Coronary Artery Disease Is Not a Mental Disorder

Many laymen and even many doctors like the idea that people can give themselves a serious physical disease just by having bad thoughts, unpleasant feelings, or annoying personality traits. Yet it’s hard to find any scientific evidence that these psychological phenomena have any real effect on health. Nevertheless, the attempt to “psychologize” physical illness persists.

Although many people like the idea that their thoughts can influence their health, people can be amazingly resistant to the idea that their food choices matter. If I were a psychologist, I would use my training to figure out why our doctors in the United States ignore the overwhelming evidence that the standard American diet is the underlying reason for our major causes of death and disability. I’d try to figure out ways to help people realize that they’re eating their way into an early grave. I’d try to find ways to help people improve their diet, so that they can improve their health. Instead, psychologists have been trying to prove that coronary artery disease is a mental disorder. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic!

By the end of World War II, anyone with common sense and access to the scientific literature should have realized that coronary artery disease results from the foods that people eat, not from the kinds of thoughts and feelings that go on in their minds. For example, heart disease became rare in Norway after the Nazis stole their farm animals and the Norwegians had to switch to a low-fat, plant-based diet. Rich, fatty foods were also in short supply for the civilian population in Germany during the war. As a result, German civilians stopped dying of heart attacks, despite all the stress and terror of Allied bombing raids.

After seeing these data, Nathan Pritikin realized that heart disease results from the foods people eat, not from the emotional stress in their lives. When he got a diagnosis of coronary artery disease, he cleaned up his own diet and encouraged others to do the same.

Nevertheless, Americans still clung to the idea that heart disease is a mental disorder. First, people thought that the cause was “emotional stress.” Then they blamed “type A personality.” Then they blamed “pessimism.” It’s all a crock. Lots of people in China had emotional stress, type A personalities, and pessimism. Yet research showed that they weren’t dying of heart attacks, because their average cholesterol was shockingly low by American standards, thanks to their low-fat, high-fiber diet.

2 thoughts on “Coronary Artery Disease Is Not a Mental Disorder”

  1. I have only heard of you from your posts at Counterpunch,but I am extremely pissed off by statements like this

    "Unfortunately, the guidelines are designed to address two nonexistent problems,while failing to help people avoid or recover from our biggest causes of death and disability.The guidelines are designed to ensure that Americans consume "enough" protein and calcium, even though it's practically impossible to find any real human beings who have a true deficiency of either one."

    There are those,such as myself,who were born with very rare metabolic diseases,like this one,in my case,who have to struggle all their lives with getting enough protein.

    In such diseases,you often go your whole life passing large amounts of protein,in your urine.Protein,both from diet,and from your own body.This can often lead to severe muscle wasting,a problem I have had most of my life.It can lead to other problems,like acute anemia,valvular heart disease,strokes ,childhood onset blindness(all of which I have),pancreatitis.and countless other fun things I could tell you about.

    Protein and carnitine accumulates in the liver,and/or kidneys,and causes even more problems.I just have the kidney disease,and will be evaluated later this year to see if I need a transplant.

    But,yes,inability to maintain normal levels of protein,carnitine,and calcium,is a big problem for a lot of us,with organic acidemias,and similar metabolic diseases.I also think that those of us with rare metabolic diseases have not done enough to raise awareness of our diseases,and their various requirements,which is one reason,why before expanded newborn screening was adopted,many of us were not diagnosed until we were adults,and significant organ damage had taken place.

  2. By "true protein deficiency," I mean a problem that results from some sort of eucaloric plant-based diet, not from a hypocaloric diet or a rare metabolic disorder. As you pointed out, your problem results from a rare metabolic disorder. It would therefore be misleading to classify your illness as a case of true dietary protein deficiency, even if you need extra protein in order to stay healthy. Similarly, a case of salt-wasting nephropathy is not classified as a case of dietary sodium deficiency, even though the people with the condition need extra sodium, etc.

    According to the CDC, there were 616,067 deaths from heart disease in the United States in 2007. Most of these deaths were the result of coronary artery disease. Yet coronary artery disease is practically nonexistent among populations that eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet that is nearly devoid of foods of animal origin. Similarly, 562,875 Americans died of cancer in 2007. The risk of most common cancers could be decreased dramatically by the same change in diet that virtually eliminates the risk of coronary artery disease. In 2007, there were 71,832 deaths due to diabetes. Diabetes is also our major cause of new cases of blindness and nontraumatic amputation. Yet the most common form of diabetes can be cured by the same change in diet that prevents heart disease and reduces the risk of cancer. The main obstacle that prevents people from adopting the kind of diet that enables them to avoid these horrible diseases is the mistaken idea that they will run a risk of dietary protein deficiency or dietary calcium deficiency if they eat a low-fat, plant-based diet.

    The USDA's guidelines probably wouldn't provide enough protein to meet your protein needs, but they're urging everyone else to eat far more fat and animal protein than is good for them. As a result, many people end up destroying their kidneys needlessly, which is the main reason why there are more people who need kidney transplants than there are donated kidneys.

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