Monday, October 31, 2005

Lose Weight, Reverse Heart Disease?

That's a question that researchers at Royal Adelaide Hospital and University of Adelaide in Australia want to know. As reported in The Advertiser, "Weight loss may reverse heart damage" researchers are exploring the theory that losing weight will reverse heart damage in those who have neglected their cardiovascular health.

While I applaude the researchers to consider such a study, I am disappointed that only one dietary approach is under investigation - a very low calorie diet (VLCD) that requires the use of meal replacment shakes, along with exercise...basically, starvation.

The meal replacement shakes are a product called KicStart, manufactured in Australia. A quick review of the ingredients and nutritional content shows that they are highly processed and of, in my opinion, questionable nutrient value. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are delivered in the shake by powders, not oils, and thus one must question the true quality of essential fatty acids this product may or may not deliver. There is also no disclosure in the product information about the quality or quantity of essential amino acids in the shakes.

The bigger question though is this - are researchers really unable to design a study that explores different dietary approaches? According to the article, the researchers have 80 men participating - so why only one design protocol? With an opportunity to investigate how diet influences cardiovascular health over two years, why are the researchers only really looking at what a starvation diet will do to cardiovascular health?

If we really want to reverse heart disease we must begin to ask the hard questions! Not only that, but we must demand researchers explore all scientifically supported avenues and not just stick with the same old stale theories that obviously do not work.

In my opinion, this study is an absolute waste of time and resources.

If the researchers really want to know if and how diet can be used to reverse heart disease, they will include a calorie adequate, nutrient-dense dietary approach as one of the groups studied - and they'll have a group of "controls" to compare the different study groups to also to see if dietary intervention versus doing nothing really does provide a benefit or not.

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