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Healthy Heart Reports

Inflammation Blocks Heart Healthy Diets

A study from Johns Hopkins in the medical journal, Circulation, suggest that chronic inflammation can cause heart attacks in people on low-fat diets. A blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP) measures inflammation in the body. Many previous studies show that high blood CRP levels signify increased risk for a heart attack. This study shows that people with high blood levels of CRP may not benefit from low-fat, low-cholesterol diets.

Dr. Thomas Erlinger followed 100 subjects on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for 12 weeks. Those who had high blood levels of CRP had a much smaller reduction of total cholesterol and the bad LDL cholesterol levels. These high CRP people also suffered a greater increase in triglycerides. Those with low CRPs had a 10 percent drop in cholesterol and a 12 percent drop in the bad LDL cholesterol. Their triglycerides were not affected. Those with higher CRP (more than 2.37 mg/L), total and LDL cholesterol were lowered by only 3 percent each, while triglycerides rose by 19 percent.

This shows that people who suffer from inflammation are less likely to benefit from a low fat, low-cholesterol diet. It also may explain why some people benefit from low-fat diets, while others do not. Having a high CRP increases your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and high blood triglycerides. This may be a very important study. Eventually it may show that people with low CRPs and high cholesterol will benefit from a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. People with high CRPs may benefit most from a diet that is low in refined carbohydrates from flour and sugar.

Until we know more, I recommend that you get a CRP test, and if your blood levels of CRP are high, look for a hidden infection. Start with blood tests for Helicobacter (the germ that causes stomach ulcers) chlamydia, mycoplasma, and Lyme disease; and look for an infection anywhere in your body, such as gum inflammation or a urinary tract infection. If you have high cholesterol and an infection, treat it. If you have a high cholesterol and do not have an infection, try a diet low in refined carbohydrates and avoid bakery products, pastas, fruit juices and all foods or drinks with added sugars.

Erlinger, Thomas P. et al, "Inflammation Modifies the Effects of a Reduced Fat, Low Cholesterol Diet on Lipids: Results from the DASH-Sodium Trial," Circulation, July 15, 2003; Vol. 108, pages 150-154.


Copyright 2003
Dr. Mirkin's opinions and the references cited are for information only, and are not intended to diagnose or prescribe. For your specific diagnosis and treatment, consult your doctor or health care provider.

For more recipes, refer to the The Healthy Heart Miracle book.