American Journal of Cardiology Suggest a Statin be Offered with Fast Food Orders
Wow! Is this what heart healthcare is coming to? I just finished reading a report published in the American Journal of Cardiology suggesting that a statin be offered with fast food orders as a means of countering the unhealthy effects such dubious diet choices can have on the heart.
The study comes from the prestigious Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, England. This is not some fly-by-night institution so any proclamation they make has to be taken serious - but just how seriously?
I am certain we all have a basic understanding of the nasty effects that the average fast food meal can have on the heart. Common ingredients such as trans-fats, sugars, and wheat can all wreak havoc on your heart and metabolism not to mention the more exotic dangers posed by the likes of frying, heated oils and advanced glycation end-products. But, is there really a way to "neutralize" these dangers as the study suggests? In a word, "No!"
What this study represents is the insidious use of "hype" over "health" and, if it came from a lesser institution, I would even consider it to be another blatant attempt to push statins for profit on an unsuspecting public. Let's pause, take a breath, drop the hyperbole, and consider a few facts about diet, statins, and most importantly, what the study REALLY said.
Let's start with diet and what you are putting in your body when you eat a typical fast food Meal. We will pick on McDonald's for a moment (what the heck, they are making the big money so they can take the heat) and consider the nutritional content of a Big Mac, medium fries, and a chocolate shake. Here are the numbers in order.
Calories: 540 + 380 +580 = 1500
Total Fat (g): 29 + 19 + 14 = 62
Sat Fat (g): 10 + 2.5 + 8 = 20.5
Trans Fat (g): 1.5 + 0 + 1 = 2.5
Cholesterol (mg): 75 + 0 + 50 = 125
Sodium (mg): 1040 + 270 + 250 = 1560
Carbohydrates (g): 45 + 48 + 102 = 195
Sugars (g): 9 + 0 + 84 = 93
Source: McDonald's Nutrition Facts (www.mcdonalds.com)
Wow, again! For those of you on a typical 2000 calorie diet you just got three-quarters of your calories from one meal. These are not ordinary calories, either. While the latest data cast some doubt on the "bad boy" reputation of dietary cholesterol and saturated fats, trans-fats are known killers. The sodium content, well-known as an agent that raises blood pressure, represents about two-thirds of the US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Finally, the carbohydrates account for 150% of the RDA. That right, you just ate 50% more carbs than you should and you haven't even had supper today. Note that these are not just any carbs, they are high glycemic index sugars, wheat, and starches - the stuff that converts quickly to glucose and raises your blood sugar, not to mention their ability to promote highly atherogenic Small LDL. This meal is a cardiac disaster!
So, what can the side order of statins do for us? Despite all of its many side-effects and shortcomings, statins do reduce cholesterol and cardiac events, appear to reduce C-Reactive Protein (CRP), and may have additional pleiotropic effects. One must always weigh the risks against the benefits of any therapy. However, these decisions must, I repeat MUST, be made on a patient by patient basis. This is the point where we will now separate the "health" from the "hype."
All the Imperial College study really did was make a statistical comparison. If you accept that people will not make dietary changes and will continue to eat as much "junk food" as they do now, and if you extrapolate the health effects of statins by giving it to the general populace along with that junk food, you will reduce the number of adverse cardiac events you would otherwise see without those added statins.
The study did not say that statins can "neutralize" junk food, nor did it say that taking a statin with a "Happy Meal" was a preferable strategy, nor did it talk about how many more people would suffer statin side effects. It simply made a statistical extrapolation. Unfortunately, it is also the kind of dangerous thinking that hints of practicing "medicine for the masses" rather than for the individual. The notion that everybody should be literally forced to take any product or treatment because "statistically" it will help more people than it will hurt strikes me as medically unethical. What about the individual? What about me?!
Does the study offer a good idea? No! Did the study pick a topic and choose "buzz words" merely to help hype their findings in order garner publicity? You decide!
Looking out for your heart health,