AHA and Your Heart. A Case of Fox Watching the Hen House?
Normal people dream about winning the lottery. Or kissing movie stars.
My dreams tend to be geekier.
I dreamt about the American Heart Association the other night. Guess that’s why I write articles about fish oil for a living.
Anyway, in my dream, the American Heart Association (AHA) came to their senses, snapped out of acting like politicians and leveled with the American people about diet and heart health.
AHA Tells It Like It Is
In the dream, some faceless suit standing behind a podium said the following:
“The AHA is sorry. Really, really sorry for misleading you about heart health for nearly four decades.
Please pay attention now, because we’ll only say this once. This is deeply embarrassing and we’d rather get it over with to clear our conscience.
We’ve known for some time now, that some of our dietary guidelines were simply wrong. Millions of you followed our advice and gave yourself heart attacks.
We know better now and we want to set the record straight.
Making a Monkey Out of You
I’m sure you read the New York Times piece where scientists fed a monkey a strict AHA-recommended diet and the monkey quickly gained weight and developed poor heart health. Just like most of you.
Poor monkey! Poor you!
But it began long before the monkey.
We started sending you wrong messages way back in 1961, back when our board had some questionable members. And one of them had published ‘pioneering’ research that said poor heart health was caused by saturated fat and cholesterol.
This person, Ancel Keys, actually ended up on the cover of Time magazine that year!
He became a celebrity! And you know how much we love celebrities! So we never questioned his research.
Turns out his research was semi-bogus. He connected dots that ought not to have been connected because, well, it told a nicer story.
After that, we’ve been telling our kids to dress up as eggs and bacon for Halloween.
Since 1961, we’ve also been telling people to:
- Eat low-fat foods
- Toss out lard and other saturated fats
- Start cooking with vegetable oils
- And finally, we told people to eat more grains.
We were wrong to tell people to eat low-fat foods.
We were wrong…really, REALLY wrong to tell people to start cooking with vegetable (seed) oils.
And, yeah, we were definitely wrong about eating mostly grains.
What a hat trick! Those three recommendations probably killed a lot of people you know, well before it was their time.
Cholesterol, the Innocent Villain?
Turns out high levels of cholesterol cruising through your blood vessels isn’t always bad. Matter of fact, it is actually healthy and important. It’s when this cholesterol gets oxidized that you need to worry.
Umm…the stuff that we told you to eat, like vegetable seed oils and your non-stop soda drinking causes cholesterol to get oxidized.
Yikes! What the heck were we thinking?!
Before we knew it, the USDA, the American Diabetes Association, the Dietetic Association and a zillion other official sounding associations were saying the same things about diet. The echo chamber was really working.
By the late 1980s, if you were a scientific organization and you had not completely rejected cholesterol, you were weird!
Back to that vegetable oil thing…vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and oils from sunflower, safflower etc. have a ton of Omega-6 in it.
Your body NEEDS a little bit of Omega-6. It’s important. So you’d think more Omega-6 would be better.
Omega-6: More Is Not Better
You’d think that more Omega-6 would improve heart health. Wrong! Turns out more Omega-6 causes several health issues. *
Why? Well, because excess Omega-6 creates an ‘eicosanoid imabalance’ that leads to several health problems. This is not new information. We’ve known about this for a long, long time.
This chart by the highly respected Dr. Bill Lands shows how Arachidonic Acid, a byproduct of Omega-6 from vegetable seed oils like corn oil and soybean oil, is very closely associated with poor heart health.*
The problem is that there is no pill to undo the damage from excess Omega-6. The only solution is to fix our diets and food supply.
Ahem. You’d think we’d know when to shut up. But no.
We understand that we lost our credibility with a lot of you scientists out there. Well, hope this acknowledgement makes things better.
The Lyon Diet: Message Lost!
You know that fat monkey?
Guess what? The Mediterranean diet caused a 70% DECREASE in all-cause death.
(PUFA =polyunsaturated fatty acid = mostly Omega-6)
The results of Lyon Diet Heart Study were so significant that the researchers stopped the study early and told the people eating the AHA diet that they ought to stop and switch to the Mediterranean diet.
That study was published in, well, ahem, in our own publication about 10 years before we told you to eat more Omega-6.
In our defense, there have been recent studies that showed swapping out saturated fats for Omega-6-rich vegetable oils did not worsen heart health.*
Ahem, but what we didn’t tell people is that once your tissue percentage of Omega-6 is high, say 4%, then glopping on more doesn’t worsen your chances of kicking the bucket. Because you’re already half way there.
But, hey, I’m getting tired of beating up on myself and my colleagues.
Cut us some slack, will ya, at least we’ve been telling people to eat salmon and salads for a while. I’m sure that saved a few lives.
Oh, and a few parting disclaimers:
We promise to pay more attention to scientists like Lands, Hibbeln, Simopoulous and Sears.
We are not going to apologize for the absurd ‘less fat, more whole grain’ disaster that’s been foisted on you. We’ll apologize for that in the year 2035.
Because that’s how long it will take for people to figure out that low-fat-more-grains was a colossal disaster. Well, may be longer.”
Oh, and Jimmy Hoffa died of an Omega-6 overdose. He is buried at…
And then I woke up.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Clinical research suggests the omega-3 dosage needed to help maintain healthy triglycerides is 2000-3000 mg per day when used as part of healthy diet and exercise regimen.