Solution Proposal Olivia Knutson

An Expedient End to Diet Caused Heart Disease

  • I found this part of my paper to be particularly interesting: I enjoyed learning about heart disease through my research for this paper.
  • This part was surprisingly difficult: It was very difficult to arrange the paper in a way that was organized.
  • Next time I would do this differently: I would arrange the layout of my paper differently.
  • Reflection: My process of writing this paper was largely based on the research I did. After I found all of the articles on trans fats and the Mediterranean diet writing this paper was just a matter of organizing how I would introduce the articles and what I thought about them. I found much of my research in my previous paper, Arguing Cause, so the research was not as intensive as it could have been.

Thesis statement
Heart disease is a major issue in America and around the world. Heart disease is taking more lives than any other cause in the United States. Lives are being lost and large sums of money are being spent by insurance companies, the government, and individuals in order to treat heart disease. The death toll as well as the medical bills can be dramatically reduced by Americans adhering to a heart healthy diet rich in healthy oils. One such diet is the Mediterranean diet. It has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease as well as having other positive health effects. Not only is the Mediterranean diet a very healthy alternative to the modern American diet but it has been said to be easy to adhere to since the foods leave the dieter feeling full and satisfied.

Heart disease has become a nation wide killer. According to the Center for Disease Control, the heart disease crisis takes an average of 600,000 lives per year. According to WebMD, in 2010 alone, heart disease costed the United States 444 billion dollars. The American Heart Association estimates that almost 84 million U.S. adults suffer from cardiovascular diseases. This fatal and costly crisis has several causes and factors that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. However, after extensive research, one of the most prevalent and preventable causes of heart disease has been proven to be foods that contain trans fats. As ironic as it may seem trans fats were first invented to replace natural fats, such as butter, that were thought to have caused heart disease. The cure ended up becoming a cause, a deadly cause.

Even though it has been made apparent that trans fats are a leading contributor to heart disease they are still being used in food production today. Trans fats are mainly found in processed foods, although very trace amounts of them occur naturally, in certain types of meat. The reason that the use of trans fats in food production has not been abolished is because they are very convenient for manufacturers. Summed up in this quote by a Mayo Clinic article, is the reason trans fats are still at large today: "Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel (Mayo Clinic Staff)". The use of trans fats may provide a better tasting product and seem more expedient however, in the grand scheme of things the only thing expedient about trans fats their fast track to heart disease.

The discovery of how much havoc trans fats can wreak on the heart, has led WebMD to suggests that consumers limit there consumption of trans fats to as few grams as possible. The reason trans fats have such a lethal affect on the heart is summed up in this quote by the Center for Disease Control: "Consuming trans fat increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol. This risk factor contributes to the leading cause of death in the U.S. – coronary heart disease (CHD)(Trans Fat)". Trans fats have been proven, time after time, to be an incredible source of disaster for the human heart, hence causing expansive death and illness. However, even though the dangers of trans fats have been exposed, trans fats are still being used extensively across the food producing industry. Consuming trans fats on daily basis is tantamount to consuming small amounts of poison daily, and yet food producers are still adding this "poison" to their food products, the reason for the continued use of this lethal ingredient is stated in this quote by Alex Ranton he states, "What's particularly sickening is that trans fats - oils treated with high temperature - are used not because they add any pleasure or nutritional benefit but because they are cheap and can make a 'fresh' product last many months on shop shelves (Ranton)".

The accumulating evidence that has been incriminating trans fats for years, is depicted in this quote by the Harvard School of Public Health:

"Department of Nutrition indicates that eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent up to 1 in 5 heart attacks and related deaths. That would mean a quarter of a million fewer heart attacks and related deaths each year in the United States alone (Frenk).

This quote and the research to back it up makes it abundantly clear that trans fats are the primary cause of heart disease.
Some would argue that trans fats are not potent enough by themselves to cause heart disease, rather they would argue that trans fats are just a piece of a lethal puzzle that causes heart disease. Supporters of this idea would argue that it is a combination of an inactive lifestyle, trans fats, and other unhealthy ingredients that leads to heart disease. Studies have shown that lack of exercise and excess consumption of sugar can increase risk for heart disease. However, this just creates a false sense of security regarding trans fats as people who agree with this idea feel that the trans fats alone are not enough to damage their hearts so they continue consuming them. This quote, by a Mayo Clinic article, makes it abundantly clear just how lethal trans fats are: "Unlike other fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol (Mayo Clinic Staff)". This quote shows that trans fats are not just an ingredient in a dangerous recipe, rather trans fats are the recipe for heart disease. There are those that feel the excessive intake of trans fats needs to be coupled with heart disease risks in order to cause any sort of damage there are others that would argue that trans fats may cause heart disease apart from any other heart disease risks, but they are not responsible for enough cases to warrant direct action against trans fats. I believe that this type of approach is a misrepresentation of the data available. A quote in an article by the Center for Science in the Public Interest states "Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that trans fat causes 72,000 to 228,000 heart attacks, including roughly 50,000 fatal ones, per year (About Artificial Trans Fats)". This research clearly shows that trans fats cannot be ignored as a primary source of heart disease.

The research has been done and the evidence is conclusive. Yet, there is still an abundance of trans fats being consumed on a daily basis. The need for change has been made extremely clear, this quote by Paul A. Heidenreich from an American Heart Association article, is just another example of why the heart disease pandemic needs to cease "If we don’t improve or reduce the incidence of heart failure by preventing and treating the underlying conditions, there will be a large monetary and health burden on the country (Costs to treat heart failure expected to more than double by 2030)”. This quote sums up the estimated figures that the American Heart Association came out with that suggest the cost of heart disease is going to more than double in the next 20 years. Heidenreich goes on to say that this heart disease epidemic will be payed for by every American adult. Not just those suffering from heart disease. We will all have to bear the costs of heart disease, if there is not immediate action to reverse this dangerous vortex of unhealthy consumption of trans fats.

The sad reality of the heart disease crisis is, that for many, it can be avoided. For some, heart disease is genetic and they are born at risk for heart disease. However, even though they are born at higher risk they can still lower or raise their risk for heart disease depending on their diet. For those who do not have a high genetic risk for heart disease the diet they consume is crucial to the well being of the heart. Diet plays a vital role in heart health. In this day and age knowing what is heart healthy and what is not has become a major issue for consumers. Trans fats are hard to pinpoint, especially when they go by different name such as "partially hydrogenated oils". What makes matters even more confusing is that food producers can claim zero grams of trans fats even if the product contains trans fat. A quote by Dr. Kang explains this process "The food per serving contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat (all fat combined). The manufacturer is not required to report total fat content let alone its % breakdown (Kang)". These nutritional guidelines, or lack thereof, that companies follow, can make it very hard to avoid foods that contain trans fats.

Several low fat diets have been created as heart healthy alternatives to a modern diet. The purpose of these low fat diets is to avoid unhealthy fats such as trans fats. However, many of these diets can be too restrictive making it very frustrating for people to maintain a low fat diet. Many people on a low fat diet feel as if they are missing out since what they can eat is very limited. Perhaps a more alarming problem with the low fat diets is they tend to minimize all fats, even the healthy fats that the body needs. This quote in an article by the Harvard School of Public Health explains why low fat diets are not always the best option for heart health "the percentage of calories from fat that you eat, whether high or low, isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat (Fats and Cholesterol)". The article goes on to discuss why low fat diets are a rather poor choice when it comes to heart health. Another quote from this article makes it abundantly clear that low fat diets are not a healthy alternative to the modern, trans fatty, diet "“Low-fat,” “reduced fat,” or “fat-free” processed foods are not necessarily healthy. One problem with a generic lower-fat diet is that it prompts most people to stop eating fats that are good for the heart along with those that are bad for it (Fats and Cholesterol)". According to the same article "Fats and Cholesterol" by Harvard School of Public Health, finding a heart healthy diet is not about avoiding fats in general, rather it is about choosing which fats to consume and which fats to avoid. Consuming "good" fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be just as beneficial to the heart as avoiding trans fats.

Avoiding trans fats while maintaining a diet high in "good" fats can seem like a daunting task. However, adhering to a heart healthy diet does not need to be a daily struggle. With the adoption of a Mediterranean diet people can be sure to avoid almost all trans fats while maintaining a diet high in healthy fats. In many recent studies the Mediterranean diet has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of heart disease. The Mediterranean diet consists largely of plant based foods. This list from an article by the Mayo clinic illustrates the fundamentals of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
Drinking red wine in moderation (optional) (Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan)

Research has shown that there are many health benefits associated with following the Mediterranean diet including, but not limited to, a drastic reduced risk of heart disease. From the previously quoted article, this quote from the Mayo Clinic shows some of the research supporting the claim that a Mediterranean diet can be very beneficial

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases (Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan)

In an article published by the New York times this quote was found, describing the results of a recent study that illustrates the benefits of the Mediterranean diet

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found (Kolata)".

The article continues to discuss the study the article was based on; the study was conducted by scientists in Spain, on 7,447 participants with a high risk of heart disease. In the study half of the participants were assigned a low fat diet while the other half were assigned the Mediterranean diet. Those who were on the low fat diet showed no decreased risk of heart disease. Further more those on the low fat diet found it very difficult to maintain and ended up consuming a more modern trans fatty diet. After 5 years, the participants assigned to the Mediterranean diet were found to have a decreased risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

However, some would say that changing their diet to a heart healthy one, is too limiting, too hard to follow, or that it is too expensive. Those that argue this point, prefer to take medications to ward off heart disease. Preventative medications for heart disease are a wonderful thing. They save many lives and provide a sense of security for those at risk for heart disease. On the other hand is this sense of security could be a dangerous thing. It may keep people from constantly fretting about their heart health but it could also lull medication users into a false sense of security. For some on heart disease prevention medications, they feel as if they can continue eating and drinking whatever they want because they are on a pill that will stave off heart disease. Unfortunately, pills are not always the best option and those taking them still fall victim to heart disease.

Another drawback with heart disease medications is they have side effects. Sometimes the negative side effects of the medications out weigh the good. For instance many people take Bayer aspirin as a way to help prevent heart attacks, however, even though aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack it has some short term side effects that are more than a nuisance as well as some long term side effects that can be fatal. This quote found in an article by the Internet Drug Index shows the exhaustive list of the more frequent side effects "Common side effects of Bayer Aspirin include rash, gastrointestinal ulcerations, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, gastritis, and bleeding (Williams)." This list only represents the common side effects. There are several less frequent side effects that can be fatal, such as some of the hazards stated in this quote, found in a Wall Street Journal article

Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, which is believed to account for much of its benefit of protecting against heart attacks and strokes. But that same action, along with a tendency to deplete the stomach's protective lining, can lead to a danger of gastrointestinal bleeding and possibly bleeding in the brain (Mathews).

The same Wall Street Journal also states that the hazards of aspirin more times than not outweigh the good.

Not only are there side effects to preventative medications but there is also a risk of allergic reaction that can cause mild discomfort to death (in extreme cases). Those who are susceptible to an allergic reaction, pregnant, at risk for internal bleeding, or those with liver or kidney failure cannot take aspirin because of the severe health risks. The people who fit into these categories, are left to assume that since they cannot take preventative medications they are at high risk for heart disease. Medications are not always the best answer and for many choosing to take preventative pills can have more dangerous effects than heart disease.

Another major issue with taking medications for heart disease prevention is that the drugs being taken are not completely absorbed by the human body and some of the drugs pass into the water system. An article by NBC investigates this issue and finds there is a real problem with the excessive medicating that causes water contamination. From the NBC article this quote sums up another hazard of medicating for heart disease prevention "But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health (Donn, Mendoza, Pritchard)". Not only do the drugs taken by the user have negative effects on their bodies but the widespread use of preventative drugs can cause harm to many others through the water system. Not only do the drugs in the waterways pose a threat to humans and wildlife but they cause an excess amount of work to be done by the water pollution plants.

The low fat diets have been shown to be an unhealthy and ineffective alternative to the modern diet. Preventative heart disease medications have many unsavory side effects and could lead to the pollution of our water supply. However, the Mediterranean diet has been tested and proven to be a healthy alternative that greatly reduces risk of heart disease by eliminating trans fats from the diet and replacing them with healthy, natural sources of fats. Not only does the Mediterranean diet have boundless health benefits but many who follow it thoroughly enjoy it. Not only will following a Mediterranean diet greatly reduce your risk of dying from heart disease but if many Americans were to follow a Mediterranean diet an enormous amount of time and money could be saved on health care not to mention the lives saved. There are those that argue the Mediterranean diet is too costly. Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and fish, can be more costly than buying pre-made, processed meals. However, the money spent to maintain a Mediterranean diet, will be nothing compared to the costs of consuming "cheap" processed foods when those foods lead to enormous medical bills in an effort to reverse the heart disease that could have been so easily prevented by simply avoiding trans fats by adhering to a Mediterranean diet.

The amount of money spent annually on treating heart disease is projected to almost triple by the year 2030 as stated in the quote by a Science Daily quote "Between 2010-30, the cost of medical care for heart disease (in 2008 dollar values) will rise from $273 billion to $818 billion, the authors predicted (Cost to treat heart disease in United States will triple by 2030)". The projected increase in the cost of health care coupled with the expected rise of heart disease is the main reason many are predicting such an increase in the annual spending on heart disease treatment. The article also states that an estimated 40.5 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with heart disease by the year 2030. If nothing is done to reverse this potentially catastrophic increase in heart disease America will be left footing a bill they will never have the funds to pay. With heart disease on the rise, low fat diets that cannot prevent heart disease, preventative medications that cause more harm than good, it is time for the masses to adopt a healthier alternative to the modern diet. The healthier alternative has already been established as the Mediterranean diet has been proven to have such an advantageous effect on the heart. Establishing the Mediterranean diet in the majority of American households would be advantageous to all parties including the government. If the Mediterranean diet was adopted by many Americans the government would stand to save an enormous amount of time and money that is needlessly spent on preventable cases of heart disease.

The government cannot tell people what they can and cannot eat. Several states have suggested a ban on trans fats, however, controlling and monitoring what people consume would make the government fascists. All though the government can create programs to raise awareness of the ever increasing heart disease and the preventative measures that must be adopted if there is to be any hope in achieving a healthy America. Also, the government could create programs that encourage the adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Yet another way the government could encourage the embracing of a Mediterranean diet is to offer tax breaks to the producers of heart healthy foods. Making it cheaper and more enticing for Americans to purchase heart healthy foods. These government funded programs would pay for themselves with the money they would save through the reduction of heart disease.

Heart disease may never be fully eradicated but with the right steps heart disease can be greatly diminished and Americans can lead healthy lives without constant fear of sudden heart failure, stroke, and heart attacks. Accomplishing this seemingly insurmountable task is actually much more feasible than than it may appear at first glance. So what is the answer to America's heart disease problems? Americans must reduce their intake of trans fats by adopting a Mediterranean diet.

Works Cited

“Trans fat: Avoid this cholesterol double whammy”. Mayo Clinic. May 2011. Web. 8 March 2014.

"Trans Fats". Center for Disease Control and Prevention. January 2014. Web. 4 April 2014.

Ranton, Alex. "They were supposed to have been banished from the shelves, but lethal fats are STILL lurking in your weekly shopping". Daily Mail. July 2010. Web. 4 April 2014.

Frenk, DJ. "Shining the Spotlight on Trans Fats". Harvard School of Public Health. nd. Web. 7 April 2014.

"Costs to treat heart failure expected to more than double by 2030". American Heart Association. April 2013. Web. 13 April 2014.

Kang, Steven. "What Does Zero Trans Fat Really Mean?". Health Central. May 2007. 14 April 2014.

"Fats and Cholesterol". Harvard School of Public Health. nd. Web. 14 April 2014

"Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan". Mayo Clinic. June 2013. Web. 11 April 2014.

Kolata, Gena. "Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack and Stroke" New York Times. Health. February 2013. Web. 10 February 2014.

Williams, Eni. "Side Effects of Bayer (Aspirin) Drug Center". RxList. nd. Web. 10 April 2014.

Mathews, Anna. "The Danger of Daily Aspirin". The Wall Street Journal. February 2010. Web. 8 April 2014.

Donn, Jeff, Mendoza, Martha, Pritchard, Justin. "US Water Contaminated By Pharmaceutical Companies, Hospitals, Consumers". Huffington Post. April 2009. Web. 17 April 2014.

"Cost to treat heart disease in United States will triple by 2030". Science Daily. January 2011. Web. 9 April 2014.

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