Jonny Bowden and The Great Cholesterol Myth

Posted by Erin O’Maley, D.C.


Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, is the author of many successful books that are oft spotted resting on shelves in the offices of many a nutritionist, chiropractor, and other natural health practitioners. I listened to an excellent Podcast discussion with him about the topics covered in his new book, The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease – and the Statin-Free Plan That Will, and I’m very excited to add this one to my library.

Before becoming a nutritionist, Bowden began his career as a personal trainer. He describes his early career as being a advocate of “possibly the most destructive myth every perpetrated on the American public, which is that gaining weight and obesity is all about calories and exercise” or “eat less and exercise more”. It was after observing the progress of his clients over time that he began to change his mindset from the conventional wisdom and came to learn that weight gain is driven by hormones, not simply fat and calories.

Bowden describes what he calls the “Four Horsemen of Aging,” creators of “systemic mischief” that cause all major disease. They are inflammation, oxidation, glycation, and stress. He explains that lowering cholesterol in order to eliminate heart disease is “like eliminating trees to prevent forest fires rather than looking at the conditions under which the fire ignites”. Cholesterol is almost an innocent bystander. It’s vital in the body and the brain and there are terrible consequences of lowering cholesterol at random. Bowden continues that the danger is particularly great in children, whose brain isn’t fully formed until age 25, and you can hear him start to get fired up as he speaks of his concern over the current movement to put children on Statin drugs.

The current way of looking at LDL and HDL cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol” and “good cholesterol”, respectively, is an improvement over looking at total cholesterol, but Bowden says this is still over a decade out of date. There are at least five kinds of HDL and at least five of LDL, and all LDL isn’t bad. For this reason, about half the people with heart disease have “normal” cholesterol according to standard tests, and half the people with high cholesterol have healthy hearts. Bowden insists that unless the doctor knows which type of LDL is high, they are treating a number and not a patient, and before going on a Statin, you should ask your doctor for a particle size test.

LDL-A, he says, is like throwing a cotton ball at the blood vessel wall, and does as much damage. LDL-B, however, is shaped like a B.B., and is highly oxidized and inflammatory, as is type Lp(a). An extremely good indicator of the particle distribution pattern in absence of a particle size test is comparing the triglycerides to HDL ratio on standard blood work. This is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance leading to type II diabetes. If the triglycerides are 100 mg/dL and HDL is 50 mg/dL, it’s a 2:1 ratio. If it’s 150 mg/dL to 50 mg/dL, it’s a 3:1 ratio, just a bit high. As long as the ratio is 2:1 and below, it is extremely unlikely that the individual will have a heart attack and is very unlikely to become insulin resistant.

Bowden stresses that it has never been fat and cholesterol that made us get fat, sugar and processed foods “have been the demon all along” that sludge up the blood vessels and lead to heart disease. When asked if all fructose is a problem or just high fructose corn syrup, Bowden explains, “I feel the way about fructose the way I feel about fur: It’s gorgeous on its original owner; On the back of a woman at the opera, not so much.” An apple is approximately 7% fructose and also contains pectin, fiber, phytonutrients, and water. Refined sugar has about 50% fructose, high fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose, and agave nectar even more. In addition, he notes that processed foods are intentionally created with the perfect amount of sugar, fat and salt to trigger dopamine and create an addictive response. For this reason, some people may be able to tolerate these foods in moderation on special occasions, but it may benefit others to cut them out entirely.

Co-author Steve Sinatra, M.D., as Bowden was a true believer in low-fat diets, early in his career had been a major proponent of Statin drugs, and had received honorariums from two major drug companies for lecturing to other doctors on their benefits. Bowen and Sinatra’s current position in the book is this:

“Statin drugs are wildly wildly overprescribed. They are wildly overprescribed to populations on which they have not been tested and on and on which they have shown no benefit. They are wildly overprescribed for primary prevention, for which they have shown no benefit”.

Bowden says it is indisputable that Statins have been shown to have a very modest effect on a population of middle aged men with existing cardiovascular disease, but if you are older, greater than 50 or 60 years, you should not be on these drugs, and they same goes for the majority of women, and all children. The drugs thin the blood and are mildly anti-inflammatory, but fish oil has 10 times the anti-inflammatory power.

One study cited in the book, led by Dr. Beatrice Golomb at the University of California, San Diego, found that up to 65% physicians did not report side effects of Statin drugs to MedWatch, the FDA’s reporting agency for adverse drug reactions, because they didn’t believe the patients that the symptoms resulted from the medication. The symptoms the patients reported included lethargy, confusion, muscle pain, and numbness, all of which are established proven side effects of Statins, yet many of the doctors denied these were even a possibility. The obvious alternatives to medication are lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, and supplements.

Lifestyle changes would include exercise, stress reduction, minimizing exposure to toxicity, including toxic relationships, getting outside, playing with animals, and participating in community and in projects larger than oneself. The typical U.S. diet is carb-heavy and results in a constant state of sugar overload for the body, which decreases insulin sensitivity and the body’s ability to cope with the excess. Exercise has an insulin-like effect and allows the cells to utilize and clear out the sugar. Bowden adds that community involvement is especially important because in observations of Centenarians all over the world, people living greater than 100 years who are still having excellent quality of life, they’ve repeatedly found extreme variations in diet type, but their common link is that they all were very active within their community.

Bowden says his major dietary recommendations to prevent and reduce heart disease are to lose the fear of eating fat, eat fresh, colorful produce, cut back on carbs, especially processed ones, and eliminate processed sugar. While saturated fat does mildly raise LDL cholesterol, it tends to raise the harmless cotton-ball type A, and lowers the inflammatory type B LDL. This is why saturated fat in its natural form, from foods like grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, and coconut, is not a problem. He says to eat what he calls the “Jonny Bowden 4 Food Groups: Food you can hunt, fish, gather or pluck.”

For supplements for heart health, Bowden calls omega 3 “the most anti-inflammatory substance on the planet” just about everyone will benefit from, along with magnesium, “the great relaxer” that calms the mind, lowers blood pressure, and helps regulate blood sugar. He also lists among his favorites that he expands upon in the book curcumin, reservatrol, coQ10, carnitine, vitamin D, vitamin C, and citrus bergamot (found to lower triglycerides, raise HDL, and lower the inflammatory type of LDL). One startling side effect of the Statin drugs used to treat high cholesterol is that they cause depletion of coQ10, one of most important nutrients for the heart in the body.

When asked what he has to say for people whose doctors are “excited by cholesterol lowering to 90”, Bowden says to find a new doctor. Having generally lower cholesterol is linked to having greater risk of accidents, suicides, depression, and decreased ability to fight infections. Bile acids, vitamin D, and sex hormones are created from cholesterol. He states that his hypothesis is that it is not a coincidence that there is an epidemic of erectile dysfunction among middle aged men on Statin drugs. One practitioner called in and added that findings reported in the European Journal of Neurology were that if a woman is on Statin drugs and develops a depletion of coQ10, it increases her breast cancer risk 800 times, and pointed out that in Europe, doctors are mandated by law to administer coQ10 in conjunction with Statins or they are fined.

Bowden says these findings are anything but uncommon and he cites the Framingham Heart Study in his book as another that showed increased mortality rates with lowered cholesterol levels. Instead of concentrating on lowering cholesterol, it is more prudent to focus on increasing the intake of healthy sources of cholesterol and improving the cholesterol ratio.


Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D., C.N.S (Featured Speaker). 2013. “Book- The Great Cholesterol Myth”. Podcast audio program. Designs for Health Member Website, March 6.

The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will

Physician Response to Patient Reports Adverse Drug Effects

Statin Side Effects: Do Doctors Take Patients’ Complaints Seriously?

High density lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality. The Framingham Heart Study.

 Is the use of cholesterol in mortality risk algorithms in clinical guidelines valid? Ten years prospective data from the Norwegian HUNT 2 study.


5 Easy Principles to Turn You Into Your Own Nutritionist

Posted by Erin o’Maley, D.C.


You can already start to feel that spring is on its way and some of us are already becoming more mindful of what we eat as we prepare to shed our parkas. Here are my very favorite nutritional words of wisdom, that I cannot take credit for, but often refer to in sifting through the barrage of mixed messages we get about what constitutes healthy eating. These belong on a plaque in your kitchen, but a post-it note will do as well.

“Eat foods that are ingredients, not foods that have ingredients.” -Unknown

The healthiest foods have the fewest ingredients, like spinach, eggs, and salmon. These are the foods that come from nature and not a factory. Unhealthy foods have the most ingredients. For example, a Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chicken Ranchero Smart Mini Wrap’s ingredients list looks like this:

“Tortilla (Water, Enriched Flour [Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Whole Wheat Flour, Modified Wheat Starch, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Glycerine, Tomato with Pieces [Tomato Concentrate, Guar Gum], Baking Powder [Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Bicarbonate Soda, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate], Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Sugar, Salt, Granulated Garlic, Citric Acid), Cooked White Meat Chicken (White Meat Chicken, Water, Modified Potato Starch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate), Ranchero Sauce (Tomatoes [Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid], Water, Chicken Base [Chicken Meat with Natural Juices, Salt, Organic Cane Juice Solids, Corn Maltodextrin, Chicken Fat, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors, Dried Onion, Spice Extractives, Turmeric], Chili Paste [Chili Peppers, Dried Onion and Garlic, Yeast Extract, Salt, Spices, Beef Extract, Citric Acid], Roasted Tomatoes, Granulated Onion, Granulated Garlic, Jalapenos [Jalapenos, Water, Vinegar, Salt], Modified Cornstarch, Modified Cellulose, Spices, Chipotle Chili Powder], Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese (Part Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Monterey Jack Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Bell Peppers (Red, Green), Fire-Roasted Onions, Roasted Poblano Chiles, Modified Cornstarch.”

This isn’t food, it’s “foodlike”. I’m not down on the Weight Watchers diet (although I’ve found their recipes overall to be too based on starchy carbs to be ideal). They have nice guidelines for portion control for weight loss and their system works, but it should be used with a whole foods nutrition plan. You might lose weight eating tiny boxed meals, but you’ll never have proper nutrition.

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Michael Pollan

This follows well from the first rule. Do you recognize everything in that ingredient list? “Yeast extract” is a code word for MSG. Modern food products didn’t exist a few generations ago. This rule also extends to genetically-modified foods and conventional meat, eggs, and dairy. Buying local and shopping farmers’ markets makes it easier to find quality produce that is organic and free of hormones and antibiotics. It sounds like a challenge at first, but once you’ve found replacements for conventional foods, it’s not challenging, it’s just how your great-grandma ate. We are starting to get a scary idea of the long-term effects of antibiotic exposure, and we should also be extremely uncomfortable that, with about 85% of the corn grown in this country genetically-modified, no studies to assess the long-term effects of human consumption have been performed. The lifespan of the next generation is now predicted to be less than that of their parents. The more you avoid foods that were not available a hundred years ago, the closer you’ll get to having the natural diet of a human, and the healthier you’ll be.


(It’s not necessary to buy all produce organic, but the “dirty dozen” most contaminated fruits and vegetables should be.)

“Whenever you see the words ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat,’ think of the words ‘chemical sh*t storm’.” – Rory Freedman

It’s necessary to add on “sugar-free” as well when there’s Splenda or aspartame added. Drinking one to two sodas, regular or diet, per day has been found to increase an individual’s chances of being overweight by 33%. High-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are associated with a slew of health problems, including obesity, neurological conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, and liver damage.

Low-fat and fat-free foods have as many calories as the full-fat versions, fewer nutrients, more chemical additives, and tons of salt, sugar or corn syrup added to try to give them back the flavor and texture that was lost with the fat. These low-performing carbohydrates digest quickly and cause a sugar rush followed by rebound hunger. The “fat-free” calories, because they are mainly from starches and sugar, end up stored as fat instead of used for energy. Fat is not your enemy. Healthy fats, like coconut oil, boost your metabolism. Using natural fat salad dressings instead of low-fat or fat-free help you to absorb more important nutrients from the vegetables.

“Eat the rainbow.”Mark Hyman, M.D.

Crackers are not colorful. They may give you some fiber. Kale is a lovely deep, verdant green. It gives you fiber and helps ward off cancer! Phytonutrients are plant chemicals that interact with your biology. They act like switches on your DNA in order to heal and improve the function of genes and metabolism. There are more than 25,000 of these chemicals in colorful vegetables that are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hormone-balancing, and detoxifying. Eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), however, switches on the genes for illness, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, depression, and cancer. Different phytonutrients boost the effectiveness of others, so by eating a wide variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, you can truly eat your medicine.

“Focus on adding.”Food Matters

I cannot stand and try to avoid at all costs the word “diet”. It’s supposed to mean “the stuff you usually eat”, but it’s come to be associated with restriction, calorie-cutting, extreme fads, guilt, and despair. I also do not care what you call your diet: paleo, primal, Mediterranean, pH balance or alkaline diet, the candida diet, even Weight Watchers, and there are many books are out there with great plans. If it gives you consistency and a plan for adding more healthy whole foods, keep it up.

I never recommend counting calories because I find it to be frustrating, not particularly effective, and unnecessary with a good nutrition plan. Eating fewer calories than you use each day over an extended period of time causes your metabolism to downshift and makes it harder to burn fat later on. Instead of thinking about the foods you’re cutting out and subtracting calories, focus on adding lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, more raw foods, more water and green tea, healthy fats, and locally farmed organic animal products. Keep on adding and eventually the suboptimal food choices will filter out.

These are rules for great nutrition, not weight loss, but an effective and healthy weight-loss plan should adhere to these guidelines, and many people will lose fat simply by following them. If there’s room for improvement in your food choices, write these on a post-it note where you will see them! If you’re looking to get lean, we would add a couple more rules and talk about exercise, but for maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing illness, improving energy, thriving and feeling fantastic, these are my absolute favorite principles that cut through the bull and make excellent nutrition very simple.

Additional resources:

Fooducate: Weight Watchers Smart One Meals – Not That Smart

Natural News: Diet Sweeteners Can Make You Sick and Fat

Mercola: Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat, But These 10 Things Will

Purdue University: Study: No-fat, low-fat dressings don’t get most nutrients out of salads

Getting Whey Smart



The scoop on whey protein shakes: Who should use them, why, when, how much, and what to look for in a powder.

Many already know that drinking protein shakes can benefit their health, but there is a lot of confusion over how to choose a proper protein shake. While adding a shake to your regimen can be an worthwhile investment in your fitness, if you choose the wrong one, you might be throwing your money away and actually doing your body a disservice. Picking out a protein powder does not have to be a daunting experience, but protein shakes are still a processed food, so we need to learn how to read the label.

Unless you avoid dairy, whey is the way to go. Whey has become so popular because it is the protein component of milk most efficiently absorbed and utilized by the muscles for protein synthesis — i.e. “to get swole”. For individuals with dairy allergies, whey is often still tolerated. It is best to have 20-30 grams within an hour of working out, before, or after, if you’ve done strength training, or both. There are benefits to either way you time it, so it comes down to personal preference and what makes you feel the best. Drinking whey protein before a workout provides a fat-burning boost that lasts long after the workout ends, and having it after a workout helps build muscle mass.

Protein shakes aren’t just for musclemen anymore! A whey protein shake is excellent to have on hand if you’re someone who is on the go a lot and tends to fail in your nutrition for convenience foods. Whey protein has all of the essential amino acids our body requires to thrive that we can only obtain from our diet. Leucine is one of the most notable branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) that whey is especially high in and is responsible for initiating mechanisms of protein synthesis and muscle building, with help from isoleucine and valine. Leucine also gives your thyroid a boost and prevents post-exercise decline in testosterone, but your body depends on amino acids to carry out every process efficiently. Eggs, the famous muscle-building food, have 1.4g of leucine per 100g, while whey protein has 8 grams. This doesn’t just provide benefits for bodybuilders, leucine can help to combat the natural muscle-loss associated with aging.

Whey protein increases a peptide, GCP-1, which promotes satiety and healthy insulin secretion and utilization. It helps keep insulin levels low to avoid becoming insulin resistant, which leads to many health issues including type II diabetes. Almost everyone could benefit from more stable blood sugar. Drinking whey protein with carbohydrate foods has been shown to lower the glycemic response to the carbohydrates proportionately to the amount of whey ingested. So, try having a shake first before the next time you plan to indulge. If you’re not munching on many colorful vegetables each day, it is essential that you add a greens blend powder to your shake.

For individuals very sensitive to dairy, or for vegans, pea protein and hemp protein shakes are good options. Always try to choose the most minimally processed product available, with the fewest additives. Soy is not a good option. It is usually genetically modified, and eating too much soy is known to result in some serious hormone imbalances.

Whey protein concentrate is preferable to whey protein isolate. Isolate is more expensive and is successfully marketed to bodybuilders because it is supposedly a more “pure” form of whey with higher protein content per gram. Whey protein isolate is also sometimes touted as a better choice for those with lactose intolerance or who experience bloating or other issues with concentrates because the processing removes any remaining traces of lactose. However, this also produces a more highly processed food product which causes it to become overly acidifying and to lose many nutritional co-factors, including alkalizing minerals, naturally-occurring vitamins, immune complexes, and healthy fats. Isolate still may be used for a quick source of protein, but if consumed a lot, as an athlete may, can lead to metabolic acidosis with serious consequences, including muscle wasting and increased vulnerability to degenerative disease.

It should be made from raw milk, cold-processed and water-soluble. It may say something like “non-denatured” or “minimally-processed”. High heat does irreversible damage to the majority of components of milk and may cause intolerance even in individuals with no history of milk allergy. Most protein shakes are processed from ultrapasteurized milk using acid, which damages the proteins and makes them insoluble in water. Substances are added to restore solubility, such as genetically modified soy letchin, chemical surfactants used in soap, and hydrolyzed proteins (AKA: MSG!). It’s going to be hard to find a product that doesn’t have a few additives to improve the solubility and mouthfeel of the powder, but as a general guideline, make sure you recognize 95% of the ingredients and don’t eat anything in a package that has more than ten ingredients.

High quality whey protein concentrates should retain the the immune-boosting and regenerative nutritional components of raw milk. They will provide important protein components, lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, serum albumin, active peptides and growth factors. They also contain the precursor to a powerful anti-aging nutrient, glutathione, as well as glycomacropeptides (GMP), immunological components that are beneficial for healthy gut flora.

Your shake should be naturally-sweetened and low in sugar. Context is helpful when thinking about grams of anything. If a cup of mixed berries has about 10 grams of sugar, your protein shake should have less. My shake has 3 grams of sugar, and I probably wouldn’t use anything with more than 6. Many products are sweetened with stevia now, which is a natural sweetener from a leaf and is almost calorie-free, with no effect on blood sugar or associated toxicity. Do I need to write “don’t buy a shake with aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin”? Don’t make me. Don’t go have a great workout and get your cells all prepared and excited to gobble up a bunch of nutrients and then shuttle poison to them. 3 grams of sugar is equivalent to roughly three slices of apple, it’s not worth replacing with an artificial sweetener.

It should absolutely be from grass-fed cattle, rBGH-free, GMO-free and organic. Even if you’re not the most mindful label-reader and don’t already shop this way, I think your protein shake is somewhere it is critical to make the investment. The greatest allure of drinking whey is that it is rapidly absorbed into the muscles within minutes. I certainly don’t want bovine growth hormone, antibiotics, pesticides, and genetically modified ingredients included in my nutritional supplement. Cows are not meant to eat corn and raw milk from grass-fed cows has much higher levels of CLA, healthy bacteria, enzymes, and the ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. CLA is an important nutrient for improving body composition, blood sugar regulation, bone health, vascular health, promoting healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels; it’s basically good for everything.

Adding a whey protein shake is a great way to get some essential nutrition, not only for fitness fanatics, but for anyone who wants to improve their health. If your shake doesn’t fit the above criteria, you’re not getting the full benefit of whey’s nutrients. Maybe that’s acceptable if you simply want a quick source of protein, but if you can’t invest in a higher quality product right now, my suggestion is to instead keep some hard-boiled eggs ready and have 3-4 of those with a handful of veggies before or after your workout. If you choose a lower quality shake, you may just be adding another processed-into-garbage food to your diet, and that’s never the way to achieve optimal wellness.