How did Cureality get its start?




In the Cureality program, we embrace information and strategies that empower you in health without drugs, without hospitals, without procedures. We convert your doctor from director of healthcare to your assistant in health. He or she is there when you need help, but you largely direct your own health future.

How did we gain the know-how, information, tools, even chutzpah to take on such an ambitious project?


It started around 10 years ago with the awkwardly named Track Your Plaque program. In fact, some of the current followers of the Cureality program are former Track Your Plaque members, having learned of the wonderful list of strategies that can be adopted to gain better control over, even reverse, coronary atherosclerotic plaque and risk for heart attack. They also learned that something special happens when you engage with other people with similar interests, all sharing ideas, insights, and resources to get the self-directed health job done. Over time, what started out as simply a source of better information for coronary health evolved into a self-directed coronary disease management program. We never set out to create something as wildly ambitious as a do-it-yourself-at-home coronary disease risk management program, but that is how it inadvertently turned out.

How we went from Information Provider to Health Empowerment Program

So we never intended to take on something so seemingly impossible as managing coronary risk on your own. But, because we armed people with such empowering, profound insights into better ways to manage their heart disease risk beyond “don’t smoke, cut saturated fat, be active, and take a statin drug”—the typical advice offered by doctors—they returned after an interaction with their doctors disappointed: doctors often declared such strategies unnecessary, or the doctor didn’t understand them—even when there were clear-cut clinical data already available to support their use. In other words, the patients—everyday people, not experts—knew more than their doctors. 

This flip-flop in the balance of knowledge made for some very interesting stories, like “Harold” (not his real name) who, having survived a heart attack and received a stent, was told by his doctor to cut his fat intake, eat more whole grains, exercise, take aspirin and a beta blocker drug, and reduce his cholesterol values with a statin drug. Upon learning all the additional information from the Track Your Plaque program, Harold returned to his doctor and asked “I’m not so ready to just go along with this idea of ‘reducing cholesterol’ to address heart disease risk. Because my goal is to gain as much control over coronary disease as possible, maybe even reverse it, I’d like to address some additional issues that I believe may be important. I’d like to have my advanced lipoproteins drawn to measure the proportion of small LDL particles I have, whether I have lipoprotein(a), an omega-3 fatty acid index and 25-hydroxy vitamin D level, and a thyroid assessment. Oh, and I believe I should also have an assessment of my inflammation status, perhaps a c-reactive protein and phospholipase A2, and my blood sugar status measured with a fasting glucose, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c.” Harold’s doctor was dumbfounded and speechless. Rather than reveal his ignorance, his doctor advised Harold that none of that was necessary, sending him on his way and telling him that he was fine.

But this left Harold with a sour taste in his mouth, having engaged in many online discussions with people who had followed conventional advice that resulted in more heart attack, more heart procedures—the conventional answers simply did not work. He also discussed his situation with people who had successfully obtained the additional information he sought, added it to their program and enjoyed dramatically improved health, including freedom from more heart attacks, heart symptoms, and heart procedures, as well as improved overall health. So Harold found an easy way to obtain the testing on his own. Within a couple of weeks, he returned to his online community and shared all his information. Within moments, he was provided useful discussion to help him understand the values, all leading to changes in nutrition, nutritional supplement choices, how and where to get the simple tools necessary, such as iodine and vitamin D supplements. He even entered his data, choosing which values he was willing to share with others, which remained private, allowing him to compare his own follow-up values several months later. Engaged in this process, self-directed but collaborative, he witnessed marked transformations in his health. Not only did he never again—over several years—ever re-develop heart symptoms nor require any more trips back to the cath lab, he lost weight, reversed a pre-diabetic sugar profile, improved his cholesterol values without drugs, got rid of the acid reflux symptoms he endured for many years, dropped his blood pressure to normal, enjoyed better mood, energy, and sleep. Slender, healthier, all accomplished without his doctor. 

Harold returned to his doctor for a routine follow-up. Slender, energetic, without complaints, on no drugs except the aspirin for his stent, the basic laboratory assessment his doctor ordered in front of him, his doctor admitted,” Well, I don’t know how you’re doing it, but these values look like a 20-year old substituted his blood for yours. They’re unbelievable. What drugs are you taking to do this?” “No drugs,” Harold replied, “I’m following a program to reverse heart disease, but it means doing some things that are different from conventional solutions.” His doctor closed their meeting with the signature response of doctors nationwide: “Well, I don’t understand what you are doing, but just keep doing it.”

Yes, Harold knew more about how to control heart disease than his doctor, more than his cardiologist. The cardiologist knew how to insert a stent or defibrillator. But deliver information that empowered Harold in all aspects of health from head to toe, while also dramatically reducing, perhaps eliminating, his coronary disease risk? As you now know, that is not what conventional healthcare does, nor is it interested in doing so, as it would relinquish control and threaten to cut off this hugely profitable revenue stream that drives “healthcare.”

Having managed to inadvertently create a self-directed coronary risk management program with such spectacular results and in probably one of the most difficult areas of all—heart disease—it became clear that a similar approach could be even more easily applied to many other areas of health, such as weight loss, bone health, cholesterol and blood pressure issues, diabetes and pre-diabetes, hormonal health, autoimmune conditions, and others. You can do it when empowered by safe, effective information, and supported by a community of sharing and collaboration. We don’t fire our doctors; they are there when we need them when, for instance, we get injured or catch pneumonia, or as an occasional resource. But doctors should no longer be able to get away with neglect, misinformation, or blindly directing you to the next revenue-generating procedure because you are empowered by the information and support you receive in Cureality.

As we get more effective in delivering this information and new tools to you, just imagine what we can accomplish in this new age of information and self-empowerment. The future for us is bright with ambitions for better interactive tools with Cureality expert staff, better ways to crowd source health answers, provide more engaging community conversation, all while the health insights that help accomplish our self-directed health goals get better and better. Each person that joins Cureality helps make this service more effective because your wisdom, insights, and experience are added to the collective knowledge. We are more powerful together than we are as individuals.

If you are already a Cureality Member, please add your comments and questions to the growing conversation. If you are not a Member, consider joining our discussions, as each new voice gets us closer and closer to better answers to take back control over health.

Power in Numbers



In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, author James Surowiecki begins with the story of an ox judging competition in which 800 people—not ox experts nor breeders, just ordinary people attending a county fair—were asked to guess the weight of the ox. The competition was conducted by a scientist, Francis Galton, who held a low opinion of the intelligence of the average person, remarking that “the stupidity and wrong-headedness of many men and women being so great as to be scarcely credible.” He hoped to prove, by examining the various guesses, that the average person had no idea of how to judge the real answer. After all participants casted their written votes, Galton tallied up the total and averaged the result: 1,197 pounds—just one pound off from the real weight of 1,198 pounds. Few individuals actually guessed the correct weight themselves but, when the opinions of many were combined, the result was near-perfect.

Crowds can also be a source of irrational behavior, panic, and stampede. Witness any modern football or soccer game, for instance, in which fights break out over an issue as minor as a disputed call or a heckle. Or go back through history to the countless events when mass hysteria ruled, such as the Salem Witch Trials or Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

Let’s put aside examples of mass emotional chaos of the sort that causes crowds to stampede store doors on Black Friday. Let’s focus instead on conscious, considered, thoughtful opinions. We all accept that there are as many opinions on issues as there are people, not uncommonly with widely divergent views. But can we, as Galton’s famous experiment did, combine the opinions of many and come away with some fruitful insight—the correct answer? Just as the people participating in Galton’s experiment were not experts, so Cureality participants—a crowd-sourced collection of opinions—are not experts. If we were to poll everyone to identify their area of expertise or experience, it would likely include finance, the retail industry, raising children, or teaching—but not health. Yes, we have experts curating the direction of content, but we also crowd-source collective opinion.

Right now, Cureality is based on existing science, the philosophy of self-directed health, combined with guidance and community to help the participant along in the sometimes complex world of health questions. But as our processes and procedures improve, can we—like Galton’s ox weight guessers—come away with coalescent wisdom, answers to our health questions, near-perfect solutions to health conditions that have eluded the “experts” for centuries?

I think that we can. No, I know that we can. We enter a new age in information and harness the power of the crowd-sourcing of solutions, even when no single individual has the complete answer herself.

What is Cureality all about?


“Looking over your medical record, Nancy, I’m a bit concerned about your risk for osteoporosis and hip fracture. It looks like your mom had a hip fracture at age 67. Is that right? ”

“Yes, she did,” Nancy responded. “And her life was never quite the same for the 15 years she lived after that.

“You’re 53 year old. Bone thinning develops over many years. Let’s get you scheduled for a bone scan.”

Two weeks later:

“Your z-score is 1.5, Nancy. This means you’ve got a mild form of osteoporosis called ‘osteopenia.’ Here: This is a prescription for alendronate, what used to be called Fosamax.”

“Aren’t there side-effects with that drug? A friend of mine said that her mom had a leg fracture from it.”

“Well, yes. All prescription drugs have potential side-effects. They’re rare, but they can happen and we can’t predict it. Besides leg fracture, there’s something called jaw osteonecrosis in which the jawbone dies and has to be surgically replaced. But would you rather run the risk of a hip fracture?”

“Before we jump to drugs, aren’t there natural things I could do first?”

(Big sigh.) “You can take calcium, but that only helps a bit. You’ve got to make a choice: Take the drug or risk a hip fracture.”

“I’m going to explore some natural remedies on my own first.”

Nancy’s dialogue with her doctor is fictional but based on similar encounters that occur thousands of times every day nationwide. Identify a problem, prescribe a drug. Natural remedies? “They don’t work.” “I don’t know anything about that.” “None of that is proven.” “I only practice evidence-based medicine.” You’ve probably heard a few of these explanations yourself if you ever question the wisdom of conventional medical care.

Each of Nancy’s fictitious interactions were no more 10 minutes long. If she is like most people, she will have one or two such interactions over the course of a year, unless she develops some acute illness. So she’s got something like 20-30 minutes per year to compress all of her “health” advice into the time allotted. 20-30 minutes per year to discuss bone health, nutrition, blood sugar issues, cholesterol issues, blood pressure, female issues, and all the other facets of health. Perhaps she has developed some chronic gastrointestinal complaints, too, and an odd rash on her elbows, maybe headaches a few times per week that she didn’t have before. Regardless, she’s going to have to make do with those few minutes, likely receiving one or more prescriptions or imaging procedures for each.

Such is the nature of modern healthcare: Provide the minimum interaction, address only a few, perhaps no more than one, problem, then prescribe a drug. This is, more often than not, wrong. Plain wrong. Tragically, awfully, unethically, unnecessarily wrong.

Let’s pick up again with Nancy. Upon learning of her osteopenia and long-term risk for hip fractures of the sort that changed her mom’s life and health irretrievably, Nancy started searching for solutions. Not only did she discover that, yes, there are indeed a number of safe and effective ways to deal with osteopenia. She also learned that such strategies have even been examined in clinical trials, some of the strategies pitted head-to-head with drugs and performed on a par, sometimes better, than prescription drugs. She also found that there are online communities that she could join and discuss her health situation with people all sharing the same health interests. During one such interaction at the start of her effort, when she was still a bit unsure and tentative, a woman she didn’t know but who shared a similar interest in restoring bone health, commented to Nancy, “Don’t sweat it, Nancy. I was in your shoes a little over a year ago. I followed a program for bone health: vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium, I made sure that I included leafy green vegetables at least once or twice per day, and I added strength training for a few minutes twice per week. I started with osteoporosis. My most recent bone density test showed that I reversed it completely—it’s entirely normal! So hang in there and be sure to share your questions and concerns with us here.”

THAT is what Cureality is all about. Cureality fills the gap of knowledge in health that is not being provided in a few minute-long medical interaction. Cureality reveals the astounding amount of credible, safe, scientific information that allows you to participate, sometimes take over completely, various aspects of health. You don’t have to fire your doctor; these efforts supplement the information and advice you obtain (or don’t obtain) in the doctor’s office. While critics may sometimes say that this can be dangerous or that misdiagnoses and dangerous treatments might be risked, our experience is the exact opposite: People do better by taking the reins of health themselves, choosing to use the health care system for acute or catastrophic illness—but not necessarily for health.

Our fictional woman, Nancy, returns to her doctor one year later after undergoing a repeat bone scan. The doctor opened her chart, clearly expecting to scold her for her foolhardy and careless attitude. Instead, he was speechless. After a pause, he said, “I don’t know how you did it, but your bone density is now normal, the density of a healthy 30-year old woman. Just continue doing what you’re doing.” He closed the chart and walked out.

Yes: “Just continue what you are doing”—not “Please tell me what you did so that I might learn something new,” or “Where did you learn about such strategies? I knew nothing about this!” Just “do what you’re doing.” Too often, that is the response you get that defines what modern health care has become.

You don’t want that kind of health care. Sure, it’s reassuring to know that the doctor and hospital are there in case you injure yourself or develop pneumonia. But obtain day-to-day health advice of the sort that keeps you slender, keeps blood pressure normal, maintains normal insulin and blood pressure responses, helps keep bowel health ideal, can even be used to reverse conditions such as autoimmune joint pain, diabetes, osteoporosis, or skin rashes, while costing next to nothing and yielding health care benefits for you and your family in multiple areas of health? That is the kind of health care you want.

That’s why we developed Cureality.


William Davis, MD
Author of 
#1 New York Times Bestseller Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health, The Wheat Belly Cookbook, and Wheat Belly 30-Minute (or Less!) Cookbook published by Rodale, Inc.  
Author, Track Your Plaque: The only heart disease prevention program that shows how the new CT heart scans can be used to detect, track, and control coronary plaque

Omega-3 fatty acids likely NOT associated with prostate cancer

A weakly constructed study was reported recently that purportedly associated higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid blood levels and prostate cancer. See this CBS News report, for instance.

Lipid and omega-3 fat expert, Dr. William Harris, posted this concise critique of the study, exposing some fundamental problems:

First, the reported EPA+DHA level in the plasma phospholipids in this study was 3.62% in the no-cancer control group, 3.66% in the total cancer group, 3.67% in the low grade cancer group, and 3.74% in the high-grade group. These differences between cases and controls are very small and would have no meaning clinically as they are within the normal variation. Based on experiments in our lab, the lowest quartile would correspond to an HS-Omega-3 Index of <3.16% and the highest to an Index of >4.77%). These values are obviously low, and virtually none of the subjects was in “danger” of having an HS-Omega-3 Index of >8%. So to conclude that regular consumption of 2 oily fish meals a week or taking fish oil supplements (both of which would result in an Index above the observed range) would increase risk for prostate cancer is extrapolating beyond the data.

This study did not test the question of whether giving fish oil supplements (or eating more oily fish) increased PC risk; it looked only a blood levels of omega-3 which are determined by intake, other dietary factors, metabolism and genetics.


The authors also failed to present the fuller story taught by the literature. The same team reported in 2010 that the use of fish oil supplements was not associated with any increased risk for prostate cancer. A 2010 meta-analysis of fish consumption and prostate cancer reported a reduction in late stage or fatal cancer among cohort studies, but no overall relationship between prostate cancer and fish intake. Terry et al. in 2001 reported higher fish intake was associated with lower risk for prostate cancer incidence and death, and Leitzmann et al. in 2004 reported similar findings. Higher intakes of canned, preserved fish were reported to be associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer. Epstein et al found that a higher omega-3 fatty acid intake predicted better survival for men who already had prostate cancer, and increased fish intake was associated with a 63% reduction in risk for aggressive prostate cancer in a case-control study by Fradet et al). So there is considerable evidence actually FAVORING an increase in fish intake for prostate cancer risk reduction.

Another piece of the picture is to compare prostate cancer rates in Japan vs the US. Here is a quote from the World Foundation of Urology:


"[Prostate cancer] incidence is really high in North America and Northern Europe (e.g., 63 X 100,000 white men and 102 X 100,000 Afro-Americans in the United States), but very low in Asia (e.g., 10 X 100,000 men in Japan).”

Since the Japanese typically eat about 8x more omega-3 fatty acids than Americans do and their
blood levels are twice as high, you’d think their prostate cancer risk would be much higher...
but the opposite is the case.


Omega-3 fatty acids are physiologically necessary, normalizing multiple metabolic phenomena including augmentation of parasympathetic tone, reductions of postprandial (after-meal) lipoprotein excursions, and endothelial function. It would indeed make no sense that nutrients that are necessary for life and health exert an adverse effect such as prostate cancer at such low blood levels. (Recall that an omega-3 RBC index of 6.0% or greater is associated with reduced potential for sudden cardiac death.)

I personally take 3600 mg per day of EPA + DHA in highly-purified, non-oxidized triglyceride form (Ascenta Nutrasea liquid) that yields an RBC omega-3 index of just over 10%, the level that I believe the overwhelming bulk of data suggest is the ideal level for humans.

Are statins and omega-3s incompatible?

French researcher, Dr. Michel de Lorgeril, has been in the forefront of thinking and research into nutritional issues, including the Mediterranean Diet, the French Paradox, and the role of fat intake in cardiovascular health. In a recent review entitled Recent findings on the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids and statins, and their interactions: do statins inhibit omega-3?, he explores the question of whether statin drugs are, in effect, incompatible with omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. Lorgeril makes several arguments:

1) Earlier studies, such as GISSI-Prevenzione, demonstrated reduction in cardiovascular events with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, consistent with the biological and physiological benefits observed in animals, experimental preparations, and epidemiologic observations in free-living populations.

2) More recent studies (and meta-analyses) examining the effects of omega-3 fatty acids have failed to demonstrate cardiovascular benefit showing, at most, non-significant trends towards benefit.

He points out that the more recent studies were conducted post-GISSI and after agencies like the American Heart Association's advised people to consume more fish, which prompted broad increases in omega-3 intake. The populations studied therefore had increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids at the start of the studies, verified by higher levels of omega-3 RBC levels in participants.

In addition, he raises the provocative idea that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids appear to be confined to those not taking statin agents, as suggested, for instance, in the Alpha Omega Trial. He speculates that the potential for statins to ablate the benefits of omega-3s (and vice versa) might be based on several phenomena:

--Statins increase arachidonic acid content of cell membranes, a potentially inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid that competes with omega-3 fatty acids. (Insulin provocation and greater linoleic acid/omega-6 oils do likewise.)
--Statins induce impaired mitochondrial function, while omega-3s improve mitochondrial function. (Impaired mitochondrial function is evidenced, for instance, by reduced coenzyme Q10 levels, with partial relief from muscle weakness and discomfort by supplementing coenzyme Q10.)
--Statins commonly provoke muscle weakness and discomfort which can, in turn, lead to reduced levels of physical activity and increased resistance to insulin. (Thus the recently reported increases in diabetes with statin drug use.)

Are the physiologic effects of omega-3 fatty acids, present and necessary for health, at odds with the non-physiologic effects of statin drugs?

I fear we don't have sufficient data to come to firm conclusions yet, but my perception is that the case against statins is building. Yes, they have benefits in specific subsets of people (none in others), but the notion that everybody needs a statin drug is, I believe, not only dead wrong, but may have effects that are distinctly negative. And I believe that the arguments in favor of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, EPA and DHA (and perhaps DPA), make better sense.



DHA: the crucial omega-3

Of the two omega-3 fatty acids that are best explored, EPA and DHA, it is likely DHA that exerts the most blood pressure- and heart rate-reducing effects. Here are the data of Mori et al in which 4000 mg of olive oil, purified EPA only, or purified DHA only were administered over 6 weeks:



□ indicates baseline SBP; ▪, postintervention SBP; ○, baseline DBP; •, postintervention DBP; ⋄, baseline HR; and ♦, postintervention HR.

In this group of 56 overweight men with normal starting blood pressures, only DHA reduced systolic BP by 5.8 mmHg, diastolic by 3.3 mmHg.

While each omega-3 fatty acid has important effects, it may be DHA that has an outsized benefit. So how can you get more DHA? Well, this observation from Schuchardt et al is important:

DHA in the triglyceride and phospholipid forms are 3-fold better absorbed, as compared to the ethyl ester form (compared by area-under-the-curve). In other words, fish oil that has been reconstituted to the naturally-occurring triglyceride form (i.e., the form found in fresh fish) provides 3-fold greater blood levels of DHA than the more common ethyl ester form found in most capsules. (The phospholipid form of DHA found in krill is also well-absorbed, but occurs in such small quantities that it is not a practical means of obtaining omega-3 fatty acids, putting aside the astaxanthin issue.)

So if the superior health effects of DHA are desired in a form that is absorbed, the ideal way to do this is either to eat fish or to supplement fish oil in the triglyceride, not ethyl ester, form. The most common and popular forms of fish oil sold are ethyl esters, including Sam's Club Triple-Strength, Costco, Nature Made, Nature's Bounty, as well as prescription Lovaza. (That's right: prescription fish oil, from this and several other perspectives, is an inferior product.)

What sources of triglyceride fish oil with greater DHA content/absorption are available to us? My favorites are, in this order:

Ascenta NutraSea
CEO and founder, Marc St. Onge, is a friend. Having visited his production facility in Nova Scotia, I was impressed with the meticulous methods of preparation. At every step of the way, every effort was made to limit any potential oxidation, including packaging in a vacuum environment. The Ascenta line of triglyceride fish oils are also richer in DHA content. Their NutraSea High DHA liquid, for instance, contains 500 mg EPA and 1000 mg DHA per teaspoon, a 1:2 EPA:DHA ratio, rather than the more typical 3:2 EPA:DHA ratio of ethyl ester forms.

Pharmax (now Seroyal) also has a fine product with a 1.4:1 EPA:DHA ratio.

Nordic Naturals has a fine liquid triglyceride product, though it is 2:1 EPA:DHA.





Krill oil: Do the math

The manufacturers of krill oil claim that the phospholipid form of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, enhance their absorption. There are indeed some data to that effect:


Here are some representative krill oil preparations available on the market:


MegaRed Krill Oil:
EPA 50 mg
DHA 24 mg
Total omega-3s (EPA + DHA + other forms) 90 mg
Price: $28.99 for 60 softgels

Source Naturals (a fine company otherwise, by the way):

EPA 150 mg
DHA 90 mg
Total omega-3 fatty acids 300 mg
Price: $24.99 for 60 softgels

Alright, let's do some simple math:

Average volume of blood in the human body (all components): 5000 cc
Percentage of red blood cells (RBCs) by volume: 45%
Total volume RBCs: 2250 cc
Percentage of total volume RBCs occupied by fatty acids:

What tests are MORE important than cholesterol?

In the conventional practice of early heart disease prevention, cholesterol testing takes center stage. Rarely does it go any further, aside from questions about family history and obvious sources of modifiable risk such as smoking and sedentary lifestyle.

So standard practice is to usually look at your LDL cholesterol, the value that is calculated, not measured, then--almost without fail--prescribe a statin drug. While there are indeed useful values in the standard cholesterol panel--HDL cholesterol and triglycerides--they are typically ignored or prompt no specific action.

But a genuine effort at heart disease prevention should go farther than an assessment of calculated LDL cholesterol, as there are many ways that humans develop coronary atherosclerosis. Among the tests to consider in order to craft a truly effect heart disease prevention program are:

--Lipoprotein testing--Rather than using the amount of cholesterol in the various fractions of blood as a crude surrogate for lipoproteins in the bloodstream, why not measure lipoproteins themselves? These techniques have been around for over 20 years, but are simply not part of standard practice.

Lipoprotein testing especially allows you to understand what proportion of LDL particles are the truly unhealthy small LDL particles (that are oxidation- and glycation-prone). It also identifies whether or not you have lipoprotein(a), the heritable factor that confers superior survival capacity in a wild environment ("The Perfect Carnivore"), but makes the holder of this genetic pattern the least tolerant to the modern diet dominated by grains and sugars, devoid of fat and organ meats.

--25-hydroxy vitamin D--The data documenting the health power of vitamin D restoration continue to grow, with benefits on blood sugar and insulin, blood pressure, bone density, protection from winter "blues" (seasonal affective disorder), decrease in falls and fractures, decrease in cancer, decrease in cardiovascular events. I aim to keep 25-hydroxy vitamin D at a level of 60 to 70 ng/ml. This generally requires 4000-8000 units per day in gelcap form, at least for the first 3 or so years, after which there is a decrease in need. Daily supplementation is better than weekly, monthly, or other less-frequent regimens. The D3 (cholecalciferol) form is superior to the non-human D2 (ergocalciferol) form.

--Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)--HbA1c represents glycated hemoglobin, i.e., hemoglobin molecules within red blood cells that are irreversibly modified by glucose, or blood sugar. It therefore provides an index of endogenous glycation of all proteins of the body: proteins in the lenses of the eyes that lead to cataracts; proteins in the cartilage of the knees and hips that lead to brittle cartilage and arthritis; proteins in kidney tissue leading to kidney dysfunction.

HbA1c provides an incredibly clear snapshot of health: It reflects the amount of glycation you have been exposed to over the past 90 or so days. We therefore aim for an ideal level: 5.0% or less, the amount of "ambient" glycation that occurs just with living life. We reject the notion that a HbA1c level of 6.0% is acceptable just because you don't "need" diabetes medication, the thinking that drives conventional medical practice.

--RBC Omega-3 Index--The average American consumes very little omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, such that a typical omega-3 RBC Index, i.e., the proportion of fatty acids in the red blood cell occupied by omega-3 fatty acids, is around 2-3%, a level associated with increased potential for sudden cardiac death (death!). Levels of 6% or greater are associated with reduced potential for sudden cardiac death; 10% or greater are associated with reduced other cardiovascular events.

Evidence therefore suggests that an RBC Omega-3 Index of 10% or greater is desirable, a level generally achieved by obtaining 3000-3600 mg EPA + DHA per day (more or less, depending on the form consumed, an issue for future discussion).

--Thyroid testing (TSH, free T3, free T4)--Even subtle degrees of thyroid dysfunction can double, triple, even quadruple cardiovascular risk. TSH values, for instance, within the previously presumed "normal" range, pose increased risk for cardiovascular death; a TSH level of 4.0 mIU, for instance, is associated with more than double the relative risk of a level of 1.0.

Sad fact: the endocrinology community, not keeping abreast of the concerning issues coming from the toxicological community regarding perchlorates, polyfluorooctanoic acid and other fluorinated hydrocarbons, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), and other thyroid-toxic compounds, tend to ignore these issues, while the public is increasingly exposed to the increased cardiovascular risk of even modest degrees of thyroid dysfunction. Don't commit the same crime of ignorance: Thyroid dysfunction in this age of endocrine disruption can be crucial to cardiovascular and overall health.


All in all, there are a number of common blood tests that are relevant--no, crucial--for achieving heart health. Last on the list: standard cholesterol testing.

Cranberry Sauce

Happy Thanksgiving 2012, everyone, from all the staff at Track Your Plaque!

Here’s a zesty version of traditional cranberry sauce, minus the sugar. The orange, cinnamon, and other spices, along with the crunch of walnuts, make this one of my favorite holiday side dishes.

There are 31.5 grams total “net” carbohydrates in this entire recipe, or 5.25 grams per serving (serves 6). To further reduce carbs, you can leave out the orange juice and, optionally, use more zest.

1 cup water
12 ounces fresh whole cranberries
Sweetener equivalent to 1 cup sugar (I used 6 tablespoons Truvía)
1 tablespoon orange zest + juice of half an orange
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

In small to medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Turn heat down and add cranberries. Cover and cook at low-heat for 10 minutes or until all cranberries have popped. Stir in sweetener. Remove from heat.

Stir in orange zest and juice, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Transfer mixture to bowl, cool, and serve.


Apple Cranberry Crumble

Apple, cranberry, and cinnamon: the perfect combination of tastes and scents for winter holidays!

I took a bit of carbohydrate liberties with this recipe. The entire recipe yields a delicious cheesecake-like crumble with 59 “net” grams carbohydrates (total carbs – fiber); divided among 10 slices, that’s 5.9 grams net carbs per serving, a quantity most tolerate just fine. (To reduce carbohydrates, the molasses in the crumble is optional, reducing total carbohydrate by 11 grams.)

Other good choices for sweeteners include liquid stevia, stevia glycerite, powdered stevia (pure or inulin-based, not maltodextrin-based), Truvía, Swerve, and erythritol. And always taste your batter to test sweetness, since sweeteners vary in sweetness from brand to brand and your individual sensitivity to sweetness depends on how long you’ve been wheat-free. (The longer you’ve been wheat-free, the less sweetness you desire.)


Crust and crumble topping
3 cups almond meal
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup xylitol (or other sweetener equivalent to 1 cup sugar)
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon molasses
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Dash sea salt

Filling
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
½ cup xylitol (or other sweetener equivalent to ½ cup sugar)
1 Granny Smith apple (or other variety)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In large bowl, combine almond meal, butter, sweetener, cinnamon, molasses, vanilla, and salt and mix.

Grease a 9½-inch tart or pie pan. Using approximately 1 cup of the almond meal mixture, form a thin bottom crust with your hands or spoon.

In another bowl, combine cream cheese, eggs, and sweetener and mix with spoon or mixer at low-speed. Pour into tart or pie pan.

Core apple and slice into very thin sections. Arrange in circles around the edge of the cream cheese mixture, working inwards. Distribute cranberries over top, then sprinkle cinnamon over entire mixture.

Gently layer remaining almond meal crumble evenly over top. Bake for 30 minutes or until topping lightly browned.
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Is Cocoa Puffs no longer heart healthy?

Is Cocoa Puffs no longer heart healthy?

Until recently, Cocoa Puffs enjoyed the endorsement of the American Heart Association (AHA) as a heart-healthy food.

For a price, the AHA will allow food manufacturers to affix a heart "check mark" signifying endorsement by the AHA as conforming to some basic "heart healthy" requirements.

Odd thing: The list of breakfast cereals on the check mark program has shrunk dramatically. When I last posted about this, there were around 50-some breakfast cereals, from Cocoa Puffs to Frosted Mini Wheats. Now, the list has been trimmed down to 17:

Berry Burst Cheerios-Triple Berry
Cheerios
Cheerios Crunch
Honey Nut Cheerios
Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal
Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Flakes & Wild Blueberry Clusters
Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal
Multi Grain Cheerios
Oatmeal Crisp Crunchy Almond
Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin
Quaker Cinnamon Life
Quaker Heart Health
Quaker Life
Quaker Life Maple & Brown Sugar
Quaker Oat Bran
Quaker Oatmeal Squares - Brown Sugar
Quaker Oatmeal Squares - Cinnamon


According to sales material targeted to food manufacturers, the American Heart Association boasts that "The American Heart Association’s heart-check mark is the most recognized and trusted food icon today . . . Eighty-three percent of consumers are aware of the heart-check mark. Sixty-six percent of primary grocery shoppers say the heart-check mark has a strong/moderate influence on their choices when shopping."

So, is Cocoa Puffs no longer heart healthy?

I suspect that agencies like the AHA, the USDA, the American Diabetes Association as starting to understand that they have blundered big time by pushing low-fat, having contributed to the nationwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and that it is time to quietly start backpedaling.

While it's a step in the right direction, judging from the above list of breakfast cereal "survivors" of the check mark program, the criteria may have been tightened . . . but not that much.

Comments (17) -

  • Anne

    4/29/2010 3:50:05 AM |

    One step forward, two steps back.

    Chocolate Cheerios are good for the heart. If you don't believe this go here http://www.cheerios.com/ourCereals/ChocolateCheerios/ChocolateCheerios_home.aspx

  • Anonymous

    4/29/2010 6:09:16 AM |

    I had a bowl of bran flakes and checked my blood sugar. 141. Yikes!

  • Myron

    4/29/2010 7:49:24 AM |

    I have been down on wheat family of grains for a long time, but for other reasons than the health consequences tied to peak blood sugar elevations [and consequent hypoglycemic phases].  I'm down on the inflammatory oils and the allergy aspects.

    Have you investigated HEMP SEED?  It is high in protein and packed with good oils.   How does it rate with your diet suggestions?    Would it be good to run some trials?

  • Bryan Rankin

    4/29/2010 3:20:34 PM |

    "they have blundered big time by pushing low-fat ... it is time to quietly start backpedaling."

    They're backpedaling all right, but it's not because they are abandoning the low fat message.  The average consumer is not quite ignorant enough to believe Cocoa Puffs are healthy, and they don't want that 60% that are affected by their check mark to drop.

  • Anonymous

    4/29/2010 9:11:08 PM |

    Just got an AHA solicitation in the mail this week.  Like so many other organizations, they do not act in the best interest of the people they claim to serve.  My money and time are better spent pursuing the more promising preventative practices such as those promoted by TYP.

  • whatsonthemenu

    4/29/2010 11:02:29 PM |

    A colleague eats a Quaker oatmeal square for breakfast every morning.  Among the ingredients listed on the label is partially hydrogenated soybean oil, not enough, apparently, to bump the transfat content above .5 grams, so the nutrition label lists 0 grams of transfat.  No amount of transfat is healthy, yet this product has the AHA seal of approval. I used to eat granola bars when I thought they were healthy.  I read labels and noticed that quite a few use partially hydrogenated oils, including brands that boast of high fiber or Omega 3 content.

  • Lori Miller

    4/30/2010 12:19:48 AM |

    Maybe the people at Cocoa Puffs stopped writing checks. Who needs an endorsement when your product contains wheat, sugar and chocolate and is marketed to kids in an I-want-to-be-my-child's-friend mileau?

  • Larry

    4/30/2010 11:29:12 PM |

    As if these cereals aren't bad enough...
    KFC is selling their fried chicken in Pink "Buckets for the Cure" for Breast Cancer fund raising.
    It left me speechless.
    I've said it before... we're on our own.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/homestyle/04/28/kfc.pink.bucket.campaign/

  • Lynn M.

    5/1/2010 3:35:49 AM |

    The site Ted linked to (www.cerealfacts.org) has a list of Top 10 Cereals by Nutrition Score.  None of those top 10 are on the AHA list of heart-healthy cereals.

  • Venkat

    5/2/2010 11:17:53 PM |

    Dr Davis,

    This question is off the topic. I read your book Track your plaque a month back and had been to AZ heart institute and got my plaque measured.

    I am a Type 2 Diabetic for the past 11 years and am actively low carbing (<30g carbs per day) and 100% grain avoiding since May 2008.

    My calcium score was 0.

    But the staff was not able to say whether the machine they used was EBT/MDCT. They said it is newer than EBT. The machine had GE 64 slice VCT printed on it. Can you confirm if this is the one you are asking people to have it calcium scored?

    I live in Phoenix, AZ and had been to AZ Heart Institute (got the information from "Track your plaque" book).

    Please let me know if I got calcium score done in a machine in which I am supposed to do.

    Thanks for all the help.

    Thanks

    Venkat

  • Ned Kock

    5/3/2010 9:13:38 PM |

    > I had a bowl of bran flakes and checked my blood sugar. 141. Yikes

    It is a great idea to check blood glucose levels after meals, just bear in mind that they can vary rather erratically:

    http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/05/blood-glucose-variations-in-normal.html

  • Anonymous

    5/4/2010 9:50:41 PM |

    Oats, oats, oats is the common thread of the "survivors." Either the oat industry is doing an excellent coordinated marketing attack or there is something to the claim that oats are good for cardiovascular health.

  • Anonymous

    5/6/2010 2:36:59 AM |

    I don't eat cereal of any kind. Have no desire to. A much healthier choice altogether would be cottage cheese with fruit or just fruit, scrambled eggs or even bacon cooked extra crispy.

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