The Heart Association’s Junk Science Diet


Log from Blammo's picture

It was the AHA's "heart healthy" diet recommendations, along with the FDA "food pyramid", that first led me to question typical American medical practices. It saddens me somewhat that "evidence-based medicine" always requires the adjective qualifier and "marketing-based medicine" is the default meaning for "medicine".

From what I have seen, which is admittedly not much, heart disease results from the following mechanism.

1. Blood vessels are damaged, usually due to a combination of loss in elasticity and high blood pressure. Tiny tears appear in the vessel wall.

2. The normal repair mechanism is triggered. Arterial plaques form from platelets and cholesterol so that the damage does not increase faster than it can be repaired. The end result may involve scar tissue, which may contribute to further damage later, but scarring is a much faster repair mechanism than regeneration. That reduces the mortality risk from acute injury at the expense of potential problems later.

3. The arterial plaques become calcified. This both stiffens the blood vessel and causes the plaque itself to become brittle. Pieces may break off and lodge elsewhere.

Now, if you follow standard guidelines, you will be eating a low-sodium, low-fat diet to avoid this. You may also be on a diuretic and a statin to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Some maverick physicians suggest that lowering sodium and fluid volume is not the correct way to address high blood pressure. They think that rather than lowering sodium intake, people should be raising their potassium. They think that cholesterol itself is not the problem in itself, and instead focus on the calcium, by addressing low levels of vitamins D and K in the body, as well as magnesium.

In any case, just as the various amino acids are used in different ways in the body, different fats are used differently. Research into the different types of fatty acids suggests that the shape of the molecule and its length is more important than its chemical formula.

An unsaturated fat with a "trans" double bond in it will be almost straight, similar to a saturated fat, but with a tiny kink in it. These will be metabolized as saturated fats, and any structures including them will be riddled with tiny defects. But their processing makes them undeniably not a saturated fat by the chemist's definition, and they roll up under a different category in the nutrition panel. Foods manufacturers denatured real foods into mild poisons, due in no small part to the AHA promulgating a poorly supported hypothesis that dietary saturated fats contributed to heart disease.

The scientific method is supposed to minimize that sort of unintended consequence. But human test subjects live a long time in comparison with human researchers, and accidentally killing your experimental group is frowned upon. So medical research cuts corners with the help of statistics.

There really is no substitute for paying the massive additional costs of analyzing your medical hypotheses on real human tissues in controllable experiments. Recommendations based upon statistical analyses of health outcomes in culturally disparate groups should be taken, as they say, with a grain of potassium chloride.

eugenedw's picture

Yup, those statistical studies are often utterly naive correlation studies that tell us nothing about causation. Even worse, different individuals may well react differently to the same food.

But by and large, humans are omnivores and you can actually eat whatever you like, within reason. This whole healthy food fad/paranoia thing is just one more way to get us to spend money, and to serve as excuse for governments to control our lives.