New research out of the Heart Research Institute in Sydney shows that eating a piece of carrot cake prepared with saturated fat along with a milk shake causes endothelial dysfunction as measured by a reduction in coronary reserve flow velocity. The same changes did not take place when the carrot cake was prepared with polyunsaturated fat.
According to the Associated Press article about the study: “The researchers, led by Dr. Stephen Nicholls, a cardiologist now at the Cleveland Clinic, found that three hours after eating the saturated-fat cake and shake, the lining of the arteries was hindered from expanding to increase blood flow. And after six hours, the anti-inflammatory qualities of the good cholesterol were reduced.”
The changes observed with carrot cake are similar to those seen after a 30-minute exposure to secondhand smoke – changes which are being used by anti-smoking groups to support claims that a brief exposure to secondhand smoke is enough to cause heart attacks, narrowed and clogged arteries, atherosclerosis, and death.
Unlike anti-smoking groups, health advocates commenting on these findings to the public did not claim that eating a piece of carrot cake can cause a heart attack, that imbibing a single milk shake can narrow and clog arteries, or that a single high-fat meal can cause hardening of the arteries.
Instead, the researchers accurately pointed out that chronic ingestion of saturated fat over many years could lead to heart disease and that people should therefore aim to reduce their saturated fat intake: “Dr. Nicholls said ‘the take-home, public-health message is this: It's further evidence to support the need to aggressively reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed in the diet.’”
Nevertheless, at least one cardiologist who commented on the study did suggest that even a single meal might be too much for the body to handle: “Even one meal of a double cheeseburger with fries and a Coke will mess up your system… .”
The Rest of the Story
What this study shows, in my opinion, is that eating a piece of carrot cake prepared with saturated fat in a restaurant that contains secondhand smoke is a recipe for almost certain death. Poor carrot cake. Like it really needs this bad rap.