I've spent the last few posts talking about the parlous state of research in to NAFLD and the techniques for justifying saturophobia. This current post is one I wrote a few months ago but never got round to putting up. It's still fairly current, so here it is.
The president of the AHA had a heart attack at an AHA scientific conference recently. This is almost, but not quite, funny. After all, no-one got hurt (much), a little money changed hands and the president is still alive and as healthy as any other cardiologist, still able to go on promoting the ideas which led to his brief trip to the cath lab.
Not everyone is so lucky. I recently finished reading the (very depressing) biography of Tina Mokotoff, written by her husband and documenting her descent in to alcoholism and her subsequent death from alcoholic liver disease at the age of 45.
Mrs Mokotoff had an unremitting need for alcohol. It was the primary drug which allowed her to cope with the emotional scars from her childhood abuse injuries. Her husband, a interventional cardiologist, watched with palpable frustration at the failure of the gastroenterologists to manage her cirrhosis and the failure of repeated rehabs to control her need for alcohol.
WARNING: Epidemiology and rodent studies ahead.
There is significant variation in mortality between populations from alcohol related liver disease (ALD) per unit alcohol consumption. It's interesting to speculate as to why this might be and it was a recurrent thought throughout the persistently depressing account of Tina Mokotoff's journey to death. Let's start with epidemiology:
Correlations between deviations from expected cirrhosis mortality and serum uric acid and dietary protein intake
Mortality from cirrhosis in a population can range from 80% less than predicted (ie two cirrhosis deaths per 100,000 when the alcohol intake predicts 10 per 100,000) through to over 80% more deaths than predicted (ie over 18 per 100,000). That's a nine fold difference between lowest and highest risk, at the same alcohol intake. Something is real here.
In this epidemiological study, animal protein intake is associated with a markedly reduced cirrhosis death rate. The animal protein may be protective per se but I tend towards thinking of it as being a marker for saturated fat intake. But then I would.
To support this biased mindset we know that, in rodent models at least, saturated fat is either completely protective against alcoholic liver disease or shows a dose response in its protective effect up to near complete protection at 30% of calories from saturated fat, even when the other 15% of calories in the 45% calories-from-fat-diet are still PUFA. We also know that even mice fed a low carbohydrate diet derive no protection from ALD when the carbohydrate is replaced by PUFA from corn oil. I doubt anyone would argue that PUFA are good for your liver. Hepatologists have known for decades that lipid peroxides are the drivers of cirrhosis and these only come from damaged PUFA.
Through the 1990s, during his wife's descent in to cirrhosis, Dr Mokotoff worked tirelessly in the cath lab placing stents and "curing" people of occlusive coronary artery disease. His life must have been very simple. Here is a blocked artery. Here is a bit of pipework to open it. Let's put this in there and the patient is fixed. Just occasionally he might even have done some good (though far from as often as he might have thought he had done). During this period the cardiological community was deeply under the influence of the "obvious" benefits from a low fat, low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet.
Unless you are going to indulge in some weird Ornisheque low fat diet, eating a saturated fat depleted diet will will undoubtedly involve a significant intake of PUFA. This should never, under any circumstances, be combined with alcohol. Would the Morokoffs have avoided saturated fat? Dr Mokotoff was an interventional cardiologist. Just guess.
Having a cardiologist, the president of the AHA, inflict a minor injury on himself, without getting really hurt, is ironic. Reading an account of a real human being being driven to a very unpleasant death through cirrhosis is not funny. Inflicting a population wide epidemic of assorted PUFA induced diseases is, absolutely, not funny either.
Thank you, AHA.