When your doctor is visiting you about your blood work, she normally will immediately zero in on your total cholesterol (TC). If it’s over 200 mg/dl, your doctor will likely recommend a statin cholesterol-lowering drug. If you decline, expect repeated attempts to educate you about the danger of ‘high cholesterol.’
In these circumstances, it’s best to change the subject to Fasting Glucose, Triglycerides, and HDL. As was known as early as the 1950s, total cholesterol is a poor, unreliable predictor of risk of heart disease.
Instead, have your doctor focus on the following four numbers:
- Fasting Glucose (FG) below 87.1
- Triglycerides (TG) below 100
- HDL over 60 for men; over 70 for women
- Ratio of TG:HDL 1 = low risk; 2 = increased risk; 4 = high risk
First, you want Fasting Glucose (FG) – fasting blood sugar – to be below 87.1. According to Dr. Atkins’ 40 years of clinical experience as a cardiologist and family physician, your risk of heart disease increases in linear manner as fasting glucose goes over 100. Optimal fasting glucose is less than 87.1.
If your doctor doesn’t warn you at 95, you will be diagnosed “pre-diabetic” at 110 and diabetic at 125. Elevated blood sugar is also a marker for Metabolic Syndrome – a cluster of risk factors that includes elevated blood sugar, chronically high insulin levels, elevated triglycerides and low HDL.
In Metabolic Syndrome, elevated fasting glucose is associated with elevated triglycerides. Triglycerides are blood fats made in the liver from excess energy, especially excess fructose (as in white sugar and high fructose corn syrup). As TG goes over 100, your risk of a heart attack increases in linear manner. (The medical profession is still currently at 150 before they alert you.)
In part, elevated triglycerides are a measure of “blood stickiness.” At 175, most people have clot-prone blood and are at greater risk of a heart attack or sudden death. In teeter totter fashion, as triglycerides go up, HDL (so called ‘good cholesterol’) goes down. HDL over 60 in men (over 70 in women) is associated with protection from heart disease.
(As you may know, HDL is not cholesterol; it is a lipoprotein, a carrier of cholesterol and fat in the bloodstream.)
The fourth and final number is the all important ratio of TG:HDL, ideally 1, representing low risk of heart disease. If your Triglycerides are 80 and your HDL is 80, you’re at low risk of heart disease (80:80 = 1). If your TG is 160 and your HDL is 40, you are at high risk of heart disease (160:40 = 4).
While it did not filter down to most practicing doctors, the results of five NIH-sponsored studies released in 1977 confirmed that there is a teeter-totter relationship between triglycerides and HDL; the higher the HDL, the lower the triglycerides; the lower the HDL, the higher the triglycerides.
According to Gary Taubes (Good Calories Bad Calories), in all five studies:
“The inverse relationship between HDL and heart disease held true for every age group from forty-five year olds to octogenarians, in both men and women, and in every ethnic group from Framingham, Massachusetts to Honolulu.”
Years ago, in several newsletters, Dr. Atkins warned about the danger of elevated triglycerides:
“The higher the triglyceride reading, the greater the risks of a heart attack.
“Men with the highest triglycerides were 2.5 times more likely to have a heart attack than those with the lowest measurements.”
Atkins quoted from the Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 276, p. 882, 1996.
Back to Total Cholesterol
Now, your doctor may still want to discuss TC, but unless it’s below 160 or above 350, it’s not worth talking about. (Cross out with a black marker.) Writing in the 1950s, Dr. John Gofman, a medical physicist at the University of California, who discovered the various lipoproteins (such as VLDL and LDL), wrote, “Total cholesterol is a false and highly dangerous guide to the effect of diet on heart disease…” Gofman added:
“Neglect of the carbohydrate factor can lead to rather serious consequences.”
By 1955, Peter Ahrens of Rockefeller University had reached the same conclusion. Ahrens had discovered a way of measuring liver-made triglycerides delivered in the blood by Gofman’s newly discovered VLDL particles. Ahrens referred to triglyceride buildup in the blood as carbohydrate-induced-lipemia; the promotion of sticky, clot-prone blood, a consequence of consuming excess dietary carbohydrates – not excess fat or cholesterol.
As Gofman, Ahrens and other credible scientists made these startling discoveries – pointing to excess carbs as the heart disease culprit, Key’s “cholesterol bandwagon” had already gathered too much steam, and – going forward – very little consideration (funding) was given to any alternative hypothesis. Supported by the American Heart Association and vegetable oil lobbyists, Ancel Keys’ anti-saturated-fat agenda has prevailed to this day!
If the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health had seriously considered the solid science of Gofman, Ahrens and many other credible scientists from the 1950s, they would have reached these conclusions about the dietary effects contributing to heart disease:
- Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease.
- The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, especially excess sugars – sucrose and high fructose corn syrup specifically.
- Through their effects on blood fat abnormalities – elevated Triglycerides and low HDL – refined carbohydrates, sugars and starches are the dietary cause of diabetes and coronary heart disease.
- Total cholesterol is not a reliable predictor of heart disease risk. The majority of people who have a heart attack have low or normal cholesterol.
About the Author (Author Profile)I am a Patient Advocate - an independent nutrition researcher. For 20 years, I've applied what I learned as a History Graduate to unravel the confusion and misinformation spewed from the so called low fat "experts." Also, as a two decade veteran of the herb and nutritional supplement business, I've learned that diabetes and diet-related heart disease are reversible and preventable. Al Watson
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