Driving a Steak through the Heart of Conventional Wisdom

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Seth Roberts drives a steak [sic] through the heart of conventional wisdom — or, rather, some pork bellies:

One and a half years ago, in February 2009, I got a heart scan. It’s an X-ray measurement of how calcified your arteries are. Persons with high scores are much more likely to have a heart attack than persons with low scores. Scores in the hundreds are dangerous. Tim Russert, who died at age 58 of a heart attack, had a score of about 200 ten years before his death. Above age 40, the scores typically increase about 25% per year. That puts Russert’s score when he died at around 2000.

A few weeks ago I got another scan, at the same place with the same machine. Here are my scores. February 2009: 38 (about 50th percentile for my age). August 2010: 29 (between 25th & 50th percentile). In other words: 47% lower than expected. The earlier scan detected 3 “lesions”; the recent scan detected 2. The woman who runs the scanning center — HeartScan, in Walnut Creek, California — told me that decreases in this score are very rare. About 1 in 100, she said.

The only big lifestyle change I made between the two scans is to eat much more animal fat. After I found that pork fat improved my sleep, I started to eat a large serving of pork belly (with 80-100 g of fat) almost every day. Later I switched to 60 g of butter every day. The usual view, of course, is that to eat so much animal fat is very very bad and will “clog” my arteries. In fact, the reverse happened. Judging from this, the change was very very good.

(Hat tip to Aretae, who recently switched to a paleo diet.)

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