an impermanent travelogue
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November 04, 2003
FuturePundit has assembled a post from a number of sources in support of a synthetic HDL cholesterol administered intravenously as a drug rather than a food for the reduction of artery clogging. It is synthesized using recombinant DNA.
High Density Lipid (HDL) cholesterol, also called "good cholesterol", has different implications for human health than Low Density Cholesterol (LDL), also called "bad cholesterol". The HDL being studied as therapy for clogged arteries is a unique variant with an unusual protein component found in a small population of Italians.
FuturePundit speculates about a possible future gene hack for humans so that they produce their own ApoA-I Milano HDL, but there are things we can do today to avoid clogged arteries if we consume a greater percentage of HDLs than LDLs and generally pay attention to the type of fat we consume. This can be difficult since the advice of the medical community on this issue wasn't just wrong, it was diametrically opposed to good practice for decades since they didn't distinguish between HDLs and LDLs.
The advice to lower fat consumption and increase carbohydrate consumption - the corn conspiracy - not only didn't reduce heart disease, it increased obesity, diabetes and cancer. The consumption of carbohydrates and polyunsaturated oils - primarily corn oil and safflower oil - did lower cholesterol, but it lowered both HDL and LDL and so didn't achieve a healthful balance. Monounsaturated oils such as olive oil don't lower cholesterol as well because they don't lower the good HDLs. Corn and safflower oil products are hydrogenated which forms trans-fatty acids which are far worse for our cardiovascular systems than the animal fats they replaced in our diets. Even worse, corn and safflower oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids which seem to invigorate cancer cells.
Well meaning but mistaken doctors, dieticians and public health officials have promoted dietary standards that are far worse than traditional diets. Reduction in the consumption of animal fats from meat and dairy products and replacement by starchy foods and vegetable oils is dietary suicide. It diminishes health while alive and hastens death.
Not surprisingly, such foods have the same effects on other mammals such as mice in laboratories and cows in feedlots. When meat and dairy animals are fed diets high in starches and vegetable oils they have poorer health and the meat and dairy products are higher in bad fatty acids. The good fats originate in the green leaves of plants and phytoplankton in the sea but are in very low concentrations. You can't eat and digest enough leaves to get enough of such fats. But animals that eat grasses and fishes that eat plankton concentrate these good fatty acids. A diet of meat and dairy products from grazed animals and free ranging fish (not farmed fish), olive oil, green vegetables and a little good bread and pasta - add some wine and you have the traditional Mediterranean diet - is a proper human diet that provides the right balance of the right fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The unique HDL synthesizing genes of that small group of Milanos may have helped them avoid clogged arteries, but the traditional diet of the region is also proper for humans. We don't yet have the new drug or the gene hack but we can eat well.
It's the right thing to do for several reasons. Human health improves. The health of food animals improves so that consuming them is more healthful. The health of the environment improves due to the reduction of growing field and row crops for animal fodder. As noted in several earlier posts - recently in Dirt Glue - grasslands are fertile, diverse environments that produce more biomass and sequester organic matter and so lower atmospheric CO2. Add in the reduction in pesticides, herbicides, erosion and fossil fuel use needed for field and row crops and a compelling case for seeking out grass fed meat and dairy products for a significant part of your diet is made. It's good for your health and good for the environment.
FuturePundit has updated the original post to note that there may not be anything special about the HDL being developed as a drug, ordinary HDL may serve as well, but the one being tested was patented and so offered economic protection to the developers.