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November 03, 2010



One thing I'd like to add is that I actually participated in the Portfolio Diet study in Vancouver, but in spite of a serious commitment to research, I had to withdraw after some weeks because I found the diet unnatural and seriously impossible to follow. The amounts of soluble fiber we had to eat were way out of the normal range, and made me feel quite ill, and the whole diet just didn't relate to real life eating in any way. Far better and simpler to go for the "fruit, veggies, whole grains and legumes" approach.

Dr. G

Contrary to the title of your blog entry, Dr. Jenkins did not find that MUFAs boost heart health, only that they raised HDLs and apolipoprotein AI. All of the implications about effects on heart health are speculated and unproven.

You also didn't mention the very long list of interest conflicts for the authors. It looks like Jenkins and Kendall have some serious financial ties to companies that profit from sales of products that contain MUFAs:

Dr. Jenkins is a consultant for Herbalife International, Nutritional Fundamentals for Health, Pacific Health Laboratories, Metagenics/Metaproteomics, Bayer Consumer Care, BENEO-Orafti, the Science Advisory Committee of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, and the Canadian Agriculture Policy Institute and has received consulting fees from the Almond Board of California, the California Strawberry Commission, the Soy Advisory Board (Dean Foods), Kellogg Company, Quaker Oats, Procter & Gamble and Olways Preservation Trust. He holds grants from Solae, Unilever, Loblaws Supermarkets, Barilla, Haine Celestial, the Sanitarium Company and BENEO-Orafti and a board membership with Herbalife International and has stock options for Pacific Health Laboraties Inc. His wife is a director of Glycemic Index Laboratories, Toronto, Ontario. Dr. Kendall has received a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, travel support from the Almond Board of California and partial salary support from research grants provided by Loblaws.

Healthy Librarian

Dr. G,

My blog title was just being provocative & close to what the press releases said--and my attempt was to show that there was way more to the story. So I agree with you.

Yes, you are right--higher HDLs & apolipoprotein A1--do not necessarily translate into better heart health--and that was the point of writing my post. I'm guessing you did not read it through to the end, or you would have realized that.

Benecol, as far as I'm concerned is ridiculous product--plant sterols in margarine? If Jenkins wanted to use plant sterols, there are other non-fat ways of taking it.

But, you are right, I didn't even get into the conflicts of interest re this study--which was supported by the Canadian government. The authors have long list of "conflicts of interest"--including companies that produce oils, like Barilla & Haine Celestial--and of course the Almond, Strawberry, & Soy boards. I'm certainly glad to see these openly published.


I'm afraid the effect of this story might be that some people who don't read through to the end might think that adding oil is a good thing.


Thank you for this explanation. I saw the breaking news of this study on Science Daily this morning and started second guessing myself. I eat whole-food vegan, but not oil-free because I figure my lipids aren't hurting me--they are textbook for newborns according to my doc. But, the belly fat problem--that's the thing! You have me VERY interested, now that you say that cutting out the oil is eliminating belly fat you didn't even know you needed to lose. Love to see a recent picture of you here, as a motivator!

Healthy Librarian

Bev, you're right--I should have come right out & said what I thought at the start. You really had to read the "whole long thing" to realize that adding olive oil & nuts isn't such a good thing.

Linda, you're right--I do need to post a recent picture. Maybe this weekend. The bad thing is that I probably can't wear the strapless formal I planned to wear to a wedding in two weeks--it's way too loose!


Great post!

I'm happy to side with Jeff Novick and Esselstyn for myself, and avoid nuts. I find them too addictive and easy to overdo anyway. But sometimes I wonder if worrying too much about the Omega 3 to 6 ratio in foods is just part of the American way of breaking everything down and studying it to death and ignoring the larger picture. I know Joel Fuhrman thinks they're very healthy:

"Almost all raw nuts and seeds are rich in micronutrients and protective food substances. They are not just a fat source, and they are also rich in plant proteins with favorable effects. We should aim to meet our requirements for both short and long-chain omega-3's, but it is healthy, not unhealthy, to get most of your fat intake from foods such as almonds and sunflower seeds which are rich in mono and polyunsaturared fats and micronutrient powerhouses, instead of extracted oils and animal products, which do not have comparable micronutrient density. This has already been well documented. It is good to consume a little ground flax seeds and walnuts daily because they are rich in those omega-3 fats that are otherwise low in the American diet that is overly rich in animal products (largely omega-6 and saturated fats)."

By the way, speaking of studying things to death, every time I come upon a reference to Lawrence Rudel's African Green Monkey study I am horrified anew. Those poor animals were kept captive for 5 years, and then slaughtered, just to look at their arteries. We have an overwhelming amount of evidence of the effects of diet on disease from the epidemiological studies and Esselstyn's study and and autopsies of humans, etc. etc. - it's really not necessary to torture another species for so little gain.


As you highlight the problem with oils and nuts is their density and how even a few nuts or a so called 'bit of oil' adds up in calories very quickly. I think most people would be surprised if they paid close attention to this fact.
I'll stick to the Esselstyn approach thank you. A large bowl of steaming oatmeal with fresh fruit is way more rewarding and of course filling compared to a handful of nuts.

Healthy Librarian


Very interesting that you actually participated in the study--at least for awhile, that is. I agree with you--when you look at the list of foods in the diet, there is no way anyway could stand to do that for long. All those fake soy analogues, Metamucil twice a day, oat bran, and that horrible Benecol margarine. Yuck! I'd much rather eat whatever I want, and just leave out oil, dairy, and meat. Thanks for writing.


Re the nuts--if we were able to just eat a small amount I'm sure it would be just fine--but now that we no longer have to use a nutcracker & pick, it's so easy to just keep eating. And with all the various Nut Board's financed research, I also felt I was being so healthy when I'd easily eat 2 tbs of almond butter, + a Larabar, + nuts on top of ice cream, + nuts in my cereal, + a handful of nuts a day. Glad to leave it behind, and have just a few when it's called for in a recipe, or in an energy bar when I've exercised a lot. Re the green monkeys--that's why the study was only done once--and likely won't be repeated.

Other point, re Fuhrman, there are plenty of other foods that provide the same benefits as nuts, with less caloric-density, and high omega-6s. Hemp meal, for one.


I know I was surprised about the whole calorie & omega-6 information when I first found out about it. Years ago, when I first heard of Esselstyn, I thought his elimination of nuts was extreme, and didn't make sense. Now I understand the rationale. It is surprising how easy it is to eliminate them, if needed if one has heart disease.

Cynthia Bailey MD

This is such an interesting topic, and I'm still on the fence. My story: I don't go crazy with oil but I have a very moderate amount of olive oil, canola and coconut. I also eat about 1 avocado a week and about 1/4 cup nuts a day. I'm 52, post menopausal and have always done moderate exercise regularly. My BMI is probably about 23. I drink occasional alcohol, mostly wine.

I just had my lipids measured and total cholesterol was 177 BUT HDL was 109. On my diet arthritis and inflammation stay down unless I 'suffer dietary indiscretions'. Granted it's anecdotal, but for me my choices seem to be working.

I think the key is doing what's right for our individual biochemistry and genetics. Some folks have a tough go of it with genetic heart disease or stroke, inflammatory conditions and lipid disorders. Their choices are harder than mine. The trick is to know what our body needs. My path is pretty much outlined in my posts on diet except I've never added that I totally avoid cow dairy products, which don't 'agree' with my body:

Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist

Healthy Librarian


At the risk of sounding contradictory, I can agree with what you say. If you're feeling wonderful, weight is where it should be, and your lipids are as awesome as they are--it looks like your biochemistry & genetics can handle moderate amounts of olive oil, nuts, & avocados. Vogel & Rudel don't look at olive oil as the health-giving part of the Mediterranean diet--and Rudel's experience belied high HDLs, when they were elevated by olive oil. I read somewhere that alcoholics have HDLs, which makes one wonder if all HDLs are not created equal.

Of course, it's impossible to ever know what's really is going on inside of our blood vessels--so we use our own best judgment, and do what makes sense for each of us. In my case, eliminating the oil & nuts brought my weight & belly fat down to exactly where I want it to be--and without oil I can eat as much as I want without paying a bit a attention or counting calories. I get my fats from flax, chia, soy, & oats.

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