventional wisdom – and we still have two questions to go!
So that's it for this week's Real Food Quote Monday. What do you think? Next week, we'll move on to myth #3. Please feel free to share anything you're thinking in the comments!
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