With a cholesterol level of 150 [3.9 mmol/1] or less,
plaque reversal in two years is possible.
Dr Robert Wissler, Chicago Medical School, June 1977

The major cause of death in modern countries is atherosclerosis, the diseased state of the arteries which results in heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure and many other less lethal health problems. Because the most common direct cause of death is heart attack, great prominence has been given to heart disease, which term really only describes the local manifestation of atherosclerosis in the region of the heart and the coronary arteries which supply the heart muscle with blood. The heart muscle like any other muscle requires an adequate blood supply. When heart disease exists it is common for atherosclerosis to exist elsewhere in the body at the same time, in which case symptoms other than chest pains or heart attack may show up first. Such symptoms, all related, are high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, kidney failure, claudication, glaucoma, premature senility and so on. All due to lipotoxemia derived from the Western diet.

Generally speaking, there are two forms of atherosclerosis, one in which the arteries become mineralized with calcium and lesser minerals, becoming hard and brittle (hardening of the arteries), and one in which the arteries absorb mushy deposits of fat and cholesterol and gradually become blocked with a porridge-like substance called atheroma. Hardening of the arteries used to be called arteriosclerosis and was more common many years ago when diets were based more on grain products and starchy vegetables. Nowadays atheroma is more common because the Western diet is based more on animal protein foods, dairy products, etc, containing large amounts of fat and cholesterol. Whether caused by one or both of these factors combined, the diseased state of arteries is today called atherosclerosis in medical circles.

As the disease progresses, and blood supply to various parts of the body begins to be curtailed, the body attempts to maintain the supply by growing many tiny blood vessels to form a bypass around the blocking sections of artery. These very fine vessels provide what is called "collateral circulation" which can be so effective that no symptoms of the potentially fatal situation are displayed--at least if the blood is thin enough (ie of low viscosity) to pass easily through the fine vessels. Should the blood become sticky, which can happen after one fatty meal or in a highly stressful situation, the collateral circulation will of course diminish or cease, the consequence of which will be increased "coronary deficiency" displayed by chest pain called angina or perhaps by injury to the heart muscle called "heart attack". When circulation to the lower limbs is similarly curtailed, muscle pains are experienced and walking affected, a condition called claudication. Diminished circulation to the brain may be indicated by vagueness and premature senility, culminating as a stroke. And so on . . . it is all the same disease--atherosclerosis via lipotoxemia.

When coronary arteries become severely blocked, all it needs to precipitate a heart attack is for sticky blood or a clot at a critical point to block off circulation to part of the heart muscle, and the severity of the attack will depend on just how much of the heart muscle is affected. In some cases the heart muscle may gradually be depleted by a series of small attacks that pass almost unnoticed, and in other cases when a major coronary artery suddenly blocks the resultant attack may be massive and fatal. The most quickly fatal heart attack is one in which the heart's nervous centre is affected and the co-ordinated pumping action of the heart muscle suddenly changes to an unco-ordinated flutter called fibrillation.

In many such situations which in the ordinary course of events would be fatal, the heart can be restarted with prompt medical attention-in the case of the blood clot by the injection of streptokinase, an enzyme which dissolves blood clots, and in the case of fibrillation by an electric shock from a special defibrillator or even by physically thumping the patient's chest. This is "crisis medicine" at its best and is one reason that death rates from heart attacks have diminished in recent years, the main reasons however being that educated people are more diet conscious, smoke less and exercise more.

It seems incredible that the simple facts about heart disease are not more widely known, even among doctors, because they have been available for many years. For at least all the 20th Century it has been known that excessive amounts of animal protein foods in the diet lead to what was earlier known as cardiac-vascular-renal disease, but it was Dr Lester Morrison of Los Angeles who finally correlated fat and cholesterol factors in the modern diet with the growing epidemic of heart disease. The role of cholesterol in artery disease had been argued about since 1911, at which time Russian researchers had demonstrated that rabbits fed cholesterol developed blocked arteries, but the picture was confused because it was also known that carnivorous animals constantly eating cholesterol did not do so. That carnivores of course have different digestive systems to rabbits and eat their food raw apparently was not taken into account. Anyway, in the 1930s Dr Morrison was researching the relationship between alcohol consumption and cirrhosis of the liver, and was feeding animals with fats and cholesterol to produce cirrhosis in them, which it did, but at the same time he was amazed to observe that their coronary arteries blocked with atheroma just like the arteries of humans with heart disease.

Having proven to his own satisfaction that the worsening epidemic of heart disease was due to the high levels of fat and cholesterol in the Western diet, and knowing that dietary correction enabled heart patients to regain normal health and vigor, and knowing furthermore that such discoveries take years to penetrate the medical profession, if at all, Dr Morrison wrote a book to inform the public direct, as many other doctors have been forced to do. The book was called The Low-fat Way to Health & Longer Life (Prentice-Hall, 1958).

It may seem superfluous to describe all these events, but there is a purpose. First, to illustrate how the best medical advice is never obtainable through conventional channels, and second, to show how one event leads to another, in this case the health career of Nathan Pritikin. Pritikin had been following Dr Morrison's work with great interest since 1946 and it was from their first meeting in 1955 that Pritikin realized he was himself in serious danger from heart disease, from which point he went on to develop the diet that bears his name and to devote the remaining years of his life to spreading the gospel of health.

Since that time it has been demonstrated scientifically that not only can atherosclerosis be prevented by proper diet,* but it can also be reversed.

*See "Mineral Deficiencies", Chapter 15 (Dr Maynard Murray's experiments with rabbits).

Why, then, after all these years is heart disease still our No. 1 killer? It seems that the simple facts of life are still unknown to most people and their doctors, on top of which our traditional diet supplemented by junk food is an addiction too difficult to shake. Government funded health organizations like the National Heart Foundation do their best to educate the masses, but their out-of-date information is still advocating too many protein, fat and cholesterol foods. Conventional dietary advice is still based on the four basic food groups concept devised in 1956 by the US Department of Agriculture* and supported of course by the meat, dairy and cereal industries, thus leading the most conscientious people nutritionally astray.

*In Australia the basic foods are divided into five separate groups.

Be that as it may, the answer to the problem of avoiding heart disease is not to eat the foods that cause atherosclerosis. Remember that all foods of animal origin, including dairy products and eggs, contain fat and cholesterol and too much protein. Lay off them and preferably avoid them. Replace them with fresh fruit and vegetables and don't make Pritikin's mistake of overindulging in grain products. Foods from vegetable sources contain no cholesterol, they contain proper amounts of protein and fats, and provide better nutrition with less toxic by-products if consumed uncooked. It is easier said than done, but is preferable to coronary bypass surgery. And of course if it is done properly there will be no toxemia and therefore no cancer, arthritis, diabetes and all the rest.