HEART DISEASE & NUTRITION IN THE 21ST CENTURY

The Fate of the Humble Egg has been Reversed on Appeal ! You can now relax & enjoy them.   

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In 1989 the medical research community indicted Cholesterol as the ultimate co-conspirator in the case of Assault with a deadly weapon against Coronary Arteries.  One of the weapons entered into evidence, heretofore thought incapable of inflicting harm, was the hen’s egg, quite impressively demonized by the prosecution as a most dangerous delivery system of irreversible harm.  They presented witnesses the most convincing of which were young science writers from The Lancet alleging that data collected from a study of 1,824 middle-aged men who were followed for over 25 years proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that dietary cholesterol was the likely cause of death from cardiovascular disease. 

So convincing was their case that Americans to this day have difficulty trusting in the consumption of eggs as being a nutritious, vitamin and mineral packed food.  In fact, despite new, sophisticated research to the contrary, it is still a widely held belief that dietary fats and cholesterol are the main culprits in heart disease.  But the tide is turning slowly even if US Guidelines from the FDA have not caught up with current thinking.  It has been effectively demonstrated, as I have long believed, that the cholesterol content of eggs is not the cause of Heart Disease!

In a paper recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 140 randomized participants in Australia were divided into two groups:  one ate 12 eggs per week while the other ate only 2 eggs per week.  After 12 weeks there was no significant change in Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL or “lousy” cholesterol) or High Density Lipoprotein (HDL or “happy” cholesterol), Triglycerides or Blood Sugar.

Concurrent concern that Eggs might still be risky for those with Type II diabetes led to more studies to examine this hypothesis.  A study out of Finland also published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition put these fears to rest.  It examined the relationship between egg consumption and the risk of developing Type II Diabetes in middle aged and older men.  In fact, the study tended to show that eggs may have lowered the risk of Diabetes in this Patient population.

There are now countless other studies all leading to the same conclusions.  But these results should in no way be taken to mean that it’s now safe or indeed wise to consume unlimited quantities of cholesterol-containing foods.  They are still very high in caloric value which will produce its own attendant risks of obesity and diabetes if not consumed in moderation.

So what, you may well ask, is the real cause of Coronary Artery Disease often resulting from the accumulation of fatty plaque in the blood vessels?  The answer, simply put, is overconsumption of simple, or refined, carbohydrates such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, and the ubiquitous use of HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup).  These molecules, particularly when combined with a diet low in fiber and protein, lead to Inflammation which is now postulated to be at the root of inflexible diseased arteries, as well as Cancers, Gastroenterological Disorders, Neurological Disorders, Gynecological complaints and disease, and many others.  Paradoxically, since the American public was admonished to drastically reduce their intake of fats, the last three decades or so saw an unprecedented increase in Obesity leading to an increase in morbidity and mortality from Heart Disease, the very thing it was expected to protect against.  This is because the lack of fats, oils, and proteins known to produce satiety, caused increased hunger and consequently a rise in consumption of carbohydrates.

DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT

In a previous blog I mentioned that increasing one’s HDLs has been shown much more important to health than simply decreasing LDLs.  The most successful way to accomplish this aside from intake of fish oils is through moderate exercise.  I cannot emphasize more emphatically the importance of finding physical activities that you enjoy doing . . . and doing them more!  Moreover, it is today possible through specialized laboratory studies to more thoroughly examine what may be contributing to one’s individual cardiovascular risk.  For example, we know that all LDLs are not equally noxious.  Low homocysteine levels increase the risk of diseased vessels  more prone to clotting.  A high C-Reactive Protein (cardiac) indicates inflammation within blood vessels.  An elevated Lipoprotein-a is a strong indicator of familial/genetic risk; and so forth.

I would therefore recommend that this testing be performed on anyone with a family history of Cardiovascular or Peripheral Artery Disease or Stroke.  With a clearer picture of what causes vascular inflammation we can devise a more accurate and successful treatment plan.  Sometimes the simple addition of B12 and Folic Acid may be all that is needed.  In other cases the use of Niacin (B3) is effective in correcting a cholesterol imbalance obviating the need for statins.  Even Red Yeast Rice has been demonstrated effective.  And, of course, more exercise along with a healthy diet can work miracles!

Some conventional MDs may be aware of this specialized testing.  At Quest Laboratories, for example, it is referred to as “Cardio Ion”.  Similar studies are provided by a lab known as the Boston Heart Study. The corresponding reports are very thorough and quite informative.  Should your MD be one of those unfamiliar with these studies, I can interpret them for you and devise a program to make whatever corrections are indicated.  In a few circumstances, we may be able to have this covered by your insurance but this is, of course, not guaranteed.  The "self-pay" cost is currently $268.

DIET

The current best recommendations for a Heart Friendly Diet include a much lowered refined carbohydrate intake, increased protein content as well as intake of veggies, fiber-containing nutrients, and “healthy” oils (my personal preferences are olive oil, nut oils, seed oils as opposed to bacon fat, and not only because of cholesterol content).

And, to return to our new friend, the hen’s egg, each egg contains 6 grams of protein which promotes satiety thereby lessening the craving for high calorie, less nutritious options.  It will also promote a long, slow metabolization as opposed to the quick burst given by coffee and a doughnut.  By way of demonstration, consider how long a large Yule log gives off heat versus the same circumference of little sticks.  Further, eggs are an excellent source of B vitamins, Selenium, and vitamin A.  Our eyes, especially, benefit from the panoply of nutrients that eggs provide.


RECIPE FOR HEALTH

Enjoy Dr. Beaty's family favorite “Smashed Eggs” !

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Heat a skillet on low then coat with 2 to 3 Tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil just prior to adding the first ingredients. Quickly add chopped onion, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, or any of your favorite stir-fry veggies totaling 1 cup per person. Season with sea salt and pepper and dried herbs, if used.  Saute until heated through but 'al dente'. Add huge handfuls of baby salad spinach, arugula, escarole, or other quick-cooking greens according to your preference, cut or torn to uniform size. Wilt (may need to cover for a minute). Stir all components together & push to the sides of the pan. In a bowl crack 2 eggs/person, do not whisk or beat, and add all at once to the middle of the skillet.  Cook until the whites are mostly solid but not quite. Quickly stir together the partially cooked eggs & all of the other vegetable ingredients, incorporating fresh herbs, if used, at this point. Turn out immediately onto serving platters to discourage further cooking of the eggs. The eggs in the finished recipe should not resemble scrambled eggs or eggs homogenized as in fried rice but rather consist of  separate yellow and white chunks combined with the cooked vegetables. Because you're able to appreciate the distinct flavors and textures of the whites and yolks separately, you achieve a more flavorful finished product.  Just sayin’.

If desired, you may add approximately one Tablespoon of organic low-fat cottage cheese per person and/or grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste.

(Many thanks to my brother Jim’s Cornell housemother, Mrs. Iacovazzi, for this delicious recipe) 

Please enjoy this article for some Heart Healthy food tips:  http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307113,00.html