The Nation's Health + Niacin

Is skinny necessary for reversal?

Nothing we do in the Track Your Plaque program guarantees that coronary atherosclerotic plaque or your heart scan score is reduced or reversed.


But everything we do weighs the odds in your favor of successfully achieving reversal: correction of lipoprotein patterns, uncovering hidden patterns like Lp(a), vitamin D, being optimistic--it all tips the scales in your favor.

But how necessary is it to be skinny , meaning somewhere near your ideal weight?

It is important, but not as important as it used to be. Let me explain.

I used to tell people that plaque would not regress unless ideal weight was achieved and all the parameters of abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome were corrected. This includes blood pressure, blood sugar, low HDL, small LDL, high triglycerides, and high c-reactive protein. Curiously, though, as we've gotten better and better at reducing coronary calcium scores, I've been finding that complete correction of all parameters, including achieving ideal weight, don't seem to be as necessary to achieve plaque reversal.

I almost hate to say this, but I've even witnessed significant drops in heart scan scores in people with body mass indexes (BMI) of 30--obese.

The necessary change doesn't seem to be weight, per se, but the consequences of weight. In other words, if you remain overweight, but blood sugar, HDL, small LDL, etc. have shown substantial improvement, then reversal is still achievable.

Then is it okay to be fat or overweight?

Reducing weight to ideal weight does indeed tip the scales in your favor , since it represents an observable, perceptible measure of all associated patterns. Dropping weight can also minimize the need for efforts to correct the consequences of overweight--you might need less niacin, fish oil, exercise, blood pressure medication, etc. to succeed at plaque reversal. Achieving ideal weight may also provide benefits like reduced risk of cancers and degenerative diseases of the hips and knees. But, to my recent surprise over the last two years, achieving ideal weight is not an absolute requirement to achieve reversal.

This is contrary to what some others say. For instance, in an upcoming interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman on the Track Your Plaque website, Dr. Fuhrman argues that 10% body fat for males, 22% body fat for females, accelerates plaque and symptom reversal. Dr. Fuhrman is author of Fasting and Eating for Health, Eat to Live, and a new upcoming 2-part book, Eat for Health, and proponent of high-nutrient vegetarian diets and fasting. Dr. Fuhrman has been helpful in teaching us some important lessons on how to apply periodic fasting to accelerate plaque reversal.

So, which is it, fat or skinny?

If given a choice (which everyone has), I'd choose skinny. But, provided all the parameters associated with overweight are corrected, then remaining overweight doesn't necessarily mean that you can't still succeed at plaque reversal.

If you are interested in knowing what your ideal weight is, there are a number of software calculators and tables available, including the calculator and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute BMI Calculator.

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Copyright House, MD 2008

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