The Diet Delusion

Experiences on a low carb, high fat diet after a heart attack.

AKA breaking all the rules!

by Geoff Broughton

 

The Diet Delusion is also an excellent book by Gary Taubes. Although the subject matter is closely related, this blog is in no way connected and is independent of Gary Taubes.

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By Geoff B October 3, 2011 7:06:00 PM UTC

One thing for sure is that I am truly stunned by my current, never felt better in many years way, that I feel today - considering that it was only 11 months since I was rushed into hospital after going through a heart attack!


The way that I now feel was not due to accepting conventional advice for that didn’t work for me. I don’t suggest that the methods I used are for everyone as simple as they were, although I do believe that I learnt some very powerful lessons and some extraordinary history as to how current advice came about, and the fundamental errors that this contains. However I leave that for you to judge.


How can I be anything but grateful for the emergency attention that I received, the paramedics, ambulance staff, surgeons and technicians and of course the nurses that enabled me to ‘walk free’ from the cardiac department of James Cook Hospital just 48 hours later. There is no doubt about this. At that juncture this hi-tech world had scored big time for me. An operation conducted while I was fully awake and carried out through access to my main arteries into the heart via an insertion point in my wrist! It was truly incredible. On leaving the hospital, I immediately felt so much better than I had done for years. My breathing was far easier, the occasional breathlessness I experienced after relatively little exertion and accompanying slight ache in my chest that I had become so accustomed to had all but disappeared. The only obvious change to my routine was taking the tablets they gave me, five in all.


It wasn’t long before my new lease of life began to deteriorate. After just a few months I was beginning to wonder whether at 63 my health was starting down a road of inevitable deterioration towards old age. So what was happening? Had something gone wrong? or was this what I should expect. Friends have told me that a doctor’s response could typically be along the lines of “you are not getting any younger you know” - good God!


Before venturing further I would like to point out that I do not offer expert opinion on anything. I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or any other type of medical or dietary expert. I am also duty bound to advise that you should consult with your doctor before changing any prescribed medication. That said you might like to offer to your GP some of the guidance that is offered in the information resources that will be referred to here.


I write this as a journal of my experiences and of all the new information that followed my enquiries into why I had had a heart attack, the treatment that I received, the results of following a prescribed medication fitness and dietary regime and my experiences in following alternative advice.

In these pursuits I also suffered a further attack. Not a heart attack but a total loss of faith in established medical advice and this can also seem catastrophic. To leave behind a ‘normal’ or accepted doctrine whilst trying to recover from an apparent life threatening condition can leave one feeling very isolated. A ‘paradigm shift’ is an expression frequently used in the US. A profound change in the way one thinks about something. I had to find an alternative way of thinking and believing.


I started my search with the help of Google, searching for books, papers, research, websites, anything that might give me plausible avenues for further enquiry. Highly questionable some might say. I wouldn’t blame you, but with nothing else to go on.


Questioning established medical doctrine? I would be surprised if you were not highly sceptical, but please bear with me. I will try and present the information in such a way so that you can draw your own conclusions. In the process I will attempt not to say that anything is like this or like that, except from time to time express the conclusions that I had come to, and hence that certain ideas might be ‘worthy of consideration’. Inevitably I believe that some of you will also end up being pretty stunned as to how, the majority of the educated world can be taken ‘up the garden path’ for so many decades, but if you end up agreeing with me, it will be your conclusion not mine. That this in turn has lead to so much life threatening bad health the blame for which in no way can be attributed to the unbeknown public, but can be attributed to an incredibly entrenched belief system founded on a succession of truly deluded beliefs. It would not be inaccurate to describe the effect as more convincing than the most persuasive forms of propaganda dished out during the cold war or to the German people leading up to WW2.


Apart from my journal of events, much of what follows is a series of quotes from the material that I studied. My first read was a book called ‘The Cholesterol Con” by Malcolm Kendrick, ironically written by a Scottish GP. Then came the Englishman, Barry Groves and his book ‘Natural Health and Weight Loss’. I will also admit to one other source that also eventually helped me to overcome my own entrenched beliefs, and accordingly towards, dare I say, recovery. That source is the books, articles, blogs and presentations of Gary Taubes, an American science journalist of renown that has had two major articles in The New York Times Magazine on the very subject we are discussing here. Yes, most of what is presented here is already in the public domain, mine is just a re-presentation of the issues as a reflection of personal experience. Mr Taubes has conducted such a vast amount of research into the subjects involved going way back into Victorian times. Two particular books, the most recent ‘How we get fat and what to do about it’, and secondly ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’. The latter was released in the UK under the title of ‘The Diet Delusion’. It is of course from this title that the name of this website comes. There are many others to whom I am deeply grateful and I shall make reference to their works in due course. Mention of the above individuals in no way should reflect their overall contribution for it is simply the order in which I personally came across them.


Towards the end of this discourse, what I want to present to you is not just about being deluded over dietary advice, the name fits - like a glove, but where delusion can lead us, to the way that we are constantly deluded by our own way of thinking and the way that this can escalate and grow along with the delusions of all others around us to create veritable monsters that can be seen to threaten our very existence.


On November 6th 2010 I became one of the ever increasing numbers of people to have gone through having a heart attack. The doctors use a beautiful expression ‘a myocardial infarction’. It is one of the many words and expressions that I have learnt since that dramatic event. It happened at home and unfortunately while I had all my family round including my four grandchildren. An event that must have shocked them all in spite of the care that was taken with the children, not to frighten them, although one cannot choose the timing of these events. I was rushed to hospital from my home in Crathorne, where I live with my wife Gina. Within 48 hours they had fit me up with 2 inline stents in one of my arteries, all done within the blink of an eye, while still awake, in what they called the ‘lab’ as opposed to the operating theatre. They insert a catheter into an artery, in my case the insertion point was my wrist, and manipulate the device into place within the blocked artery leading directly into my heart. The stent or stents are inserted, and these expand the artery which allows blood to flow again. I was told that they would remain in place, and that as long as I continued to take the 5 pills given to me I would have a lesser chance of suffering a heart attack than anyone else of my age (62 at the time) who had not gone through this procedure. As I left the hospital only 48 hours later, they gave me a book, DVD and a chat as to how I should proceed within a new regime of taking pills, exercise and hopefully losing weight. I was around 15st 7lbs at the time. I was somewhat in shock, as in my head, although at 62 with 4 grandchildren I was still, in my head at most middle aged. Although feeling better than I had for several months, I did not feel entirely comfortable.


After taking the tablets for a few months, I didn’t feel any better about things, in fact I seemed to be going downhill, if nothing else at least psychologically. Had I really hit the buffers and from here on in destined to be on tablets, battling to regain good health plus I was at times feeling not too well. I put on more weight going up to 16st 2lb and I became quite depressed, but also altogether very tired. On top of it all I seemed to quickly become forgetful and had difficulty concentrating. Even walking normally became suspiciously problematic. I didn’t necessarily believe in an inevitable deterioration in getting older, but was this really how it was going to be? There seemed plenty of others in their sixties that would appear to support the hypothesis - but weren't there many others that were fit and healthy, even in their 80s. This was all too much. Not having much else to go on It was at this point that I decided to do a little internet research into my condition.


I must admit that he business of taking tablets for the rest of my life did not fit too well with my psyche. I had never liked taking tablets, even for headaches, and I had never believed too much in their effectiveness. I liked to think that I had a certain amount of faith in the body’s own healing power, after all, look at the way a cut will heal as if by magic. All those bouts of colds, flue and other myriad ailments that would always disappear without interference if left to play themselves out. Doubt began to set in about the tablets that I had been prescribed.


The procedure given to me in hospital was certainly impressive, that was without doubt. Within a couple of days of going in to hospital I was going back into the Crathorne Arms for a pint. The doctors were happy about this in moderation. Being still early November the locals thought it was still halloween! We live on the main road not a stones throw away from the local pub and it was only on the previous Saturday night that the blue lights from both the paramedic’s estate car and the ambulance could be clearly seen from the window. I was pleased to be alive, and to be passing on the good news about these, what seemed miraculous new procedures. The joviality of the situation certainly reduced the impact of what I had only a few hours previous been through.


That was a few months previous. I was feeling worse. Palpitations, which are irregularities in your heartbeat increased to several times a day, especially after walking the quarter mile from the car park to the office in the morning. I had started work again, the company that I worked for had been very good, sympathetic and seemed genuinely concerned. Somewhat ironically I work in health & safety, my role being to undertake risk assessments for fire safety in social housing. At the time of my heart event I had actually already been off work with stress induced by a traumatic family situation. Might stress have had an instrumental effect? or was it old age that was really taking hold so very quickly. I was given a life line. My internet research had uncovered objections to the use of statins. Not only from patients but also from a number of doctors. Somewhat tenuous it seemed but one of the tablets I had been prescribed was a statin. Lipitor Atorvastatin, 80mg. Like many of the well prescribed drugs I had heard that there was some controversy about the prescription of statins, but initially disregarded it. The internet soon came up with a number of possible side effects - many of which were along the lines I had experienced.


Statins are given to lower cholesterol and it was well reported that at this they were very effective. In hospital they had told me that my cholesterol level was not particularly high but that they always prescribed statins to lower cholesterol further, because that was supposed to be good for you. A subsequent visit to my health clinic to discuss the results of my latest blood test lead me to asking why they wanted to lower my cholesterol when I was lead to believe that my level was about normal (4.3 mmol/L or 166mg/dL). The GP (not my usual one) quickly acclaimed that he would reduce my cholesterol down to zero if necessary. At that point I became considerably more suspicious. Even the little that I had learnt up to that point had indicated to me that cholesterol was an integral part of our physical makeup, in it’s many forms. The doctor’s reason then, which could not possibly be supported, was no longer good enough especially in view of how I felt.


After 2 months I had to renew my prescription at my local health clinic and set up a repeat prescription. I had decided to ask my regular GP if he would discuss my coming off at least some of the tablets I was taking, but his reply was “No, they are for life, it is not up for discussion” I nevertheless continued my research. My doubts increased along with the symptoms. I decided to take matters into my own hands. At 80 mg per day the dose of the statin that I had been put on (Lipitor) was the highest that I had come across, especially as my cholesterol level was not considered high. This is not to say that higher doses were not possible but it all seemed a little odd. Every other morning I would half the tablet to see what effect that might have. This increased to halving the tablet daily. If I had what seemed like a bad day and lost my nerve I would go back to a full tablet. Slowly my confidence grew and the number of my gradual reductions increased


My research took me on an emotional roller coaster. Apparently there are numerous cases where the artery blocks up again, sometimes after only a year, and further procedures become necessary. There were other cases where new arteries had formed along the lines of existing small veins, bypassing the original which had the blockage. Such confusing and often conflicting reports didn’t help. Eventually I came across a number of books on the subject, written for the public and health professionals.


As mentioned earlier the first book I bought was ‘The Great Cholesterol Con’ by a Scottish doctor (G.P.) called Malcolm Kendrick. The title of the book says it all. The book was easy to read, in parts very funny, as Dr Kendrick demolished (in his own thinking), the current theories about dangers of high cholesterol. Without getting into detail, for I have since discovered that there are numerous doctors around the world who agree with Dr Kendrick whole heartedly, cholesterol is a substance in a number of forms that occurs naturally within our bodies and is very necessary to the body’s proper functioning including the brain. To cut a long story short it is unclear what causes the arteries to block but it is anything but a clear case that cholesterol in any of it’s forms is to blame. For those who would like a brief overview of Dr Kendrick’s views there is a utube video of a presentation of his to members of the BMA (British Medical Association) in Leeds.


Could this actually be the case. All the bad publicity about cholesterol was actually wrong? Could all that TV news stuff and all those documentaries be misinformed? All that food packaging convincing us that eating certain foods would lower cholesterol and that that was a good thing?


It was at about the same time that I had decided to take on a little additional light exercise. This was after I had read about a number of cases where cycling had helped a number of individuals to get through a similar ordeal as myself. When I say a little exercise it was to cycle just over 1/2 mile towards the A19 and back. In the distant past I had cycled to work daily from Yarm to Darlington for over a year so this should not have been a problem. My son had given me the bike as a hand me down, it had all the necessary, 12 gears etc etc. On the first attempt I stopped 4 times - just to get there, just 1/2 a mile away! What’s more I couldn’t stop wobbling all over the place. I was really quite shocked. What was wrong? My balance & co-ordination were practically non existent. Sue & Geoff who live directly over the road and run the village post office thought it was so funny. To cover myself I made some lame excuse that the bearings on the front wheel had gone!


However it was at about this time that a small, although eventually meaningful improvement in my condition seemed to be taking place. There was hope.

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geoff@dietdelusion.co.uk

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Geoff Broughton