Heart Risk Evaluations Dietary Philosophy
(Low Fat or Low Carbohydrate?)
Diet Does Heart Risk Evaluations
are many diets commonly recommended for good general health and specifically to
lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
And today, early in the 21st century, there is a huge debate
raging over two popular but very different dietary programs.
One is the high-carbohydrate, low-fat approach, which has been popular
for the last 10 or 15 years. These
diets are recommended by such prominent figures as Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John
McDougall, Nathan Pritiken, Dr. Terry Shintani and a host of others.
Furthermore, the medical industry as a whole has favored this approach
for a number of years. The other
popular dietary regimen is low carbohydrate, with moderate to even high levels
of fat and protein recommended. Proponents
of these diets include Dr. Robert Atkins and the authors of Sugar Busters,
Protein Power and the Carbohydrate Addict's series.
of these two groups is correct, is it possible that they could both be correct,
or could there be some middle ground between these two extremes?
Have scientific studies proven anything in this regard?
there has been such a "scientific" study in effect for many years and
tested on millions, even billions of "subjects."
The testing ground is Japan and China and the South Seas and Hunza and
the United States and Finland and Germany.
In these lands and others the general populace follows certain dietary
patterns. By examining medical data
from these locations it can readily be discerned which dietary traits offer the
most heart-health protection. The
lands such as Japan, China, the South Seas and the Hunza, where diets are
traditionally lower in fat and high in plant-based foods, occurrence of heart
disease is very low, even rare. In
places such as the United States, Finland and Germany, where diets tend to be
heavy in fats, and particularly saturated fats, the occurrence of heart disease
is very high, even common. (The
incidence of heart disease in other lands where much fat is consumed but where
it is in a more healthful, monounsaturated form such as olive oil, such as
Italy, falls somewhere in between these two groups.)
studies have shown that a very low saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet, such as
that of Dean Ornish's "Prevention Diet," actually reverses arterial
plaque buildup. It is so successful
at doing this that over 150 insurance companies support his dietary program for
Then, Accounts for the Low Carbohydrate Craze?
the low-fat diet is superior, what accounts for the recent higher fat,
low-carbohydrate craze? There are
probably three reasons, and they all exploit "weaknesses" in the
low-fat plan, as follows:
While many people on low-fat diets faithfully follow the principles of
healthy eating, others do not. They
get sidetracked, or obsessed, with keeping their fat intake below a certain
level, such as 10% of all dietary calories consumed.
In doing so, they may lose sight of the big picture, and become careless
with the other 90% of their calories. These
may more and more be eaten in the form of simple carbohydrates—soda (even
health food sodas), candies (even health food candies), pretzels (even health
food pretzels), juices (even health food juices) sweet fruits, low-fat ice
creams and so on. This sets the stage for and can become carbohydrate
addiction, also known as insulin resistance syndrome or Syndrome X.
Even on a low-fat diet, but in the presence of high insulin levels, body
weight may rise (especially in the form of upper-body weight, the spare-tire
syndrome) and cholesterol levels may rise.
This diet can also put one on the fast-track to adult-onset diabetes and
Some people like their ears tickled (and their bellies filled with fat).
In other words, many have grown up in the culture of "the more meat
and dairy products the better." They
thus consume a steady diet of these products, often supplied by fast food
establishments. When they realize
they have serious health problems and need to make changes, they are shocked by
the scope of change necessary to move to a truly healthy lower fat, plant-based
diet. (By plant-based diet we are
referring to the bulk, or majority of the diet being plant foods. This is not necessarily implying completely eliminating
animal products from the diet.) So
to avoid what they believe will be a traumatic change, they are very easily
convinced that as long as they avoid carbohydrates, they can eat whatever they
want, grease, chemicals and all.
They sell a lot of products. Dietary
books have always been huge sellers, often planting themselves at the very top
of bestseller lists. Furthermore,
it is interesting to note that there is a huge difference in the amount of food
products sold between the low-fat and the low-carbohydrate camps.
Dr. Atkins of the latter, for instance, has a huge line of products that
produces tasty, even sweet-tasting manufactured foods that are low in
carbohydrates. You can, though,
barely find a store bought product by the low-fat experts.
Why is this? Because those
who propose the low-carbohydrate diets are always coming up with some
sweet-tasting man-made candy bar or cookie that has a bonus, they are indeed low
in carbohydrates. On the other
hand, what Drs. Ornish and McDougall and Shintani and others are telling us is
to eat the healthful, nutrient-packed foods that come right out of the ground.
They know that these foods are perfectly designed, and they can't be
improved upon. (These facts may
also bring into question the motivation behind the dietary structure of those
pushing an ever-increasing line of expensive diet foods.)
Some Low-Carbohydrate Diets Better Than Others?
think so. The diets recommend in
the books Sugar Busters, Pure Protein, and the Carbohydrate
Addicts series are all reasonably sound in principal and may indeed be a
better alternative to those who tend to keep fats low but are damaging their
bodies with an overabundance of simple, refined carbohydrates. On the other hand, diets such as the Atkins Diet, where the
bulk of food choices are products low in carbohydrates but dripping with
saturated fat, such as sausages and fatty marbled red-meats and large quantities
of eggs, have been called by many medical experts dangerous and irresponsible.
Heart Risk Evaluations shares this view.
It could be asked, in fact, is this not essentially the diet that got us
into so much trouble in the first place?
Heart Risk Evaluations
sources such as Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. William Castelli and Stanford University's
Life Plan all suggest two different dietary programs—one for those with good
heart-health and another more stringent one for those with a history of plaque
buildup or heart disease. We agree
with this sound approach.
general, a healthy diet should have the following characteristics. It should:
Be low in saturated fats. Because
the body uses saturated fats to produce cholesterol, saturated fats contribute
most to our levels of serum cholesterol, even more so than dietary cholesterol.
For those without heart disease we recommend a limit of 25 grams a day.
For those with heart disease we recommend a limit of 10-15 grams.
(These limits are best implemented on a weekly basis by average.
This allows for the occasional—and perhaps necessary—splurge.)
Reduce dietary cholesterol. Dietary
cholesterol will contribute to an increase in serum cholesterol. And for those of you who may have wondered, there is no way
of consuming HDL "good cholesterol" to increase your bodies level of
that substance. Dietary cholesterol increases serum LDL cholesterol.
Heart Risk Evaluations recommends that those without heart disease limit
their cholesterol intake to under 200 mg. a day.
Those with heart disease should not exceed 10-50 mg. a day.
Control total fats. Even
unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive, canola and flax seed oil, are
healthy only in small or moderate amounts.
We recommend a total fat intake of between 15-25 percent of all dietary
calories, concentrating on such healthful sources as the three oils mentioned
above and those occurring naturally in avocados, nuts and seeds.
For those with heart disease, we suggest reducing this to 10-20 percent.
Limit consumption of animal products, while concentrating on leaner cuts
of meat, such as chicken, fish and turkey, and low-fat or non-fat dairy
products. Egg yolks are very high
in cholesterol, and two egg whites often provides a suitable substitute for one
egg yolk in cooking.
Limits other substances that are harmful in large amounts, such as
refined dietary sugar and alcohol. Remember,
you can wipe out all of the good effects of a lower-fat diet by pushing past
reasonable limits in these areas.
Rule out overeating. While
it is very difficult to track precise caloric intake, and calorie requirements
vary from person to person and even from day to day, it is taken for granted
that a healthful diet would exclude overeating, especially so on a regular
Include moderate to generous amounts of supplementation. For some a simple, low potency multi-vitamin-mineral tablet
may suffice. Others will achieve
better results with higher doses, especially of specific cardiovascular
protective nutrients. Some of the
more recognized supplements are vitamins E and C, niacin, flax seed oil,
psyllium, garlic (including deodorized), co-enzyme Q-10, and others.
8. An abundance of water. The
benefits of proper hydration are many. A
good rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water each day.
To tailor a program more closely to your needs, consider the following
formula: Drink one half of your
total pounds of body weight in ounces. Thus,
a person weighing 150 pounds should drink 75 ounces of water a day.
We recommended drinking the majority of this away from the main meals.
Some meet this requirement by sipping on water through a "sports
bottle" throughout the day.
Some meet this requirement by sipping on water through a "sports bottle" throughout the day.
9. Not be an oppressively overbearing. Learn to enjoy eating healthful foods, but don't become a fanatic (those with heart disease or who are at high risk need to be more stringent than the rest of the population, though). Don't ruin the benefits of your whole tropical vacation because of being inflexible with your eating habits. An occasional splurge, or eating small amounts of less than ideal foods, probably won't hurt you. One famous health practitioner recommends that if you are going to splurge, do it with quality foods. You'll probably be more satisfied with a smaller amount if you do this, she claims.
May you enjoy eating such a healthful diet and may your heart beat soundly for a long, long time. Good health to you!
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