Monday, February 27, 2006

Eating a High-Fat Meal Found to Cause Endothelial Dysfunction in Healthy Nonsmokers; Eating Tater Tots for 30 Minutes May Cause Heart Attacks

Researchers from the Second University of Naples, Italy have demonstrated that eating a high-fat meal causes endothelial dysfunction, as measured by increases in intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1). These are common markers used to measure endothelial dysfunction.

Based on information provided by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), I have inferred that since a 30-minute exposure that causes endothelial dysfunction (passive smoking) can cause fatal heart attacks in otherwise healthy individuals, eating a high-fat meal can therefore trigger fatal heart attacks in healthy adults.

In addition, I have inferred from ASH's information that since a 30-minute exposure that causes endothelial dysfunction increases the risk of a fatal heart attack to the level observed in smokers, the risk of dropping dead from a heart attack after eating tater tots for 30 minutes is equal to the risk among smokers.

Therefore, as much as it pains me to do so, I am today calling for a nationwide ban on tater tots.

This is a serious problem, not only because of the fatal heart attack risk posed by this food product, but also because of the threat of student riots over a lack of tater tots. According to the Center for Emergency Health and Safety for Schools (CEHSS), this represents a serious threat of an emergency school situation:

"A coalition of respondents is prepared to handle the threat of terrorism in the Pewaukee School District. The group can control the chaos which could result if the Pewaukee High School cafeteria should become a target of an enraged faction of militant students urging for more tater tots."

The Rest of the Story

The serious aspect of this post is that the most important detail that ASH fails to provide its readers is that endothelial dysfunction is reversible.

This is the precise reason why eating a high-fat meal does not cause heart attacks in otherwise healthy people. Sure, after the meal you experience endothelial dysfunction. But it is transient and your coronary artery lining returns to normal.

The threat comes if you are chronically exposed to risk factors that cause endothelial dysfunction. Then, the changes may not reverse and the atherosclerotic process will be able to continue.

So if you are exposed to secondhand smoke for 30 minutes, it is true that there might be some endothelial dysfunction, much as you would get if you ate a high-fat meal. But that dysfunction is reversible and it will go away after the exposure ends. If you were to be repeatedly exposed over a long period of time, then the atherosclerotic process could continue. But a single 30 minute exposure is not going to cause a problem, because the endothelial dysfunction it causes is reversible.

Whereas smokers are continuing to cause endothelial dysfunction by smoking repeatedly, a person exposed to secondhand smoke for just 30 minutes has transient endothelial dysfunction and then they are back to normal, assuming that the exposure is not repeated, prolonged, and chronic.

So tater tots are not going to cause a fatal heart attack in a person without severe pre-existing coronary artery disease, and neither is being exposed to secondhand smoke for 30 minutes, despite what a prominent anti-smoking organization might say.

No comments: