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High-Fat Diet and Cigarette Smoking Cause Low Back Pain

Most people think that chronic low back pain is simply due to wear and tear on the muscles and cartilage of the spinal column. In reality, one of the major causes of low back pain is poor circulation to the structures of the intervertebral disks, as a result of atherosclerosis and/or cigarette smoking. That’s why low back pain is most common in the populations that also have high rates of heart attack!

Check out the review article I wrote about this subject for chiropractors. If you want to keep your back in good shape, start by keeping your arteries clean! If your total cholesterol is below 150 mg/dL, which is easy if you eat a low-fat, purely plant-based diet, your arteries become self-cleaning!

Cigarette smoking makes the problem worse because the nicotine causes the arteries to tighten up. It’s like putting your thumb over the end of a garden hose. It raises the pressure but decreases the flow.

Photo by sandiegopersonalinjuryattorney

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French and Japanese Paradoxes

By now, you’ve certainly heard about the “French Paradox,” a dream that entered American consciousness in 1991, when it was described on the television program 60 Minutes. According to this dream, drinking red wine will protect you from heart disease, even if you eat lots of high-fat, high-cholesterol food. Although the risk of heart disease was lower in France than in Britain, the difference was not due to some magical properties of wine. It was due partly to under-reporting of coronary artery disease as a cause of death and partly due to a time-lag effect. It takes a while for a fatty diet to clog up your arteries, and the French hadn’t been eating as much fat as the British had been eating for as long as the British had been eating it. These explanations had been published in the British Medical Journal in 1999. You can read the article for free here.

If you want to eliminate your risk of heart attack, not just decrease it a little, you’d eat a low-fat, purely plant-based diet.

Alcoholic beverages, including wine, can have several effects that influence a person’s risk of dying of a heart attack. Winos who die of cirrhosis of the liver often have amazingly clean arteries. That’s because their liver lost the ability to make cholesterol. Even moderate intake of alcoholic beverages can have several effects on coronary artery disease. The antioxidants in some alcoholic beverages, including wine, could prevent LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized, and thus could help reduce the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque. Of course, you could get these same antioxidants from plant foods that haven’t been fermented. Alcohol can also thin the blood, and thus help to decrease the chance of a fatal heart attack or ischemic stroke. On the other hand, it would increase the risk of a fatal hemorrhage. I haven’t seen any convincing evidence that adding any form of alcohol to a low-fat, plant-based diet would provide any health benefits.

The French paradox turned out to be a myth. However, there are some Japanese paradoxes that are real. One involves cigarette smoking. The other involves obesity and diabetes.

Japanese smokers are less likely than American smokers to get lung cancer. This is called the Japanese Smoking Paradox. Some people think that it’s because Japanese are smoking safer cigarettes or have some magical protective genes. The more rational explanation is that the Japanese have been eating less fat and animal protein and more vegetables than Americans have been eating. Eating the traditional Japanese diet, as opposed to the standard American diet, helps to protect people against many kinds of cancer, not just lung cancer.

Another paradox involves Japanese children. Over the past few decades, Japanese children have been getting fatter, and the incidence of type 2 diabetes among Japanese children has been going up. This has been happening even though their calorie intake hasn’t increased significantly. They have been eating a lot more fat and animal protein. In other words, they’ve been getting a smaller percentage of their calories from carbohydrates, which were mainly in the form of white rice. So why do the low-carb gurus keep telling me that we need to eat more fat and less carbohydrate? Is this another paradox? If so, what should we call it?