What is a Functional Cardiologist?

I am a functional cardiologist and I hate it.

 

Let me rephrase that. I hate the term functional cardiologist. And don’t get me started on holistic or integrative cardiologist. Those are even worse.

 

Why do we need a special term to say that a doctor wants to do more than put proverbial band-aids on symptoms? Why is it so unusual for a doctor to want to fix and reverse the underlying causes of disease? Why should that require a unique identifier?

 

And holistic? Does anyone believe that the heart exists in isolation and is not influenced by every other aspect of our health? I find it hard to believe that any doctor would admit they feel this way, yet all too often cardiologists act this way. 

 

How Cardiologists are Viewed

 

The best example is the perception of cardiologists as “plumbers,” using coronary stents to open blocked arteries.  If you are in the midst of having a heart attack (an acute myocardial infarction- AMI), you want a plumber.

 

An AMI is caused by a sudden and complete blockage of a coronary artery (one of the arteries that supplies the heart with needed blood flow), and interventional cardiologists can stop the heart attack by opening the blockage with angioplasty (balloons) and stents. For that, you want the best plumber you can get to unclog that vessel as quickly as possible.

 

But here is the problem. The hundreds of thousands of patients who undergo elective stenting for partial coronary blockages do not benefit in the way they think. Almost uniformly, patients believe stents reduce their risk of heart attacks. Yet, there have been at least 12 randomized trials involving over 5,000 subjects that have shown that stents do not reduce the risk of future heart attacks or the risk of dying.

 

Despite this, one study paradoxically showed that patients and physicians alike believe that stenting does prevent heart attacks and reduce the risk of dying.  How can our perception be so counter to what the literature shows?

 

It actually makes sense. We show patients the dramatic before-and-after pictures of the narrowed blood vessel and the miraculous post-stent result of the vessel now looking wide open. We usually don’t show them all the other plaque building up in the other arteries.

 

The Most Common Cause of Heart Attacks

 

It turns out, most heart attacks are the result of so-called vulnerable or unstable plaque. Unstable plaques have higher levels of inflammatory components and are more likely to rupture acutely, setting off a cascade of events that completely blocks the blood vessel. The problem is that on an angiogram pre-dating the attack, these plaques are barely recognizable and certainly not of concern.

 

That is difficult for many to understand. It isn’t the severe arterial narrowings that cause most heart attacks. Those cause chest discomfort (angina) from temporary reduced blood flow to the heart but rarely cause life-threatening heart attacks. The life-threatening heart attacks come from the 20%, 30%, and 40% narrowings that become unstable. What makes them unstable? Inflammation, oxidation, smoking, diabetes, and more.

 

Paradigm shifts take time, especially when the paradigm goes from a simple one (i.e. a blocked artery is the problem, therefore open it and the problem is solved) to a complex one. Coronary artery disease is a multi-factorial problem that can only be treated with a whole-body approach focusing on inflammation, blood sugar and insulin control, nutrition, exercise, stress management, and much more.

 

To complicate matters even further, we now have studies questioning if stents can help relieve chest pain any better than medical and lifestyle management. And this makes sense too. There may be one narrowing worse than the others, but by the time someone develops narrowings they also have endothelial dysfunction – impaired ability for the vessels to dilate and allow more blood flow when needed. If that is severe enough and widespread enough, it too can cause chest pain/angina. Once again, treating one blockage won’t solve that problem.

 

How to Treat Cardiovascular Disease

 

Looking at the data, it becomes clear that there is only one way to treat cardiovascular disease. Treating this disease requires a holistic, functional, integrative approach that considers the whole patient, the patient’s lifestyle, and every aspect of their health.

 

So where does cardiology stand? Are we plumbers? Or are we doctors? I am afraid of what the answer is for most cardiologists today. But I am hopeful that the trend is moving in the right direction. I am hopeful there will be a day when all cardiologists will be functional, integrative, holistic cardiologists.

 

Thanks for reading.

Bret Scher, MD FACC

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

Low Carb USA San Diego 2018 Recap

      

 

This year, I was lucky enough to attend (and speak at!) the Low Carb USA 2018 conference held in San Diego.

 

What conference! From the moment it started until the very last Q&A panel, this conference was packed with knowledge, energy and an amazing community. There is no way I can capture all the highlights, but here are my experiences from the conference.

 

Opening Comments

 

The conference began with Low Carb USA organizer Doug Reynolds welcoming everyone. He asked how many physicians or medical providers were in attendance, and approximately 60% of the hands in the room went up. That’s incredible! It shows how strongly LCHF lifestyle is making its way into mainstream medical practice. It may not be used by every doctor right now, but the tide is certainly moving that way, which I'm very excited about.

 

The Diet Doctor and Dr. Nasha Winters Blew Everyone Away

 

After Doug finished his welcome, the Diet Doctor himself, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt kicked things off with The Food Revolution. He clearly outlined the obesity and diabetes epidemic we face as a society, and showed how LCHF is an easy and effective solution. As their motto says, they are "Making Low Carb Easy." His talk did just that. It was very motivating and educational, and I know people walked away ready to jump in.

 

 

Later that same day, Dr. Nasha Winters dropped some serious knowledge bombs about mistletoe, moonbathing, marijuana and more. If you haven’t heard Dr. Nasha speak, you have to seek her out. She is a powerhouse of information, of energy and of clear caring and compassion. I was fortunate enough to have recorded a podcast with her and it is definitely one of my favorites.

 

 

Concluding the First Day with Interviews

 

I spent the rest of the day running around doing my initial podcast interviews for my new upcoming project, The Diet Doctor Podcast. I am beyond excited to be part of this team! My initial interviews with Garry Taubes, Dr. Peter Attia, and a joint interview with Dr. Jeffry Gerber and Ivor Cummins really set the tone for how incredible this podcast is going to be. I will keep you updated when they are released.

 

Day Two of the Conference

 

Day #2 Was a powerhouse day! Starting with Peter Ballerstedt dispelling the environmental myths that ruminants are bad news for the environment. His talk shows how limited and short sighted that argument is, and it boggles my mind how pervasive it has become. Thanks Peter for setting the record straight!

 

 

Later that day Gary Taubes and Adele Hite led a discussion to help develop a defined standard of care for using a low carb diet in clinical practice. This is exciting. This is what our medical profession needs to safely and effectively initiate low carb lifestyles for our patients.  The goal is to educate all providers on the benefits and practical implications of low carb nutrition and help them help their patients. It doesn’t get much more powerful than that!

 

My Turn on Stage

 

Then it was my turn to speak, which was fun! I really enjoyed giving my talk on what the evidence says about LCHF diets and impact on our heart health. The question in the contemporary medical community is, “Is the LCHF diet harmful to our cardiovascular risk?” I think the evidence clearly answers that – NO!

 

 

Instead, we need to reframe the question and ask, “Is the LCHF diet beneficial for our cardiovascular risk?” There the answer is most likely yes. Reducing glucose and insulin, improving visceral adiposity, raising HDL, lowering TGs, improving LDL size and oxidation, reducing inflammation, lowering BP, reducing the need for medications, and more! LCHF does all these, and all these positively contribute to reducing our cardiovascular risk. It’s hard to imagine there is still debate about this.

 

The Interviewer Becomes the Interviewee

 

I then had the privilege of being interviewed by Vinnie Tortorich for his upcoming documentary Fat, and by Brian Sanders for his documentary Food Lies.  Seeing the overwhelming interest and the clear production quality encourages me that we will continue to see high-level documentaries exploring the benefits of LCHF.  The public needs a counterbalance to the overly dramatized and misleading documentaries that have populated this space to date, and Vinnie and Brian are both motivated to provide the answer.

 

The Low Carb Community

I could keep going raving about the speakers, but it's one of those conferences you need to attend to see the speakers for yourself. Instead, I want to finish by raving about the community. The energy and buzz from everyone attending was palpable.

 

Whether it was from individuals with a tremendous success story, newcomers eager to understand how their future may be different, or healthcare providers excited to start using these techniques with their patients, it was clear that lives were changing for the better. It is rare to see this level of excitement and energy at a medical conference. I knew right away this conference was unique, and this was going to impact everyone there.

 

In fact, a nutritionist I know came away so charged up that she immediately contacted me saying she "was ready to be part of something bigger!” She was ready to reach more people and help more people. That is exactly what a conference like this should do. Educate us. Inspire us. And help us take action. Bravo Doug Reynolds and the whole Low Carb USA staff. You hit this one out of the park.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

5 Reasons We All Should Fast, and 1 Reason Why We Shouldn’t

I wanted to write this article to address a question I hear often:

Do I need to Fast to Be Healthy?

 

In short, probably. But what exactly does that mean?

 

Thanks in large part to Dr. Jason Fung and others, intermittent fasting (IF) has emerged from the shadows of the health movement to now being discussed every day on social media, as if we have been doing it for decades.

 

And here’s the secret: We actually have been doing it for decades. In reality, it’s more like centuries.

 

Think of how we evolved. There wasn’t a convenience store, grocery store, restaurant, or fast food joint on every corner.  We had to hunt and forage for our food. That took time and was sometimes unsuccessful. The natural result, therefore was periods of eating interspersed with periods of fasting.

 

Modern society is a far cry from that evolutionary period, as we now have a 24/7 eating cycle with late night taco runs, vending machines and snacks available at a moment’s notice, and misguided advice that we need to eat every two hours to stimulate our metabolism and lose weight (awful advice with no scientific backing, mostly promoted by snack food companies).  We have plenty of reason to believe this constant eating cycle has contributed to our current obesity/diabetes/insulin resistance epidemic.

 

The good news is that we can reverse that trend. We can reverse it by bringing back fasts.

 

What exactly is fasting?

 

First we need to define what fasting means, and what time restricted eating means. Time Restricted Eating (TRE), means eating only in a specific time window, and not eating the rest of the day. For instance 18:6 means not eating for 18 hours straight, then eating over a 6-hour period. This can be 12:12, 16:8, 18:6 or even 22:2. They key is that you have an extended period of time each day when you are not consuming calories.

 

More extensive fasts, 24-72 hours or even longer, are really what we refer to when we say intermittent fasting. For this explanation, I will refer to extended fasts and TRE together as they have similar benefits. I will explore the differences and go into more scientific detail in a future post.

 

Here are the top 5 reasons we should all fast

 

1.    Fasting is the most efficient way to lose weight.

 

Forget the fat burning foods, forget the cleanses and detoxes. Not eating is the key to losing weight. But do it intermittently. That’s why it’s called intermittent fasting. Chronic calorie restriction doesn’t work long term since it forces our bodies to reduce our resting metabolic rate (RMR), thus stalling weight loss and increasing frustration. Intermittent calorie restriction, on the other hand, allows for weight loss without changing our RMR, the key to healthy and successful long-term weight loss.

 

2.    IF is a great way to lower insulin.

It just makes sense. If there is no food coming in, there is no need for insulin to rise. Insulin will stay at its low steady basal rate, and there will be no elevations or spikes. That keeps the area under the curve low, right where we want it. Low insulin means we can mobilize our fat stores, and possibly more importantly, it protects us from the harmful long-term effects of hyperinsulinemia.

 

3.    Intermittent Fasting is the key to longevity.

The one consistent finding in longevity research, from single cell organisms up to primates, is that calorie restriction works. But as we have learned from chronic calorie restriction experiments in humans, it’s not so clear cut. First, its miserable and most people would rather die younger that live longer with chronic calorie restriction. Agree?

 

Second, our bodies adapt to chronic calorie restriction and thus make it difficult to maintain the health benefits. Intermittent calorie restriction, on the other hand, has the promise of all the longevity benefits without all the baggage that comes with it. The fountain of youth only helps if we like how it tastes.

 

4.    It’s easy!

What’s easier than skipping breakfast? No planning, no shopping, no cooking, no cleaning. Simply walk out the door.  In our hectic everyday lives, we should welcome anything that takes less time and makes our lives a little easier. Fasting does exactly that. Just make sure you bring a water bottle with you wherever you go, and maybe some sea salt to put in your water. Stay well hydrated and enjoy the simplicity.

 

5.    There are many ways to make fasting work for you.

 There is more than one way to have a successful fast. As mentioned previously, 18:6 can work wonders for most people. For those who are more adventurous, a 72-hour water fast can have amazing results. And there is everything in between. Just follow the simple rules of staying hydrated, paying attention to how you feel, avoiding anything with calories, and even avoiding calorie-free sweeteners. The rest of the details can be individualized to fit your life and your goals.

 

The Top Reason Why You shouldn’t fast

 

Fasting can work wonders for most people, but it can also be dangerous for others. If you take medications for diabetes, hypertension or other medical conditions and you're trying to fast on your own, don’t do it! Fasting can cause significant harm in these circumstances if not done with proper precaution. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, it can still be incredibly beneficial. Just make sure you are working with an experienced clinician who can help coach you through it safely.

 

Here’s one last bonus tip.

 

Don’t give in to temptation once the fast is over.

 

How you break your fast can be just as important as how you fast.

 

  1. Break the fast with a small low carb snack such as bone broth
  2. Have your first meal an hour or two after your snack
  3. Resist the urge to “reward” yourself with high carb foods or junk food. Your gastrointestinal system isn’t ready for that. Plus, why work so hard to keep insulin low if you are just going to spike it when you are done? Stick to your usual, healthy, high quality low-carb fare.
  4. Resist the urge to increase your calorie intake to “make up” for the fast. If anything, the first 12 hours should have fewer calories than your usual eating pattern, slowly returning to normal (not supra-normal) over the next 24 hours.

 

Pretty easy, right? I am a big fan of simple, safe and effective. When done right, intermittent fasting hits all three criteria.

 

Is intermittent fasting right for you? It may just be. Talk to your health care provider to find out more, or sign up for a one-on-one consultation with to me where we can explore the details of your health journey and come up with a detailed, individualized plan to help you reach Your Best Health Ever!

 

Thanks for reading,

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

 

 

My Healthcare Apology

 

I owe you an apology. And not just you. I owe the whole country an apology. By being a part of our current healthcare system, I have been an implicit part of the demise of our country’s health.

 

Our healthcare policies and practices have failed us, and they continue to fail us. They have helped create two generations of overweight and obese individuals. They have allowed rampant increases in the number of people suffering with diabetes and insulin resistance, crippled by dementia, struggling with depression and autoimmune conditions, and the myriad of complications that come from our chronic diseases.

 

I am guilty too. I have been working within this system and did not stop it.  Sure, I can argue that I tried my best to ignore the misguided guidelines and policies, and I did what I felt was best for my patients. But I did not revolt. I did not demand that the system change. That makes me guilty.

 

It boggles my mind that this situation came to be. It is almost as if all healthcare providers thought, “There is no way we can be responsible. Someone would have noticed and fixed it. We wouldn’t let a broken system continue to make us sicker and sicker. Not when our goal is health.”

 

It’s hard to imagine any other system where this could happen.

 

Picture this. You are hired to help a company improve the health of their business by increasing sales and improving the quality of their product. At least that is what your job description says. Your first day on the job, you sit in training all day to learn company policies and guidelines for marketing and product design.

 

After six months on the job, the company is in trouble. The product keeps falling apart, returns and complaints are at an all-time high, and the marketing is failing to increase demand. Yet, despite this, everyone is congratulated for sticking to the company policy and abiding by the guidelines. In fact, everyone gets a small mid-year bonus for doing such a great job.

 

Sounds ridiculous, right?

 

Yet, within the world of healthcare, we could argue that is exactly what is happening. Starting from governmental dietary guidelines, which the AHA and ADA faithfully echo, and continuing with our culture of using a pill for every problem, our healthcare industry has failed. At best it has failed to fix the obvious problems that faces us. At worst it has caused them.  

 

And I have been a part of it. For that I am sorry.

 

But there is good news on the horizon. Alternative approaches to healthcare continue to increase. Whether it’s from health coaches, naturopaths, functional medicine doctors, or open minded and forward-thinking MDs, we now have options.

 

The best options offer a hybrid approach that combines the knowledge of medications and acute care medicine, balanced with the desire to promote real health. It is through this framework where we can see the tide starting to change. And once that tide becomes a big enough wave, the mainstream healthcare system will have no choice but to take notice and reform. Then, and only then, can we hope to reverse the path we are on.

 

Then, and only then, can I be proud to be part of a healthcare system that truly helps people live happier and healthier lives.

 

Do you have experiences where the healthcare industry has failed you? Share your story in the comments below and let us know how we can help you.

 

I want to fix this problem and help you find the quality of health that our “health”care  industry cannot. Whether it is signing up for a one-on-one consult with me, listening to The Low Carb Cardiologist Podcast, reading my book Your Best Health Ever, or any other way I can help you understand the true essence of health and how to achieve it, please let me know.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

How To Talk to Your Doctor About The LCHF and Keto Lifestyle

Are you interested in trying a Low Carb-High Fat/Ketogenic lifestyle? If so, great.

 

Are you looking to your doctor for support in this diet? If so, tread gently.

 

The medical community has engrained false beliefs that LCHF lifestyle is dangerous to your health. We can blame it on Ancel Keys. We can blame it on an over emphasis on LDL-C. We can blame it on Big Pharma. We can even blame it on the rain!  Whatever the reason, you may not get a warm and receptive response from your physician.

 

But there is hope. Here are my top 6 Tips on How to Talk to Your Doctor About The LCHF/Keto Lifestyle.

 

 

1.    First, ask for your doctor's opinion about LCHF

Doctors are people too. How would your spouse react if you said, “I’m no longer taking out the trash/doing the dishes/making dinner. It doesn’t work with my personal philosophy of house chores and we are going to change this. Now.” I hope you have a comfortable couch, cause that’s where you will be sleeping.

 

Picture instead, “Hi Honey. I was thinking that we may want to reassign some of our house chores to help things get done better and more efficiently without putting too much strain on either of us. What do you think about that? Do you have any thoughts how you would like to change things?” That sounds better, right?

 

The same approach applies to your doctor. Just don’t start by calling your doctor honey. That’s just awkward. Don’t say, “Hey Doc, I’m going LCHF and need you to order x, y and z blood tests on me now and again in 6 months, and help me get off my meds.” Instead, try a kinder, gentler approach. “Hi Doc. I was thinking of ways to be more proactive about my health. What I have done thus far has not worked as well as I have liked. I have heard a lot about LCHF as a way to lose weight, reduce insulin levels, improve blood glucose control, and feel better. I was thinking of trying it. What do you think about that?” You may not immediately get the answer you want (for instance, I am still taking out the trash every week), but you have opened the lines of communication in a much less confrontational way, which can set you up for success as we discuss other tips below.

 

 

2.    Measure the effects of Keto on your body with a medical trial

If your doctor is hesitant about you trying LCHF/Keto, suggest a 3- or 6- month trial. Establish what you want to monitor (here's an eBook I created to help you get started: 10+Medical Tests to Follow on the LCHF Diet). Check what you would like to monitor at baseline and then at the 3-6-month mark. Emphasize you want to experiment to see how your body responds, and that you want his/her expertise in helping analyze the labs to help you progress safely.

 

Also, if you are on medications for blood pressure, blood sugar or lipids, you will want their guidance with these. Emphasize how you want him or her on your team to help you on your journey and temporary experiment. It is hard to resist when someone genuinely wants your help and thinks you can play a role in their improvement!

 

 

3.    Show them your results!

Don’t gloat, don’t brag, but make sure you follow up with your doctor and tell them everything you feel and have measured. Do you have more energy? Less stiffness or inflammation? Are your pants fitting looser? And of course, follow up on all the labs to look at the whole picture. You will be surprised how often your doctor will then turn to you and ask you what you have been doing. If they have the time, they will likely say “Tell me more about that.” Yes! This is your opportunity to teach them the power of LCHF/Keto. Then, when the next patient comes around, they won’t be as resistant, and may even start to suggest it themselves. The patient becomes the teacher!

 

 

4.    Find a doctor who will listen

Our healthcare system is messy. No question. We don’t always have freedom to choose our own doctors. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible to change. Here is a hint: If your doctor isn’t open minded enough to try a self-directed experiment with you, what else are they close minded about? Maybe it is time for a change anyway.

 

It may not be easy to find a doctor with an open mind who takes your insurance, is geographically desirable, and who is accepting patients, but there are some tricks you can use. Look for a doctor who has been in practice more than seven years, but less than 20 years. In my experience, this is the critical “open minded” window. They have been in practice long enough to be confident in their own skills and are willing to stray from “what everyone else does.” On the other hand, they have not been in practice so long that “That’s the way I have always done it” becomes the reason for their care.

 

Look for doctors with interests in prevention, sports medicine, or integrative medicine. These suggest more interest in health and less interest in the standard “pill for every ill” medical practice. Lastly, people are developing lists of Keto-friendly doctors online. While these may be small at present, they are growing quickly and hopefully can help you find the right doctor for you. 

 

 

5.    Seek online Keto support

Numerous online sites exist to help you with you transition to a LCHF lifestyle. I have built my blog and Low Carb Cardiologist Podcast to provide information and support on those who are embarking on their healthy lifestyle journeys, with a lot of information about Keto and LCHF.

 

Some other sites I recommend are DietDoctor.com, 2KetoDudes podcast, and Ketovangelist podcast, to name a few.

 

 

6.    Take control of your own healthcare journey

As nice as it is to have your physician on board with your health decisions, it is not always needed. As Brian Williamson from Ketovangelist said to me on his podcast, “If your doctor is more interested in your health than you are, then you are in trouble!” I agree with that sentiment, and I encourage everyone to be the driver in their own healthcare. You can still choose to try the LCHF lifestyle even without your doctor. Look for a reputable second opinion doc who is willing to help open lines of communication between you and your doc. That is one of the services I enjoy providing the most. Since I speak the same language, I can usually help someone start the conversation with their doctor.

 

In addition, online sites such as WellnessFx.com allow you to get your blood drawn and seek consultations with health care providers (Disclaimer: I am one of those providers and get paid for my services. Another disclaimer: I love doing it). If you go this route, I encourage you to then bring your results back to your doctor (See number 3 above). You can now become the teacher, young Jedi.

 

There you go. With these six simple tips and resources, you will be well on your way to safely adopting a Keto lifestyle. Doctors are people too. Just like everyone else, we like to be needed, we like to be helpful, and we don’t like being told what to do. I just need to remember that the next time my wife “needs” me to clean the toilet….

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

 

Dr. Shawn Baker — Creating a Community of Carnivores



This week, Orthopedic surgeon, World Record Holder and Master athlete Dr. Shawn Baker shares his solution for thriving as a human being. He eats meat. Lots of meat, and only meat. He is the leader of the carnivore movement and has created a community of carnivores through his social media efforts. This may have been considered "fringe" or "crazy" a few years ago, but now, thanks to Dr Baker's efforts, the carnivore diet is becoming an accepted diet for health and human performance. During our conversation, Dr Baker addresses common misconceptions about the diet, his blood work results and how he believes the carnivore diet fits into a healthy lifestyle. It may not be for everyone, but there is so much we can learn from Dr Baker's approach. Plus, we get to hear about his online battles with popular vegan doctors!

 

Key Takeaways:

 

[3:54] Dr. Baker describes how moving his patients to a ketogenic diet helped heal them without surgery.

[9:33] The medical system is designed to make money, not prevent illness.

[16:37] Social media is a powerful educational tool for communities.

[19:13] Who is a good candidate for the carnivore diet?

[35:05] How Dr. Baker reacts to the medical community's critique of the carnivore diet.

[41:18] Understanding blood glucose levels.

 

Mentioned in This Episode:

Low Carb Cardiologist Website

Dr. Scher on Twitter

Dr. Scher on Facebook

Dr. Shawn Baker

The Human Performance Outliers Podcast

Meat Heals

 

This Episode is Sponsored by LowCarbCardiologist.com and Your Best Health Ever! The Cardiologist's Surprisingly Simple Guide to What Really Works,
by Bret Scher, M.D., FACC

 

Is the Keto Diet Heart Healthy? 7 Reasons Why This Cardiologist Agrees

Is the Keto Diet Heart Healthy? 7 Reasons Why This Cardiologist Agrees

 

I am a board certified, card-carrying cardiologist, and I want my clients to eat more fat, more meat, more cheese, more eggs, more avocado, more, more, more.

 

For decades medical establishments have convinced us to eat low fat, higher carb diets. How has that worked for our health? Here’s a hint, we have record numbers of obesity, diabetes and dementia. Yet, as a cardiologist, that’s the party line I am supposed to support.

 

But I can’t. It’s just wrong, and I can’t support that line of thinking, not for a second.

 

Instead, I am a Low Carb Cardiologist. Here are the top Seven reasons why

 

 

              1-  Reducing Insulin is Essential to Health and Weight Loss.

 

Insulin is a hormone naturally secreted by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels. Everything we eat (except possibly for 100% fat meals) causes insulin to rise. That is normal physiology. The problem occurs when our bodies become resistant to the effects of insulin, thus requiring our pancreas to make more and more and more insulin.

 

The problem? Insulin promotes fat storage, increase inflammation and oxidation, and can even help fuel the growth of cancer cells. Therefore, the healthiest approach is one which reduced the level of insulin to the lowest possible levels. As it happens, a Low-carb High-fat or ketogenic lifestyle (LCHF/Keto lifestyle) dramatically improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin, reduces the amount of insulin secreted, and it allows your body to naturally use your fat stores for what they are designed for: Break them down into energy! Once we see that we need to fight chronic elevations of insulin, it becomes obvious why a low-fat diet is harmful, and why a low carb diet is the true path to health.

 

2-    Eating Fat Improves Your Cholesterol!

 

Wait, what? Eating fat can improve my cholesterol? Sounds crazy, right? That goes against everything we have heard from the medical establishment. Notice I said “cholesterol.” I didn’t say the "bad" low density lipoprotein (LDL), I didn’t say the "good" high density lipoprotein (HDL), or any one specific type of cholesterol. We have over emphasized the solitary variable of LDL for too long. Total cholesterol to HDL ratio, Triglyceride to HDL ratio, lipoprotein size and density, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic measures are more powerful predictors of cardiovascular health than just LDL.

 

Once again, we see that all these markers improve with a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle. The medical establishment needs to realize that we are more complicated than one lab value. The key is to look at the whole picture, and this picture dramatically improves with a LCHF lifestyle.

 

3-    Higher HDL is Associated with a Lower Risk of Heart Disease.

 

HDL is your friend, but drugs are not. Observational evidence has consistently shown that higher HDL is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. However, our healthcare establishment does not prioritize HDL for one simple reason- Drugs that raise HDL don’t make you healthier. Trial after trial has failed to show any benefit from drugs that significantly increase HDL. 

 

Instead, it’s the HDL-raising lifestyle that provides the benefit, not artificially increasing it with drugs. What’s the best lifestyle to naturally raise HDL? You guessed it. LCHF/Keto lifestyle. Add in some resistance training and you have your friendly HDL climbing the way it was meant to…Naturally.

 

4-    LCHF Leaves You Feeling Great, Leading to Healthier Decisions

 

What kind of health decisions do you make when you are fatigued, achy, and find it difficult to concentrate? That’s a rhetorical question, I already know the answer. When things look glum and we don’t feel well, it's far too easy to sit on the couch or reach for the chips and cookies. Compare those decisions to those you make when you are well rested, energetic, and seeing the world more clearly. For most people, the better you feel, the better decisions you make.

 

Guess what? The majority of people who change to a LCHF lifestyle feel better! It may take a few days or weeks, but in general, they feel more in control of their health, more energetic, and they are able to make better health decisions. I admit this is difficult to prove in a scientific trial. That is why we all should become our own n=1 scientific trial. How do you feel and how are your health decisions after going to a LCHF lifestyle? What matters most is what works for you, not what works for hundreds of people who are kinda-sorta like you.

 

      5-    Keto helps you with fasting.

 

Eating better helps you not eat. People who eat a high carb diet eat a lot, don’t they? They are always grazing and snacking. Our bodies go through the roller coaster of blood sugar and insulin spikes, making it a challenge to go 24, 18, or even 6 hours without eating. This creates a constant, unwavering supply of insulin in our blood stream.

 

Why is this harmful? For one, it promotes fat storage and keeps us from using our fat as fuel. Secondly, chronically elevated insulin can predispose to heart disease, strokes, cancer, dementia and other devastating health conditions. When people change to Keto, however, they realize they do not need to eat nearly as much or as frequently. Avoiding the carbs and increasing the fats keeps us full longer, and our bodies quickly adapt to longer periods without eating. The result? We can use our fat stores for what they were designed- a source of fuel! It also allows our body to maintain lower insulin levels, and also allows our cells to take care of their health chores, referred to as…..

 

6-    LCHF Promotes Health Through Increased Autophagy.

 

Autopha-What? In medicine we like using fancy words to make us look smart. Autophagy is a big word to describe cellular housekeeping. When we have low enough intake of carbs and protein, or when we do intermittent fasts, our bodies can take care of their “to do” lists.  That list includes breaking down weak or damaged cells, recycling the good parts and discarding the rest, and slowing down the processes that can lead to abnormal cell growth (i.e. excess proteins in Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal cancer cells etc.).

 

Admittedly, long term outcome studies evaluating fasting or LCHF and cancer or dementia risk have not been done. But, on the flip side, drug trials to prevent the same are showing no benefit despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested. If you asked me (which you sort of did since you are reading my article), I’d vote for autophagy as a preventative strategy any day. It makes good physiologic sense, and it is so easy to achieve.

 

7-    With Keto You Will Enjoy Eating Again!

 

That’s right. A way of eating that helps you lose weight, helps you feel better, improves your health and is actually enjoyable! No fake processed soy products, no cardboard tasting rice cakes. True, it also means no more candy, processed snack foods, doughnuts and danishes. But once you swear them off for a few weeks, and you are eating all the eggs, avocados, nuts, fish, steak, cheese etc. that you want, you won’t miss those old crutches any more. Let the enjoyment begin!

I could go on, but since it seems people like “7 Reason” articles, I will leave it at that. 

 

Now you know the secret: Look at the whole picture. Look for a lifestyle, (not a diet) that helps you feel better, increases your enjoyment, and still benefits your overall health.

 

Is LCHF/Keto the right lifestyle for you? It just may be. It is for me, The Low Carb Cardiologist, and it is for most of my patients and clients. Want to learn more about how LCHF lifestyle impacts your health? Visit us at www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

Thanks for reading

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

 

Reverse Engineering Cholesterol Misconceptions

Siobhan Huggins



This week's guest, Siobhan Huggins, is a stellar citizen scientist who has a passion for dissecting complex topics, and understanding how misbeliefs lead us astray. She has a remarkable gift of analyzing complex topics and reframing them from a systems and engineering point of view. Plus, her own personal journey through the low-carb keto lifestyle prompted her deeper dive into lipids, inflammation, insulin resistance and more. She understands that cholesterol is not inherently evil. Rather, it actually serves a purpose to help us. It's our lifestyle that alters it into something potentially harmful.

 

Most exciting of all, she has recently joined forces full-time with Dave Feldman at CholesterolCode.com, so we will be hearing much more exciting research and perspective shifts from Siobhan in the near future.

 

Key Takeaways:

 

[6:03] A keto diet has given Chivon improved health and changed her personality.

[8:58] Research and reading has qualified Chivon to write for Cloresteralcode.com

[12:07] Understanding inflammation and the chronic oxidation of LDL.

[17:07] Scavenger receptors and small, dense LDL.

[28:42] The human body wasn't designed to take on a constant barrage of insulin damage.

[35:32] What causes vascular calcification?

[43:32] The differentiator in familial hypercholesterolemia is the level of insulin resistance.

[47:13] Lipoprotein(a): What is it used for?

 

Mentioned in This Episode:

Low Carb Cardiologist Website

Dr. Scher on Twitter

Dr. Scher on Facebook

Cholesterol Code

 

This Episode is Sponsored by LowCarbCardiologist.com and Your Best Health Ever! The Cardiologist's Surprisingly Simple Guide to What Really Works,
by Bret Scher, M.D., FACC

 

Top 4 Tips For Optimizing Melatonin and Sleep

Do you struggle to get consistent sleep? You are not alone.

 

An estimated 27% of Americans report having trouble sleeping most nights of the week, with an astounding 68% saying the same at least 1 night per week. That has led to 5% of all women and 3% of all men taking prescription sleeping pills at the cost of millions of dollars.

 

That pales in comparison the 10-20% of Americans spending multiple millions of dollars on non-prescription sleep supplements. Of those sleep aids, melatonin is likely the most common. But here’s the problem, melatonin is not a great on-demand sleep aid.

 

I recently posted a Facebook video about the use of melatonin for sleep. If you like videos, you can watch it here. If you prefer blogs, then read on my friend!!

 

Seep aids like Ambien work within minutes, and therefore should be taken right when it is time to go to sleep. Many take melatonin the same way, right before it’s time to go to sleep. But melatonin doesn’t work that way.

 

Melatonin is a natural hormone in our brains that has a natural circadian rhythm, meaning it rises and falls during the day in concert with the light-dark cycle of the sun. Or at least that is how it is supposed to work. Thanks to Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, melatonin doesn’t work that way for many of us.

 

Artificial light and especially blue light from our phones and computer screens fool our brains into thinking the sun is still out, and therefore, resetting our melatonin cycle.  Thus, the push for us to take melatonin supplements to help balance this us.

 

Instead of taking a melatonin supplements, however, we have much more success by getting our natural melatonin cycle back in sync with the sun. Here are my Top 4 Tips For Optimizing Melatonin and Sleep!

 

  1. Dim your lights EARLY, around 8pm. That doesn’t mean turn them off and live by candlelight (although that would work REALLY well). It does mean, however, that you should not have every light in the house on at full force until the moment you go to bed. You need to prepare your brain for bed, starting at least 2-hours before lights out. Get dimmers for your lights or turn off half the lights starting at 8pm. You might even save money on your electricity bill (bonus!).
  2. Dim your screens early as well. Most phones, tablets and computers now come with a screen dimming option. Most commonly I see people use this starting at 10pm. That’s better than nothing, but by then most of the damage has already been done.  I recommend dimming your screens at 8pm, along with the lights, and turn your screens off completely 1-2 hours before bed. Remember, you want your melatonin to start rising well before it’s time for lights out. Screen time prevents that from happening.
  3. Get plenty of light early in the day. This is the time to signal your brain that IT IS DAYTIME!!! Natural sunlight is best. Get outside and sun yourself for 20-minutes, go for a walk, eat breakfast outside, whatever you can do to get early sunlight. If that is too much of a logistical challenge, then this is when you want every light on in the house at full blast. Even house lights can tell your brain the sun is out and it’s time to get going.
  4. The best use for melatonin supplements is if you disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, such as travelling across a few time zones, or staying up a few nights in a row for work, kids or other reasons. In that case, melatonin supplements can help get your cycle back in rhythm. Just remember to take it an hour or two before you want to go to sleep, not at the moment you lie down in bed. If done right, you shouldn’t need melatonin for more than a couple days before your natural circadian rhythm is back in sync with your time zone.  Just keep I mind steps 1-3 above!

 

 

There you have it. My Top 4 Tips For Optimizing Melatonin and Sleep. For even more information, you can listen to my podcast with sleep expert Dr. Chris Winter, nicknamed The Sleep Whisperer,” or read my earlier blog on sleep. Do you have other tips that work for you, or other sleep challenges you need help with? Leave a comment below or contact us at www.LowCarbCardiologist.com.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

 

 

Zero LDL vs Ketogenic Diet- Which Prevents Heart Disease?

Virta Health continues to revolutionize the treatment of diabetes. And they are doing it while taking drugs away!

 

They recently released their study of cardiovascular risk data which, no surprise to me, shows significant improvement in patients’ risk profile. This impressive lifestyle study contrasts sharply with the other side of the coin- promoting drugs to drive LDL to a near zero level in the hopes of helping patients. That’s the other study I read last week, and I was much less excited about it.

 

Two wildly different approaches with wildly different magnitude of benefit. Let’s dig deeper to learn more….

 

The Virta Health Study:

 

The Virta Health trial enrolled subjects with diabetes, mean age was 54 years old, and they were obese on average with a BMI 40.  After 1 year, they had the following results:

  • LDL particle number decreased by almost 5%,
  • Small LDL decreased by 20%,
  • Apo A1 increased by almost 10%,
  • TG decreased by 24%,
  • HDL increased by 18%,
  • TG/HDL radio decreased by almost 30%,  
  • Large VLDL particles decreased by 38%,
  • CRP decreased by almost 40%,
  • The 10-year calculated risk went down by 11% ,
  • No change in CIMT, and
  • LDL-C went up by 10%.

 

EVERYTHING IMPROVED! Except for a small increase in LDL-C.

 

The first question this study forces us to ask, therefore, is should we care about the LDL-C? That is the only marker that went “the wrong” way, increasing 10%. But that is in the face of the LDL-P decreasing, the size of the LDL improving, and dramatic improvements in HDL and TG. All things that are likely protective against CAD.

 

Going all the way back to Dr. Castulli and the Framingham data, we know that LDL-C is a very poor predictor of CVD in the setting on high HDL. We also know that markers such as LDL-P and non-HDL cholesterol are better predictors of CVD than LDL-C.

 

So, in short, the answer is no. We should not be concerned with a 10% increase in LDL-C in this setting.

 

The second question is this. Does this data show that one year on a ketogenic diet is BENEFICIAL for heart health?

 

The original assumption within the medical community was that a ketogenic diet would be harmful and lead us to our grave (as many docs still believe).

 

The times they are a changin.’

 

Based on this data, the question has changed significantly. We should no longer concern ourselves with wondering if a very low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet could be harmful. The data is overwhelming that it is not. Instead, we need to ask if this diet protects us from heart disease.

 

Of course, we would need long term outcome data to show us that for certain. But in the absence of that, the most recent Virta Health data provides a strong vote of confidence that a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is likely cardioprotective.

 

That is my kind of medical science. Showing that lifestyle changes promote health.  Clean and simple.

 

The Drug Trials- PCSK9i

 

The Virta Health study contrasts sharply with another paper I read recently, one that claims it is safe and beneficial to lower LDL as low as possible, the so called “Zero LDL hypothesis.”

 

I have to admit, I started reading with a heavy contrary bias. I wanted to rip it apart and find all the shortcomings in the paper.  There were plenty, but I also have to admit that there are some very well thought out and well-argued points.

 

The general argument is that statins and PCSK9i are able to lower LDL to extremely low levels without documented significant adverse effects thus far. Therefore, there is no “floor” for how low we should drive down LDL.

 

Both statins and PCSK9i work by increasing the efficacy of LDL receptors, but they allow other compensatory mechanisms to remain functioning. For instance, the authors describe “back up” mechanisms for maintaining neuronal health, hormone synthesis, and even vitamin E transport (all of which are theoretical concerns with lowering LDL). They argue, since the back-up systems prevent adverse outcomes, and PCSK9i studies have gotten LDL down to 30, we can therefore safely drive LDL down to zero.

 

That’s a stretch that remains to be proven. However, the main question they fail to answer is this: Is worth the effort?

 

Once again, we see studies generating a tremendous amount of publicity and praise for underwhelming and conflicting results. Here’s what I mean:

 

The first big trial with PCSK9i was called the FOURIER trial. They enrolled patients with known cardiovascular disease and added PCSK9i or placebo to their current care. After 2 years, the PCSK9i drug reduced LDL by 60% to a median level of 30mg/dl (lower than any other major trial). The results? There was a small decrease in non-fatal heart attacks (1.2%), with absolutely no improvement in mortality. It did not save a single life.

 

The second trial that got even more attention was the Odessey trial. They enrolled individuals with a recent cardiac event and added PCSK9i or placebo to their standard care. After 2.8 years they lowered LDL by 61% to an average level of 53mg/dl.  Again, there was a very small 1.5% reduction in a combined primary endpoint. In reality, this is negligible clinically even though it is statistically significant.

 

Where the trials differed, however, was that Odessey showed a very small reduction in all-cause mortality of 0.6%., whereas Fourier did not.

 

But here is where it gets complicated. What the press and mainstream cardiology societies don’t tell us is that because of the way the trial was structured, this is not a truly significant finding. It had a weakly positive p value, but since cardiac mortality was not decreased, it invalidated the all-cause mortality. Don’t worry. I don’t completely understand this part either. But I’m told that’s how statistics work in this case.

 

In summary, despite lowering LDL cholesterol to levels lower than we have even seen before with drug therapy, the benefits were underwhelming. If LDL was the true cause of heart disease, there should have been breath takingly dramatic benefits. Yet, one trial showed no improvement in all-cause mortality. One may have shown an improvement, but the trial can’t really claim that.

 

Yet somehow the conclusion is that now we should drive LDL down to zero.  Where did that come from????

 

First Do No Harm

 

The belief that we should drive ldl to zero with drugs comes from the inherent bias in modern medicine: When it comes to drug therapy, “more is better,” and drugs are the best choice for treatment.

 

After all, the trials “proved” that the drugs were safe with no significant increase in adverse effects, right?  Not so fast. Lack of side effects at 2 years is not very reassuring for a drug people will be on for decades. There is plenty of concern about long term effects of near zero LDL levels, even if the authors postulate ways the body will compensate.  To counteract that concern, the benefits better be monumental.

 

After all, the medical oath is “First do no harm”.  Not “First assume there will be no harm”.

 

And more importantly, just because we can treat LDL to near zero, doesn’t mean we should. If we aren’t helping people live longer or live better, then what are we accomplishing?

 

Instead of talking about zero LDLs, we should be talking more about Virta Health. They showed the ability to reverse one of the most common chronic diseases we face with simple lifestyle interventions. And they did it while improving cardiovascular risk factors and getting people off of their medications. In my eyes, that deserves a ticker tape parade.

 

My take home message: Lifestyle beats drugs. Commit to lifestyle change and the argument about reducing your LDL to zero is a non-factor.  

 

What’s your take home message? Let us know your thoughts or if you have questions at www.LowCarbCardiologist.com

 

Thanks for reading

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Founder, Boundless Health

www.LowCarbCardiolgist.com

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Dr. Bret'sExclusive Wellness

Newsletters

Receive valuable articles and tips to help
you achieve your best health ever!

Final Step

Where should we send your FREE

Exclusive Wellness

NEWSLETTERS

858-799-0980Dr Bret Scher