Can you find heart health in a bottle?

 I am sure most of you are as sick as I am of being bombarded with pharmaceutical advertisements while watching the evening news. I am particularly frustrated by ads for cholesterol lowering meds (currently the most popular prescribed medications) that are bringing in tens of billions of dollars a year for the drug industry.

It is not surprising to many of us that the long awaited and much delayed results for Zetia and the combo statin and Zetia drug Vytorin have demonstrated less than the stellar results doctors and patients expected.

Apparently the drug company finally released the data under threat of Congressional investigation. Congress should still investigate why the negative results were withheld for so long while billions of dollars were being made. How many other drug trial results have been overstated or never published because the results were negative? Recent reports tell a similar story regarding negative research on anti-depressants withheld by drug manufacturers while overstating positive results.

The US and New Zealand are the only two countries that allow direct to consumer advertising for prescription meds. It is lucrative as statistics show that more than 60% of the time a patient goes to the doctor and requests a medication seen on TV it is prescribed. It is unlikely to think that Congress would take real steps and prevent this kind of exploitation of the public given the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

The American reliance on drugs for the quick fix for many health concerns is leading us down a disastrous and expensive path.  Even kids and teens are being put on statins. Since these are drugs that are expected to be taken for a lifetime who knows what will happen to young bodies after decades? No one knows: certainly not the makers of these drugs or the physicians prescribing them because this has never seen studied.

 The LDL Mantra

We constantly hear that lowering the LDL cholesterol level is vital to prevent heart disease. Yet research points to increasing the HDL and decreasing triglycerides as an important therapeutic target. Is the fixation on LDL because there are drugs for it while there are no good drug solutions to HDL and triglycerides? However, there is a very successful dietary approach that has been supported by research as being safe and effective. More about that later.

What we should be asking after hearing about the Zetia results is if lowering LDL cholesterol is so important to protect our hearts, why did plaque formation continue even with significant reductions in LDL levels in those taking medication? Focusing on LDL is much too simplistic an explanation for heart disease. Obviously other factors are involved.

Additionally, statins and other cholesterol lowering meds are over-prescribed in populations where no benefit has been shown. For much more on this see Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories.

In my experience a worrisome side effect as a result of lowering LDL with meds is that people think that because their LDL is low they are no longer at risk for heart disease and are not likely to  do what is necessary to really protect themselves.

 What are the alternatives?

There certainly is a place for prescription medications in health care yet they have become the first line of treatment rather than the last for conditions that best respond to lifestyle change.

To treat a lifelong risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer there is no quick fix. Lifestyle changes are a must. There is no way around the need for consuming a healthy diet, being active and maintaining a normal weight. The American consumer is as much responsible for our over-reliance on drugs as anyone. How many of us would rather continue to be obese, inactive and eat what we want and take a pill hoping that’s enough to protect out health?

 One size does not fit all

There are many dietary programs that people can choose from. What is important is to choose the plan that you can live with so you can normalize weight and correct the underlying imbalances in your body that put you at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Once you have done that, you continue to follow a maintenance plan forever.

Everyone is aware of the usual advice of controlling calories and keeping saturated fat intake very low. We are told that losing weight is only about calories in-calories out and daily exercise, ignoring the hormone effects of different food groups. Yet many follow that advice and don’t see results. Many follow that advice for a while and are too hungry to make it a lifestyle. Many follow that advice and still have risk factors that are not getting better.

 Try low carb-what do you have to lose?

The benefits of a low carb lifestyle have been experienced by many for decades. Contrary to what you hear in the media and from “health authorities” Atkins-type diets have been researched and found to be safe and effective. To review low carb research check out the research section on this site.

This year the American Diabetes Association finally acknowledged that low carb diets are at least as effective for weight loss as is their diet recommendation. The reality is that in personal practice when done correctly they are very effective.


What you may not know is that the benefits of a low carb lifestyle are numerous.

·     The higher protein intake decreases hunger so you find the right amount of food to eat

      allowing you to lose body fat.

·     There are significant decreases in triglycerides and elevation in HDL decreasing cardiovascular risk.

·     Expect improvement in insulin and blood sugar regulation which should decrease risk for diabetes and heart disease.

·     Elevated insulin levels are connected to a number of cancers. Low carb normalizes high insulin levels.

·     Low carb and adequate fat intake convert LDL particle size from smaller to larger less dangerous sizes. It is probably the particle size rather than the number of LDL cholesterol that is important.

·     Improvement in energy, mood, sleep, GERD and a number of common chronic complaints are expected results when low curbing.

·     Research has shown the loss of more fat mass rather than lean mass as compared to low calorie diets.

·     There is a decrease in inflammatory markers that lead to heart disease and a variety of other serious health conditions.

·     Low carb is a great way to overcome your carb addiction.

 As low carb corrects the aspects of metabolism that are out of balance, many people normalize their lipids, decrease their risk for diabetes and are often able (with their doctor’s help) to decrease meds for high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical conditions.

 Just as with anything else worth doing there is a learning curve when starting a low carb regimen. Be sure to take the time to read the appropriate materials so you get the most out of your experience. Having this knowledge will increase your chances of making that permanent lifestyle change allowing you to take responsibility for your health.

You are not alone in your journey. Everyone can increase their chances of success with on-going support. Utilize the many low carb support sites and recipes to enhance your experience. You can find some of these in the recipe section and under the link section on this site.

For recommended reading on how to master the Atkins Lifestyle check out the book section also on this site.


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The information presented on this site is in no way intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical treatment. This information should be used in conjunction with the guidance and care of your physician. Consult your physician before beginning this program as you would any weight-loss or weight-maintenance program.  Those of you on diuretics or diabetes medication should proceed only under a doctor’s supervision as changing your diet usually requires a change in medication dosages. As with any plan, the weight-loss phases of this program should not be used by patients on dialysis or by pregnant or nursing women. As with any weight-loss plan, we recommend anyone under the age of 18 follow the program under the guidance of their physician.