“Self-Punishment” by W. Dean Belnap (1951)

From Word of Wisdom Literature by: Jane Birch

W. Dean Belnap, M.D., “Self-Punishment”

Improvement Era Sept 1951, p. 632-634; 672–673

[Notes on more current science are marked with an asterisk (*); see end of article for details.]

THE longer we live, the more likely we are to die (when death eventually comes) from causes associated with hardening of the arteries—a disease called arteriosclerosis. This condition, characterized by hardened arterial walls, is accompanied by a multiplicity of disease processes that account for the majority of deaths among the white races. It is estimated to affect twenty-six percent of people between forty and forty-nine years of age, forty-eight percent of those between fifty and fifty-nine years, seventy-eight percent ofaf individuals between sixty and sixty-nine years, and ninety percent of persons over seventy years of age. 1

Arteriosclerosis is a crime against man in which bacteria have no part. The major drugs of sulfa, penicillin, and other related substances do nothing to protect man from the crime; however, the weapons with which the crime is committed are there for all of us to see. They are animal protein and animal fat with their bi-product, cholesterol.

The crime is murder but—who is the murderer?

The “medical crime-police” have taken the problem into the laboratory. It is interesting that they have recently discovered facts concerning the over-indulgence of most of us in animal protein and fat that fully support the long since revealed statement about meat found in the Word of Wisdom. They have fed large amounts of cholesterol, found in animal foods, to rabbits and dogs, and these animals developed arteriosclerosis. 2 3 It is of importance in this connection to note that the development of high levels of cholesterol in the blood correspond directly with its rapid deposition in the arterial walls. High levels result not only from the intake of large amounts of cholesterol, but also from a diet of high protein content, lacking appreciable quantities of cholesterol. 4

Experiments with radioactive, atom-tagged foodstuffs prove conclusively that the body builds the highly complex chemical structure of cholesterol from any extra protein not required to carry on bodily function. 5

THE medical sleuths said, “Elementary! Protein and cholesterol are accomplices! But there is much work to be done. Arteriosclerosis is a disease of man. We must examine man and investigate what happens to protein, fat, and particularly cholesterol in his body.

“You, Mr. Heavy Meat-eater and Mrs. Plump and Forty—you seem to be well supplied with the ingredients of arteriosclerosis. We wish to study what happens to that big steak, French fried potatoes, and pie a la mode you had for lunch. And you yound fellow—you seem to be about twenty-two and your waistline is slim, yet you eat what you please. After you eat the same meal as these other two, let us have another look at you.”

At hourly intervals, the scientist took samples of blood from the middle-aged couple and from the younger man. The blood was examined for the number of large protein and fat particles called chylomicrons. The result of the test was that the chylomicron count mounted rapidly as digestion proceeded. In the twenty-two- year-old, the count reached its peak in three hours and subsided to the low premeal level by five hours. In the older couple the count kept climbing for nine hours, though they got nothing more to eat; and from the staggering height finally attained, the chylomicron count settled down slowly to reach the fasting level only after twenty-four hours. “This couple,” said the scientist, “usually eat too much protein and fat, of which meat is the main source, three times a day. They do not spare the cream or butter. The cholesterol content of their blood must be high most of the time.”

What have these chylomicrons to do with cholesterol and arteriosclerosis?

IN principle there is nothing wrong with protein and fat as food. In fact, they are very essential. Fat is much less important, however, than protein. All normal persons carry some fat around with them and would look and feel very strange without it. But even if a person never ate any fat, his own body would make enough from carbohydrates (sugars) and protein to keep him from looking like skin and bones. Only small amounts of certain fats supplied by plants, such as the wheat germ, are needed for man.

Proteins are large chemical molecules composed of hundreds or even thousands of smaller building blocks called amino acids. Protein—meat being the form most commonly used—is man’s chief source of nitrogen and is necessary for growth, maintenance, repair, reproduction, and milk formation. During digestion, proteins are broken down in the intestines to their basic amino acids and are absorbed into the blood stream. The liver takes what amino acids it needs and reforms them into the type of protein needed for the body of man. This requirement is small and consists of only two to three ounces a day. 6 Any additional amino acids circulate in the blood stream for many hours until they are broken down by the liver and kidneys to a more usable form.

This breakdown requires the removal of the atom nitrogen, found in all protein, with the balance of atoms being made into sugar and fat. The process is difficult work for the liver and the kidneys, and the work increases with additional protein intake. The leftover nitrogen-containing waste products and cholesterol may be likened to clinkers in a burned-out fire and are just as hard to get rid of.

These waste products, in large amounts, are damaging to the delicate linings of the heart and blood vessels. Any damage to these linings speeds up the process of arteriosclerosis. 7

Belnap_Faculty ThinkingTHE problem of hardened arteries, therefore, has become most pressing to medical science because more and more people live to a good age, thanks to the marvelous advances in the treatment of infectious disease with such drugs as sulfa and penicillin. The old assumption that hardened arteries were inevitable products of old age has been generally discarded.

While it is true that old age produces a general deterioration of all tissues, including the arteries, most leaders in the investigation of these conditions believe that the changes which age alone produces in the arteries are quite distinct from arteriosclerosis. The latter is being viewed as a preventable disease, which is caused by an excessive intake of animal protein and animal fat, commonly superimposed on the normal effects of aging.

Science has discovered that about ten percent of persons attain old age without contracting hardened arteries, and that even a smaller percentage (about three and one-half percent) of young individuals have arteriosclerosis as early as age twenty to twenty-nine.

The formation of fatty deposits just under the inner lining of the arteries is the earliest recognizable manifestation of the disease. Recent reviews of Heuper and Gubner and Ungerleider 8 give an extremely reasonable picture of how this happens.

Arteries are tubes in which three layers can be demonstrated. Except for part of the outside layer, which may be served by an independent blood supply, the rest of the artery gets its nourishment directly from the blood that flows through the main channel itself.

This nourishment consists of minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty substances all dissolved or suspended in the blood stream. It has been shown that these nutrients and other particles can pass through the tissue of the artery and make exit through lymph channels back to venous blood.

NORMALLY, all these nutrients are forced through the tissue under the impelling force of the blood pressure.

Very recent evidence shows that various chemical parts of protein, fat, and cholesterol can combine in the blood stream to form giant molecules which are predominately associated with fatty deposits in the walls of arteries to make them hard. These molecules form into droplets, the above-named chylomicrons. Unable to pass through arterial tissues, these giant particles remain imbedded in the space between the inner and middle layers of the artery to form fatty-protein plaques. When the chemicals of these hard deposits are analyzed in the earliest stages, their composition is virtually identical with that of the protein, fat, and cholesterol of the blood from which they come. Progressively, however, the smaller chemicals manage to pass through the tissue barrier and are removed, leaving behind deposits increasingly rich in cholesterol.

At this state, which characterizes what is not called arteriosclerosis, the blood stream brings along white blood cells, which are the shock troops of the army of defense against invaders. They battle with the cholesterol army of occupation and bodily swallow the enemy, only to find their exit blocked by the hardened “tank troops.” Tears develop in the inner arterial lining forming punched-out ulcers.

MEANWHILE, calcium salts settle out in the breaches, and the middle layer, deprived of nourishment, degenerates. In the course of all these destructive processes, the cholesterol plaques enlarge and progressively block the blood channel. The projection of these deposits into the channel causes the blood to clot. Complete obstruction to blood flow is the result.*

High blood pressure, an independent disease, is often found in association with arteriosclerosis. The high pressure aggravates the condition by forcing more fatty-protein material into the arterial walls and by subjecting the weakened walls to further strain, which may lead to their rupture.

These are, in general, the findings of the medical sleuths regarding the murders; however, these same detectives have some other pointed remarks to make before naming the guilty party.

THE following disease entities are associated with, or caused by arteriosclerosis.

a. Patients with sugar diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, low thyroid function, and some other diseases have an unusually high cholesterol content of the blood. Because these people develop such high levels of cholesterol from diets consisting of only moderate amounts of animal foods, they should be especially cautioned to eat very sparingly of such foods.

b. As all of us grow older, we tend to develop higher cholesterol levels as a result of decreasing efficiency of the adrenal glands.** The adrenals are extremely important glands that rest above each kidney and produce substances that allow the body to meet stress and strain. If overworked, the aging of the body is speeded up and high cholesterol blood levels result.

The digestion of excessive protein intake is itself a stress to the body that overworks the adrenal glands.

c. Goldblatt 9 has shown that excessive amounts of nitrogen-containing waste products presented for excretion, deposit in the kidney tissue, at least temporarily, and favor high blood pressure. The relationship between this and other kidney disease is a well-established fact.

d. Cholesterol may be deposited in the linings of joints between bones to produce arthritis so characteristic of older age groups.*** 10

e. Arteriosclerosis may reduce the blood supply to the kidneys. Any disease decreasing blood flow through the kidneys causes the release of a substance that produces high blood pressure. 11

f. Leary 12 has found that cholesterol deposits in the adrenal gland encourage hardening and even cancer of that gland as well as some others.****

g. Heart attack is the most common cause of death in the fifth and sixth decades of life and results from closure of at least one artery supplying blood to the heart. The vast majority of such closures are due to arteriosclerosis.

h. Similar closure or rupture and hemorrhage in a weakened vessel of the brain results in a paralytic condition called apoplexy or a “stroke.” Arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure, with rare exceptions, are the causes.*****

i. Heart failure is the major cause of death in all ages above forty years. It results from the slow strain, wear and tear of the heart and vessels, caused in the main by arteriosclerosis.******

We see, therefore, a multiplicity of factors entering in to produce a chain of damaging processes that bring about the destruction of the individual.
 Meanwhile, the fact remains that persons of and past middle age can no longer handle protein with the efficiency of youth, and this gives the medical detective his cue for naming the culprit. Pointing the finger at Mr. Heavy Meat-eater and Mrs. Plump and Forty, he said, “You are your own murderers. You are digging your graves with your own teeth!”

Since every well-appointed murder mystery must have an epilogue, it may be in order to mention that the body needs small amounts of cholesterol for sex and adrenal hormones, vitamin D, and for formation of bile. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to arrange a practical diet adequate for the body’s reasonable needs without including some cholesterol. But there is a wide chasm between such a scientific and healthy diet and the diet habitually consumed by most of us.

If all adults were to go on a diet low in animal foods—a suggestion which sounds utterly fantastic to many people despite its religious and scientific merits—the effect on our daily lives would be revolutionary

The war with cholesterol, which seems to be the main object in the control of arteriosclerosis, can be fought on many fronts. Until we have further light and knowledge in reference to other factors, it seems reasonable to try any and every feasible method to reduce the cholesterol level of the blood or at least to keep cholesterol from piling up in the wrong places.

Cholesterol comes from two sources: (1) the diet, and (2) formation in the liver. Obviously the human body also gets rid of cholesterol, for if it didn’t, human beings would in time become walking mountains of cholesterol; consequently, another way of reducing cholesterol is to increase its excretion.

Foods rich in cholesterol include meat, egg yolk, sweetbreads, oysters, fish, lard, butter, poultry, cream, and cheese.

Vegetable foods do not contain cholesterol.

Fats of any type aid markedly in the intestinal absorption of cholesterol; thus, a low fat diet encourages excretion. In addition, a low fat diet has also been reported to encourage the excretion of bile which is made from cholesterol in the liver.

Major armies of defense, however, are the B-complex vitamins choline and nositol, the essential amino acid, methionine, and possibly a few other substances. 11 These chemicals combine with cholesterol and cause it to be excreted in the kidneys and intestine.

Interestingly enough, our best sources of choline and inositol are whole grain wheat and the leguminous vegetables such as peas and beans.

Dietary deficiency of choline and other such substances is known to result in fatty deposits and accumulation of cholesterol in the liver, a major cause of “hardening” in that organ. 12

A heart attack may be the first outward evidence of an arteriosclerotic process in a person who has believed himself to be in the pink of condition. Recovery from one such attack puts the patient on notice that his arteries are not as healthy as he had optimistically assumed.

Often it takes a rude awakening to induce us to obey the Word of Wisdom. After a lifetime of ignoring our health in pursuit of pleasure or success, we decide there is nothing to be gained by being “the richest and most well-fed man in the cemetery.” We now are open to persuasion on what to eat and what to leave alone, and we are persuaded that the Lord knew what our bodies need when he inspired our Prophet to advise “meat sparingly.”

The author bears testimony to the divinity and truthfulness of the Word of Wisdom and believes it is the way to optimal health. Although not necessary for the development of faith in the Word of Wisdom, all reliable scientific data supports it.

Read it, the Lord makes very clear his will appertaining to the spiritual and temporal health of his children.


1 Leary, T., Archives of Pathology 32:507, 1941.

2 Heuper, W. C, American Journal of Pathology 41:130, 1946.

3 Wilkinson. C. F., General Practice, (a Journal) Pub. by American Academy of General Practice 1:49, 1950.

4 National Research Council, Committee on Nutritional Requirements, Annual Report, 1936.

5 Goldblatt, H., Physiological Review 27:120, 1947.

6 Heuper W. C, Medicine 20:397, 1941.

7 Gubner, R., and Ungerleider, H. E., American Journal Medicine 6:60, 1949.

8 Silberberg, M.. Arch Path., 50, 828, 1950.

9 Lewis, S., and Goldblatt, H., Bulletin N. Y. Academy Medicine July, 1942.

10 Leary, T., Archives of Pathology: 50, 151, 1950.

12 Wyeth Bulletin, Lipotropic Therapy, Philadelphia, 1950.

13 McHenry, E. W., and Patterson, J. M., Physiological Review 24:128, 1944.

Notes added by Jane Birch in 2015, with thanks to Victor Werlhof, M.D.

* It is now believed that plaque rupture leads to the occlusion of vessels acutely.

** Adrenal glands probably contribute little to this.

*** This is no longer accepted.

**** This is not a currently accepted theory.

***** Most strokes are embolic.

****** While ischemic cardiomyopathy is a common cause of heart failure, it is certainly not the only cause. In the United States, the most common causes of congestive heart failure are:

  • Coronary artery disease.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Longstanding alcohol abuse.
  • Disorders of the heart valves.
  • Unknown (idiopathic) causes, such as after recovery from myocarditis.

See: What causes congestive heart failure?

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