But My Doctor Told Me…

Beyond wanting to help people lead better lives, one of my motivating factors in returning to school to pursue a medical education is credibility. When speaking to a client about food choices with regards to weight-loss, performance and fitness, they trust my recommendations because of my background and education in fitness and they know it will be pleasing to the palate because of my background as a chef. But there a many times that a subject of overall health will arise that brings the concern of “But why do doctors say that…” or, “Why does My Plate recommend…” And regardless of the source of my research, it comes down to my word against the “experts.” I think we are finally seeing steps in the medical community away from the misinformation that has been fueled by the Washington lobby and government subsidies, but its not enough. People need to start hearing from physicians “What you have been told your whole life is wrong.”

This is a great article written by Dr. Dwight Lundell, the past Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Banner Heart Hospital , Mesa , AZ. His private practice, Cardiac Care Center was in Mesa, AZ. Recently Dr. Lundell left surgery to focus on the nutritional treatment of heart disease. He is the founder of Healthy Humans Foundation that promotes human health with a focus on helping large corporations promote wellness.


We physicians with all our training, knowledge and authority often acquire a rather large ego that tends to make it difficult to admit we are wrong. So, here it is. I freely admit to being wrong.. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries,today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.

I trained for many years with other prominent physicians labelled “opinion makers.” Bombarded with scientific literature, continually attending education seminars, we opinion makers insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol.

The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and a diet that severely restricted fat intake. The latter of course we insisted would lower cholesterol and heart disease. Deviations from these recommendations were considered heresy and could quite possibly result in malpractice.

It Is Not Working!

These recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible. The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated.

The long-established dietary recommendations have created epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the consequences of which dwarf any historical plague in terms of mortality, human suffering and dire economic consequences.

Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes expensive statin medications and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before.

Statistics from the American Heart Association show that 75 million Americans currently suffer from heart disease, 20 million have diabetes and 57 million have pre-diabetes. These disorders are affecting younger and younger people in greater numbers every year.

Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.

Inflammation is not complicated — it is quite simply your body’s natural defence to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process,a condition occurs called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial.

What thoughtful person would willfully expose himself repeatedly to foods or other substances that are known to cause injury to the body? Well,smokers perhaps, but at least they made that choice willfully.

The rest of us have simply followed the recommended mainstream dietthat is low in fat and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, not knowing we were causing repeated injury to our blood vessels. Thisrepeated injury creates chronic inflammation leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.

Let me repeat that: The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.

What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.

Take a moment to visualize rubbing a stiff brush repeatedly over soft skin until it becomes quite red and nearly bleeding. you kept this up several times a day, every day for five years. If you could tolerate this painful brushing, you would have a bleeding, swollen infected area that became worse with each repeated injury. This is a good way to visualize the inflammatory process that could be going on in your body right now.

Regardless of where the inflammatory process occurs, externally or internally, it is the same. I have peered inside thousands upon thousands of arteries. A diseased artery looks as if someone took a brush and scrubbed repeatedly against its wall. Several times a day, every day, the foods we eat create small injuries compounding into more injuries, causing the body to respond continuously and appropriately with inflammation.

While we savor the tantalizing taste of a sweet roll, our bodies respond alarmingly as if a foreign invader arrived declaring war. Foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates, or processed withomega-6 oils for long shelf life have been the mainstay of the American diet for six decades. These foods have been slowly poisoning everyone.

How does eating a simple sweet roll create a cascade of inflammation to make you sick?

Imagine spilling syrup on your keyboard and you have a visual of what occurs inside the cell. When we consume simple carbohydrates such as sugar, blood sugar rises rapidly. In response, your pancreas secretes insulin whose primary purpose is to drive sugar into each cell where it is stored for energy. If the cell is full and does not need glucose, it is rejected to avoid extra sugar gumming up the works.

When your full cells reject the extra glucose, blood sugar rises producing more insulin and the glucose converts to stored fat.

What does all this have to do with inflammation? Blood sugar is controlled in a very narrow range. Extra sugar molecules attach to a variety of proteins that in turn injure the blood vessel wall. This repeated injury to the blood vessel wall sets off inflammation. When you spike your blood sugar level several times a day, every day, it is exactly like taking sandpaper to the inside of your delicate blood vessels.

While you may not be able to see it, rest assured it is there. I saw it in over 5,000 surgical patients spanning 25 years who all shared one common denominator — inflammation in their arteries.

Let’s get back to the sweet roll. That innocent looking goody not only contains sugars, it is baked in one of many omega-6 oils such as soybean. Chips and fries are soaked in soybean oil; processed foods are manufactured with omega-6 oils for longer shelf life. While omega-6’s are essential -they are part of every cell membrane controlling what goes in and out of the cell — they must be in the correct balance with omega-3’s.

If the balance shifts by consuming excessive omega-6, the cell membrane produces chemicals called cytokines that directly cause inflammation.

Today’s mainstream American diet has produced an extreme imbalance of these two fats. The ratio of imbalance ranges from 15:1 to as high as 30:1 in favor of omega-6. That’s a tremendous amount of cytokines causing inflammation. In today’s food environment, a 3:1 ratio would be optimal and healthy.

To make matters worse, the excess weight you are carrying from eating these foods creates overloaded fat cells that pour out large quantities of pro-inflammatory chemicals that add to the injury caused by having high blood sugar. The process that began with a sweet roll turns into a vicious cycle over time that creates heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and finally, Alzheimer’s disease, as the inflammatory process continues unabated.

There is no escaping the fact that the more we consume prepared and processed foods, the more we trip the inflammation switch little by little each day. The human body cannot process, nor was it designed to consume, foods packed with sugars and soaked in omega-6 oils.

There is but one answer to quieting inflammation, and that is returning to foods closer to their natural state. To build muscle, eat more protein. Choose carbohydrates that are very complex such as colorful fruits and vegetables. Cut down on or eliminate inflammation- causing omega-6 fats like corn and soybean oil and the processed foods that are made from them.

One tablespoon of corn oil contains 7,280 mg of omega-6; soybean contains 6,940 mg. Instead, use olive oil or butter from grass-fed beef.

Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labelled polyunsaturated. Forget the “science” that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.

The cholesterol theory led to the no-fat, low-fat recommendations that in turn created the very foods now causing an epidemic of inflammation. Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake when it advised people to avoid saturated fat in favor of foods high in omega-6 fats. We now have an epidemic of arterial inflammation leading to heart disease and other silent killers.

What you can do is choose whole foods your grandmother served and not those your mom turned to as grocery store aisles filled with manufactured foods. By eliminating inflammatory foods and adding essential nutrients from fresh unprocessed food, you will reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body from consuming the typical American diet.

Why We Eat…

I really want to spend some time in the next couple weeks looking at why we eat. Let’s forget about we eat because we are hungry, we eat to fuel our bodies, etc… Lets look at why we eat the way that we do and why we make the choices we do regarding what we eat. I touched on this on the He Said, She Said radio broadcast Thursday night, but lets get deeper. Let’s look at each stage of eating we find ourselves in.

1. Eating for Pleasure

The 2 year-old in each of us. This is the eating which is immature and impulsive. It is the voice inside that says “I want… Gimme…” The drive is for instant gratification. Because this stage is not fueled by any physiological benefit, it is the most dangerous. It is fueled by emotional desires to maximize pleasures and minimize pains. Emotional eating. This is accomplished through junk food, sweets, snacks, pop/soda, coffee, and alcohol. Now, keep in mind, consuming these items does not always fall into the realm of this category that is entirely negative. Having a glass of wine with dinner or while spending time with friends is not what we are talking about. Neither is the occasional dessert. What we are talking about is uncontrolled excessive consumption. Eating for pleasure is not a stage that needs to be eliminated from our lifestyles. The key is discipline and making smarter, more evolved choices as we will look at later.

2. Eating for Energy

This is where most of Americans find themselves. Eating for energy, or eating out of hunger as we more typically understand it, is a direct result of the typical American lifestyle. The average day for most consists of waking up eating a carbohydrate and sugar loaded breakfast (juices, cereals, grains, breads or baked goods) resulting in a insulin spike and elevated blood glucose levels. This quick boost gets you moving as you start the day. But, by mid-morning, blood sugar levels begin to drop along with energy levels and brain function. To compensate we turn to stimulants in coffee and energy drinks to pull us through, but these too lead us to the same result, a crash by lunchtime. If we have time to eat lunch, we don’t usually have time to wait for it. Judgement for the most part goes out the window in the options we consider. From fast to fast casual cuisine economy and quantity rule our decisions most times over quality. It becomes a vicious cycle day in day out as we try and find balance in the energy roller coaster. This is the stage we seek to eliminate. As mentioned, the pleasurable eating discussed in Stage 1 can be evolved with smarter more conscious choices. Stage 2 eating for energy is what reeks havoc on our blood sugar and hormones and results in the greatest threat to our health.

3. Eating for Recovery

We find ourselves here as a result of Stages 1 and 2. These recoveries, AKA “diets”, are the measures we resort to in order to lose weight, gain weight, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, improve cardiovascular performance, reverse diabetes, lower risk of heart attack, etc etc etc… And, as numerous as the conditions are that we may be trying to counteract, there are at least as many recoveries/diets out there claiming to bring balance back to the chaos we’ve created within. Names like Paleo, Zone, Whole9, Atkins, Gracie, Weight Watchers and others come straight to mind. I’ll get into more on each of these individually in future posts. We will also look at some of the more drastic techniques like the Master Clense, carb cycling, water manipulation, tapeworm, yes, there is a tapeworm diet. These drastic options are the ones I would love to steer everyone from considering as they do not in any way resemble a diet that could or should be maintainable in the long run. We’ll discuss how these get results, but also why they can be very risky.

When we are speaking about recovery, the approved diets should be treated as just that, recovery.

Recovery is defined as:
– The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering.
– A return to a normal condition.

Once we have removed and achieved homeostasis in our bodies again, it is important to then focus on an maintainable lifestyle that does not lead us back down the same path. Which leads us to Stage 4.

4. Eating for Health
Eating for health is where many, even those of us within the Paleo community, disagree. While we are all in agreement on the issues of avoiding:
– Grains, especially gluten containing products
– Sugar, specifically refined sources
– Refined oils
– Inhumanely raised animals, farmed seafood and any animal protein sources containing additives such as hormones, colorings and fillers
– Soy products

There still remain some grey areas such as dairy and legumes.
– While dairy does have an inflammatory and insulin spiking effect on the body, it also has some amazing growth-promoting effects. In the case of a client with no history of autoimmune or inflammatory conditions who has trouble putting on or keeping on healthy weight, I would encourage keeping dairy a regular part of their diet provided it could be sourced from an organic, pasture-fed source.
– Legumes do have an inflammatory effect as well being a “musical fruit” producing gas and bloating which can lead to gastrointestinal distress. They are also a very rich source of minerals and fiber. The biggest problem with them lies in the fact that they contain phytochemicals that bond to these nutrients making them impossible to be absorbed by the body. Preparation methods such as soaking however can reduce these phytates considerably, but not completely.

So, where do I stand on eating for health? I believe that although we have all evolved essentially the same, we are all still affected differently as a result of individual differences in our genetic coding, individual deficiencies as a result of poor lifestyle choices or living conditions etc. For me, maintaining a paleo diet has given me the greatest benefit in health as well as performance. Does that mean that I don’t ever stray into the forbidden foods zone? Not at all. I love popcorn when I’m watching a movie. I just don’t eat it very often and when I do, it is organic kernels, popped on a stove (thank you dad for what was probably my first cooking lesson so many years ago) and flavored with organic butter, not the hydrogenated oil flavored crap in a bag or the stuff at the theater. The same is true for dairy and beer. I love cheese as much as I love a good IPA with hops that will punch you in the face. But these are not regular parts of my lifestyle. These are very rare occasions when enjoy these. This brings us back to Stage 1 again. Eating for pleasure can be ok, we just need discipline and evolved choices.

Once we have recovered from the chaos and brought balance back to our bodies, this is when we can start reintroducing some of these forbidden foods back into our lifestyles individually in order to see the effects. For me, going Paleo led to virtually all of my allergies (inflammation) disappearing; something I have battled my entire life. But, reintroducing any grains back into my diet results in them returning if there are even moderate levels of allergens in the air. This includes beer. Even having just a couple will cause me to wake up feeling like I dropped a kettle bell on my head if there is mold in the air so I limit this to very rare occasions and stick with a glass of red wine the rest of the time.

How do we get to Stage 4? I highly recommend reading It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig or The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. Commit 30 days to recovery and educate yourself on the “sciencey stuff” so that you can make informed choices for yourself when you look to reintroduce some of these foods back into your lifestyle. You may find that you don’t even miss any of those foods.

Please feel free to comment below, I’d love to hear about your experiences and answer your questions!