Dr Dingle's Blog / research

The Health Benefits of Green Spaces

The Health Benefits of Green Spaces

Growing up as a child in the 60’s there was lots of space to play on the street, in the big back yards, nearby parks, creeks, the beach and lots of green spaces. While we we have lost a lot of these spaces research is showing that the more “green” we are surrounded with the the healthier it is for us. We exhibit more than just a preference for natural scenes and settings; we suffer health problems when we lose contact with our green surrounds. Increasing evidence indicates that nature provides restorative experiences that directly affect people's physical, social and mental well-being and health in a positive way including decreased mortality.

A recent study found that living in more densely vegetated areas was associated with fewer deaths from causes other than accidents. Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study researchers estimated a 12% lower rate of non-accidental death between women who lived in the most densely versus least densely vegetated areas. When looking at specific causes of death, the researchers estimated a 41% lower rate of kidney disease mortality, a 34% lower rate of respiratory disease mortality, and a 13% lower rate of cancer mortality in the women who lived in the greenest areas, compared with those in the least green areas. A study in the Netherlands found a lower prevalence of diseases in areas with more green space, including coronary heart disease and diabetes. In a cross-sectional study of 11,404 adults in Australia the odds of hospitalization for heart disease or stroke was 37% lower, and the odds of self-reported heart disease or stroke was 16% lower, among adults with highly variable greenness around their home, compared to those in neighborhoods with low variability in greenness. The odds of heart disease or stroke decreased by 7% per unit with every 25% increase in the level of greenness. In an interesting experiment where 14 children undertook two, 15 min bouts of cycling at a moderate exercise intensity while in one situation viewing a film of cycling in a forest setting and another with no visual stimulus. The systolic blood pressure (the top or higher number) 15 minutes after exercise was significantly lower following green exercise compared to the control condition. So if it works for kids it should also work for us we get older.

The rise in obesity is well documented and while there are many contributing factors a systematic review of green space research from sixty studies reported the majority (68%) of papers found a positive association between green spaces and obesity-related health indicators. One study found that increased vegetation was associated with reduced weight among young people living in high population densities and across eight European cities, people were 40% less likely to be obese in the greenest areas. Overall, the majority of studies found some evidence of a relationship with weight and green space. The lower rates of obesity, adverse health and improved health outcomes may be attributable to higher levels of physical activity, such as neighborhood walking which is positively influenced by the natural environment. Walking is the most popular physical activity particularly as we age, and levels of recreational walking have been linked the distance to and attractiveness of local parks and ovals.  Many studies have reported that adults with access to a large high-quality park within walking distance (within 1600 m) from home have elevated levels of walking and and in general live longer. In a review of 50 studies twenty studies (40%) reported a positive association between green space and physical activity, including older adults.

Being around vegetation can lead to better mental health and less stress, positive emotions, focus and attention, as well as reduced stress. While walking itself can reduce stress, walking in a natural setting provides greater stress-relieving benefits. Accessible green spaces are ‘escape facilities’, and lack of access to green space contributes to poor mental health. Some of the more potent restorative effects of nature relate to being able to ‘get away’ from everyday settings and immerse oneself in an extensive natural setting that creates a sense of being in a ‘whole other world’.

Perhaps as we decide to age healthier we need to spend more time near green spaces.

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Study shows Inflammation causes heart disease and how to lower it

Study shows Inflammation causes heart disease and how to lower it

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) such as acute heart atacks and stroke remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Both epidemiological and clinical studies have shown a strong link between inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interleukin (IL)-6, and the risk of cardiovascular events. Studies have also shown a strong link with inflammation and insulin resistance, an important determinant of CVD and diabetes.

So it all comes down to inflammation

In this study they investigated the link between inflammation insulin resistance and fat consumption and found insulin resistance linked with inflammation (hs-CRP and IL-6) and these inflammatory biomarkers were positively associated with saturated fatty acids and negatively associated with unsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Dietary components, especially fatty acids, affect the expression and release of inflammatory biomarkers. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have a cardioprotective effect by reducing inflammation. Indeed, clinical studies have shown that diets may have effect on inflammatory biomarkers.

What does this mean?

One step to lower you inflammation and risk of CVD the major killer in in the world (and all chronic illness if you read my work) is to increase your omega 3 fatty acid and lower some of your saturated fats. There are many other ways to lower your inflammation and risk of chronic disease including lifestyle and dietary changes.




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Eating more processed leads to more cancers including breast cancer

Eating more processed leads to more cancers including breast cancer

In the latest study of 104 980 participants every 10% increase in processed food lead to a 12% increase in the risk of overall cancer and an 11% increase for the risk of breast cancer. 18 per cent of the group was regularly eating  highly processed foods.

I see people, particularly young people who eat processed food 3 or more times a day. Junk breakfast cereals like nutrigrain, and take-aways or packet food for dinner and lunch. This is not food. These same people have a myriad of adverse health conditions and wonder why they are sick. Then later they develop cancer and wonder why. No person wants to die of cancer however with the exception of smoking, what we eat has a huge impact on our risk of cancer and of course every other form of chronic illness. This is a choice.

Processed foods often have a higher content of processed and saturated fat, added sugar and salt, along with a lower fibre and low nutrient density, with low vitamin, minerals and plant based nutrients. They contribute to inflammation, oxidation and acidosis which what feeds cancers and other chronic illness (see my book “Overcoming illness”).

In addition it has newly created carcinogenic contaminants such as acrylamide, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as a result of heat treating the food.  Packaged processed foods might also contain contaminants from the wrapping including phthalates and bisphenol A or food additives sodium nitrite in processed meat, titanium dioxide (TiO2, white food pigment) or emulsifiers now linked with gut illness and thought to cause cancer.

I have written extensively on all of this in my latest book “Overcoming illness”





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Weight gain is not in the genes. It is in what you do to the genes

Weight gain is not in the genes. It is in what you do to the genes

Genetic determinism—that is, the notion that “it’s all in the genes,” that everything is determined by our DNA and that we are victims of our hereditary—is just not right. You and your conditions, including weight gain and obesity, are not determined by your DNA. In studies of separated twins of obese parents, children growing up in a thin family are more likely to grow up thin. If they grow up in an overweight family they are more likely to be overweight. It appears that while genes have a role in weight gain, it is the passing on of eating habits that are more important.

In recent years, a new idea has come to the forefront of genetics and is the focus of thousands of studies: epigenetics. It is now understood that obesity and weight gain and all the chronic diseases are linked to epigenetic triggers. The vast majority of conditions leading to weight gain are a result of complex interactions between genes and the environment; these interactions cannot be explained by classic genetics.

It is true that the genes we are born with may have an association with weight gain and disease, but this does not prove causation. The truth is only a very small number of people have “smoking gun” genes which predispose them to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Although heritability is considered to be a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity, the almost 40 candidate genes identified by gene studies (GWAS) so far account for only five percent to 10% of the observed variance in body mass index in human subjects. Other research suggests that heredity may be responsible for less than one percent of the obesity crisis. All the genes combined explain a maximum of 0.9% of variation in human body mass index. So, if it’s not in the genes…


It’s all in the EPIgenes

Epigenetics provides the missing link between our environment and weight gain as well as all the chronic illnesses we suffer. Your genes are always responding, in good or bad ways, to what you eat, environmental toxins, your emotions, your stresses and your experiences, and to the nutritional microenvironment within each of your body’s cells. Environmental factors are capable of causing epigenetic changes in DNA that can potentially alter gene expression and result in weight gain and obesity or the opposite. Environmental influences—including nutrition, behaviour, chemicals, radiation and even stress and emotions—can silence or activate a gene without altering the genetic code in any way. These changes in gene expression, the so-called “turning on” of a gene, occur without any change to the DNA sequence.

Each nutrient, each interaction, each experience can therefore manifest itself through biochemical changes, which may have effects at birth or 40 years down the track, or even in the next generation or two. Some of the most well known studies linking epigenetics and obesity have involved the “Agouti” mice. A short-term dietary intervention in pregnant agouti mice, in the form of supplements of folic acid, vitamin B12, choline and betaine, has shown long lasting beneficial influences on the health and appearance of the offspring for multiple generations. The mice that did not get the nutritional supplementation became obese and developed the equivalent of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

The GOOD news is that, while epigenetic changes can lead to an increase in weight gain and obesity, understanding epigenetics puts us in control. Not only can we avoid outcomes that were once thought of as “in our genes,” but also research is showing that, by changing our diet and lifestyle, we can reverse many of these conditions. Just as the genes for weight gain can be turned on, they can also—with the right information and actions—be turned off. Numerous studies have shown that changing our diet, lifestyle and environment alters our DNA. We are now in control.

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Paleo diet good for weight loss in older women

Paleo diet good for weight loss in older women

The weight loss, low calorie, low fat don't eat anything nice diets have never worked for weight loss. In fact they can boomerang and cause muscle loss and weight gain. Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of obesity, for instance due to the reduction of oestrogen production in combination with an elevated energy intake and reduced physical activity.

The Paleo diet allows people to eat plenty of unsaturated fats and low-glycaemic carbohydrates—the ones that are lower in sugar—and specifically focuses on vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, shellfish, seeds, nuts and fruits, and excludes all grains and cereals, milk, refined sugars and added salt.

In this study of 70 overweight post-menopausal were either put on the Paleo diet or the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations diet, which is like the Paleo but allows cereals and grains, milk, refined sugars and added salt.Over the two years, women on the Paleo diet lost an average of nine kilos (20 lbs) while those following the Nordic diet lost an average of six kilos (13 lbs). But the biggest difference was the overall health of the Paleo-group women. They saw levels of risk factors of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and enzymes involved in fat storage decrease. The weight loss in both dietary groups also contributed to reduced inflammation in both fat tissue and in the circulation which is the major cause of chronic illness. (https://www.drdingle.com/collections/frontpage/products/overcoming-illness-pre-order)

The good news is the women had "free reign" about the amount of food they could eat as long as it followed the guidelines.

“In conclusion, the study shows that the Paleolithic diet with a high

proportion of unsaturated fats was healthier for this group of women, even if the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations also had positive health effects,” says Caroline Blomquist.

Source. http://www.medfak.umu.se/english/about-the-faculty/news/newsdetailpage/paleolithic-diet-healthier-for-overweight-women.cid289548

Our next "7 steps to Permanent Weight Loss" is on Tuesday February 27 in North Perth. http://tix.yt/permanentweightloss



Why diets or exercise programs don't work

The role of hormones

7 simple steps to weight loss.

Which foods work best

The importance of...

But it is much more than the paleo



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An apple a day to lower inflammation beats statin drugs.

An apple a day to lower inflammation beats statin drugs.

I have been researching and writing on cholesterol and statin drugs for more than 10 years and millions of people still take them. Cholesterol is not the killer it is inflammation, oxidation and acidosis. No one has ever died from cholesterol. It is associated with CVD but not the cause. So if you lower cholesterol you do not lower the risk of CVD more than 1%.

The statin drugs are at best ineffective but in reality are dangerous. The real cause of heart attacks and strokes, Cardiovascular disease is inflammation and oxidation. If you want to lower your risk of these conditions lower your inflammation, oxidation and acidosis.

In support of this a recent study out of Oxford University showed that one apple a day out performs the statin drugs without the side effects of diabetes, muscle disease, dementia and other serous side effects.

Using mathematical modelling, the researchers say that eating an apple a day could prevent 8,500 deaths from heart disease every year if 70 per cent of the total population of over-50s ate one, compared to 9,400 saved lives if everyone took a statin.

Source: BMJ, 2013; 347: f7267. A statin a day keeps the doctor away: comparative proverb assessment modelling study. BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7267

While another study in the Journal of Functional Foods back in 2012 found the consumption of just one apple/day for 4 weeks drastically lowered plasma concentrations of oxidized low-density lipoprotein and showed that an easily accomplished dietary intervention had a major effect on an atherosclerosis risk factor, in part via polyphenols. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2012.08.010)

Unlike stain drugs apples are full of nutrients that lower inflammation and your risk of all forms of chronic illness.

Apples are rich in polyphenols, which provide antioxidant  and anti inflammatory properties and modulation of gut microbiota.

Cholesterol is not the killer it is inflammation.

For information on inflammation and how to lower it




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Diabetes inflammation

Diabetes inflammation

Diabetes type 2 is just a symptom of a diseased lifestyle. It is probably our body’s mechanism to store food in times of food shortages (which we needed as hunter-gatherers when food shortage was a frequent occurrence). Now we have too much of the wrong food all of the time. The signs and symptoms of diabetes, including thirst and fatigue, are just messages to tell us to change. If we don’t change then we develop insulin resistance, which tells us that we already have too much food (energy) stored in the cell and to stop sending in the sugar. By this time we may have spent 10 or 20 years not listening to the body’s messages. Under normal conditions, our cells take the sugar out of the blood to provide us with the energy our cells need to function. If the sugar remains in the bloodstream, it causes damage to the blood and to cells in the blood. But when there is too much energy stored in the cells, the cells stop taking the sugar in, because we just can’t use any more. Blood sugar levels are also one of the best predictors of dementia later in life.

Although inflammation, oxidation and acidosis (IOA) are natural and essential for a healthy body, they can be seriously problematic if they become chronic and reoccurring as a result of our body being out of balance. Recent studies have established that the three conditions combined are a leading pathogenic force in the development of chronic diseases—including diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases (including asthma and arthritis), osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, dementia and even depression, obesity and premature ageing.

In modern medicine, we treat the condition that occurs down the line, such as diabetes, by giving the person blood-sugar-lowering drugs. This lowers the blood sugar but does not treat the condition that is causing the diabetic problem. The problem is not high levels of sugar in the blood; it is the damage that has been done, often over decades, by poor diet and lifestyle that have led to chronic inflammation, oxidation and acidosis, the combination of which eventually results in high blood sugar. High blood sugar is just the symptom; the damage is in the cells—in our powerhouse called the mitochondria—and is the result of inflammation, oxidation and acidosis.

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Stop being sick

Stop being sick

The current medical model, which focuses on treating the symptoms with toxic pharmaceuticals, rather than preventing illness, is simply not working. We use more drugs than ever before and we are sicker than ever before. Unfortunately, most of us are very sick by the time we recognise we are ill or decide to do anything about our health. It is never too late, but it is more difficult. By comparison, if you have not serviced your car for 20 years, you don’t expect to repair the damage with one oil change.

The key to treating chronic illness is to act sooner rather than later. As the adage goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” You can, however, take important, health-saving steps at any time.

We need a paradigm shift when it comes to our lifestyle and nutrition. Previously we thought of “nutrition” as the Food Pyramid, 2&5, the RDI (recommended daily intake/allowance) of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron and calcium, counting calories and choosing “low-fat” foods. This approach is outdated and extremely dangerous, and in fact is contributing significantly to the level of chronic illness we have today. We need a lot more nutrition and a great deal more variety—not just the minimum amount to prevent scurvy or beriberi, but the right amounts for optimal health.

In the beginning, there were healthy, whole foods and healthy lifestyles; people took responsibility for their own health. Now most of the world is dying from food-related illness. Half the world is dying from not enough food and the other half from too much nutrient-depleted, calorie-dense, contaminated food. Times have changed and so has the way we need to look at food, nutrition and our health. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are now the biggest killers in developed countries with the developing world rapidly catching up. Obesity has overtaken smoking as the single biggest cause of avoidable death in many developed countries.

Understanding some basics of chronic illness is the key to fixing the problem. The simplest place to start is with the underlying conditions that lead to chronic illness. This is what I call the “disease triad” of oxidation, inflammation, and acidosis. The triad, which you will read about in this book, is the underlying cause of all chronic illness in our bodies. The root cause of the illness, however, is what causes these three conditions, which are present in every form of chronic illness and prevent the body from healing and recovering. If we reduce them or even stop them from being out of control, then we can allow our bodies to heal. But the more advanced the chronic illness, the more we have to do in order to slow down and rebalance the triad. By the time modern medicine recognises that you have diabetes, blocked arteries or cancer, you have already had possibly decades of high inflammation, oxidation and acidosis.

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Creating Medical Myths

Creating Medical Myths

Creating myths

History tells us that when money is involved the medical establishments will do anything to keep profits and power. Good examples of this include tobacco and alcohol. Most people may not remember but the various medical associations around the world have been prominent supporters of these deadly products in the pursuit of profit. All too often our memories are too short or we think the basic behaviours of people will change.

While evidence of the toxic effects of tobacco smoke has been around for hundreds of years, the correlation between tobacco and cancer was first officially reported in 1939 in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It took until 1962 before any action was taken. However, even after being exposed, the tobacco industry has continued to survive and even thrive in some places. They even continue to produce evidence to show that tobacco smoke is not bad for you and fund medical and health journals to print these studies.

Prior to 1962, the American Cancer Society would admit only a possible link between smoking and lung cancer and was associated with many aspects of the tobacco industry including marketing products and trying to make a “safer cigarette.” The medical establishments including the AMA continued to back the tobacco industry even under an avalanche of evidence and ran prominent ads in their medical journals. The ACS, like governments around the world today, including state and federal here in Australia, have delayed tobacco controls that could have helped and could still help a lot of people. A prominent Australian premier repeatedly blocked tobacco control legislation in the early 2000s only to take a lucrative position as a director in a major tobacco company when he retired from politics. This political corruption was and still is rampant in all Western nations. I saw firsthand the delaying tactics of governments to introduce tobacco control legislation despite more than 50 years of good science and thousands of studies—even a couple of studies I did with my students.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture to this day continues to support tobacco growing and export to third world nations. This is the same organisation that gave us the food pyramid, which was created for the sole purpose of selling more grain products (at any expense) and classified pizza as a vegetable in 2012 so it could be sold to American schools.

We learnt from smoking. Stop smoking and you reduce mortality and morbidity. It was hard but we educated the public against the vested interests of the tobacco lobby and we started to really win the war on cancer.

Along with the forebears of modern medicine like Hippocrates and Galen, in 1676 Richard Wiseman, a prominent English surgeon, wrote that diet could promote cancer especially the consumption of alcohol and meat. Despite this knowledge hundreds and even thousands of years earlier, for the past three decades health and medical professionals have been promoting wine as a healthful drink based on no science whatsoever and going against more than 50 years of good science.

This myth was started when early studies showed that the highest consumer of saturated fat in Europe was the French but they also has the lowest death rate from cardiovascular disease with four per 100,000 for women and 22 per 100,000 for men. For years this was called the “French paradox,” which I’ll write more about in the chapter on saturated fats. In fact what it showed was that most of the countries in that region had high fat and low CVD so maybe fat was not linked with CVD. This did not fit the current medical myth, as fat and cholesterol were the number one enemies. So they made up a myth and said wine was good for you because the French drink more wine, despite 50 years of good science linking all forms of alcohol with mortality and morbidity. The myth also failed to mention the low-key and relaxed, low-stress lifestyle of the French, the long lunches and sipping on wine over a long meal talking with friends. There are so many factors to consider but wine was the simplest and most easily understood by the public and the most profitable. Very wrong but easily understood. Now, 30 years later the ads tell people that any alcohol is bad for you and we are supposed to ignore the 30 years of poor advice that spawned a generation of people justifying drinking more alcohol.

Similarly the Japanese are one of the longest-lived populations in the world despite their high rates of smoking and stress. They also eat a little bit of fermented soya bean in the form of tempeh and soya sauce. So in the manufacturing of another health myth, the food industry, which was already feeding vast amounts of soya to cattle, along with the medical industry, saw an opportunity to tell everyone to eat more soya products because they contain some “phyto estrogens” and because women in Asia have very low levels of breast cancer. Asian culture has a little bit of fermented soya along with lots of green vegetables and a large amount of fish and seafood including seaweed. Only now we are starting to wake up to the fact that soya milk and soya products are toxic to the body if they are not fermented. Not to mention all the chemicals in our Western lifestyle that mimic oestrogen and that are linked to breast and prostate cancers.

Once started, a myth is hard to break down especially with billions of dollars of funding behind it. But even people with the best intentions can get caught up in it. At one point everyone thought the world was flat and the sun rotated around it. If it were not for science and some very courageous people, some who lost their lives because of their convictions, we would still be thinking the same.

We continually hear about the miracle cure that is just around the corner. Every month a current affairs program introduces the next one. Ninety-nine percent go no further than an initial media blitz and at best one percent have a minimal, if any, effect. But it is an attempt by the drug industry and media to convince the public they need to put more money into research to find a cure—even when we already know how to prevent the illness and in many cases reverse the condition. Unfortunately none of these miracle drugs have ever come to fruition and billions of dollars are wasted, but even more unfortunate is that people don’t hear the real solutions such as healthy nutritious lifestyles.

The drug companies spend billions of dollars trying to convince people that they are sicker than they actually are and are very ill or have an illness that has only just been made up. They seem to be able to turn almost anything into a disease as long as there is a drug to treat it. Suddenly all the normal conditions we suffer and learn to get over are life-threatening illnesses that need to be medicated. We are literally creating diseases that we need to treat with drugs. In psychiatry the new manual, the “DSM-5,” labels practically every human emotion a mental disorder and all those modern disorders require treatment with high-profit pharmaceuticals. Recently they classified caffeine withdrawal, restless leg, and too much online activity each as a disease but not self-harm?

We have created illnesses out of normal conditions and require specialists to manipulate and control some of the most natural aspects of life, such as giving birth, ageing and menopause. Accepting them would be too simple. Better still, we can approach them by making healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices.  

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It is inflammation not cholesterol.

It is inflammation not cholesterol.

Here is another nail in the coffin of the cholesterol theory. For the last 40 years the cholesterol theory (yes theory) has continued to change to suit the growing evidence against it. In science if a theory is disproved it is tossed out. Not this one. It keeps being reborn and of course you are now told it is the oxidized LDL cholesterol. And it is. But the problem is not the cholesterol it is the oxidation which leads to inflammation. Stop the oxidation and stop the inflammation.

The study—which monitored more than 10,000 heart patients—was inspired by the observation that around half of the people who suffer a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels and that lowering cholesterol has no significant reduction in mortality. The study showed that reducing inflammation without affecting lipid (cholesterol) levels reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the study they used a drug, canakinumab, involving 10,061 patients with previous heart attack (myocardial infarction) and a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein- inflammation. At a follow-up of 3.7 years, the incidence rate for heart attacks was 4.50 percent in the placebo group, 4.11 and about 3.90 percent for the higher dose groups. In medicine this is seen as breakthrough and a 16% reduction. The need for by-pass surgery and angioplasty was also reduced by 30 per cent. Cholesterol-lowering statins have a far lower success rate.

However, Canakinumab was associated with a higher incidence of fatal infection than was placebo, that is one in every 1,000 participants suffered a fatal infection. In other words, 10 people died as a direct result of taking the drug. There was no significant difference in all-cause mortality (canakinumab vs. placebo). The cost of the drug treatment is estimated to be more than $65000 US a year.

Despite the results the take-home message is that it is not cholesterol it is inflammation, cholesterol, is associated with CVD but not the cause. The real take home message is that inflammation is best controlled through diet and lifestyle.

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