Doctors Think Heart Disease Is More About Inflammation Than Fat

mbg Health Contributor By Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
Gretchen Lidicker earned her master’s degree in physiology with a focus on alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She is the author of “CBD Oil Everyday Secrets” and “Magnesium Everyday Secrets.”
Doctors Think Heart Disease Is More About Inflammation Than Fat

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As members of the wellness community—deeply entrenched in our green smoothies, detox programs, and boutique fitness studios—we can sometimes forget why, exactly, we work so hard to protect our health. Because despite the fact that we've created this wonderful, inspiring community of healers, chefs, and yogis, the world is still facing some major health challenges. Heart disease is still the leading cause of mortality for both men and women—responsible for one in four deaths in the United States.

Many of us know how to live clean; we understand the dangers of too much sugar, red meat, and a lack of exercise. But what about everyone else? So many people are still falling victim to a medical system and food culture that don't give them the tools they need to regain their health—or prevent disease in the first place. Luckily, a lot of scientists and researchers are working to change this. A new paper, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, argues that we need to rethink the role of dietary fat in cardiovascular disease and hopes to change our medical system's approach altogether.

Does saturated fat have anything to do with heart disease?

This paper, authored by award-winning cardiologist, mbg health expert, and huge proponent of healthy high-fat foods, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, argues that saturated fat (i.e., the fat found in coconut oil and butter) does not clog arteries and lead to heart disease—despite what the medical system has led us to believe for years. He cites previous research demonstrating how saturated fat consumption is not linked to all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes in healthy adults. He also quotes various studies showing that reducing saturated fat for slowing the progression of the disease is also ineffective.

The author also insists that we need to let go of our obsession with cholesterol, which has been a major focus in heart health for years. Instead, the ratio of triglycerides (TB) to high-density lipoproteins (HDL) is the best predictor of heart disease. This ratio is also a good marker for insulin resistance and tends to drop rapidly with lifestyle change.

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What's the best way to protect the heart?

It may be time to rethink the causes of heart disease to include chronic inflammation. According to these scientists, an inflammatory process deposits cholesterol at the walls of the arteries, which leads to plaque formation and clogging. What causes this inflammation? Likely a diet high in carbohydrates, stress, and lack of exercise—not fat intake or cholesterol.

According to this new paper, a better avenue for treatment is not the reduction of fat in the diet. So what is the best way to combat heart disease? For starters, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet (of 41 percent fat) has been shown to help reduce cardiovascular events. Researchers think this is due to the ability of alpha linoleic acid, polyphenols, and omega-3 fatty acids to combat inflammation. In addition, research has shown that walking briskly for 150 minutes a week (just 22 minutes each day) and addressing chronic stress are the best ways to reduce the risk.

These researchers call for a major paradigm shift in our approach to heart disease. And if it will keep us healthy—plus give us permission to up our intake of fish, coconut oil, and bulletproof lattes—we're on board.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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