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I know, I know, I’ve been MIA forever. Sorry about that folks!!

After my last article, I suffered from major burn out. I was working 60hrs/wk and then on top of that I was trying to make sure I was pumping out new articles regularly. Generally in the morning before work I would start my research of the next topic I would write about, collect data, and then pump out an article. This became a problem because my need for personal time got kicked to the side too much and it said “alright dude! Time to relax!!!”, and so without warning, I kinda went off the radar.

Fret not, though, my faithful followers! I am not gone, I am not out, I am alive! Nutrition and health is what I do, and that will never change, so therefore, this blog will never go away (unless it moves somewhere, but even then I’d announce that) and I’m going to keep on keeping on!

Does this mean I’m going to be adding more material regularly? We’ll see. Right now I’m studying my brain out for my NCBTMB exam, for which I have to know a crazy amount of anatomy and physiology I have previously forgotten over the years. This takes up a good deal of time for me. But I’m hoping that things will get better within the next month or two. Either way, I’m going to do everything I can to start bringing in new articles at least on a semi-regular basis this year. I’m also going to look in to setting up a spiffy Facebook account.

But enough about me, you want to know about the science. Well let’s talk about what’s been going on lately.

 

Good news for saturated fat!

 

Just last month an article was published in the BMJ titled Saturated fat is not the major issue. In it, the author argues against the widespread misconception about saturated fats correlating with heart disease. It’s really nice to see this issue gaining more traction in the mainstream literature and even in the media as well. Just recently ABC’s documentary TV show Catalyst ran a two-part program on the same topic, called Heart of the Matter. Part 1: Dietary Villains discusses the history and science of what’s called the diet-heart hypothesis (the idea that eating saturated fat and cholesterol increases the cholesterol in your blood and therefore increases your risk of heart disease). Throughout the first episode, interviews are conducted with experts (most against the diet-heart idea and a few members of government organizations that of course disagree) and they explain what is wrong with the theory, how it started, and what the evidence in the scientific literature really shows. Part 2: Cholesterol Drug War discusses the murky science of statin drugs and how the science shows that despite the hype, if you have never had a heart attack then statins are of no benefit to you.

Of course, heads are spinning in the medical community and those of the old guard that still cling to disproven, unscientific ideas. One doctor has already criticized ABC’s program, claiming that it is dangerous and that it will lead to people quitting statins and dying of heat attacks. Hey doc: what happens in science when the evidence shows something contrary to your old belief? You change your beliefs to reflect the data! I guess he missed that part in med school.

Something else that I recently noticed was this study was published the British Journal of Nutrition. The study compared the effect that dairy (low fat and full fat) had on biomarkers for cardiovascular disease. If you’ve been paying attention, then the results won’t surprise you any: full fat and fermented dairy won out! The biomarkers for cardiovascular disease were actually lower in the group that consumed full fat dairy than those that consumed the low fat dairy! This is just one more piece of evidence that confirms how wrong the diet-heart hypothesis is.

 

It’s all about the design

 

This is the diet-heat hypothesis in a nutshell:

  • Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol raise blood cholesterol
  • Elevated blood cholesterol is seen in people with cardiovascular disease
  • Therefore, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol cause heart attacks

One problem: correlation does not prove causation (unless you believe that ice cream sales are linked to homicide). This is a basic rule of science, but it’s something that most researchers seem to forget (how, I have no idea). This is why we have controlled trials like the dairy study I just mentioned. As can be seen, the diet-heart hypothesis is dead and long since disproven, but that doesn’t stop its dedicated defenders from coming out and insisting that correlation somehow proves causation.

Something that continually drives me crazy about the scientific community when it comes to health, medicine, and nutrition is that old theories are clung to as dogma. When the evidence overwhelmingly shows that an idea is wrong, it is ignored only to continue the status quo.

News Target.com|May 26, 2006

The news the world has awaited with bated breath is finally here: Cocoaprevents cancer and heart disease. Candy producer Mars Inc., along with Harvard University, released the results of a 10-year study on Feb. 9revealing that cocoa – rather, the flavanols in cocoa – cansubstantially reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The study compared the death certificates of 1,250 Kuna Indians inPanama and in the San Blas Islands just off Panama's coast. The Panama Kunas did not consume cocoa regularly, while the San Blas Kunas drank four to five cups of cocoa water per day. The study revealed that the San Blas Kunas, who drank the cocoa water, had a 1,280 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than the Panama Kunas, and a 630 percent lower risk of death from cancer.

In the United States, where heart disease and cancerare the top two causes of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is fantastic news. Cocoa, which chocolate is made from, can significantly help in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.

But don't leap to the wrong conclusions and think that chocolate candy is good medicine. Most chocolate in the United States packs a sizeable dose of sugarand milk fat to make it sweet and delicious, and thereby desired by most consumers. Eating milk chocolate bars, for example, will not help you prevent cancer or heart disease nearly as well as eating darker chocolate, because adding dairy products to chocolate effectively cancels out the healthy antioxidants in the cocoa itself. It may taste good, but it's largely useless as far as preventing cancer and heart disease. In fact, even eating some popular brands of dark chocolate will not help you prevent these diseases, since they, too, are often loaded with sugar and milk fats.

A good rule of thumb is to consume chocolate containing a minimum of 70percent pure cocoa. Avoid added sugars, artificial sweeteners and milk fat to truly gain the natural anti-cancer benefits of cocoa. The best form in which you can consume cocoa is its most pure form: Raw cacao.Cacao is the actual bean that cocoa comes from, and it is one of the richest food sources of flavanols available. It's completely raw, so it hasn't been processed, and it lacks the sugars, food additives and milk fats that are so common in processed chocolate. In addition, the flavanols in raw cacao are highly absorbable by the body, since there is no sugar or milk fat interfering with their benefits.

Just remember the details of the Marsstudy: The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands experienced their amazing health benefits from drinking a cocoa-water beverage. They weren't eating milk chocolate bars or sugar-laden dark chocolate. They certainly weren't eating white chocolate, which contains no cocoa and therefore doesn't help prevent cancer or heart disease in the least.They were consuming a bitter, natural source of cocoa.

We've seen now that pure cocoa or cacao does indeed prevent cancer and heart disease. The study results are in, and they strongly indicate the healthy benefits of cocoa. However, consumers may misinterpret this news in two ways. First, they may go out and eat as much sweet, sugary,fatty milk chocolate as they want, and be surprised when their eventual obesity actually leads them to have an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Secondly, they may think that cocoa — even in its truest, purest form — is the only food available that offers these benefits.

In addition to dark chocolate and cacao, a wide variety of foods and beverages contain flavanols: Green and black tea, açai, pomegranate,cherries, apples, apricots, blackberries and raspberries, purple grapes, kale and many others. While consuming cacao or high-cocoa dark chocolate on a regular basis will indeed help you significantly reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, remember that it is not your only option. However, for cocoa lovers around the world, the word is out:Your favorite food has finally been proven to help prevent cancer and heart disease, the top two causes of death in the United States.

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