Sunday, October 30, 2011


Those who suffer from artery "clogging" due to high cholesterol content in the blood must be excited about the news that it is possible to de-clog the arteries without any medication like Statins. The multi billion dollar Statin industry that thrives on atherosclerosis disease affecting millions of people across the world is soon going to have a competitor with better credentials! Of course one will naturally ask the question as to why people suffer from clogging of arteries which can manifest in myocardial infarction or stroke, if adequate discipline is exercised regarding the diet one consumes. Unfortunately even the best psychologists in the world cannot answer the question because human behavior is not amenable to change easily and food consumption practices are evolved over years, influenced by economic factors and the living environment.

The most manifested symptom of arterial clogging, chest pain, is treated with prescription medicines but invariably the affected person ends up too often under the knife of a cardiac surgeon. As arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle gradually become blocked by plaques of cholesterol, fat, cells, and debris, the heart muscle is starved of oxygen. Drugs that are in the market may reduce the pain temporarily though eventually the patient has to seek surgical remedy. Coronary bypass operation or a plaque - busting angioplasty is necessary to restore blood flow to the heart. The alternative is a heart attack and such bypass operations are becoming routine these days in many affluent countries. The surgical intervention is not considered absolutely safe with some unable to survive the procedure. In about 6 percent of cases, it is known to cause brain damage. Another bitter fact is that it is not a permanent cure with the patient forced to go back to the hospital within six to eight years for a repeat of the surgery to repair the arteries again.

An oft repeated question is whether medical intervention is absolutely necessary to restore the health of the arteries and some believe there are alternative choices. It is now realized that clogging of arteries can be reversed through appropriate foods or supplements now being developed by some health products companies. Foods like garlic, oats, soy products, beans and walnuts seem to have the property to reverse clogging if consumed in optimal quantities regularly. The ability of arteries to clean themselves without the help of medicines, if simple diet and lifestyle changes are adopted, has been amply demonstrated and has been accepted by the medical fraternity. Under the right diet and exercise regimen, blockages in the arteries actually shrink significantly within an year. It was in 1990 that the role of diet in reducing atherosclerosis was brought out unambiguously when subjects with varying degree of atherosclerosis found their arteries getting rid of bad cholesterol on a vegetarian diet regimen compared to those consuming preparations with meat and fish regularly.  

The role of dietary fiber in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood is now well established. Its ability to "wash out" the cholesterol from the GI tract and not allowing it to be reabsorbed across the intestine is recognized. The recommendation to include 25-30 gm of fiber in daily diet has arisen out of the above conviction and dietary fiber has spawned an industry which sells fiber-rich supplements made from different sources. Even many "synthetic" dietary fiber preparations are being marketed though they cannot work as efficiently as natural fibers from whole cereal, pulses, fruits and vegetables. As the evidence about dietary fiber helping to reduce cholesterol has not been established conclusively through human studies of significant scale, any claim to be printed on the label of a food is some what premature. As the control regime on food supplements is not very strong, many manufacturers get away by making such claims to boost business.

The difficulty in accepting the limited evidence is due to the diverse nature of fibers used in different studies and the tendency to generalize the findings. To date FDA of the US had accorded approval to a Tomato extract that was proved to be effective as a blood thinner in place of Aspirin which is not recommended for normally healthy persons due to its adverse effect on gut health and hemoglobin level and its relatively long metabolic life of 20 days. How ever active efforts are on to get a few products cleared for arterial cleaning and one of them made from a Chitin-glucan fraction derived from Aspergillus niger seems to be promising. The human trials currently underway can only confirm its efficacy as an acceptable artery cleaning supplement.


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