Originally published in Alternatives, Vol. 14, No. 4, April 2011
I've been writing this newsletter for 26 years. Long before that, I was studying nutrition and natural therapies and treating patients. Over the years I've seen a lot of changes. Alternative treatments have become more accepted and the concept of prevention is understood by the general public. Not all changes have been positive, however. The pharmaceutical industry has grown so powerful and become so entrenched within our health care system that its activities have become nothing short of widespread corruption. What I'm talking about isn't some organized conspiracy within the pharmaceutical industry. It's just how that industry now does business.
Getting some of these drugs on the market is about as close as you can get to legally printing money. Profits are often in the billions, not millions. Through strategic "investing" of just a fraction of these profits, the pharmaceutical companies have effectively infiltrated and rigged the entire system.
I've talked about how jobs at the FDA have become a stepping stone to high-paying positions within the pharmaceutical industry, a classic case of the "fox guarding the henhouse."
The pharmaceutical industry is now also one of the largest contributors to federal and state election campaigns. From a marketing point of view, it's been money well spent.
The flow of cash has bought them laws that give them complete immunity from any damage caused by vaccines and limited legal immunity from disability and even death caused by other drugs.
It has also purchased them the ability to advertise directly to the public, which is legal in only two countries in the world: here and New Zealand. By going straight to the end user, and side-stepping the salesmen (doctors), drug companies have found a way to legally create an unprecedented demand (read profits) for their products. The traditional doctor-patient relationship has now been severely compromised. Well-meaning doctors who prefer that their patients minimize drug use are placed in the awkward position of writing prescriptions because the patient asks for the drug. The next big push is to allow physician assistants and pharmacists to prescribe drugs directly to customers. It's coming.
Drug companies are the primary sponsors of the various "symposiums" focused on heart disease, diabetes, etc. and 90 to 95% of the presentations are about some drug they're selling to treat the problem.
Most insurance companies now pay only for "approved" treatments. The same is true with government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. For all practical purposes, this exclusivity has given the drug companies a monopoly – pretty much a license to steal.
A solution in search of a problem
Despite the fact that we spend more per capita on medical care than any other country, we are only 49th on the list of life expectancy (and dropping).
Our government continues to get further into bed with the pharmaceutical industry. President Obama recently expressed his concern that new drugs weren't being produced quickly enough, and he's now planning to set up the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. This taxpayer-funded research agency will do the preliminary research on new drugs and then try to attract drug company investment for anything that looks promising. "Officials hope the prospect of finding new drugs will lure Congress into increasing the center's financing well beyond $1 billion."
The whole project is a disaster in the making for the taxpayer. It's supposed to be up and running by October. If I didn't know better I would think I was reading a script for a skit on Saturday Night Live. The New York Times had the following: "Whether the government can succeed where private industry has failed is uncertain, officials say, but they say doing nothing is not an option." If I had a choice, I know how I would bet my money. Unfortunately, as taxpayers we are forced to fund this lunacy and don't have that choice.
The media gets it wrong
Respected, peer-reviewed medical research journals are routinely being exposed as corrupt "mouthpieces" for their biggest advertisers, the pharmaceutical industry.
The public rarely, if ever, gets the complete story about what's happening. There's not a week that goes by without a new breakthrough in medicine being reported in the news. The media loves an exciting press release and, after time, the public gets the impression the drug companies are hard at work curing every ailment and disease known to man. A recent example of this was a report on the new drug anacetrapib, which reportedly increases the good form of cholesterol (HDL) without any dangerous side effects. (N Engl J Med 10;363:2406–2415)
We saw another drug called torcetrapib that reportedly did the same thing, but continued research found it also raised blood pressure and increased the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death. The media fails to mention that both exercise and vitamin B3 (niacin) can raise HDL levels and do it safely. And, if they ever do happen to mention niacin, they make sure to follow up with a warning that many people can't tolerate the vitamin because it causes flushing and itching.
The whole media-driven premise of low-cholesterol diets and cholesterol-lowering drugs to save lives is also unraveling rapidly.
Condemning higher cholesterol-containing foods such as eggs and butter has been found to have no factual basis when it comes to preventing clogged arteries. Research is showing that the primary causes, which we've been talking about for years, are factors that allow the oxidation of cholesterol and damage from elevated triglycerides – which come from eating too many carbohydrates.
The real cause of heart disease
While the media is quick to report on drug "breakthroughs," you won't be hearing much about a study performed at the Southwest National Primate Research Center right down the road from me in San Antonio.
They found that when they fed monkeys a diet similar to what most people are now eating in this country, within just 8 weeks they began to see weight gain, increased belly fat, and all the signs and symptoms associated with the development of obesity and diabetes. It wasn't so much the fat in the diet that caused the problem; weight gain came about when the carbohydrates were introduced. The monkeys were given a fruit-flavored punch with about as much high-fructose corn syrup as you'd find in a can of soda. One of the researchers, Dr. Anthony Comuzzie, made the following observation: "It wasn't until we added those carbs that we got all those other changes, including those changes in body fat."
Similar monkey studies have been taking place in various locations across the country, and the findings are pretty much the same. At the University of South Florida, Dr. Barbara Hansen has done research on obese monkeys for more than 40 years and says that monkeys don't get fat from a high-fat diet. In a recent New York Times article she was quoted as saying, "To suggest that humans and monkeys get fat because of a high-fat diet is not a good suggestion." One of her monkeys, Fat Albert, was the world's heaviest rhesus monkey at 70 pounds and ate "nothing but an American Heart Association–recommended diet." (Cardiovasc Diabetol 10;9:71) (New York Times Feb. 19, 2011)
How to make yourself sick, slowly but surely
If you want to clog your arteries with plaque, forget the cholesterol in your diet. It won't make any difference. Here's the quick and easy way to achieve that heart attack or stroke:
Have at least one can of soda or fruit juice every day. One will do the job, but more is better. If it's sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, it's even more effective.
Eat lots of grains, particularly wheat products such as "heart healthy" cereals every morning like they advertise on television.
Eat a really low-fat diet. Eat the no-fat and low-fat foods that are high in carbohydrates instead.
Don't support your thyroid with iodine or supplements.
Take only the recommended dosage of vitamin D, 600 IU daily.
Park yourself in front of the television instead of exercising.
Don't take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.
(You can use these exact same recommendations to develop diabetes. And simply by taking a diuretic or beta-blocker drug for blood pressure, you can improve your odds of developing diabetes by a whopping 30%.)
Carbohydrates are the key factor associated with cardiovascular disease (and diabetes) – not cholesterol, and not fat. If you understand this and take the appropriate action, you can avoid the number-one killer in this country.
Excess carbohydrates are converted into triglycerides by the liver. Triglycerides don't directly cause heart disease, but are a component in the creation of LDL cholesterol and VLDL cholesterol. Triglycerides also disrupt the structure and reduce the level of HDL or beneficial form of cholesterol.
The quickest way to lower your triglycerides and your risk of cardiovascular disease is to decrease your carb intake, eliminate high-fructose corn syrup, cut out wheat from your diet, and start taking high doses of fish oil.
In this case it can take 5–6 grams of DHA/EPA a day, so if your fish oil product gives you 750 mg, you would need to take seven or eight a day. (It's a good thing even a high-quality fish oil is relatively inexpensive.) You may already be getting some DHA and EPA from your multivitamin, and, of course, if you're consuming chia or flaxseed regularly that will reduce your need for additional fish oil capsules.
The source of the damage
Earlier I mentioned that the real problem in heart disease arises when cholesterol becomes oxidized. The damage from these oxidized toxins starts in the smallest of blood vessels, the capillaries. The smaller arteries are also affected; those in the heart and brain are especially susceptible. This is because these two organs burn the most calories and develop the most waste products. We see strokes and heart attacks from clogged arteries, but you don't see the pancreas or the liver or the spleen shut down from clogged arteries.
By some estimates the brain uses 35% of all the energy needed by the body and the heart uses a like amount. Both organs go nonstop. Their need for uninterrupted oxygen and fuel never ends. Capillaries supply these needs, as well as remove the waste material that's constantly being produced.
Lactic acid is one of the waste products of muscle action. If lactic acid isn't removed quickly enough during exercise, the pH of the local tissue becomes acidic. You quickly lose strength, experience fatigue, and have muscle failure. If it builds up in the heart muscle, the same thing occurs but the result is heart failure. Angina is the pain one experiences from the buildup of lactic acid in the heart muscle.
Heart attacks can be triggered when a small piece of plaque breaks loose from the wall of a blood vessel. The plaque attracts platelets which form a clot. As the clot grows it blocks the artery and shuts off the oxygen to a portion of the heart muscle. The muscle tissue dies and you have heart failure or a heart attack. The quicker you can restore the blood supply to the area and limit the damage, the greater the chances are of saving a life.
Yes, I did say aspirin
This is one area where aspirin can sometimes help. You've seen me say so many negative things about aspirin that this statement might surprise you, but I do feel that aspirin is valuable here.
Aspirin inhibits blood clotting, which helps to either break up an existing clot or keep the clot from growing. Tests have shown that chewing a standard 325 mg tablet gets the aspirin into the bloodstream within 5 minutes, and maximum effectiveness is reached at 14 minutes. (Swallowing the tablet with water took 12 and 26 minutes respectively.) (Am J Cardiol 99;84:404–409) (Prehosp Emerg Care 05;9:282–284)
If you've had a heart attack or are at risk of one, it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry an aspirin around with you and at the first sign of an attack chew it immediately.
Hot pepper helps, too
Dr. John Christopher, the famed herbalist, recommended giving a "cayenne tea" – a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of cayenne pepper – at the first sign of a heart attack. He reported it had an effect similar to aspirin and could restore blood flow and stop a heart attack.
Not all heart attacks are caused by a blockage. They can be triggered simply by the buildup of lactic acid and/or waste material or a lack of oxygen to the muscle. As I mentioned earlier, angina pain may be felt before a full-blown heart attack. In this case aspirin probably wouldn't do much good. Cayenne might help, but a product called Strodival (g-Strophanthin) would be better.
Hormone help for angina
Our adrenal glands produce a compound called ouabain (WAH-bah-een). Ouabain is classified as a cardiac glycoside. When released it improves the pumping ability and strength of the heart, and on the cellular level it reduces the lactic acid in muscle tissue. Ouabain is naturally released during exercise to protect and improve heart function. (Naunyn-Schmiedeberg Arch Pharmacol 53;219:408–419. DOI: 10.1007/BF00246236)
In the 1800s, scientists discovered they could extract ouabain from the climbing oleander plant (Strophanthus gratus) from Africa. The extract called g-Strophanthin was used widely (primarily in Germany) around the turn of last century. (Native tribes in Africa used the plant to make poison arrowheads to temporarily paralyze their prey.)
The extract fell out of favor for the most part, but is still used in Germany both to treat angina and to stop heart attacks caused by a buildup of acid toxins and heart attacks in general. Lately there has been a renewed interest in ouabain. This was sparked by the discovery in 1991 that it's actually a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Although very few people in this country are even aware that it exists, the European community has become very interested again. I expect we'll begin to see a lot more research in the near future, particularly since it has a long history of being both safe and effective.
Some of the extensive German research involved coal miners who, presumably due to their job, suffered a higher degree of angina and heart attacks. During the period from 1972-74 the miners experienced 229 incidents of angina, which resulted in 11 deaths. From 1975 to 1980 the miners were immediately administered ouabain (g-Strophanthin) whenever they experienced chest pain, and there were no deaths during that period even though there were 280 incidents of angina.
Another study found an 81% success rate in resolving angina symptoms using ouabain. German physician Dr. Berthold Kern reported treating over 15,000 patients with heart disease using ouabain, between 1947 and 1968. During that period he reported only 20 nonfatal heart attacks and no deaths. Statistics from that time would have predicted more than 120 fatal heart attacks and in excess of 400 nonfatal heart attacks in a group that size.
Strodival (g-Strophanthin or ouabain) is taken in a similar fashion as aspirin in an emergency situation. At the onset of angina or the first sign of a heart attack, a single 3 mg capsule is bitten and dissolved in the mouth. The effects begin to be noticeable within 5 to 15 minutes. If the capsule is swallowed, the effect doesn't become noticeable for about an hour.
Strodival is considered a prescription medication in Germany, but when I last checked it can be ordered directly in this country. A hundred capsules was a little over $90. It's available from World Anti-Aging Store USA.
Keep in mind that Strodival (ouabain) isn't a cure for heart disease. It is a way to stop angina and help prevent the situation from progressing to a full-blown, possibly fatal, heart attack.