Inflammatory

It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication, and a government bureaucracy to administer it.

–Thomas Sowell

A little insanity is good early in the morning. It keeps you young. It revives your zest for life. When I was staying with Brother 4 a few weeks ago, their 1-year-old provided that for me in the form of various games such as “Crazy Head.”

Now that I’m away from their place, I am forced to search for insanity in the news. Thankfully, it’s not hard to find. I was assaulted by an insane article a little bit ago in Time. The gist of the article is a common one:

We’re Here to Protect You.

You can peruse it yourself, here. The article is about statins. “They save lives, so should we maybe ALL be taking them?”

Statins lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and may be responsible for saving thousands of lives. Should everyone be taking the wonder drug?

In the latest study investigating the side effects of statins, researchers report in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, that the best-selling drugs are relatively safe. And as evidence builds that statins can lower inflammation, the process responsible for many chronic illnesses, from Alzheimer’s to cancer and heart disease, some experts are suggesting that more people should be taking advantage of the prescription medication to slow down aging.

Did you notice the bait and switch there? How smoothly they move from cholesterol to focusing only on inflammation? Wanna know why?

Because the reason they tell you to eat a low-fat diet is to lower your total cholesterol. And the reason they want you to do that is that statins save lives, and the primary effect of statins is to lower total cholesterol. So it is simply assumed, without any testing or evidence, that since a drug lowered cholesterol and also saved lives, a diet that lowers cholesterol would have exactly the same effect.

Of course that worked out beautifully. Heart disease has been practically wiped out worldwide. The more whole grains we eat, the svelter and more youthful we all become, right?

In fact, the relationship between total cholesterol and mortality from all causes–which, after all, is the important statistic–is actually inversely proportional. More about that here, here, here and here.

But now we’re realizing that what actually causes heart disease is not cholesterol, and that therefore statins don’t necessarily work because they lower cholesterol. Their inflammation-lowering quality might be what’s really important, and this article bait and switches us from cholesterol to inflammation without a hitch. They can’t just come right out and say it, of course, because that would imply that the whole low-fat diet craze has been a big mistake. And we can’t say that.

Cholesterol are the policemen trying to restore order to your arteries in this situation. Inflammation is the criminal. You don’t fix crime by getting rid of those who show up to fight it, you don’t put out fires by getting rid of those who show up to put it out, and you don’t fix arterial damage from inflammation by getting rid of the cholesterol that shows up to fix it.

And then, did you notice that apparently the only thing that can fix your inflammation is a powerful drug? That’s interesting.

Know what else can fix your inflammation problem? Stop eating junk. Stop eating grains, sugars, and Frankenfats like corn oil. Start eating the stuff you were made to eat and your inflammation markers will go down. For more information on the inflammation aspect of seed oils, try here. For more on vegetable oils as causes of inflammation, have a look at this study. Dr. David Seaman explains why grains cause inflammation.

What’s particularly of interest in the grain discussion is the whole grain idea vs. refined grain, because we get into some interesting waters there. There’s no doubt that those eating whole grains as opposed to refined grains have lower inflammation markers. But, and here’s the big but, all these studies only compare eating refined grain to eating whole grain. None look at what happens if you just get rid of grain entirely, and that’s the problem. They actually in no way prove that whole grains are good for you: only that they are less bad for you than refined grain. Read a study like this all the way through and you see that those eating whole grains as opposed to refined grains have lower markers for some inflammation. Keep reading and you see that it’s only some. Some markers aren’t affected at all by the Miracle Power of Whole Grains, which somewhat mystifies the scientists involved.
Another example can be seen here in this study. On the surface its shows that those who eat more whole grains fare better than those who eat refined grains. The conclusion? Eat more whole grains, of course. But if you dive into their tables, you see something interesting right here: this table shows a problem. If you compare those who eat the same amounts of whole grains and refined grains, those eating the whole grains do better, no doubt. But when you compare those who are eating the most whole grains with those eating the least refined grains (and thus fewer total grains), the benefits are identical.

What? How can that be?

In fact those eating the most grains–even though they are whole grains–actually have less favorable results than those who eat a lot less grain, even though they’re eating refined grain. High triglycerides, lower HLD. Which suggests what?

It’s not that whole grains are good for you. It’s that they are better for you than refined grains in similar amounts. The best thing to do is not to switch to whole grains, but to limit your total intake of all grains of every kind. And in fact you’re better off with a McDonald’s hamburger bun once or twice a week than eating Grapenuts and whole grain pasta every day.

What about fruits and vegetables? What about their inflammatory nature? First, how can I even suggest such a thing. Doesn’t the evidence overwhelmingly prove that fruits and vegetables cure disease and protect us from things like inflammation? WHAT AM I SMOKING?!?!?!

No, no evidence proves that. The problem is neatly summed up in the abstract of this study on Pubmed, which explains that we think flavonoids are really great, but we actually don’t know because the studies haven’t been done:

However, almost all studies are in vitro studies with limited research on animal models and scarce data from human studies. The majority of in vitro research has been carried out with single flavonoids, generally aglycones, at rather supraphysiological concentrations. Few studies have investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of physiologically attainable flavonoid concentrations in healthy subjects, and more epidemiological studies and prospective randomised trials are still required.

So what about real studies? Or what about studies that show associations and suggestions in the opposite direction? I mentioned previously the study done cited here, which wasn’t about vegetables at all. It was investigating the miracle that supposedly is green tea. If you recall, it found no particular benefit in green tea, but in the process it took the men involved off all fruits and vegetables for 10 weeks.

The overall effect of the 10-week period without dietary fruits and vegetables was a decrease in oxidative damage to DNA, blood proteins, and plasma lipids, concomitantly with marked changes in antioxidative defence.

I have also discussed several problems that come up when you tout vegetation as a miracle food in this post.

Then of course we have the unexplained paradox of the China Study, which Denise Minger discusses in her critique here. Frequency of vegetable consumption was associated with lower risk of heart disease, but, strangely, total consumption of vegetables was inversely associated with a higher risk of heart disease. In other words, the more vegetables you ate, the higher your risk of heart disease. The more frequently you ate them, the lower your risk. This suggests that vegetables had nothing to do with it either way. Instead, something about living in a place that was geographically conducive to year-round vegetable growth (possibly higher intakes of Omega 3 via fish, more vitamin D from sunshine year round, fewer grains other than rice consumed) was also conducive to the health of human beings.

You also have the unexplained paradox of individuals and whole cultures who ate nothing but meat and were robustly healthy. One example here. You can occasionally, rarely, find an individual who claims to be a strict vegan who for years has thrived (in this case, vegetarians eating animals products like cheese, milk, yogurt and eggs don’t count). But it is very rare, and there has never been a successful vegan society.

But finally, it’s also important to remember that inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. It’s an essential function for this world. Chronic inflammation is the problem. And I’m also not suggesting anyone abandon vegetables and fruit. They taste good, provide interest and may provide you with some good nutrition when eaten with plenty of fat. But they are not a miracle, and they will not save your life in the absence of the basic foods you were meant to eat.

 

Plato says he’s hungry

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