The Substance of the Piece …


Western foods bring heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes wherever they are adopted, but we don’t really know why.  Conventional wisdom is of little help, for the low-fat diet has failed and neither lowering cholesterol nor antioxidant supplementation alleviates heart disease.  However, Dr Lawrence Resnick’s ideas provide the missing piece of the puzzle and reveal the nature of health-sustaining diets, and may allow us to have our cake and eat it too, so to speak. 


Too much sodium (from salt) and too little potassium (from vegetables and fruit) overwhelm our cells’ ability to maintain the high potassium, low sodium milieu within themselves they need to function at their best.  Higher sodium within the cells means higher calcium and lower magnesium (especially when magnesium is low in the diet) which has profound adverse effects on cell function, causing different malfunctions in different organ systems.  Muscle cells of the arterial wall can no longer relax completely so the blood pressure goes up.  Insulin resistance increases when there’s less magnesium to communicate its message within the cell so insulin levels rise to compensate, which tells the fat cells to store more fat and the liver to produce more triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol. This is the “deadly quartet” of Dr Gerald Reaven’s syndrome X with its attendant very high risk of heart disease: obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia, and, if the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for insulin, Type II diabetes. The delicate cells lining the arteries are irritated by high insulin levels, and are further irritated by the homocysteine and inflammation caused by the dearth of dietary antioxidants, vitamins and anti-inflammatory ω3 essential fatty acids.  Such irritation is widely accepted as the cause of the first lesion of atherosclerosis, the beginning of plaque formation which will result in heart disease; and homocysteine is intimately associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias.  High sodium and low potassium also cause the acidity within the cells to rise to levels associated with cell reproduction (levels which are appropriate only in the young of the species).   In other words, these ionic imbalances predispose to cancer. 


Reversing these dietary faults, then, should reverse high blood pressure, insulin resistance and obesity and cause the regression of atherosclerosis.  In the case of high blood pressure, this is well-accepted: a large trial has shown that a low-salt diet lowers blood pressure, and a low-salt, high-potassium diet lowers it even more.  Dietary remedies for insulin resistance have been little investigated, although Dr Reaven advocates less carbohydrate for syndrome X sufferers and points out that carbohydrates worsen the condition. However, insulin resistance is lessened in diabetics by magnesium supplements, and by low-salt, high potassium diets in everybody. Dr Walter Kempner’s Rice Diet, Dr Max Gerson’s cancer therapy regime and Nathan Pritikin’s diet and exercise program all limit sodium and supply plentiful potassium and magnesium, along with the full complement of nutrients naturally present in unrefined foods.  Paradoxically, these high-carbohydrate diets improve the failing carbohydrate metabolism: clearly, it’s the character of the carbohydrates that governs.  At least three studies have shown that the Pritikin program reverses insulin resistance; and Nathan Pritikin’s arteries were found to be as clean as a teenager’s at autopsy, although he began his dietary program with severe atherosclerosis. "In a man 69 years old," wrote pathologist Dr Jeffrey Hubbard, "the near absence of atherosclerosis and the complete absence of its effects are remarkable." Similar unrefined diets today support populations entirely free of both heart disease and the dementias, such as the Kitava islanders of the Trobriand Islands (whose insulin levels are half ours). 


We see that Dr Resnick’s ideas are validated, and that they point out dietary strategies which both protect against and cure the diseases which destroy so many of our lives. So what have we really got here? Nothing less than the solution to degenerative disease!  Apparently, a healthy diet is not necessarily one low in saturated fat or cholesterol, nor is it composed of some elusive healthful proportion of fat, protein and carbohydrate: Dr Robert Atkins, Nathan Pritikin and so many others among us have been as the blind men who described the Elephant!  Rather, avoiding the heavily-salted and refined foods of the Western diet in favor of unrefined foods supports health.