Researchers Find a Key to Coronary Artery Disease

By Richard Lewis

Insufficient levels of essential fatty acids (EF A) in the blood are a key risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), according to a research team at Boston University Medical Center (BUMC).

…cardiovascular disease is associated with insufficient levels of EFAs.

These fatty acids, or fats, are labeled essential because your body cannot manufacture them. They must come from what you eat. For your body to manufacture many other needed fatty acids, it requires these EF As to start the process.

The current push by many doctors on lowering the saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet to reduce the risk of CAD is misplaced, the BUMC researchers believe. ”We propose that cardiovascular disease is associated with insufficient levels of EF As,” wrote Edward Siguel, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the study reported in the August, 1994 issue of Metabolism.

“Unfortunately,” he told Cardiology World News, “EFAs are difficult to obtain in processed foods as food manufacturers generally remove them from plant products because they shorten shelf life.” The research team found that patients with CAD have lower than desirable fatty acid profiles in their blood. In looking through prior  studies, the researchers found no mention of EFA deficiency and CAD.

According to the BUMC research team, ”These abnormalities, milder than the ones reported in patients with severe EFA deficiency, may produce subtle clinical changes such as increased lipids (cholesterol), increased platelet aggregation, and suboptimal cell function, including reduced cell life.”

They proposed “that hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) is more an indicator of abnormal fatty acid metabolism or EFA deficiency than mere presence of excessive cholesterol. Incidentally we found significant biochemical evidence of EFA deficiency  consistent with the view  that EFA deficiency is the major cause of hyperlipidemia and CAD.”

According to Siguel, one should strive to reach and maintain optimal weight, not by reducing saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet but by achieving an optimal balance of  essential fatty acids from meat, fish, and plenty of vegetables. You need to focus on whole foods rather than processed foods.

Excess calories from any source are stored as saturated fat in your body. It is calories, rather than the consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet, that control levels of saturated fat in your body. “Avoiding cholesterol and saturated fats in the diet and replacing those calories with carbohydrates will not decrease blood levels of saturated fat and cholesterol,” Siguel  told Cardiology World News. “The body simply makes more cholesterol and saturated fat from carbohydrates. Eating more essential fatty acids increases their body level because essential fatty acids are an essential nutrient that the body cannot make.”

The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown in previous studies by several research groups to reduce serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There are plenty of sources of omega-6 fatty acids in the average American diet today. What is needed is more of the omega-3′ s. Fish, vegetable oils, and soybean products such as tofu are some excellent sources of the omega-3 fatty acids. The research team even suggests soy bean or walnut oils or fish oils as another source and as a way to bypass some of the metabolism problems.

“Fish oils bypass the metabolic block. It is now well established that [omega-3] derivatives increase HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides, total cholesterol, plasma fibrinogen, and diastolic blood pressure. Eating vitamin E in addition to fish oil further reduces triglycerides and fibrinogen levels …, suggesting inhibition of fatty acid peroxidation by vitamin E,” the researchers found.

They also pointed out that omega-3 and omega-6 derivatives such as fish oil or plant oil extracts, like evening primrose oil or borage oil, may meet the EF A requirements with fewer calories. The BUMC researchers concluded by saying, “diagnosis and treatment of fatty acid abnormalities through nutrition is cheaper than drugs or surgery and could play a major role in prevention of cardiovascular disease.”