Attached photo is my friend and Primal Endurance success story Peter Coffey's recent blood test result, from which his doctor recommended he take a statin due to his LDL levels outside the desired range. Oh man, this innocent screen shot got my blood boiling today! Read on to see how you can minimize your heart disease risk and sort through the misinformation that still pervades health and medicine. As you can read in detail in The Primal Blueprint and The Keto Reset Diet, Dr. Cate Shanahan and other ancestral health leaders believe that one's triglycerides-to-HDL ratio is the most important marker for heart disease risk. Getting better than 3.5-to-1 is essential to get out of high risk zone, and getting to 1-to-1 or better is ideal. As you can see, Coffey's results are outstanding--HDL is well above triglycerides.
This favorable ratio strongly suggests that the LDL cholesterol in his blood is mostly the large, fluffy variety (typically harmless), rather than the small, dense variety. Small, dense LDL (you need to ask doctor for a special test to determine LDL particle size--the breakdown of small to large in the total number--as they usually just run a total) is typically blamed as the instigator of heart disease, because these molecules are small and dense enough to lodge in the walls of your arteries and become oxidized by passing blood, stimulate an immune response of macrophages (white blood cells) coming to the area, which then become inflamed to the extent that blockage occurs on the artery wall and causes a heart attack.
Your physician may or may not be informed about matters such as the triglyceride-to-HDL ratio being vastly more important that LDL values, or even the importance of testing particle size before dispensing a prescription. Your physician has not necessarily been exposed to science or education related to healthy eating in his or her medical training and careers. Ditto for your hair stylist or auto repair person. However, to be clear, your cardiologist is a great choice for heart surgery, as is your hair stylist for the occasion of your daughter's wedding, as is your car person for a needed repair.
Unfortunately, conventional medical wisdom still looks at LDL cholesterol levels as the end-all risk factor, with values over 200 triggering a statin prescription. Statin's have assorted serious side effects, including depleting cells of the critical energy producing co-factor, CoQ10. The depleting effect of statins can contribute to fatigue and muscle weakness. So you exercise less and experience a decline in health once you start popping pills. Numerous studies show that statins have minimal effect at preventing heart disease to all populations except people who have already had a heart attack, and that dietary modification can have a vastly greater impact on reducing mortality risk that statins.
Evolved doctors like Dr. Ronesh Sinha, who looks after large employee groups in Silicon Valley and wrote The South Asian Health Solution, cites respected research refuting this flawed and dated approach to heart disease prevention. Sinha cites a UCLA metastudy (a study of hundreds of other studies) where ~80 percent of heart attack victims had LDL cholesterol levels considered in the "safe" range! Whoops. Sinha metioned that the likely reaction to this news is to lower the "safe" threshold rather than re-examine the flawed initial premise that LDL values correlate with heart disease risk. The Framingham Study, Nurses Health Study (these are among the largest and longest health studies, involving decades of tracking populations and hundreds of thousands of individuals) refute that any direct correlation exists. You may recall a bit of alarm and reflection when TV personality Tim Russert died of a heart attack at 58, as his total cholesterol (statin-suppressed of course) was only 106!
Stories and studies like these mentioned have buoyed those in the ancestral health community, but will take a disturbingly long time to be recognized and validated by mainstream authorities, who are strongly wedded (reputation, funding, etc.) to the status quo. As ER doc and leading primal fitness authority Dr. Doug McGuff (author of The Primal Prescription) says, "Mainstream medicine and government policy will indeed come around [to embrace the new research and ancestral-style health principles] but because they are giant bureaucracies, it could take 20 years. I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait that long!"
For now, you don't have to accept this old-time athlete as a health authority, but you might want to educate yourself beyond what you hear at a doctor checkup or in a newspaper headline. If you are sciency, stubborn, and need proof to alter some of your long-standing beliefs about diet, fat, cholesterol and so forth, check out Why We Get Fat by the esteemed science journalist Gary Taubes. Extensive references are provided in this story that will help you embrace a new paradigm, where stuff we have been told our whole lives can be discarded and an evolved picture can be embraced.
Quick takeaway - if you want to do something to save your life, eliminate the big-three worst offenders in the modern diet:
- Grains (wheat, rice, corn, pasta, cereal, and all the processed foods made from grains): We've been told that whole grains should form the foundation of a healthy diet, but even whole grains are eventually converted into glucose upon ingestion, and add to the disastrously excessive total carb intake in the modern diet. Whole grains also contain objectionable agents such as gluten and lectin, which are known to contribute to the now popular health topic of leaky gut syndrome. Yes, gut health is the cutting edge and about to explode in awareness. No less than the great South African physician Dr. Timothy Noakes (arguably the most prominent exercise physiologist on the planet) said, "leaky gut and insulin resistance are the future of medicine." Our new book by Australian journalist Kale Brock called The Gut Healing Protocol will give you an excellent education and dietary protocol to improve gut health.
- Sugars: The assorted forms of sweetened beverages being the worst because they don't fill you up, but blast you with high doses of sugar. Also ditch sweets, treats, and deceptive forms of high sugar such as healthy-sounding energy bars and processed snacks and condiments containing sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig is a leader of the campaign against sugar. Check out The Real Truth About Sugar, and Gary Taubes' The Case Against Sugar. Sugar will slowly kill you, and the 8-year-olds you serve it to at your kid's birthday party. Sorry to be a party pooper, but it's time to wake up, realize this stuff is truly physically addictive, and transition over to delicious, high fat treats (like highest quality dark chocolate). Sure it's important to enjoy life, but how about making sugar a special treat instead of a daily staple? Yah athletes, I'm talking to you too especially, due to your massive consumption of gels, bars, drinks and extra dietary calories of all forms. Check out Primal Endurance Mastery Course to help you ditch carb dependency and become a fat burning beast.
- Refined high-polyunsaturated vegetable oils: Immediately eliminate all bottles oils such as canola, corn, soybean, safflower, buttery spreads and sprays made with these oils, and all the packaged, processed, frozen, fried stuff made with these offensive agents. This stuff, because it has become oxidized (contains free radicals!) during high temperature extraction/processing methods, inflicts immediate damage to your cellular DNA to the extent that Dr. Cate cites research that they are in many ways worse then smoking a cigarette, and exclaims that, "they are, literally, like eating radiation." Unfortunately, an estimated 40 percent of all the calories in restaurant food are from vegetable oils (cited by Dr. Shanahan; due to entrees being cooked in this cheap sludge at everywhere from fast food joints to the finest establishments), and an estimated 20 percent of all calories in the Standard American Diet come from soybean oil alone (Dr. Andrew Weil). Check out Dr. Cate and her husband Luke and I talking about the dangers of vegetable oils. Luke's a nice guy but he will freak you out and scare you away from oils with this frank discussion of how oils mess with your brain and body.
Thanks for your interest and consideration!!