Fat and cholesterol, friend or foe?

A great deal of attention in the media, and even in academia, has been disproportionately focused on dyslipidemia and the dietary cholesterol/satured fat components in the etiology of heart disease, instead of focusing on dyslipidemia as an endocrine and metabolic disorder in older populations (50+) propagated as a public health epidemic caused mostly by excess sugar in the diet, manifesting as metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome, or “Syndrome X”, consists of a cluster of chronic conditions, i.e. increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist (central adiposity), and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, that generally occur together, concurrently increasing one’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

I found a recent article in the journal of the American Diabetes Association that examined this permutation via epidemiological data obtained from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) that categorized adults over 50 years of age as presenting with metabolic syndrome, with or without full-blown diabetes (some participants were “only” prediabetic).

Three key insights from the article:

  • Individuals with both metabolic syndrome and diabetes had the highest prevalence of CHD (Cardiovascular Heart Disease).
  • There was a clear linear relationship between the degree of metabolic dysregulation exhibiting as elevated fasted blood glucose and HbA1c in relation to the degree of CHD risk, calculated as an algorithm of associated comorbidities.
  • “Insulin resistance syndrome” was cited as the primary contributing factor in the development of CHD.

Egg-vibesMy own personal takeaway from this study validates one of my long-held beliefs, confirmed by the latest scientific data, that saturated fat and cholesterol as independent variables are not the true culprits underlying heart disease.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast will not automatically clog your arteries (unless you happen to be one of those unfortunate folks with a rare genetic disorder called ‘familial hypercholesterolemia‘), but if you add a stack of pancakes and syrup to your bacon and eggs, then you have the proverbial ‘Colonel’s secret recipe for arteriosclerosis’.  I therefore feel that the general public should be nutritionally counseled to focus on avoiding foods high in refined sugar, salt, and hydrogenated pro-inflammatory vegetable oils, instead of worrying about how many healthy free-range eggs they are consuming each week and whether or not they should be eating the whole egg or only the egg whites.  Our society’s decades-long obsession with “low-fat” foods that have substituted fat calories for sugar calories is mostly to blame for the skyrocketing incidence of heart disease in Western populations.

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