The following information is summarized from an article published on CNN.com on January 14, 2019 by Dr. Elizabeth Klodas who is a practicing cardiologist in Minneapolis. (1) This reflects her views and not those of CNN.
Dr. Klodas received medical training at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins which are some of the best medical institutions in the world. She said that of the more than 80,000 hours of medical training that she completed, zero hours were spent on learning about nutrition.
In the current American Heart Association’s (AHA) cholesterol management guidelines, only one paragraph in its 120 page content is devoted to diet. In fact, the majority of the guidelines are to instruct providers on which patient to put on which drug and at what dose.
She states that doctors’ numbers of prescriptions are monitored and if she doesn’t follow the cholesterol guidelines for prescribing statins then insurers send her letters reprimanding her. She reveals that physicians actually get paid more when a drug is prescribed because a medical appointment that includes a prescription being written is considered more complex and therefore qualifies for a higher reimbursement. She notes that if a physician takes time to talk about the benefits of a healthy diet, for example, adding omega-3 fatty acids to their diet, they don’t get any more money for this extra time.
Dr. Klodas wants to see this change. Her solution is to give physicians, insurers and patients alternative food-based options for lowering their cholesterol to reduce the use of statins.
Since 70 million Americans have high cholesterol, she admits that she naively thought that the big food companies and investors would be interested in helping. However, the whole, healthy foods proposed such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and blueberries were too expensive to add. The food companies wanted to use flavorings, artificial sweeteners and tiny bits of fruit so that it would be more profitable. Obviously, this would not achieve the results she was looking for. It seemed like there simply wasn’t enough profit for food companies to promote that people eat healthier diets.
Consequently, her supporters and her pushed forward, got a grant and conducted a trial in two countries. They chose candidates who were statin intolerant, meaning that they couldn’t take statins due to adverse side affects. The instructions were simple–without making any other lifestyle changes, eat these particular foods twice per day for the next 30 days. The results from the study was that between 20-40% cholesterol reductions were found. For your information, this data was submitted to the AHA and requested to be in a future publication.
Twenty million Americans who have high cholesterol are statin intolerant. This means that they have no other options and could now have a food intervention choice. She states in the article “…doesn’t it make sense to give people the chance to at least try a validated food intervention before assigning them to a lifetime of pills.” Another positive outcome is that food doesn’t have any side effects like statins can have. It should be noted that some people’s cholesterol won’t respond as well to food intervention as those in the study mentioned.
Dr. Klodas ends the article with these words…“Food is the comprehensive solution to a complex problem. And it just might put me–and pharmaceutical companies–out of business.”