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What Really Causes Heart Disease?

by Dr. Dwight Lundell, MD at

Summary - Inflammation creates heart disease, not cholesterol. Inflammation is mostly caused by our body's natural defense reaction to toxins and processed foods. Damage is reversible. Read more.....

We physicians with all our training, knowledge and authority often acquire a rather large ego that tends to make it difficult to admit we are wrong. So, here it is. I freely admit to being wrong. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries, today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.

I trained for many years with other prominent physicians labeled opinion makers. Bombarded with scientific literature, continually attending educational seminars, we opinion makers insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol.

The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and a diet that severely restricted fat intake. The latter, of course, we insisted would lower cholesterol and heart disease. Deviations from these recommendations were considered heresy and could quite possibly result in malpractice.

It is Not Working!

These recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible. The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated.

The long-established dietary recommendations have created epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the consequences of which dwarf any historical plague in terms of mortality, human suffering and dire economic consequences.

Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes expensive statin medications, and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before.

Statistics from the American Heart Association show that 75 million Americans currently suffer from heart disease, 20 million have diabetes and 57 million have pre-diabetes. These disorders are affecting younger and younger people in greater numbers every year.

Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.

Inflammation is not complicated -- it is quite simply your body's natural defense to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxins or viruses. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process, a condition occurs called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial.

What thoughtful person would willfully expose himself repeatedly to foods or other substances that are known to cause injury to the body? Well, smokers perhaps, but at least they made that choice willfully.

The rest of us have simply followed the recommended mainstream diet that is low in fat and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, not knowing we were causing repeated injury to our blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.

Let me repeat that: The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat-diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.

What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation?

Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly-processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excessive consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.

Take a moment to visualize rubbing a stiff brush repeatedly over soft skin until it becomes quite red and nearly bleeding . . . you kept this up several times a day, every day for five years. If you could tolerate this painful brushing, you would have a bleeding, swollen infected area that became worse with each repeated injury. This is a good way to visualize the inflammatory process that could be going on in your body right now.

Regardless of where the inflammatory process occurs, externally or internally, it is the same. I have peered inside thousands upon thousands of arteries. A diseased artery looks as if someone took a brush and scrubbed repeatedly against its wall. Several times a day, every day, the foods we eat create small injuries compounding into more injuries, causing the body to respond continuously and appropriately with inflammation.

While we savor the tantalizing taste of a sweet roll, our bodies respond alarmingly as if a foreign invader arrived declaring war. Foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates or processed with omega-6 oils for long shelf life have been the mainstay of the American diet for six decades. These foods have been slowly poisoning everyone.

How does eating a simple sweet roll create a cascade of inflammation to make you sick?

Imagine spilling syrup on your keyboard and you have a visual of what occurs inside the cell. When we consume simple carbohydrates such as sugar, blood sugar rises rapidly. In response, your pancreas secretes insulin whose primary purpose is to drive sugar into each cell where it is stored for energy. If the cell is full and does not need glucose, it is rejected to avoid extra sugar gumming up the works.

When your full cells reject the extra glucose, blood sugar rises, producing more insulin, and the glucose converts to stored fat.

What does all this have to do with inflammation? Blood sugar is controlled in a very narrow range. Extra sugar molecules attach to a variety of proteins that in turn injure the blood vessel wall. This repeated injury to the blood vessel wall sets off inflammation. When you spike your blood sugar level several times a day, every day, it is exactly like taking sandpaper to the inside of your delicate blood vessels.

While you may not be able to see it, rest assured it is there. I saw it in over 5,000 surgical patients spanning 25 years who all shared one common denominator -- inflammation in their arteries.

Let's get back to the sweet roll. That innocent-looking goody not only contains sugars, it is baked in one of many omega-6 oils such as soybean. Chips and fries are soaked in soybean oil; processed foods are manufactured with omega-6 oils for longer shelf life. While omega-6's are essential -- they are part of every cell membrane, controlling what goes in and out of the cell -- they must be in the correct balance with omega-3's.

If the balance shifts by consuming excessive omega-6, the cell membrane produces chemicals called cytokines that directly cause inflammation.

Today's mainstream American diet has produced an extreme imbalance of these two fats. The ratio of imbalance ranges from 15:1 to as high as 30:1 in favor of omega-6. That's a tremendous amount of cytokines causing inflammation. In today's food environment, a 3:1 ratio would be optimal and healthy.

To make matters worse, the excess weight you are carrying from eating these foods creates overloaded fat cells that pour out large quantities of pro-inflammatory chemicals that add to the injury caused by having high blood sugar. The process that began with a sweet roll turns into a vicious cycle over time that creates heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and finally, Alzheimer's disease, as the inflammatory process continues unabated.

There is no escaping the fact that the more we consume prepared and processed foods, the more we trip the inflammation switch little by little each day. The human body cannot process, nor was it designed to consume, foods packed with sugars and soaked in omega-6 oils.

There is but one answer to quieting inflammation, and that is returning to foods closer to their natural state. To build muscle, eat more protein. Choose carbohydrates that are very complex such as colorful fruits and vegetables. Cut down on or eliminate inflammation-causing omega-6 fats like corn and soybean oil and the processed foods that are made from them.

Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labeled polyunsaturated. Forget the science that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.

The cholesterol theory led to the no-fat, low-fat recommendations that in turn created the very foods now causing an epidemic of inflammation. Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake when it advised people to avoid saturated fat in favor of foods high in omega-6 fats. We now have an epidemic of arterial inflammation leading to heart disease and other silent killers.

What you can do is choose whole foods your grandmother served and not those your mom turned to as grocery store aisles filled with manufactured foods.

By eliminating inflammatory foods and adding essential nutrients from fresh unprocessed food, you will reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body from consuming the typical American diet.

-Dr. Dwight Lundell, MD

26 Replies

Interesting, I'm glad I stuck to butter and didn't change to the tasteless alternatives. Being on a diet is bad enough without finding out it was doing you no good.


This is very interesting as I have been a fruit person all my life and now don't eat sweets, cakes, biscuits or processed food and make 85% or our food from fresh ingredients as have always been nervous of the preservatives used it food. Despite this they say due to mediation I have doubled my weight from the age 60 to 66 and am findin it impossible to.move.


Hi 2 squirrels

Giving up bread and other food made with wheat can often help with weight loss. Have a look for 'Wheat Belly' on the Internet.


An enlightening article and a regime that I would be very happy to follow, but this is one mans view. We need more well informed relevant professionals to enforce this. Just this morning there has been an item on TV along the same lines, with Dr John Briffa voicing his opinion, we need more, we are in crisis and education has to be the way forward. This article is so well written it's scary....more please.


i agree with you evec,

untill we get the majority of our consultants standing up and voicing there view

on tv or some other network were in limbo. what is the truth! could it be the amount of money the statin manufactuers are raking in the, the doctors are turning a blind eye. surely not!

lets have the truth from our uk doctors. and like yvonned said heart uk.


Sadly the pharmaceutica lobby is very powerful, they make huge amounts of money from promoting drug use, they have no scruples, it is in their interest to keep us sick. In turn the government gets huge amounts of money in taxes from the phamaceutic industry so does nothing, conspiracy...who knows? Surley it would be more cost effective to keep us all fit and reduce the health bill, but then the pharmaceutical industry would where does the circle start???

Doctors have very little training about nutrition, and that is a vital part of our welbeing It is, then, encumbent on us all to find out for ourselves and take our health seriously. Sadly there are problems that we cannot control and have to resort to medical intervention but let's be proactive about healthy nutirtion and excersise.


I agree with you entirely.The problem you have is that it is claimed that people have the right to make informed desitions about what they eat and drink,but unfortunately children are influenced my slick marketing that convinces them that what is being promoted is good for them.This then puts pressure on parents to keep there children happy.Unfortunately once children start using these types of foods and drinks it becomes like an adiction.This is not only restricted to children however.You only have to look at the latest Coca Cola advertising to see an example of blatant misinformation.


Yep....the food industry also has a lot to answer for...we are now bombarded with highly processed sugar and salt rich is a minefield and eating a healthy diet is time-consuming because of the time spent checking all foodstuffs we buy. Back to a natural diet....if you have oodles of time and energy and the land to grow your own, not an option for most of us.

The whole inustry needs a jolly good shake up...will it ever get it...I don't think so. My guess is the human species will have to wait generations until our bodies adapt...what a sad state of affairs. Having said that I still believe we have to make the very most of the short life we have and keep smiling;)


The book recently published by Michael Moss has good look at the food industry and their cynical disregard for anything other than profit.


What is HEART UK's opinion on these views please


Rubbish, evidence-free article. At last in the UK, the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine has not included highly-refined sugars and flours, but wholefoods. Maybe the USA got that bit wrong, but this article goes too far to the other extreme.


That's a bit harsh. This is one mans' view and his experience. I for one am glad that at least one professional is now standing up to give his personal opinion.


Your entitled to your opinion as is everyone else.However to rubish the the opinion of an md who is willing to give his point is insulting and nieve.


Here is a summary of evidence from Scientific American magazine

It also suggests why it has not been acted on - the Sugar lobby is a powerful lobby.

Unless you make all your food from scratch there is a good chance you will be eating a lot of sugar, it is in everything from low fat yoghurt to wholemeal bread. Just check the labels.


I like the article as i have always struggled with knowing, ' what should i eat?'.... ' can i eat breaded chicken?' ' Are fresh meats (not including chicken/turkey) bad for me in moderation?' . The thing i have always struggled the most with is sweet products- cakes, biscuits etc. When i cut those out, my cholestorol dropped.


The facts keep changing, a la new research findings. More 'discoveries' would still come for sure. One thing is certain, however, organic natural foods cannot be faulted. It is what we should give the priority. Let's go back to the garden, the garden of Eden. God put in there, in the natural form, all that His creature would need. It is 'civilization' and 'buziness' that brought about food processing and packaging.


The French diet is basically built on quality, non processed foods, dairy, full fat meat, fish,quality patisserie and bread and they have one of the lowest heart disease rates in the world. They use animal fats, butter and olive oil for cooking mainly. They dont worry about cholesterol as much as the USA and UK - they dont consider cholesterol to be high unless its over 6.7.


Sorry, forgot to mention good quality veggies and fruit too!


This is great to hear another MD who has the courage to come out and challenge the ludicrous cholestrol theory that has made the pharmacuetical companies rich and the patient populatation suffer sicker.

We seem to have a food industry that is hell bent on supplying us with all the tools for self distruction.Dietry advice that is misguided and constantly changing and a drugs industry that wants to repair us,or should i say patch us back together,after we have poisoned our bodies with high consentrations of toxins.

All these industries become rich while everyone else becomes sicker and sicker.Is n't ironic that we claim to be the most inteligent animals on the planet and yet we will probablly become the victims of our own success and greed.


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did a meta-analysis a few years ago and concluded that eating saturated fat did not contribute to heart disease.

This is regarded as 'contentious' because the past forty years have entrenched the view that low fat is good for us. It's going to take a lot for some Professionals to change their views.

But ... even The American Heart Association is advising people to lower their carbohydrate consumption.


Forgot to mention that the CBN video posted a few days ago contained the same ideas about inflammation. This is not new knowledge but it has been disregarded for many years.



Can someone please let me know what tests are available for Inflammation:

Summary - Inflammation creates heart disease, not cholesterol. Inflammation is mostly caused by our body's natural defense reaction to toxins and processed foods. Damage is reversible.

What are the best food and drinks to get rid of Inflammation?


I don't know if there is a test specifically for general inflammation.

Foods that are recommended as 'anti-inflammatory' include omega 6 fatty acids, such as fish oil, and spices like turmeric. This article has some information


Should have put 'omega 3 fatty acid' not 6.



Thanks. Is there any relationship to blood velicity, cholesterol and and build up on our blood system?

Ultra sound test to check blood velocity?

What is the reason for blood test numbers increasing with age?


I guess that blood velocity will decrease if arteries are blocked by cholesterol. You could ask your GP about ultra sound or look it up on the Internet.

There are lots of different blood tests, and any problems you have may just get worse as you get older?


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