The theory that cholesterol and saturated fat are the cause of cardiovascular disease has been pretty much demolished by scientific observation. Anecdotal reports and logical deduction also suggest that those that eat cholesterol and saturated fat freely do not develop the disease. Therefore some other factor is the likely cause of cardiovascular disease. Rather than focus on individual dietary components, more recent studies have investigated diets as a whole.
The Western diet is characterised by low quality foods. Processed meat, refined cereal grains, instant breakfast cereals, sugar and trans fatty acids, with foods cooked at high temperatures and pressures, typify the Western diet. These foods are thought to cause nutrient overload in the liver, and as a result metabolic dysfunction develops. The end result of this process is abdominal obesity, which is just an outward manifestation of an inward metabolic problem.
Accumulation of abdominal fat is a characteristic of the metabolic syndrome. As fat accumulates in and around vital organs in the abdominal cavity, particularly the liver, immune cells invade the tissue. The immune cells release cytokines, and these chemicals create an environment of systemic inflammation. Cardiovascular disease is now thought to possibly be a disease of systemic inflammation, caused by metabolic dysfunction.
Chronic systemic inflammation increases oxidative stress by causing the production of free radicals. As free radicals accumulate, at first they are neutralised by antioxidants. However, as antioxidant defences become depleted, free radicals damage tissues and cells. If these tissues and cells are part of the endothelium of the artery walls, endothelial dysfunction can develop. This leads to high blood pressure and modified blood flow characteristics.
It is known that antioxidants are able to protect from cardiovascular disease. This is because dietary antioxidants prevent the depletion of antioxidant defences and protect from endothelial dysfunction. However, what about anti-inflammatories? Well, it appears that anti-inflammatories may also have beneficial effects against cardiovascular disease. This likely relates to their ability to inhibit the systemic inflammation and thereby inhibit oxidative stress.
Glucosamine is best known for its ability to treat and prevent joint pain. This is partly because glucosamine is a building block of cartilage. However, few realise that glucosamine is an effective anti-inflammatory. Studies show that glucosamine is one of the few dietary supplements associated with reduced mortality. This may be because its anti-inflammatory effect srae able to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.