Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Statins and Atherosclerosis

A recent study (JUPITER) on the statin Crestor was ended prematurely when the drug was shown to dramatically reduce vascular events. The statin was tested on patients with chronic inflammation as judged by elevated C-reactive protein, but with low LDL. These patients would not normally be treated with statins and therefore represent an immense new market for statins.

Statins are supposed to act by interfering with the synthesis of cholesterol and thereby lowering the serum concentration of the lipid carrier LDL. Lowered LDL is supposed to decrease vascular disease that is aggravated by accumulation of cholesterol at sites of inflammation on the surface of blood vessels.

Unfortunately the data linking cholesterol production, LDL levels and vascular disease is weak. Thus, it is possible to lower LDL and have no impact on cardiovacular disease statistics. The recent study on Crestor was interpreted as being support for the link between LDL levels and vascular disease, but I think it shows something very different.

There is increasing evidence that vascular disease is based on diet-based chronic inflammation and that statins have a mild impact on reducing inflammation. It follows then that statins will reduce inflammation enough to have an impact on vascular disease, independent of effects on LDL levels. The Crestor study actually showed that patients with low levels of LDL but chronic inflammation benefited from lowering of inflammation. The LDL levels were unimportant. Reducing inflammation was the point and using statins to reduce inflammation is unnecessarily expensive and ineffective. Adjusting diet makes a lot more sense.

Drug companies are already pushing for increased use of statins on larger segments of the US population to provide prevention from atherosclerosis, stroke and heart disease. This would be immensely expensive with marginal returns. It is also just treating the symptoms without addressing the cause.

The solution to cardiovascular disease is dietary. Omega-6 oils and low availability of omega-3 fish oils is the major cause of the chronic inflammation that is the major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The major US vegetable oils, corn, soybean, cottonseed, safflower, need to be drastically restricted and olive oil needs to be encouraged. We need to recognize that saturated fats are safer than the omega-6 polyunsaturated fats that have replaced them. Elimination of omega-6 vegetable oils and use of fish oil supplements are cheap and effective ways of lowering chronic inflammation.

Cardiovascular disease is also based on decreasing muscle mass, sarcopenia, which is also the basis for increasing chronic inflammation inappropriately attributed to aging. People get less physical exercise as couch potatoes or with decreasing activity as they age. The result is replacement of muscle by fat, and fat is inflammatory. Obesity is an extreme of this trend that leads to high chronic inflammation identified as metabolic syndrome, the prelude to a suite of nasty degenerative diseases: diabetes, atherosclerosis, allergies, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc.

The obvious bottom line is to avoid all of these problems with an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.