Tag Archives: heart disease

Your Cholesterol Matters Less Than You Think

Eraser deleting the word Cholesterol

The Cholesterol Hypothesis

The cholesterol hypothesis is the prevailing theory on why human beings develop heart disease. It goes something like this; elevated total cholesterol and, especially, elevated LDL cholesterol, is the primary cause of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Further, replacing saturated fat in the diet with vegetable oils lowers serum cholesterol and, therefore, lowers cardiovascular disease risk. This information is decades old and has become medical dogma. Unfortunately, it’s not true.

Much of this information comes from the Seven Countries Study originating in the 1950s, although data is still analyzed today to glean more knowledge from it. It tied fat consumption to heart disease. The lead author, Ancel Keys, found the more fat a society consumed the higher the rate of heart attacks. It seemed to be very convincing evidence. This observation helped shape health policies for governments and the medical field. In fact, to some degree, it still does today.

Missing or Unpublished Data

There was a problem with it, though. Data showed that there were populations of people who consumed lots of fat but had low heart attack rates. Conversely, there was data showing there were populations of people who consumed very little fat but had high rates of heart attacks. This information was omitted from the study. The study also failed to account for the fact that the people who consumed the most fat were also most likely to consume the most sugar. While nutrition science is notoriously difficult, these seem like variables that shouldn’t have been ignored.

Superimpose the above inconsistencies with interventional studies conducted in the same time period and you’ll quickly see you’ve been misled. Ancel Keys’ study was an observational study. This means he observed a connection between two sets of data. Observational studies cannot prove cause and effect. For example, imagine this headline; “New science has observed a connection between high heel wearing and breast cancer.” Does wearing high heels cause breast cancer? Of course not. It just happens that people who wear high heels (mostly women) also develop the majority of breast cancer. This silly example shows just how easily an observational study can get it wrong.

The gold standard for proving cause and effect is an interventional study where populations are randomized and given either an experimental intervention or are controls, generally receiving a placebo. In dietary trials, placebos are difficult, if not impossible, to give so participants diets are often left unchanged for the control population.

The Sydney Diet Heart Study and the Minnesota Coronary Experiment

Around the same time that Ancel Keys was doing his work, two interventional studies were conducted. One was called the Sydney Diet Heart Study and the other the Minnesota Coronary Experiment. Both of these studies were incompletely published (data was missing) or went completely unpublished for reasons no one really knows. It is likely because they contradicted accepted dogma and scientific journals were hesitant to put their reputations on the line for something they viewed with skepticism. We know about them now because a group of researchers recently uncovered the unpublished data, reanalyzed it with modern methods and found some shocking results. The reanalysis of both studies was published in the British Medical Journal.

In both of these experiments, totaling about 10,000 participants, saturated fat was removed from the diets of the experimental group and replaced with vegetable oils. This is precisely what the American Heart Association says you should do. What did they find? They found that by removing saturated fat, the participants’ cholesterol went down. This is not unexpected. What they didn’t expect to find was that in both studies the low saturated fat group experienced more cardiovascular disease, more coronary heart disease, and an increase in all-cause mortality.

So let’s summarize; Removing saturated fat and replacing it with vegetable oils lowers cholesterol. But lowering cholesterol raised the risk of heart disease? Yes. This puts an enormous, truck-sized hole in the cholesterol hypothesis. In fact, in the Minnesota Coronary Experiment for every 30 points a person’s cholesterol dropped their risk of death increased by 22%.

This information is counter to everything nutrition science says. Three other randomized controlled trials have confirmed the results. Couple this with another very recent study evaluating over 68,000 elderly people which found an inverse relationship in those over 60 between LDL level and mortality, and I think we seriously need to evaluate the cholesterol hypothesis.

The Real Cause of Heart Disease

If cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, what does? It’s quite simple actually – endothelial damage. The endothelia are the cells that line your blood vessels. There are things that are known to damage this lining – high blood pressure, inflammation, high blood sugar, smoking, oxidative stress, and aging. These triggers, and pursuant damage, set into motion a cascading set of events that allows your immune system (in the form of white blood cells) to infiltrate the lining of the vessels. Only after they do this do they begin the process of engulfing cholesterol, which eventually leads to arterial plaque formation. Control those triggers and you will never develop heart disease. If you do not control those processes, it doesn’t matter how low your cholesterol is. You will still develop heart disease. I hear you saying, “But how do I control aging?” That is more difficult as we will all age, but living a healthy lifestyle helps with all of those factors, including aging. Plus, aging alone is unlikely to be a significant cause of heart disease.

It’s important to recognize that cholesterol is not your enemy. Sedentary lifestyle, smoking, a diet high in refined food, the excess consumptions of sugar, and poor stress management are much more serious concerns. Lowering cholesterol for the sake of lowering it has no beneficial effect on your heart. As a matter of fact, the research shows it could be downright dangerous for it. So if you’ve been told you have high cholesterol and that lowering it will lower your risk, you might want to consider the information above and seek an alternative.

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9 Signs You Have A Leaky Gut

The gut is the gateway to health. If your gut is healthy, chances are that you’re in good health. However, there’s a condition called leaky gut that can lead to a host of health problems.

What is a leaky gut?

The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb these vital nutrients. In fact, regulating intestinal permeability is one of the basic functions of the cells that line the intestinal wall. In sensitive people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining. Other factors — such as infections, toxins, stress and age — can also cause these tight junctions to break apart.

Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. The immune response to these invaders can appear in the form of any of the nine signs you have a leaky gut, which are listed below.

What causes leaky gut?

The main culprits are foods, infections, and toxins. Gluten is the number one cause of leaky gut. Other inflammatory foods like dairy or toxic foods, such sugar and excessive alcohol, are suspected as well. The most common infectious causes are candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Toxins come in the form of medications, like Motrin, Advil, steroids, antibiotics, and acid-reducing drugs, and environmental toxins like mercury, pesticides and BPA from plastics. Stress and age also contribute to a leaky gut.

If you suffer from any of the following conditions, it’s likely that you have a leaky gut:

9 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut

1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

2. Seasonal allergies or asthma.

3. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS.

4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease.

5. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.

6. Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.

7. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.

8. Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.

9. Food allergies or food intolerances.

How do you heal a leaky gut?

1. Remove.

Remove the bad. The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections.

2. Replace.

Replace the good. Add back the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption, such as digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids.

3. Reinoculate.

It’s critical to restore beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria.

4. Repair.

It’s essential to provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. One of my favorite supplements is L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the lining of the gut wall.

If you still have symptoms after following the above recommendations, I would recommend finding a Functional Medicine physician in your area to work with you and to order a comprehensive stool test.

via 9 Signs You Have A Leaky Gut.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

Leaky gut was once considered quackery. Today, an abundance of research supports that it does exist and that it plays a major role in many diseases. Much of what we do in our day to day lives contributes to the development of leaky gut. If you know what these factors are, they are easily avoided and optimal health is easily achieved.

If you’d like more detail, including in depth examination of the techniques you can use to heal leaky gut, watch my webinar here:

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High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You!

A common additive used in a wide range of commercially available processed foods such as soft drinks, salad dressings, cookies and cakes, breads and breakfast cereals has been poisoning people for several decades now. In fact, research studies have shown that it causes metabolic syndrome which in turn contributes a great deal to an increase in body weight and incidence of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and fatty liver. This additive is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

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Sucrose, or regular table sugar, consists of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, whereas HFCS can contain up to 90 percent fructose, almost twice the fructose of common table sugar. In terms of calories, both HFCS and table sugar provide 4 calories per gram, but the issue is the metabolism of excessive amounts of fructose.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup History

In the ninth century, the Japanese invented a sweetener derived from starches. This syrup is being used even today as “traditional sweetener.” In the 17th century, Andreas Sigismund Marggraf, a German chemist, discovered another starch-based sweetener called glucose.

During the times of Napoleonic wars, blockades on sugarcane imports from the West Indies encouraged laboratories to work on development of alternative sweeteners. Dextose or D-glucose was developed in 1801, and in 1811 a Russian scientist created glucose by overcooking potato starch in sulfuric acid.

No further progress was made till the 1950s when the Japanese invented the HFCS. In America, cane sugar continued to be used as the sweetener of choice until the 1970s prior to the introduction of the less expensive sweeteners such as maltodextrin and HFCS that were derived from corn. HFCS was introduced to the food industry after the developmental process was perfected.

Why is HFCS so popular with the food industry?

First and foremost, its sweetness is comparable to that of table sugar. Secondly, it maintains the quality of condiments and drinks for a longer period. Third, it provides a soft, moist texture to baked food such as snack bars and cookies by retaining moisture and resisting crystallization after baking. It is HFCS that gives baked foods flavor and superior browning quality. The sugars present in HFCS get fermented quickly and easily, making it possible to produce sweeter bread. Fourth, it is much cheaper compared to table sugar. Lastly, it is easily added to just about anything. It is generally produced in a liquid form making its incorporation into food and drink products a very simple task for automated equipment that is so common in food production today.

Health Effects of HFCS

The statistics released by the Department of Agriculture in the U.S. show that the average consumption of HFCS has increased from 0.5 pounds per person per year to 60 pounds per person per year over the past four decades.

During the same period, there has been a threefold increase in obesity rates and a seven fold increase in the incidence of diabetes. HFCS may not be singularly responsible for this, but its effect cannot be ignored.

A number of short-term clinical studies have shown that ingesting sweetened beverages is not good for health. Results of one study showed that people gained weight and experienced an increase in blood pressure and inflammatory markers. In another study, scientists observed an increase in visceral fat and triglyceride levels and stimulation of lipogenesis (producing more fat). In yet another trial wherein the effects of water, milk, diet cola and sugar-sweetened cola were compared, the results showed that sugar-sweetened beverage contributed to an increase in liver and visceral fat and elevated triglyceride levels when consumed for 6 months at the rate of just 16 ounce per day (i.e about one soda).

Fructose also increases gut permeability allowing potent bacterial toxins out of the gut and into surrounding immune tissue. This generates an inflammatory response. If this response continues for long periods of time, systemic levels of inflammation begin to rise increasing the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and more. And most studies have shown it only takes the fructose present in one soda to produce these adverse effects.

You may use sugar in any form, but it definitely causes obesity as well as other diseases when consumed in pharmacologic doses. HFCS is often a marker of nutrient-deficient, poor quality and disease-causing industrial food products. It should be severely limited in your diet.

Corn Industry’s Marketing Push

The corn processing industry thrives on doubt and confusion. The Corn Refiners Association skillfully uses the print and television media for massive advertising campaigns in order to dispel the fear among people. The industry also asserts through medical doctors’ as well as nutrition experts’ opinion that HFCS is same as cane sugar and it is a “natural” product if used in moderation. They do this for nothing but commercial benefit though they themselves are aware that this is not true. No independent medical or nutrition experts recommend the consumption of HFCS. My experience lecturing at the 2012 Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo was enlightening. The Corn Refiners Association sponsored lecture after lecture on HFCS and how it was not the villain it was made out to be. In fact, they asserted it could be consumed as part of a healthy diet. They also skillfully shifted the focus from HFCS to the epidemic of inactivity in the US, blaming it instead of processed food for the skyrocketing chronic disease rates in this country.

Do yourself a favor and avoid HFCS. While the corn and sugar industry continues to deceive, they are killing thousands of Americans to make a dollar. It rings eerily similar to Big Tobacco of the 50s and 60s. You don’t want to find out too late that money and corporate interest mislead you into believing it was safe when the research is clear now.

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8 Pictures That Perfectly Describe Leaky Gut (and how to fix it)!

Our gut has many functions. Changes in the balance of bacteria, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth and other factors may affect how your GI system works. This may have systemic consequences.

Our gut has many functions. Changes in the balance of bacteria, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth and other factors may affect how your GI system works. This may have systemic consequences.

Increasingly, chronic disease is being seen as stemming from altered gut function. Follow the arrows to see what the risks for chronic disease are. All of the factors that increase chronic disease risk adversely affect gut function too.

Increasingly, chronic disease is being seen as stemming from altered gut function. Follow the arrows to see what the risks for chronic disease are. All of the factors that increase chronic disease risk adversely affect gut function too.

The bacteria in our gut is EXTREMELY important and there is lots of it. If it becomes unbalanced, all symbiotic functions are lost.

The bacteria in our gut is EXTREMELY important and there is lots of it. If it becomes unbalanced, all symbiotic functions are lost.

These disease have all been linked to changes in the balance of bacteria in the gut

These disease have all been linked to changes in the balance of bacteria in the gut

The gut forms an important barrier between what's inside the intestines and what gets absorbed. Those blue structures highlighted by the orange arrows are tight junctions. They hold the cells together do nothing can squeeze between them and pass into the local blood supply unchecked. This is a very important function.

The gut forms an important barrier between what’s inside the intestines and what gets absorbed. Those blue structures highlighted by the orange arrows are tight junctions. They hold the cells together do nothing can squeeze between them and pass into the local blood supply unchecked. This is a very important function.

All of these factors can lead to breakdown of the tight junctions and leaky gut. NSAIDs are pain relievers like Aspirin, Aleve, Advil, etc. SIBO is an acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

All of these factors can lead to breakdown of the tight junctions and leaky gut. NSAIDs are pain relievers like Aspirin, Aleve, Advil, etc. SIBO is an acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Additionally, low exercise levels is a stressor under the category of physical stress. 

LPS are toxic structures located on the surface of the bacteria in the gut. When bacteria die, they are free to potentially enter our bloodstream. This would happen through a leaky gut. If this occurs your body's response is inflammatory. This inflammation alters your energy levels, your mood, and eventually increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases.

LPS are toxic structures located on the surface of the bacteria in the gut. When bacteria die, they are free to potentially enter our bloodstream. This would happen through a leaky gut. If this occurs your body’s response is inflammatory. This inflammation alters your energy levels, your mood, and eventually increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases.

Start in the upper left corner of the diagram and follow the arrows to see how a leaky gut leads to disease.

Start in the upper left corner of the diagram and follow the arrows to see how a leaky gut leads to disease.

Fixing the problem – follow these steps to fix your leaky gut

  1. Get advanced stool testing done to properly evaluate your GI health.
  2. Eat a paleo-inspired diet full of vegetables, healthy proteins, and healthy fats.
  3. Avoid food sensitivities.
  4. Consume fermented foods regularly.
  5. Supplement according to your needs. This might include nutrient repletion, probiotics, whey protein, anti-inflammatory herbs like curcumin, or fish oil.
  6. Exercise vigorously 3-4 times per week.
  7. Eliminate artificial sweeteners, do not overuse NSAIDs, antibiotics, or alcohol, manage your stress, and manage your stress.

If you do all of that, your can heal your leaky gut and feel better than you ever thought you could!

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A new take on artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are supposed to be good for you. Go ahead, ask your doctor or a dietitian. They’ll tell you they are a great way to get your sweet fix without any consequences. When compared to full sugar soda they’re supposed lower your caloric intake, they reduce your risk of being overweight, they reduce your risk of diabetes, they reduce your risk of heart disease and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, that’s not what the recent research is showing.

Non-caloric artificial sweeteners are among the most widely used food additives worldwide, regularly consumed by lean and obese individuals alike. They were introduced over a century ago as means for providing sweet taste to foods without the associated high energy content of caloric sugars, yet supporting scientific data on safety and efficacy remain sparse and controversial. While some data has shown they boost blood sugar very little, other evidence has linked them to type 2 diabetes and weight gain. These are the conditions they were created to prevent. The question then is how do artificial sweeteners create physiologic change capable of making us unhealthy? A new study is providing some input.

Most artificial sweeteners pass through the human gastrointestinal tract without being digested by the person consuming them, thus directly encountering the intestinal microbiota (bacteria), which plays central roles in regulating multiple physiological processes. These artificial sweeteners alter the balance of the bacteria present in our gastrointestinal tract, thus adversely affecting many of these important processes.

This new study titled Artificial Sweeteners Induce Glucose Intolerance by Altering the Gut Microbiota, has demonstrated that consumption of commonly used artificial sweeteners drives the development of glucose intolerance (high blood sugar) through changes in the composition of the intestinal microbiota. Further, the use of antibiotics eliminates these effects. This confirms the bacteria play a central role in the metabolic changes. Now, I’m not saying we should all be on antibiotics. This study used antibiotics to confirm the theory that artificial sweeteners adversely affects physiology through changes in the intestinal microbiome. This is not a viable option in real life as this can have severe consequences long term.

The exact mechanism through which these adverse physiologic changes occur is not completely understood, but it appears to be related to a change in the composition certain types of bacteria. It creates a problem known as dysbiosis (unbalanced growth of bacteria). This dysbiosis results in the same bacterial profile known to be associated with diabetes, obesity, and over-extraction of calories from food.

So, artificial sweeteners create the same problem they are intended to prevent? Yes. So what do you drink, you say? Water. Water is the perfect hydrating liquid. If you are very physically active, a rehydrating drink with electrolytes and some carbohydrate replacement is fine during an intense workout. If you want to have something sweet, have a real soda. But do it only VERY infrequently!

Want to know more? Sign up for our FREE WEBINAR called “Chronic Disease Hates Your Guts!” November 11th at 7PM. We’ll discuss the importance of a healthy gastrointestinal systems as it relates to the most common complaints in medical practice. You don’t want to miss this!

Register here: 

http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EB50D98687463D

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The Knock On Niacin – Big Pharma At It Again

Two new reports recently came out that said niacin, vitamin B3, is not effective for the prevention of heart disease or stroke. And, in fact, it might be dangerous. The studies also concluded that it might be so dangerous is shouldn’t be recommended at all. This is not an uncommon response when nutrients are studied, especially ones that reduce the market share for billion dollar statin medications.

Two studies recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that while niacin does reduce triglycerides, raise “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and reduce “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, it did not reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Big PharmaI have several problems with the new information that’s been plastered all over the media recently about the recent studies:

Problem #1:

While two studies were performed, the largest of the two was funded by Merck Pharmaceuticals. It had over 25,000 participants while the other study, funded by the NIH, had just over 3,000 people. Merck clearly has an interest in driving down the sales of niacin as it would likely increase the sales of their cholesterol lowering drugs Zocor and Zetia. As an added note, niacin sales have tripled since 2002. Wouldn’t it be a perfect time to get a study that shows it’s dangerous or ineffective?

Problem #2:

These published trials do not reflect the clinical experience of doctors around the country who’ve been recommending niacin for decades. Research and a doctor’s clinical observations are often different. Which one do you believe?

Problem #3:

These trials focused on high-risk patients, almost all of whom were already taking statins and had low LDL levels. Would you see more benefit in clinical trials if these patients had different lipid profiles, or in those who did not already have heart disease? The populations they studied were already being treated intensively. It’s unlikely they were going to benefit by just one more treatment (niacin in this case).  As a matter of fact, in the Merck funded study they clearly state they cannot say whether niacin might be beneficial for patients at even higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke or those with higher LDL levels.

Problem #4:

Statins are particularly ineffective with potentially serious side effects, yet we don’t see reports on the news telling us to stay away from them. This is likely the powerful pull Big Pharma has on media and medicine. A full 98% of people who take statins see no benefit. Zero percent avoid death by taking a statin and only 1.6% avoid a survivable heart attack, and 0.4% are helped by preventing a stroke. Compare that to the side effects where 2% develop diabetes and 10% develop muscle damage as a result of taking that statin and the numbers don’t add up.

I think the real lesson of these studies (both on niacin and ones published on statins) is that inflammation, not necessarily the cholesterol itself, is the problem. If you address those factors, you will live a long, cardiovascular disease-free life.

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Health Doesn’t Come In A Pill

PillsWe live in an instant gratification society. It permeates every aspect of our lives. From the way we consume our news with 24 hours news networks or online surfing, to the way we gossip with Facebook, our desire for things to be done now(!) is staggering.

The same applies to our health. We want results, and we want it yesterday. The problem? There is no quick fix for anything in terms of your health. We’ve become accustomed to seeing the ads on TV that promise results with just one simple pill per day. We’re so accustomed to it, we’re starting to believe it. Heck, some people believe it so much, they demand it! Unfortunately, health doesn’t come in a pill.

But my doctor promises me that if I take my high blood pressure medication, my statin, and my baby aspirin just once per day, I’ll live a long, healthy life!

Yes, yes. That is a comforting thought isn’t it? The problem is it isn’t true. Check out this information:

Statins: For those who took statins for at least 5 years with no history of heart disease:*

  • 98% saw no benefit
  • 0% were helped by being saved from death
  • 1.6% were helped by preventing a heart attack
  • 0.4% were helped by preventing a stroke
  • 2% were harmed by developing diabetes
  • 10% were harmed by muscle damage

Aspirin: For those who took it daily for a year with no history of heart disease:*

  • 99.94% saw no benefit
  • 0% were helped by avoiding death
  • 0.05% were helped by preventing a non-fatal heart attack
  • 0.01% were helped by preventing a non-fatal stroke
  • 0.03% were harmed by developing a major bleeding event

Blood Pressure Medications: For those who took them for mild hypertension:*

  • 100% saw no benefit
  • 9% were harmed by medication side effects and stopped the drug

(*Statistics gathered from www.thennt.com)

Isn’t it amazing that you’re more likely to be harmed by these medications than you are to be helped? So, given that these drugs are so popular and prescribed so widely, why don’t they work? Health doesn’t come in a pill. Our medical model is flawed and flawed greatly. There are too many factors to assume one can take a pill and live longer or healthier. And most medical doctors receive very little, if any, training in nutrition.

You must fuel your body properly. This means a healthy diet and exercise. Those things work. Those things take time and effort. Obviously, time and effort don’t fit with our current lifestyle of “I want it now.” We need to change our lifestyle.

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