Cholesterol, fat and meat connection! What price your pound of flesh | Cholesterol is Something to Beef About. But this isn’t the only study, by any means, that proves the connection between saturated fat and cholesterol in the blood. The next study set out to do precisely the opposite of the Finnish one to add meat to the diets of people who don’t normally eat it, and to observe the effects. First, let’s look at the chart:
Cholesterol, fat and meat connection!
A group of non-meat eaters was closely studied for two weeks, during which time their serum cholesterol was measured – see the first column on the left. Then, 250 grams of beef was added to each person’s daily diet, for four weeks – and you can see from the middle column, in black, that their serum cholesterol shot up. Finally, they returned to their meatless diets, and the cholesterol again dropped to a very acceptable level.
A simple experiment, but one which again shows the strong association between saturated animal fat and serum cholesterol. The researchers concluded that the change in cholesterol was equivalent to an increase from low-risk to high-risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Meat is International Murder
This connection holds good on an international level, too. In countries which have a high intake of animal fat, there is a corresponding high death rate from coronaries. But where plant food predominates, there are fewer mortalities. The previous chart provides a comparison of five countries with a high coronary rate (Finland), the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Ireland) and five countries which have a low coronary mortality rate (Italy, Poland, Greece, Spain and Japan).
All the countries with high mortalities are grouped on the left and in every case meat fat consumption is very high, while vegetable fat is generally lower. On the right hand side, the countries with low death rates from coronary heart disease all have a uniformly low amount of meat fat in their diets, and instead take more
vegetable fats. This is pretty strong evidence, too.
Cholesterol fat and meat connection! Meat the Prime Suspect
Do you remember the Seventh Day Adventists we mentioned in the section dealing with cancer? Perhaps you’re wondering why no study has been undertaken using them… Well, of course, there have been studies. And they show the same associations emerging, in the words of one report that examined 27.530 Adventists over
a total of twenty-one years:
As the frequency of meat or poultry consumption increases, so does mortality risk In summary, green salad is inversely related to mortality risk, and meat and poultry are directly related to mortality risk. Other studies have also pinpointed certain areas in the diet that most strongly correlate with deaths from heart disease. One such
was carried out in Israel.
You can see some of the results on the chart opposite. The good guys are on the left hand side, and have
an ‘inverse correlation’ with deaths from coronaries – in fact, they may even help prevent them. On the right, sugar, eggs, oils and meat are all quite strongly correlated with coronary mortality – the strongest correlation being attributed to meat.
The Crucial Question
From all the preceding evidence, it seems pretty certain that by eating a diet which is rich in animal fats we can significantly increase our risk of suffering some form of coronary heart disease. That’s the bad news. But we now have to forge the final link in the chain, which may give us some good news.
The key question is this does a reduction in serum cholesterol equate with a reduction in risk of mortality from coronary heart disease? In other words, if you cut your cholesterol, will you also cut your chances of dying from heart disease? Because if you can, the message is loud and clear to all of us. We could all start to do something to protect ourselves, right away.
In fact, there are many pieces of evidence that show you can lower your serum cholesterol level by changing your diet to eliminate or greatly reduce animal fat, and there are further studies that show that by doing this you will reduce your susceptibility to coronaries.
Cholesterol fat and meat connection! Let’s just examine a few of them.
Two mental hospitals near Helsinki, Finland were the subject of a tightly-controlled study from 1959 to 1971.’ The aim was to replace animal fats in the diet with vegetable fats. But without letting the patients know they were being experimented upon.
For the first six years, one of the hospitals fed its patients a low animal fat, high vegetable fat diet, while the other hospital carried on as normal. Then, for the second six years, the diets were reversed with the second hospital eating a low animal fat diet and the first hospital going back to normal. The results were very dramatic. During the experimental period, it was found that the average serum cholesterol level of the patients dropped by fifteen per cent.
But even more importantly, the number of deaths due to coronary heart disease fell by one half. One researcher wrote: It is difficult to evade the conclusion that coronary heart disease is at least preventable by dietary means, but this is not to say that the problem of prevention could be completely and ultimately solved by
However, our knowledge is sufficiently extensive for its application to promote public health. It is not always judicious to wait for the final results and the irrefutable proof before taking action. Many lives could be saved and much good done by starting a little earlier. Although we do not yet have absolute proof for dietary prevention of CHD, there is strong evidence for its effectiveness, and its safety.
Two further studies confirm these findings. In Oslo, two groups of men who were at risk from coronary heart disease took part in a five year experiment. One group modified their diets (by cutting back on animal fats) but the second group made no changes After five years, the first group had lowered their average serum cholesterol by thirteen per cent. And it paid off. They had suffered an amazing forty-seven per cent fewer fatal and non-fatal heart attacks compared to the group who did nothing.
Cholesterol fat and meat connection! Other studies
In another study, amongst 1900 employees of the Western Electric company in the United States, there was no attempt to modify diet. Researchers simply kept records for over twenty years, and logged deaths from heart disease as they happened. Yet again, they found a positive connection between diet and serum cholesterol, and high cholesterol and mortality.
The final study well mention again took place in the United States, and should be of tremendous importance to just about everyone. This study did not examine the effect of diet on serum cholesterol – plenty of others have already done that. Instead, researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at Bethesda set up a massive trial that concentrated on the beneficial effects of lowering serum cholesterol in men who were at risk from coronary heart disease.
They found 3,806 men, aged between thirty-five and fifty-nine, none of whom had actually started to develop clinical symptoms of heart disease, but all of whom showed raised cholesterol levels that put them more at risk (more than 265 mg of cholesterol per decilitre of blood, the average is 215-225 mg). The men were randomly divided into two groups, and tracked for ten years. During this time, one group received a cholesterol- lowering drug – and the other group were given a placebo to act as a comparison.
At the end of the period, the group receiving the cholesterol-lowering drug showed a reduction of 8.5 per cent
in serum cholesterol when compared to the other group. Not a vast reduction, you might think. But you’d be wrong. Because even a reduction of 8.5 per cent in the serum cholesterol was enough to produce a reduction of twenty-four per cent fewer deaths compared to the other group.
One of the researchers went as far as to say: ‘For every one per cent reduction in total cholestrol level, there is a two per cent reduction in heart disease risk:
Cholesterol fat and meat connection! So what are we doing about it?
So here we have good, solid proof that it is worth trying to lower blood cholesterol levels, and that even a small reduction can appreciably reduce our chances of suffering from coronary heart disease. So what are we doing about it? Further Fascinating Facts Featuring Fat At this very important point, we must pause to consider the role
of fat in our present-day diet.
Then, in the light of the evidence we’ve just seen, we should be in a position to take some vital (literally
life or death) decisions. Let’s think about ‘fat’ for a moment. What exactly does it do in our bodies? Well, its main function is to act as a storehouse for energy, which can be called upon by our muscles when they need
The energy locked up in fat is highly concentrated. Energy can be measured in calories, and this chart shows how the three main constituents of our food – fat, protein and carbohydrate – compare in terms of the energy they can release:
Energy is in fat
You can see that fat holds more than twice as much energy as either carbohydrate or protein. Imagine you’re running a marathon. After two and a half gruelling hours running, how much fat do you think you’ve burnt up? In fact, you won’t have used any more than a third of a pound of your body’s fat. That’s how concentrated the energy is in fat. If you’re not the type to run a marathon, try walking instead.
The next chart will tell you how long you’ve got to walk in order to burn up the energy stored in certain types of food. You may get a surprise! That’s right. You’ll have to walk solidly for three hours before you’ve used up the energy in a half pound steak. And most of this energy, in the form of calories, comes from fat. That’s why the fatty
foods in the table above will take so long to burn off.
Cholesterol fat and meat connection! Evolutionary terms
In evolutionary terms, being able to store so much energy in such a highly concentrated form is extremely useful. But for today’s lifestyle it’s a big problem. If the body can’t use the fat we take in our diet, it will lay it down, just in case it needs it. It never does, of course, because we’re busy eating even more fatty foods, and the end result of today’s high-fat diet is a high-fat person.
With a good chance of an elevated cholesterol level, too. Certain fats are called essential ones, because the body can’t manufacture them. They can be found in such foods as wheat germ, most types of seeds, and oils such as safflower, corn and soya. So it would be a good idea to include these items in your diet, while cutting back on other fats.
Just about everyone, even the reluctant food industry, is agreed that we eat too much total fat. But how much is too much? One way of measuring this is to go back to the calorie comparison we’ve just mentioned. At the moment, we get more than forty per cent of our total energy from the fat in our diet. This is much too high.
Various targets have been suggested by a number of organizations and the whole area is in danger of becoming confused, which is no doubt, what some people would like to happen. A sensible gab At the most, no more than twenty-five per cent to thirty percent of your total energy should come from fat. But as far as saturated
fat is concerned, no more than ten per cent of your energy should come from it.
That is what the NACNE committee recommended even the more conservative COMA” committee suggested a
maximum of fifteen percent of energy from saturated fat. In actual weight terms, this is what the COMA report suggested (plotted with shaded lines) and it’s compared in this chart with today’s average intake of fat:
You can see that, even if we were to follow the COMA guidelines which are extremely cautious, a drastic change would be necessary. But just how easy is it to make this change?
Well, it’s going to be very tough. Let’s take the upper limit of thirty per cent of calories in our diets coming from all forms of fat. Eating today’s popular foods, it’s going to be just about impossible for anyone to cut their total fat intake back to the suggested level, while at the same time eating a properly balanced diet. This next chart
will tell you why.
What Price Your Pound of Flesh?
Even our bumbling, inefficient and perhaps even negligent bureaucrats and government are beginning to admit today, that the British people are suffering from an epidemic which no-one has ever seen the like of before. In purely financial terms (that’s the language our bureaucrats seem to understand the best) it costs our National Health Service well over £215 million each year just for the drugs to treat people with coronary heart disease.
And we regularly lose twenty-five million working days each year as a result of people being prevented by heart disease from going to work. Other countries, with just as bad a problem, are successfully doing something about it – why can’t we?
But the true cost of coronary heart disease can’t really be measured in terms of mere money. Like hundreds of thousands of other people. I know that from personal experience. For when my father died of a heart attack, after two years spent stubbornly fighting for his life, a whole family died with him. He never had a chance to read the information you’ve just read.