Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
Intro: Studies show that just a single meal high in saturated fat can impair artery function for hours after consumption. In this three-part video series, we look at what saturated fat does to the body, and how exercise and diet can protect our arteries, thus helping prevent our #1 killer—heart disease. Check it out.
We are only as old as our arteries. What can we do to preserve artery function as we age? A poor diet and sedentary behavior can lead to adverse aging processes, like impairment of the little power plants in our cells, which can result in free radical formation—oxidative stress—and inflammation, which lead to the artery dysfunction that can end in the cardiovascular disease that ends us.
In a series of videos I did about a decade ago, I discussed this landmark research showing that a single high-fat meal could cripple artery function within hours of consumption, compared to no change in the low-fat meal. The high-fat meal that so crippled artery function included Sausage and Egg McMuffins from McDonalds. How do we know the sausage, egg, or cheese was to blame? What about the crappy carbs in the biscuits or something? Because the low-fat meal that didn’t impair artery function was a sugary mess of carby Frosted Flakes.
And just when your artery function finally starts to recover five or six hours later? Lunchtime! And, your arteries may get whacked with another load of meat, eggs, dairy, or oil. Why does it matter so much what happens after a meal within your body? Because most of us spend about 16 hours a day in that after-a-meal state, constantly hammering our arteries. No wonder cardiovascular disease is our #1 killer.
And it doesn’t just inflame the arteries in our heart, but our lungs as well. “A high-fat challenge increases airway inﬂammation and impairs bronchodilator recovery in asthma.” Have asthmatics cough up sputum from their lungs four hours after the same kind of high-fat meal, and inflammatory cells shoot up in the high-fat meal group. In terms of lung function, give them two hits of their inhalers (containing a drug called albuterol or Ventolin) and their airways open up as they should—after the low-fat meal. But after the high-fat meal, the same inhaler doses don’t work as well, crapping out after a few hours because of all the extra inflammation in their lungs. What you eat can determine how well you breathe.
Okay, but that was asthmatics. But even in nonasthmatic subjects, you get that same spike in inflammatory cells in sputum coughed out of your lungs four hours after eating what was, in this case, a Jimmy Dean Meat Lovers Breakfast Bowl.
And there aren’t only more inflammatory cells; there is a doubling of the amount of pro-inflammatory oxidized LDL cholesterol sucked up by the type of white blood cells that go on to form foam cells. Those are the cells that build up the inflamed pus in your artery wall that leads to heart attacks. And all this happens within just hours of eating pizza, in this case.
The fat in your blood goes up, and so do your endotoxin levels. Endotoxins are the components of bacterial cell walls, and foods like meat can be so contaminated with bacteria—alive and dead—that they accumulate endotoxins. And we’re talking about both red meat and white meat.
But, recent research (published in 2020) suggests the main culprit may not be endotoxins after all, but the fat itself. The saturated fat floating in your blood after an unhealthy meal may be inducing the inflammation more directly. Either way, we are accountable for what we eat, meal-by-meal, for the modification of the risk factors for chronic metabolic disease.
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