Life Extension Magazine September 2010
As We See It
Media Says: No Cure for Heart Disease
By William Faloon
Vitamin C Reduces C-Reactive Protein
Soon after the media put the Crestor® clinical trial on the front pages, a study was published showing that 1,000 mg a day of vitamin C reduces C-reactive protein as effectively as some statin drugs.19
In this University of California Berkeley study, participants who received vitamin C and started out with C-reactive protein levels greater than 2 mg/L had 34% lower levels compared with the placebo group after only two months.19,20
This study was done based on previous findings that vitamin C supplements reduce elevated C-reactive protein. This study received scant media coverage.
A Healthy Diet Significantly Reduces C-Reactive Protein
Eating too much saturated fat or high-glycemic carbohydrates increases C-reactive protein.30,31 One study showed a 39% decrease in C-reactive protein levels after only eight weeks of consuming a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.32 The study participants also saw reductions in their LDL, total cholesterol, body weight, and arterial stiffness.
So while you may soon see ads promoting the 37% C-reactive protein reduction in response to high dose Crestor®, you should be aware that the same benefit has already been shown in response to healthier eating—with no drugs used.
For those who cannot adequately control their food intake, the lipase-inhibitor drug orlistat reduces absorption of dietary fat by 30%.33 A drug called acarbose reduces the number of absorbed carbohydrate calories by inhibiting the glucosidase enzyme.34,35 Both of these drugs lower LDL, triglycerides, glucose, cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors when taken before each meal.34-41 There are over-the-counter dietary supplements that exhibit some of these same effects.
Another study shows that eating cholesterol-lowering food works about as well as consuming a very low-fat diet plus statin drug therapy. One study showed a 33.3% reduction in C-reactive protein and 30.9% reduction in LDL in subjects eating a very low-fat diet and taking a statin drug. Those who ate the cholesterol-lowering foods showed a 28.2% reduction in C-reactive protein and a 28.6% reduction in LDL.42 This study showed that eating cholesterol-lowering foods achieved almost the same benefit as those who followed a very low-fat diet and took a statin drug.
The cholesterol-lowering foods used in this study include almonds, soy protein, fiber, and plant sterols.42 Few people can follow a rigorous low-fat diet and some people want to avoid statin drugs. Based on this study, those who need to reduce LDL and/or C-reactive protein blood levels can accomplish this by eating cholesterol-lowering foods or taking supplements such as soluble fiber powder before heavy meals.
In a study of 3,920 people, subjects who ingested the most dietary fiber were found to have a 41% lower risk of elevated C-reactive protein levels, compared with those who ate the least fiber. The doctors who conducted this study concluded: “Our findings indicate that fiber intake is independently associated with serum CRP concentration and support the recommendation of a diet with a high fiber content.”43
There is an important take-home lesson here for those with high C-reactive protein levels that persist even after initiating statin drug therapy. You may be able to achieve significant additive benefits by making dietary modifications, taking at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C each day, and following other proven ways to quell chronic inflammatory reactions.
Sex Hormones and Inflammation in Men
Aging men are plagued with declining testosterone levels while their estrogen remains the same or even increases. This imbalance often sets the stage for a host of chronic inflammatory disorders, while increasing the amount of abdominal adiposity.
For years, we at Life Extension have advised maturing men to restore their free testosterone to youthful ranges (between 20 and 25 pg/mL of blood) and keep their estrogen from getting too high. Ideal estrogen (estradiol) levels in men have been shown to be between 20 and 30 pg/mL of blood.
We have seen countless cases of men with chronic inflammation experience a reversal of their elevated C-reactive protein (and painful symptoms) when a youthful sex hormone profile is properly restored. Independent published studies corroborate our findings that low testosterone and high estradiol predisposes aging men to chronic inflammatory status and higher C-reactive protein.90-92
Pomegranate Restores Coronary Artery Blood Flow
In stating that there is “no cure for heart disease,” the media never bothered to look at the scientific literature, where there is a host of documented natural approaches to reverse clinical markers of atherosclerosis.
In one study, doctors tested a group of heart disease patients to ascertain pomegranate’s effects on inducible angina and the rate of blood flow through the coronary arteries. The entire group was given a baseline stress test to induce angina and an advanced diagnostic technique to measure coronary blood flow.
One group of cardiac patients received their medications plus placebo, while the second group received their medications plus pomegranate juice. After three months, coronary blood flow was again measured using the same tests performed at baseline. In the group receiving the pomegranate juice, stress-induced angina episodes decreased by 50%, whereas stress-induced angina increased by 38% in the placebo group.97
When measuring coronary artery blood flow, the placebo group worsened by 17% after three months, whereas coronary blood flow improved by 18% in the pomegranate group.
This study showed that daily consumption of pomegranate can improve blood flow to the heart in coronary artery disease patients in a relatively short period of time. The doctors noted that the test they used to measure coronary blood flow was shown to be the best predictor of future heart attack risk.
Another study compared one group of patients receiving statin and other drugs to a group who received the same drugs plus pomegranate juice. In the drugs-only group, a measurement of systemic atherosclerosis (carotid intima-media thickness) increased by 9% in a year, whereas the group receiving the drugs plus pomegranate showed a 35% reversal in carotid intima-media thickness.98
One way that pomegranate protects cardiovascular health is by augmenting nitric oxide, which supports the functioning of endothelial cells that line the arterial walls.99 Nitric oxide signals the vascular smooth muscle to relax, thereby increasing blood flow through arteries and veins. In the aforementioned study, pomegranate also protected against atherosclerosis by reducing LDL’s basal oxidative status by an astounding 90% and increasing beneficial paraoxonase-1 (PON-1) by 83%.98
Pharmaceutical companies would pay a lot for a patented compound that performs as well as pomegranate. If such a compound were developed, you would see national TV ads promoting it as the “drug” every American should take to protect against heart attack. Fortunately, pomegranate is a low-cost dietary supplement. You won’t see it advertised by the mass media, but then again, you don’t have to pay inflated prescription drug prices for it.
Coronary Artery Occlusion May Be Controlled with Other Nutrients
Kyolic® garlic,100-102 GliSODin™ (oral superoxide dismutase complex),103,104 fish oil,105-108 and cocoa polyphenols109-114 have all been shown to improve clinical markers of arterial blood flow.
An interesting study compared statin drugs side-by-side with fish oil in patients with heart failure. After a median of 3 years of follow-up, fish oil showed more benefit than statin therapy.115 Fish oil helps promote a shift from small, dense LDL particles (more atherogenic) to larger, “fluffier” LDL particles (less atherogenic), and it functions by numerous other mechanisms to protect against heart attack.116,117 Furthermore, the data showing reduction in sudden cardiac death with omega-3 fatty acids (like fish oil) is far more robust and consistent than what has been found in statin drug clinical trials.118,119
Unlike side effect-prone statin drugs, fish oil seems to help protect against virtually every age-related degenerative disease.107,120-124 Those with LDL levels above 100 mg/dL of blood who cannot lower it with dietary changes or supplements should consider a low dose statin drug and fish oil.
Simple Guidelines to Protect Yourself Against Heart Attack and Stroke
At the end of this article is a reprint of our 17 “daggers aimed at the heart” diagram that represents independent risk factors associated with heart attack and stroke. Any one of these daggers can create vascular disease. Regrettably, aging people often suffer multiple risk factors (daggers aimed at their heart) that cause them to die prematurely.
Fortunately, the proper blood tests can identify risk factors unique to each individual so that corrective action can be taken before one’s heart or brain is decimated by a catastrophic vascular event. To view the optimal blood levels of cardiac risk markers you should seek to attain, please see our protocol on cardiovascular disease.
Multiple studies document that a chronic inflammatory process is directly involved in the degenerative diseases of aging including cancer,125-127 dementia,128-130 stroke,131-133 visual disorders,134,135 arthritis,136-138 liver failure,139,140 and heart attack.141-146
Fortunately, a low-cost C-reactive protein blood test can identify whether you suffer a smoldering inflammatory fire within your body that will likely cause you to die prematurely. An abundance of scientific research provides a wide range of proven approaches to suppress chronic inflammatory reactions.147-165
The comprehensive Male and Female Blood Test Panels reveal your C-reactive protein level, along with other factors that could cause your C-reactive protein to be too high. Blood components that can spike C-reactive protein levels include high LDL,166 low HDL,167 low testosterone168 and excess estradiol (in men),169 elevated glucose,170,171 excess homocysteine,172 and DHEA deficit.173
Optimal blood levels of C-reactive protein are below 0.55 mg/L in men and below 1.50 mg/L in women.174-177 Standard reference ranges accept higher levels as normal because so many people fail to take care of themselves and thus suffer chronically high C-reactive protein levels with subsequently increased risk of heart attack,178-180 stroke,181,182 cancer,125,183 senility,184,185 etc.186
Despite the media portraying cardiac stents as the best choice for those with coronary blockage, a 2007 trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated 2,287 patients over 5 years and found that stents provided no additional benefit over drug cocktails in patients with chronic stable angina (chronic stable coronary artery disease). The study found that stent placement did not affect heart attack risk or coronary mortality.187 Yet these procedures continue to be very popular due to the reimbursement potential ($15,000 per procedure) offered by stent placement to cardiologists.
The fact that conventional drug cocktails, bypass grafting, and stents provide such limited benefits emphasizes the need for a comprehensive program to correct all 17 independent cardiac risk factors.
Dangers of Relying on the Media for Health Information
Today’s news media function as a mouthpiece for the conventional medical establishment.
It is in the economic interests of mainstream cardiology to deceive the public into believing the only way of treating heart disease is with bypass surgery, stents, and drugs.
A plethora of published data, however, reveals that aging humans can successfully circumvent the lethal atherosclerotic process and in many cases reverse it. It all starts with comprehensive blood testing.
The medical establishment charges around $1,000 for the wide-ranging blood tests needed to assess coronary risk markers. As a Life Extension member, you can obtain the same tests for only $269.
When you place your blood test order, we send you a requisition form along with a listing of blood-drawing stations in your area. You can normally walk in during regular business hours for a convenient blood draw.
To place your order for the comprehensive Male and/or Female Blood Test Panels, call 1-800-208-3444 or visit www.lef.org/blood.
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