In our country’s battle against heart disease, recent advice from a government-funded panel of “experts” recommends cholesterol screening for children as young as nine year old. These guidelines would endorse cholesterol drugs for children ages 10 and up. It is interesting that several of the 14 doctors on this panel have received consulting fees or have had other financial ties to makers of cholesterol medicines. [Buffalo News, November 12, 2011] This news is very upsetting to those of us who see how our government ignores the growing body of research that points to the dietary changes that would dramatically lower the incidence of heart disease, as well as its risk factors--obesity and diabetes.
Our government has been very successful since the 1970s in reducing the amount of saturated fats in our American diet. But, during this same period, we have doubled the rate of obesity and tripled the rate of diabetes. And, the number one killer in the U.S. is still heart disease. It should be quite obvious that we have been dead wrong in blaming saturated fats as the cause of heart disease. There is much evidence and data suggesting a very different cause. But, rather than fixing the crack in the sidewalk that we are stumbling over, we choose to invest in more band aids to cover our scraped knees.
If our government would begin to look at the massive body of evidence which points to the true culprit leading to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, cholesterol screening of children, and subsequent cholesterol drugs for ten year olds, would be unnecessary. Parents would be informed about the role of processed carbs in development of these diseases. And the necessary dietary changes needed could begin to be addressed.
An article, published in The Scientific American [April 27, 2010] [http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=carbs-against-cardio&print=true] clearly explains the overwhelming research, demonstrating the connection between processed carbohydrates (not saturated fat) and heart disease.
Here is a summary of the main points:
- An analysis of several studies involving 350,000 individuals shows that there is no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease. [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2010]
- A study of 322 moderately obese people, compared a low-fat calorie restricted diet, a low calorie/high vegetable/low red meat diet, and a low carbohydrate diet. At the end of the study, the low carb group had the healthiest ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL (bad cholesterol) and lost double the weight of the low fat groups. [New England Journal of Medicine 2008]
- A 1997 study of 65,000 women found that the 20 % consuming the most high glycemic foods (on a high carb diet) were 47 % more likely to get type 2 diabetes than the fifth consuming the least glycemic foods (on a lower carb diet). [Journal of the American Medical Association]
- A study of 15,000 overweight Dutch women found that those who consumed the highest glycemic load were 79% more likely to develop coronary vascular disease than those who consumed the lowest glycemic load. [Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2007]
- According to Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, “The sugared beverage industry is lobbying very hard and trying to cast doubt on all of these studies.”
- The article ends by suggesting that in eating a slice of buttered toast, the butter is the more healthful component!
Over the past 25 years as a public school teacher, I continue to witness the shift from healthy foods to more and more highly processed carbs. The breakfast program amounts to a box of cereal and sugary juice, and for lunch, the cafeteria considers pizza to be a protein. School lunches are loaded with bread, cookies, chips, and sugary beverages. This is truly the area where change is needed. Then, and only then, will we eliminate the need for cholesterol screening and prescribing drugs, with all of their side-effects, to innocent ten year olds.