Dr. Stephen Sinatra Interview – Part OneJune 27, 2012 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is by far the leading health risk in the United States and beyond. It affects men and women in almost equal proportions and pays little attention to ethnicity. In fact, African Americans, Asian or Pacific Islanders and Caucasians register very similar vascular mortality rates. What’s more, the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention place a hefty price tag of over $100 billion/year for health care services, lost productivity and medications relating to CHD. While these figures are undoubtedly grim, it’s helpful to have frequent reminders that heart disease is largely preventable. For over forty years, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, has been investigating and reporting on this very topic.
A healthy, whole food diet is the cornerstone of any wellness program. In the first part of my interview with “America’s #1 Integrative Cardiologist”, we’ll focus on the role of food preparation and selection in relation to cardiovascular function and health.
JP – In November 2012, The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease, will be released. As a cardiologist and researcher, what do you think are genuine risk factors for heart disease?
Dr. Sinatra – Nutrient depletion, sugar, inflammation and environmental toxins (mercury, insecticides, pesticides, etc.).
JP – There are many statin alternatives currently available in health food stores and online. Given your position about cholesterol in general, is there any reason to consider nutraceuticals that are mainly intended to lower LDL cholesterol?
Dr. Sinatra – Lowering non-oxidized LDL cholesterol is not the problem. What you really want to do is prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol or try to change a small particle LDL to a less inflammatory fluffy particle. Nutraceuticals like coenzyme Q10, low-dose mixed tocopherols, vitamin C, niacin and omega 3’s are good ways to impact blood lipids.
JP – A recent study in The Lancet questions whether HDL cholesterol is cardioprotective based on genetic tests of patients with and without heart disease. What are your thoughts about this research and the role of HDL cholesterol as a marker of cardiovascular health?
Dr. Sinatra – HDL can be dysfunctional and if it is, it could be a marker of cardiac vulnerability. HDL does many more things than just transport cholesterol in the blood. It is vital for the immune system and it is generally cardioprotective, but if it becomes oxidized or inflammatory it can certainly have a downside.
Note – More information about HDL cholesterol: Why “Good Cholesterol” Isn’t Always Good
JP – Another major headline of late linked the use of calcium supplements to more incidents of heart attacks. Please offer your insights about the relative benefits and proposed risk associated with calcium supplementation.
Dr. Sinatra – The newest research on calcium supplementation is extremely provocative. In the last few years, it was generally thought that 1500 mg of calcium to postmenopausal women and 1000 mg to premenopausal women was the way to go. This is obsolete and not smart medicine, as the newest research has suggested that higher serum calcium with or without vitamin D supplementation may be a risk factor in cardiovascular disease.
JP – In years past, researchers, such as Dr. Dean Ornish, have established that very low fat diets and lifestyle interventions can reverse heart disease. In your years as a clinician, have you found similar observations using a different dietary approach?
Dr. Sinatra – Dr. Ornish’s original data about very low fat diets reversing heart disease, in my opinion, was not relevant. Although his research was novel and exciting, he had many factors such as stress reduction, lifestyle modifications, yoga, exercise, etc. which have all been shown to have a positive impact on reversing heart disease. Low fat diets can throw the baby out with the bath water, which could have a serious impact on limiting omega 3’s. The best diet is one that is low in sugar and processed carbohydrates. The good aspect of the Ornish diet, if chosen with diligence, would be high fiber vegetables, beans and legumes which any cardiologist would endorse.
Environmental Toxins Such as Ozone Increase Cardiovascular Risk
Source: Cardiovasc Ultrasound. 2009 Jun 24;7:30. (link)
JP – Cooking and food selection play a major role in many of the books and newsletters you’ve written. Can you please share some cooking tips and recommendations about the most health promoting foods that you personally include in your diet.
Dr. Sinatra – If you go to my website, heartmdinstitute.com, you will see some very recent videos – the most striking for cardiovascular health is my fruit and veggie antioxidant smoothie. This high-fiber, nutrient rich liquid, in my opinion, is one of the best ways of supporting cardiovascular health. I also like steamed vegetables, lots of fiber, and certainly natural omega 3’s found in nuts, seeds, wild Alaskan salmon, etc.
JP – With the current emphasis on lowering sugar intake, sweeteners such as agave, coconut sugar and stevia have gained much popularity. In your opinion, are these better options than artificial sweeteners and conventional sources of sugar?
Dr. Sinatra – Yes and no. Stevia is a great option, but the problem is if you cook with it you get taste issues. Agave is very sweet and will elicit an insulin response. Stevia is the best choice by far, but any of the above is certainly better than artificial sweeteners, pure fructose or white table sugar.
In part two of my Q&A with Dr. Sinatra, he’ll offer guidance about exercise, mind-body practices and nutritional supplements. There’s also a wealth of information about a holistic approach to various chronic conditions, including heart disease, on Dr. Sinatra’s homepage and weekly blog. It’s one of my prime destinations when I want to catch up on the latest news about integrative cardiology and natural advice about how to avoid dis-ease.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Agave, Calcium, Cholesterol
Posted in Heart Health, Interviews, Nutritional Supplements