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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