Your Facebook questions answered: A former heart surgeon’s agenda

“Hi Rosie — Would you please care to comment on this heart surgeon’s thoughts about what really causes heart disease? It’s showing up on a lot of my Facebook friends’ pages.” says Enlightened Eater Facebook fan,  Karen Jorgenson Cooper.

Karen, my first thought when I started reading this piece by Dr. Dwight Lundell, M.D., was that this post must be a few years old – but it was posted earlier this year. He seems to be both providing information that science has already been pointing to you for quite some time (more on that later) while simultaneously bashing the medical establishment.

“We physicians with all our training, knowledge and authority often acquire a rather large ego that tends to make it difficult to admit we are wrong. So, here it is. I freely admit to being wrong. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries, today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.”

Lundell’s bio states, “Dr. Dwight Lundell is the past Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Banner Heart Hospital , Mesa , AZ. His private practice, Cardiac Care Center was in Mesa, AZ.  Recently Dr. Lundell left surgery to focus on the nutritional treatment of heart disease.”

So  instead of performing heart surgery, he  has now taken on the cause of promoting healthy lifestyles. But the reason for his having “left surgery” and his physician bashing may not be so altruistic.

The simple fact is  that he is no longer performing in the operating room because his medical license was revoked in 2008, after an 8-year period of various investigations and censures including his substandard postoperative management  in the death  of a patient. During those years, he was censured for unprofessional conduct and placed on probation a number of times. He was also required to take  continuing medical education courses in carotid artery surgery and medical recordkeeping.

I would say he’s not a fan of  the medical establishment.

But even if he were still a cardiac surgeon, these are not the medical professionals at the front lines of non-invasive therapy. The scalpel, not dietary advice, is part of their usual treatment.

If you’re no longer licensed to practice medicine, you’ve got to be creative to make money. So Dr. Lundell has been busy with activities such as writing books and  developing supplements – the kind that Dr. Oz would love to promote on his show.

As for his dietary advice, Dr. Lundell is not at the cutting edge (sorry for the pun) of nutritional science. It has long been known that cardiovascular disease is a not as simple as arteries narrowing due to cholesterol deposits.  While elevated blood cholesterol is still linked to artery narrowing, it’s now recognized that inflamed arteries are much more susceptible to the cholesterol deposits, which result in plaque and hardened arteries. And not all cholesterol is as likely to be deposited and therefore damaging to the arteries. For example, artery walls are much more attracted to a type called oxidized cholesterol.

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods along with those that decrease the likelihood of blood clots forming have been part of the nutritional landscape for some time now. And Lundell stating that low-fat diets are still being recommended sounds very much like Nina Teicholz and her mantra.  They’re both right in stating we consume too many refined carbohydrates and sugar. But blame the food industry for this, not health professionals.

The call to consume more omega-3 fats while decreasing omega-6 sources is also not new. (See my post, Sorting through omega-3s, 6s and 9s)

One thing these so called advocates for change have in common:  it seems they haven’t bothered reading what leading credible authorities are saying about what we should put on our plates.

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Are you familiar with Dwight Lundell? Does the fact that he was a cardiac surgeon influence your opinion when reading a post like his? Please share your thoughts below in the comment section.

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: A former heart surgeon’s agenda”

  1. April 6, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Thanks Rosie. It’s important that we reflect on this highly viral article that seems to reappear again and again on social media.

    To me the article unfortunately appears like it is written by a preacher or a politician who has to sell a message whatever the costs. The article lacks the professional approach of a scientist who carefully examines available scientific data before drawing conclusions.

    Actually, I wrote a blog post about Lundell’s article three years ago http://www.docsopinion.com/2012/06/03/what-is-the-real-cause-of-heart-disease/

  2. April 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    Axel, thanks for your comments and for providing the link to your post. It’s amazing how articles can be recycled and keep appearing in new formats! I had specifically looked at the date of the piece and it was from January, 2015. I definitely agree with your take on this so-called “professional”. He does indeed have something to sell – supplements and books but he not only does this in an unprofessional way, but by bashing the medical profession of which he claims to be a member, to many people, he sounds more credible. He makes as though he has seen the light!

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could look inside a person’s arteries and know exactly what caused the problems?

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