Why a Diet Low in Fat and Cholesterol Can Help You
Heart and blood vessel problems, such as angina and hypertension, disorders such as diabetes and hypoglycemia, which involve the body’s ability to handle sugar, and other ailments as well, are beginning to be recognized as primarily due to the diet we consume. The diet eaten in advanced countries such as the United States has a total fat content of 40 to 50 percent of calories consumed. It is also very high in refined carbohydrates. Scientific investigators have found that in poorer countries, where the people eat a diet, usually fewer than 20 percent of calories in fat, consisting mainly of unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, these diseases are almost never found. The more fat and refined carbohydrates eaten, the more degenerative disease problems are found.
Scientists have studied the effects of our typical diet in laboratories and clinics and have confirmed the suspicions that the large amounts of fat and refined carbohydrates consumed in this country can bring on these degenerative diseases. A diet in which fat and refined carbohydrates are sharply curtailed can cause these disease symptoms to lessen and even to disappear completely.
The kind of fat does not seem to matter. The fats may be those from dairy products, such as those found in whole milk, butter, and cheese; or in the form of vegetable fats as found in the oil of nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and vegetable oil spreads such as margarine or nut butters; or fat as found in animal foods. It is the total amount of fat of all kinds that is consumed that matters—the more fat, the more disease symptoms.
In addition to the fat contained, animal muscle tissue of all kinds—beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, shellfish, but especially organ tissue (liver, brains, kidneys) and eggs (chicken eggs, fish roe)—introduce still another harmful substance into our body—cholesterol. While the body needs some cholesterol, it produces all that it requires. If additional cholesterol is added to the diet, it becomes stored in the blood and tissues, since the body is unable to excrete it. In the presence of blood that has a high concentration of fat, the excess-stored cholesterol, in time, causes lesions called plaques to form inside the blood vessels. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
On our usual high fat diet, these plaques begin to form even in the very young, gradually building up over a period of time and narrowing the channels in the blood vessels. This narrowing of the blood vessels reduces the amount of blood flow to the tissues served by these vessels, and in time, the heart compensates by elevating the blood pressure more and more, producing high blood pressure or hypertension.
If the blood vessels that serve the heart (coronary vessels) become sufficiently clogged by plaques, any circumstance that further reduces the already diminished oxygen sup-ply to the heart muscle will cause the heart to “cry out” in pain—the terrible pain of angina. A slight exertion such as running a short distance, an emotional episode, or even a single fat meal, can bring on an angina attack. In one experiment, the angina patient subjects did nothing but drink a glass of cream. Even though they were at complete rest, all of them suffered angina attacks.
A fatty meal reduces the oxygen supply to all of the body tissues, not only to the vessels serving the heart. This will happen even if plaques do not clog your arteries—though few adults are so lucky, unless they have been on a lifelong low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Even in a baby, fat steals oxygen from the body cells. It steals oxygen from the tissues just as carbon monoxide does when taken in by smoking. In the case of fat, this happens because of several mechanisms. When the digested fat is broken down, it forms tiny fat balls, which tend to clump together in the bloodstream. These aggregate with solid elements in the blood and block the blood flow in the tiniest arteries, thus depriving the cells in the tissues fed by those arteries of needed oxygen nourishment. The tiny fat balls also coat these solid elements in the blood. As a result, the red blood cells that are the body’s oxygen carriers become stuck together in formations resembling rows of coins. The clumping of the red blood cells further slows the circulation, depriving the tissues of even more oxygen. When the clumped red blood cells reach the lungs, where they should take up oxygen from the air breathed in, being clumped together, much of their surface area is not free to pick up oxygen. In this way, much less oxygen is carried back into the tissues, which are still further deprived of oxygen.
It is because of this process of depriving the body cells of oxygen that fats enable cholesterol to form the atherosclerotic plaques. The artery walls become more easily penetrated by fats and cholesterol when the blood that bathes them is deficient in oxygen, thus encouraging the plaques to form. On a high-fat diet, the process of plaque formation goes on hour after hour, day after day, in all of the arterial vessels throughout the body. In the course of many years, the constant narrowing of these vessel channels by the ever-growing plaque formations causes many symptoms. High blood pressure and angina are two of the common symptoms. Other symptoms include a gradual deterioration in hearing and vision, and even senility and impotency.
Low-fat Diet Advantages
In many studies, it has been shown that by going on a diet in which fat and cholesterol intake are sharply reduced, the plaque-forming process can be reversed and the symptoms produced by the artery damage lessened or even eliminated. Refined carbohydrates and added salt have been found to contribute significantly to the development of heart and blood vessel problems. On a low-fat diet, the plaques or sores that are narrowing the arteries should gradually begin to disappear so that near-normal circulation will be restored.
This same diet has proved successful in reversing diabetes and hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a pre-diabetic stage, caused by similar abnormal conditions in the blood. Diabetes and hypoglycemia appear under circumstances that occur when the concentration of fats in the blood is very high. By lowering the blood fats by a diet low in fats of all kinds and low in simple carbohydrates like sugar, honey, and molasses, a Canadian investigator, Dr. I. M. Rabinowitch, treating 1,000 diabetics over a five-year period, had a high rate of success. Even insulin-dependent diabetics no longer required insulin or other drugs in 25 percent of the cases. Had the diet been even lower in fat content, Dr. Rabinowitch would have obtained an even higher reversal rate, based on the experiences of others.
High blood fats bring about a situation where the insulin from the pancreas is unable to effectively act upon blood sugar. Studies have been done where perfectly normal young men were made diabetic in a period of days or even hours, depending upon how fast fats were introduced into their blood. When fats were introduced rapidly, by injection into the bloodstream instead of by diet, they became diabetic in two hours. The scientists who did this study were also able to reverse diabetes by chemically lowering the blood fats.
If you would lower your blood fats by a gradual and permanent means by your diet, the fast results you could obtain would surprise you, if you adhered to the diet closely.
Certain kinds of arthritis also respond well to a diet by which blood fats are reduced. High blood fat levels cause the watery part of the blood (plasma) to seep out of the tiniest arteries (capillaries) at an abnormally high rate, due to the pressure built up in the capillaries when the circulation becomes slowed. The resultant swelling or edema produced in the tissues pro-vides the environment conducive to the development of arthritic symptoms. When the edema and slowed circulation in the capillaries are improved, marked relief and recovery can occur. Other diseases also have shown an improvement on this type of diet, such as colitis, gallbladder disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and obesity.